Saturday, 10 October 2009

Back (to the eighties)

So - wedding planning took the place in my day that blogging used to - but then when I wanted to come back, I found that fashion had moved wholeheartedly to the eighties revival... and it's all just so ...ugly. And worse: it's unflattering. Batwing sleeves, dropped waists, slash necks, blouson jackets: hideo-rama. How is a girl supposed to negotiate her way through if she isn't long of limb and lean of flesh?

And then I began to see a path...

First I bought some truly wonderful boots in M&S. I wasn't looking for boots, but the leaped out at me - and I didn't have terribly high hopes: I don't wear heels well, for my feet are too short and the downward pressure is too high. In the event, it transpires that these are possibly the most comfy heels I've ever worn. I wore them out last night with no flats to change into, and then managed to wear them all day at work with no pain. Wonderous indeed.

They were £35, and obviously are Not Leather - which is a shame, as they won't last long. Sadly they now only seem to come instore in brown (mine are black) - and aren't online at all. Still a fab buy, though. The foreshortening effect of the ankle cutoff is offset by the heel, and the eighties rock-chick studs and straps are subtle and grown up. The curve of the toe is echoed by the shape of the chunky heel - all in all a great piece of cohesive design.

My second eighties-tastic purchase was this top from Evans:

I'm really loving peacocks as a design motif - and they're all over the place this A/W. Last Autumn / Winter I bought a fabulous peacock-patterned rockabilly frock from Collectif (still not my best friends, since they've seriously restricted their plus sized ranges). I wore it for my Aunt's wedding last month - as you can see below. Peacocks give you all the best blues, plus purples and turquoisey-greens. Colourbomb time!

So the peacock top from Evans (£27) was eagerly awaited, then. The wide neck is deep enough to flatter, and that dippy-scoopy hem is thigh-flattering joy. Sadly (or not), when it came, the print was embossed with glitter - not quite right for my workplace. I wore it out on a Friday night though - with red accents (bangle and lips) - and it was fierce. Loved it. Is it eighties? The big print and voluminous shape make it retro, but the design and colours are tasteful and flattering. Let's call it 'good eighties'.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Ooh - another quicky...

Just stumbled across this Oh-so Jackie O coat at Boden.

Perfect for athletic / less curvy girls, but apple and pear-shapes can also wear this well, so long as They want to show off their pins. The length makes it really realistic and chic for just about every height too, although petite girls will need to shorten the sleeves - a simple enough job for your local alterations place - even repositioning the trim looks like it would be straightforward.

Wear this with a similar-shaped and length dress or skirt to style-up a work look or add panache to a wedding outfit (I'd advise the aqua) - it won't sit well over fullness in the skirt or a long hemline. Alternatively show off your legs with cigarette-cut trousers or capris. Gorgeous and classic - you'll wear it for years, so the £110 price tag seems fair.

Smart Dressed Man

So, you may be a dapper chap with a wardrobe full of fine tailoring, or you may have a partner who fits that description. I, however, don't. My fabulous fiance is actually really stylish in his own way, but suits are not his thing. Recently, he bought a rather lovely suit in the Moss Bros sale for around £200 - but I shouldn't imagine he'll be repeating that experience very soon.

However, it won't do for my sister's wedding next month, because that's black tie. So we assumed he'd hire a dinner suit - maybe from the hire section of the very retailer who sold him the other one. But then my sister discovered that Marks and Sparks are doing dinner jackets and matching trousers for just £49.50 for the set! We're waiting for the suit to come, and of course - for that price you have low expectations in terms of cut, fit and fabric. But how low? This is still Marks and Spencers, after all: sensible quality is practically their brand identity, and while this suit may be the sartorial equivalent to a supermarket's no frills brand of beans - it's still going to be better than if, say, it had been bought from Primark. We shall see. Certainly I expect the cut and fit to be no worse than one would reasonably expect when hiring a suit.

Also available is a dress shirt for £15 (polycotton, but with those all-important swoonsome french cuffs), and a silk bow tie for £9.50. Incidentally, M&S have 14 different bow ties or bow tie and cummerbund sets, but only one of them is 'self tie'. Now quite apart from bow ties not being much harder to tie than your own shoelaces, if you get a ready made one, what are you going to do after dinner when you open your top buttons (always two, lads - one button looks like you've burst out). If you have a proper bow tie you can undo it for that dishevelled James Bond look. Yum.

Assuming you'd have bought the shirt and tie anyway, the suit costs around the same as hiring would do - so if he wears it once more, it's completely paid for itself. And this way, if he tears it or some other mishap befalls the thing, there's no deposit to lose either.

If I were a bloke I'd be tempted to get one anyway, just for a rainy day. But maybe that's the kind of attitude that's left me up to my eyeballs in clothes...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Who are you, and what do you want?

I wonder, if you wouldn't mind and have a spare few minutes, answering this 10-question survey I've created to try and find out more about the readership of this blog.

It's not (just) that I'm nosey - it's because I make a lot of assumptions about the kind of people who are reading this blog, and it would help me to make in more interesting and meaningful if I knew more about you.

It's just for women (or people who want to wear clothes made for women), and more specifically, women who have read this blog more than once (or think they're likely to come back - if this is your first visit (welcome, by the way)).

You'll need a password to take the survey, and the magic word is...


Please only take it once and be as truthful as you can, but feel free to miss out any questions you don't want to answer.

If I can get some stats under my belt, I can start asking companies why they're not giving you what you want... but it would sound a bit feeble until I know who you are and what you do want!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Back to the missions...

Hi! I just wanted to say how much I love your blog - and as a result have bought a dress I would never even thought of from a shop I never go into - Wallis!! Everyone says how good it is - so thank you very much! If you need a new challenge for those of us with non standard bodies, wondered if you could advise me on what I should buy next - am an odd shape! I am 5'8" with really short and fat legs - that are made even shorter by the presence of a long and huge bum... I have a waist that is two sizes smaller than my hips, and quite a flat stomach - 32DD top half - so find it hard to find things that fit, never mind look good... My legs are really bad - I can only wear the dress with tights and boots to hide the lack of leg. What would you suggest? Thanks Sharon

Ok - so first I must apologise to this lovely lady, because I've been sitting on this email since 16th March - quite forgotten in all my wedding self-obsession.

Right, secondly- to the task in hand. This really is quite straightforward: almost everyone can identify themselves as either having a short body and long legs (can be hard to find a waist) or having what I seem to recall someone from my childhood calling 'duck's disease' - where your bum's too close to the floor. As a fellow short-legger I sympathise with Sharon - although she's five inches of height on me - so perhaps not that much!

The silhouette we're looking for is empire line - cinched in under the bust, with a more free-flowing skirt part and then straight-legged trousers worn underneath. This picture is a good representation of what I mean, but sadly it's a back view - couldn't find the front shot - but you should get the idea. Look at the overall silhouette - don't her legs look lonnnnnnng?

Firstly: play to your strengths. Nice boobs and a small waist / back, plus flat tummy. Not all empire lines follow the body in their underbust tailoring, and can look smocky - that's fine if you have flabby abs: I can look pregnant if I wear too close-fitting an empire-line, but if you don't have my problem, then show off that difference between boob and ribcage. If you don't want your boobs to look too big, remember to go for a deep V or kimono neckline, modesty preserved with a vest underneath.

We don't want to fit all the way down to the waist, though, small as it may be. The reasoning here is we want to give the impression of longer legs. With a fitted empire line we get the impression of a trim waist, but without giving away where that waist actually is. It's also very hard to fit to the whole underbust-to-waist area without drawing attention to that bottom.

To length. You don't want a dress that's too long, or the trousers underneath will look like you've thrown the frock on over your pyjamas. Pink here is committing a second error in having two shades of black - this look can work with jeans, but I think you'd want a patterned dress to make the jeans look tied-in. The shorter the top layer, though - the harder it is to sustain the optical illusion of legs that go on forever. Once we start to see the shape of the leg, the game's up - and even with straight leg trousers, that becomes evident not far above the knee. So we're probably not looking for tunics. The other thing that will give the game away is a sheer fabric. diminutive 'Madmen' actress, Maggie Siff nearly gets it right, but due to the sheer fabric you can see that she too, is a duck's disease sufferer. Those flares don't help, either.

Which trousers should you go for? As a rule of thumb, the more trouser on show, the wider-leg you can wear.

These by Wallis would be a good purchase at £35, but I'd stick to no longer than knee length frocks. The right hand pair are more streamlined - don't be afraid of the snug fit, you'll be covering everything from the waist to below the knee with a loose dress. Marks and Sparks, £29.50. Both pairs are black, but you have to start somewhere, and true black trousers (as opposed to jeans) should work under other colours too, so long as they're vivid or have black in the pattern.

An absolutely brilliant everyday standby for work and play is this jersey dress (above left) - £35 from Evans (see what I was saying?) It doesn't photograph well, because it's black - but if you follow the link you can see it on a model, and get a better idea. It is, of course, just like those frocks Dotty P's were doing so well last season - but a little longer it seems. The dress on the right is available in black, but I think is just gorgeous in the pale pink and black print. It's £50 at French Connection.

This dress would go perfectly with straight-cut jeans, and those full sleeves will help to balance out your boobs and any fullness over the bum. It's by Great Plains (£45) and is also available in green. Which means you'll need some jeans to wear under it. Leave skinny straight jeans to the kids - besides which the wrinkled ankle look will not work for this silhouette. I adore these jeans from Monsoon, because they have such elegant lines. They're relatively pricey for jeans at £45, but worth it, I think.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

My sister's search for shoes.

My eldest sister is (also) getting married soon - her dress is a subtle shade of silver, and she's been looking for the right shoes. Firstly she found these, which at the time were only £26 in the January sale. (Now £60). They are gorgeous - very red carpet glamour, which is just right for her dress - but when they arrived:

"they were 1) a lot more mink than the photo (not silver at all) and 2) the 5" heel was a bit optimistic so thought I would get some lower shoes for later".

So she bought pair number two:

"cheap and cheerful and not so stylish lower shoes from BHS - a bargain at £20"

Well, it's a long dress - I suppose they don't have to be completely gorgeous, but then things changed:

"finally saw dress last week and knew minky shoes would not go so found the Lulus on ebay and thought I'd see if they fitted. Bought for opening price £39.99, unworn and much more glittery and vintag-ey than the picture. Also leather soles etc :-)"

and well she might smile - Lulu Guinness, she of the most covetable handbag fame, has produced some beautiful shoe collections, with a retail price in the hundreds for each pair. A bit of canny ebay research, and my sister has found the most perfect designer shoes for her wedding for less than you'd pair for a pair of bog-standard high-street heels. And as she says:

"Total spend £85 with just a couple of shopping errors on the way! Still cheaper than a pair of Choos!"

Although I say that she'd be well advised to get the first two pairs on ebay post haste. Even if they sell for no more than £20 between them, that's still one more bottle of champagne on the hen night!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Things change

Last season, I was all over Dorothy Perkins, but recently they seem to be setting their cap at the late-teen / early twenties market, wheeling out all the unflattering, cheap-looking, eighties-influenced trends that those of us old enough to remember them first time around wouldn't touch with a bargepole. Which is Topshop's territory: they do it very well, and I'm not sure where Dotty P's market is.

What is coming up, though, is Evans. Unlikely as it may seem, there are several good pieces in Evans' current collection, and now they go down to a size 14, maybe there are a few new customers out there who are yet to take a look. Frocks are often a good indicator of the quality of a collection, so let's have a look:

These two are great for summer - the blue is good for fairer colouring, whereas the pink is probably best left to brunettes. Wear this dress if you're anything up to around a D cup - it's more forgiving to boobs than a super-high neckline. £50.

This dress, though is much better for buxom ladies. It's a jersey fabric, and cut to accentuate hourglass curves, while the vertical pleating across the tummy is good for disguising your belly. £40.

Lastly, I rather like this dress for all kinds of reasons. I love the spots, the empire line is supremely flattering, and the bodice area is just gorgeous for all but the smallest or hugest boobs. I do think it needs a bolero or cardigan to balance out the fullness of the skirt, though. It's a great length for shorter girls, too. It will sit on the knee for someone of average height, but then becomes more sophisticated and dressy the shorter the wearer.

It's £50, and I'd definitely buy it if I were invited to an august wedding...

A new venture

Those who wish to follow my sartorial journey through wedding-land may like to take a look at Swelegant Style Wedding, my new spin-off blog. The idea being that I can channel the overwhelming over-excitement that's been keeping me from blogging, and get me back in the blogging habit.

Anyway, in the event that anyone is still reading SSS, I promise to come back to you. And apologies for the interruption in service.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I've been a little distracted...

...because I got engaged!

And with only five months to the wedding I've been enjoying working myself up to a fever pitch looking at dresses online. I won't be giving you the blow-by-blow on SSS, because most of you aren't needing that advice, but you can expect regular (if non-specific) updates. I've decided to have something made, so if any of you know a confident, competent, lovely and reliable dressmaker (as opposed to a couturier, since I already have a pattern) - please let me know! I need to speak to her (or him) and find out how long it will take to make, so that we can count backwards from mid-August and I know how long I've got to try and shrink myself.

I can't show you the pattern - or the dress, but I will detail the search for something flattering; the sleeve-or-not dilemma; the underwear missions; and of course, the search for the perfect shoes.

And in between times, it should be business as usual: keep your shopping dilemmas coming in, and I'll do my best, along with keeping an eye out for the good and bad being made and sold for us to wear.

Not quite the look I'm going for!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Easy access for scooby snacks.

Ok magic Charlotte, I have another assignment for you after you inspired me to find a great dress for my birthday. I am going to the wedding of two very dear friends on the first of May. The bride is an absolute stunner and very stylish, so while of course no one will be trying to upstage her, I suspect that every female guest will be upping their game in terms of wedding outfits. This will really be the first big event I'll have been to since the baby was born and I want to wow, BUT I will also still be breastfeeding said baby, so will need something with at least passable access to norks (and something not too dependent on a decent bra, as nursing bras are all pretty crap support-wise). Any help you can give me much appreciated! You know my shape and colouring, I don't mind spending a bit on something good quality.

So, it was way back in November, on my second ever SSS mission, that I last helped this lovely lady find a frock, and I'm flattered that she's back for more. Of all the concerns in her dilemma, obviously the one that's most important is finding something gorgeous, stylish and flattering - but the other issues - of easy access and chunky bra needs - are utterly non-negotiable, and have to be my starting point. Now I've never had to combine a fab frock with breastfeeding, so my understanding may be theoretical, but I do have boobs and bras to consider.

All the normal methods for providing quick access to boobs, such as halter necks, or strappy tops that can be slipped, loosely, off the shoulder, are going to struggle to conceal a bra. A wrap dress will provide coverage, but it might be hard to access a boob without exposing a great deal more, by undoing the dress completely. My solution is buttons.

My first choice is by Oli. It comes in black, but also this sophisticated red, and costs £44. The tailoring at the waist will help define the boobs - important if the bra doesn't work terribly hard. The skirt looks to be cut on the bias, for extra flattery, and I think the silhouette is a little bit 'wartime glamour' - which could be accentuated by retro accessories or ignored in favour of sharper, contemporary styling. My friend is slim, but this dress is available up to a size 20.

I wouldn't often recommend brown for this kind of occasion, but the pink here is gorgeous and crying out to be accentuated through some lovely accessories. I'd go smart and sharp with shoes etc to really contrast with the slightly shabby-chic stylings of the dress. It's by French Connection (£70). Look out for the darling butterflies in the chintz design, and the buttons which go all the way to the hem - which should make feeding access no problem at all.

Seemingly unavoidable this spring/summer is the shirt dress. On the one hand, almost all of these feature button fronts, but I'm reluctant to recommend them wholeheartedly. There's something quite utilitarian in style about a shirt dress - and it's therefore quite hard to make them look elegant and glamorous. Taller, slimmer women will generally find that easier, and it helps if the frock itself is in a fabulous colour or luxury fabric. The one above is by M&S, and costs £35. It's not terribly special, and being linen, it's going to crumple rather badly through the day, but I've included it principally because it doesn't have pockets on the bust. Unless you have very small boobs, you want to stay away from chest pockets - bizarre, horrible effect. (Incidentally, Next have some wrap dresses at the moment which are almost carbon copies of last season's DVF designs... except for some misconceived reason, they've appended little military style pockets over the boob. I literally could not believe my eyes. Utter insanity).

Of course - if anyone more experienced has suggestions as to incorporating breastfeeding with glam frock, let us know!

Incidentally, remember my slightly-unsuccessful mission for a bright blue wrap dress? Looks like Dotty Perkins were paying attention!

Friday, 6 March 2009

April in Belgium

Charlotte, I have a sartorial enquiry which I am hoping you can assist me with, please? I am going to a wedding in Belgium on 4th April. Now, you know I'm an antipodean and prone to chill, so I'm a bit worried about wearing anything too skimpy. On the other hand I am also quite vain and so not wearing a lovely frock is outta the question.

The wedding is not hugely formal, so I'll probably get away with anything I like really.
I'm thinking a frock with a nice wrap to keep me warm. But bearing in mind my arse/hips are a bit out of control at the mo with winter chubbiness, so something which will be kind to my chunky frame. However, I am hoping to go on a health kick before then - if this works, I'll need something that can cope with me being a few kilos lighter if need be, so not uber-tight or strapless, it'll be too cold for that anyways, I assume. I guess I should probably wait until closer to the time in case I trim down but the sales are so good at the moment, I think I should strike fast! I've been loving the 50s frocks lately, but am totally open to suggestions. Whaddya say, lady?? Thx in advance x

Let me first say to my readers that this lady is not 'chunky' by most definitions of the word - but doesn't that just go to show how just about everyone has parts that make them self-conscious. She also has a very particular type of fair colouring that I don't think would suit black near her face - so I'm going to be looking for gorgeous but subtle colours.

My first choice is by Wallis and costs £45. The flared shape is flattering over the bum and thighs, but it's a glamorous, fun length and has a dramatic neckline and some underbust tailoring to accentuate the boobs. The long sleeves make it perfect for spring - you should be able to forgo a warmer layer except when outdoors. If it is chilly, I'd wear it with some opaque tights to match the purple in the pattern, and some long boots. Wearing all that on the bottom should mean you don't feel the cold so much as a whole.

Even more glamorous is this spotty frock by Almost Famous (£29.99 reduced from £122!). Yes it's a little lightweight, but with a substantial shrug I promise you'll be nice and snug. Remember, you won't want to be too hot when you're strutting your stuff on the dancefloor. The profile is the same as the last dress - great for skimming bumpy bits without being shapeless. The colours are fantastic too - so many gorgeous shades to choose from when deciding your accent colour (the colour - or two - for your accessories, shoes, shrug etc). I quite like this pale 'old gold' shade, as regular readers will know (the choos!). It's very flattering to pale complexions, and glam without being OTT.

It's always worth a look on the Oli website for frocks, especially if you're a standard size. These two have very similar shapes, but they create a very different effect. The first is all glamorous sophistication (£65). The beading is gorgeous, and the Grecian neckline is classic and elegant. This kind of bodice works with anything up to average-sized boobs. It will make them look larger, but the beaded band at the empire line provides definition, and stops them looking droopy. The second dress is also probably only good up to a C cup, because it's a halterneck, and really, halterneck bras can be more trouble than they're worth. But never have I wished so hard for smaller boobs, because this dress is beautiful. It's altogether more casual, but then this isn't a particularly formal wedding. It's also a bargain at £35.

For most of these dresses of course, she's going to need something warm and cosy to cover up her arms. I feel really strongly about stoles / wraps / pashminas etc. The desired way of wearing them is covering the upper arm from just below the shoulder to sit in the crook of the elbow. Nice idea, but unless you give them your undivided attention, and don't try to move your arms much, what happens is that they constantly slip down to the elbows, leaving the upper arms chilly and exposed. You can't really dance and hold them in place, which may not matter much if you're wearing it for warmth but is a bit pointless if you're sensitive about your upper arms. Or you end up hooking the top over your shoulders, making the item a de facto shawl. Not a glam look.

Sorry - a bit of a rant.

So what, then? A shrug / bolero or cardigan is the answer, depending on the style of the dress, the formality of the event, and your figure. The names shrug and bolero are used interchangeably for a cropped cardigan or blouse - although a bolero may also be a cropped jacket. If you have a small waist you want to show off, or a dress with empire line tailoring, a bolero/shrug will be most flattering. Cardigans are best if you're wearing seperates, or an untailored / freeform dress. Be warned that a cardigan which finishes at the waist will draw attention to your bum and hips. If you don't want this, choose a longline cardi or a shrug. When fastening any of these items, big boobed girls should be very careful - do not fasten at all, or fasten only beneath the bust. Also, consider the detail of the dress or top you are covering. What shape is the neckline? How high is it? If you have beautiful detail like the Grecian dress above then you really shouldn't interfere with those lines at all - choose a cover up which can comfortably and attractively be left undone.

So, my first suggestion is super-glamorous, and would suit a simple, light dress such as the spotty one above. It's from Topshop (who have some absolutely brilliant coats and jackets at the moment, albeit in predictably limited sizes) - £60. The second is actually a maternity item, but it's a gorgeous colour and design (and it's £25 from Crave maternity - any mums to be). A bolero like this would work well over a very simple, tailored frock with a high neckline, like the Monsoon ones I mentioned here - sharp lines would clash with unstructured knitwear. The third (£36 - Monsoon), though, is the most versatile piece. I've chosen blue to coordinate with the third dress, but our girl may want to choose another colour as an accent (pewter? purple?) to add interest to the outfit. It's essentially just a fine-knit cardi with a shorter length: comfy and warm. If you're slim choose one in mohair or angora. But lightweight knits will enable you to keep the shrug on, even on the dancefloor.

I've been sitting on this mission for a couple of weeks - so apologies.

edit! Good lord, reading this back it had some horrible mistakes and missing links - please let me know about these... oh, the shame....

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

Not the sort of thing, apparently...

Hey there ms Charlotte,
I have a problem from Australia land that maybe you could help me with. Down here summer will be over in a few weeks so I have decided to look for a new winter wool coat. Problem is most of them look AWFUL on me. I’m 5’3”, size 16, top heavy. I have pale skin, grey/blue eyes and dark hair at the moment. Most coats that fit me around the waist and hip strain around the bust. Coats that fit around the bust make me look like I’m wearing a large woolen sack, as well as most sleeves stopping somewhere around my thumbs cos of my short arms. I’m not keen on trench coats and sadly even though I think duffel coats look adorable they generally look shit on me. Any suggestions?

Hmm - I've had this mission on the back burner for a while, but I'm really struggling for two reasons. Firstly, I know absolutely nothing about Australian retailers. I've tried to research, but I'm just not 'there' with my knowledge. Secondly, over in the UK / US, retailers are already well into Spring/Summer - but I will never admit defeat. What I'm going to do is find some pictures of coats that have the flattering qualities our girl is looking for.

Coat number one (Paul Smith - £293) has a decidedly retro feel, fusing swing stylings with a modish crombie-style lapel. The shorter length and bracelet sleeves mean that there's flexibility over the length of both: shorter sleeves may sit anywhere along the lower arm to within about three inches of the wrist whereas full length sleeves really ought to hit the wrist dead on. It's generally a good idea for shorter people to wear shorter coats/dresses too. Although a clean vertical line may be elongating, a heavy garment can look like you're being dragged down to the floor, or overwhelmed. Double breasted garments will make anyone look wide and chunky, so this clean single breasted collar is great, and the deep V is flattering. It's also the case that it fastens below the bust line. Girls with big boobs should look out for this - you may well be able to get away with a closer fit than you would do if the button was higher up; essentially, your boobs fit into the gap. The overall A line shape of this coat, though, may run the risk of looking bulky.

This apple green coat is by Nanette Lapore and costs an eye-watering £405. I'm really not suggesting anyone spend that kind of money on a coat, but I am looking for pictures of things that I reckon will be influencing high street designers - this coat features a big bow at the back, and already that's something I've seen on several coats at topshop. It would work because it's a thinner fabric, which means that the waist can be cinched in a little without looking bulky. The full 'skirt' will balance out the big boobs, and again it's single breasted. My other reason for liking it was colour. I know I've said that green is difficult - and it is - but the combination of pale skin and pale eyes can (but not always) make dark colours hard to wear. The problem with colour, is that coloured coats tend to be thinner fabrics. But then, thinner fabrics are slimming... You can always rock some super stylish scarves, gloves and hats over the winter.

A cheaper option, but continuing a similar profile is this mac from Topshop (£75). There were a lot of belted coats this winter, but unless you have a very boyish figure with little defined waist, stay away from belts on thick coats. It looks bulky and chunky. On a mac, though, it's fine. Here we have the fuller skirt for balance, the lighter colour, a belt to cinch and the all-important single breasted styling. That top button is going to be on the bust line, though - and that means you'll have to make sure the fit at the top is bang on, at the expense of a closer fit elsewhere.

My last suggestion is not to choose a style which accommodates your figure, but find a coat that fits. UK readers who are top heavy can buy from Bravissimo - the bra specialists. Their coats are cut to fit over the boobs but without excess bulk at the waist. Which is why both the coats above can get away with having belts. The first is in the sale, in very limited sizes, at £49 - reduced from £112.50. Notice the single breasted styling. The second - jacket length but wool/nylon/cashmere mix for warmth - is £77.50. Bravissimo do mail order to Australia, but don't publicise the shipping costs. The alternative would be having something made or altered to fit. Perhaps a coat is something one doesn't buy that often, and so is worth getting right.

So - to recap:

Flattering (for our girl):
  • Single breasted
  • Lighter colours
  • Deep V necklines
  • Belts on lightweight fabrics (cold weather notwithstanding)
  • Full skirts
  • Shorter lengths
  • Bracelet-length sleeves
  • Made to measure

Unflattering (for our girl):
  • Double breasted (Including military styling)
  • Dark colours (probably)
  • High necks
  • Straining buttons
  • Belts on thick fabrics (if non-specialist fit)
  • No fitting below the boobs
  • Long lengths
  • Full-length sleeves (unless altered to fit)
Good luck - let me know what you find.

Balancing your account.

I have no idea what I actually own, by way of clothes. I hang everything on the floor (or thereabouts) because I have too many things to put away, but then I can't find anything, so I only wear a small fraction of my gear.

I plan to make a list of what I do own. Every day I shall record what I'm wearing, for a start. I shall also purge my drawers and wardrobe of anything I don't wear.
  • If I absolutely love it with all my heart, but it doesn't fit at the moment - it's going in the cellar.
  • If I don't love it, but it's made by Monsoon, or another desireable brand, or is vintage - it's going on ebay.
  • If I don't love it and it isn't worth the faff of ebaying, I'm taking it to the clothes swap* on Thursday.
Then, every night before I go to bed, I have to put away more items of clothing from the 'clean' pile than I'm adding to the 'dirty' one.

You never know - it might work.

*The clothes swap. On thursday a fantastically kind mate is inviting a bunch of girls around to hers. We each bring our wardrobe surplus - and people try things on and go home with new stuff. It's brilliant. Of course most people bring a handful of items - the first one I went to, I brought an absolutely massive suitcase full. But I have a lot of stuff. It barely made a dent. Anyway, it works best if the guests have someone else of a similar size, or who has been a similar size, to swap with - but you can bring accessories, jewellery and shoes - and anyway, my clingy top might be just the thing for my size 10 friend to wear as a beach coverup. The more guests the host can accomodate, the better it works. Afterwards, the leftovers are taken to a charity shop.

I'll let you know how it goes.

My sisters and Mum and I have been threatening to do one of these with cosmetics and body potions, which I think is an excellent idea too.

So listen - plan a swapping party. It's completely environmentally fabulous, credit-crunch sensitive, and makes room in your wardrobe to see the wood for the trees.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Imagine being less than perfect in LA.

To my knowledge, I don't have any regular readers in Los Angeles, and I really wouldn't want to live there myself. I visited once, and it was fine... not terribly interesting - but it is the home of the seeming-compulsory 'single digit' dress size. Above a US size 8 (equivalent to a UK/Aus 12), there's a perception that you're something of a horror. I gain this insight from some reading on the LA Times website, where some articles on the subject of plus size shopping gave me pause for thought.

The main article was sent to me by Sarah (of the fabulous Agent Provocateur shoes), and intelligently puts the case that, although larger women aren't going short of clothes, they lack access to design and fashion. It explores the reasoning behind that, since it clearly isn't a commercial decision. Eye-opening, and not terribly uplifting, it is nevertheless well worth a read - if only for a choice piece of nastiness from the mouth of Karl Lagerfield.

The average American woman is a size 14 (uk size 18), and in the UK we're about half a dress size behind. Yet most design-conscious retailers would rather go to the economic wall than sell her a frock. Get a grip.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Shopper's Bush

This is for my London girlies, on the whole.

Today I went to the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush. It's absolutely massive, to the point where they've surely rebuilt much of the infrastructure around S'sB, including the tube station. Very pleasant - I went in through House of Fraser which meant that I accessed the rest of the centre through a rarefied enclave of 'high end' designer shops - Dior, Miu Miu, Mulberry... splendid stuff in the manner of a quick stroll through an art gallery. I did step into Jo Malone - a store of sumptuous scents. A small bottle of cologne is around £30, which isn't too unattainable, but then you start thinking that it would be nice to blend a combination of them, in the recommended manner, to create your signature scent... a game which could become very expensive very quickly. I beat a hasty retreat - although if anyone has too much money and really wants to spend it on a grateful blogger, I thought I'd start with red roses; wild fig and cassis; and nectarine blossom and honey.

My next port of call was the MAC store. I looked in vain for MAC concessions in House of Fraser and Debenhams, until I discovered this standalone shop. It's pretty small and was absolutely rammed with shoppers. There was a security guard standing arms outstetched at the front operating a 'one out: one in' policy, which is a new one on me. MAC is all about the pro-longwear lipcolour (bombproof lipstick), and I'm taking a chance on 'Fully Charged' - a bubblegum pink which is paler in tone than I would normally wear. I hope I don't get too attached to it, because a quick rummage on the internet finding the picture above, tells me that it's been discontinued.

Despite the congestion at MAC, the rest of the centre wasn't oppressively busy - which for a Saturday, is surely amazing. I popped into Rigby and Peller to book a fitting, and got an appointment for only half an hour later. I thought I'd go to the world renowned bra experts out of curiosity really - I'm 95% sure that my 34JJ is the right size, but sometimes there's a little overspill. My fitter was lovely, but initially brought me a 36HH to try, which I didn't come close to fitting into. She conceded this, but seemed to think one cupsize would do the trick. You'll have to take my word for it - but I was busting out all over this bra! It was academic anyway - she thought I was a 36J, and Rigby and Peller don't go up to a J cup in underwired bras, although she could offer me a maternity bra or their made-to-measure service. I'm unimpressed. Back to Bravissimo for me, and I'm not sure I recommend Rigby and Peller at all.

Monsoon was as uninspiring as I expected from my season preview, except for this fabulous sixties-style frock. The photos don't really do it justice, so I'll try to explain. The bodice is a heavy cream fabric with sparkly pale gold thread running though it. Cut far too high for anyone boobalicious, the neckline is pure 1965. Then the skirt is this fantastically synthetic tangerine fabric - I used to own a vintage babydoll nightie in this fabric - it's so of its time. Then there are darling little bows at the top and bottom of the zip, also in the tangerine. So gorgeously retro - I see a couple of my mates in this frock (step forward, Alisa and Lesley). £60.

Lastly, I fell in love with the above mac in Marks and Sparks. It's £59 - which is perhaps a little steep for a raincoat, but the design is delightful for hourglass girls. Deep V neck, single breasted - both good things for flattering big boobs, then a full circle skirt to balance you out. It's cinched with a belt - which adds to the effect. A note on belted coats: the thicker the fabric, the less 'waist' you should try to define. Sadly this design stops at a size 18. I got it on, but I clearly needed a size larger, so it stayed in the shop. You can't win them all.