Last week I posed a question to the Styling Curvy community on my Facebook page (HERE), “Do you feel fairly represented by your favourite fashion labels?” Do you see mannequins that represent your shape, sales assistants you can relate to, images in advertising that’s relatable? What would you like to see more of? HA. Ok that’s more than one question.
I asked the question because I was hi fiving myself at signing off on a campaign with a national plus size label. I’m forty five, fat and have thinning hair, chin hair and boobs made from my back…so I chalked it up as a win. It made me wonder though, what is it that you actually want?
Well, you ladies spoke up and after digesting all the replies I decided to reply, in a blogpost.
HERE’S WHAT YOU SAID
Ladies, you are frustrated! Frustrated consumers of fashion. I get it and I don’t blame you.
Things aren’t like they used to be. The state of sizing in Australia is confusing. With online shopping changing the face of the way we shop there’s things you need to know to assist you with a successful online shop.
Then there’s us, the consumer…we want more! We call bullshit more and demand more…often for less.
When I read through the comments my heart hurt for the women in Australia and for the designers and retailers. Let’s make this fair, we can’t come down hard ‘n heavy on our designers and retailers every time we feel frustrated in a change room.
‘We’ need to be accountable too. We need to take ownership of our style and steer our own shopping experience a little more too. I bet you weren’t expecting that huh?
HERES WHAT YOU WANT, Let’s break it down…
I freakin hear ya on this one. The reality is there is NO standard sizing in Australia anymore. The shape and size of women has changed dramatically over the decades (I know mine has) and then there’s what’s known as ‘aspiration sizing’. This is where some labels will size down to make shoppers feel better about themselves. A stroke for the ego but geez, no wonder we are confused.
Sizing can differ (even in the same label) for many reasons, like fabric composition, dyes, cutters or even a change of manufacturer. This is why WE need to be prepared ladies. Know your measurements, let go of ‘sizing expectation’, get over it and size up if needed, try on several sizes and wear what fits and feels right.
If shopping online then read the text provided. Online stores are doing amazing things for shoppers but we sometimes don’t take the time to ensure we have a great shopping outcome.
-Look at the size guide.
-Know your measurements.
-when shopping offshore I advise sizing up.
-Take note of the height and size of model and what size garment she is wearing and ask questions. You can send a message on social media to labels or email them. They are more than happy to assist you. YOU hold the power.
MORE ON TREND STYLES AND LESS DAGGY BAGGY
Some of you voiced loudly in regard to hideous prints and dull colours and then there was the disdain for baggy and boxy styles.
Oh yes I hear ya. Having been everything up to a size 24 I hated the garish prints, unflattering prints and poorly placed prints. Not all body shapes and personalities suit prints either.
Shapeless and baggy garments are old hat, they really don’t belong in mainstream fashion. We want curves, shape, length where it’s needed, on trend design features and clothes that fit.
I want designers to consider a woman’s body, really consider it and to consider how they want women to feel in their garment.
Guess what ladies? We actually do have this in Australian plus size fashion 🙂
Yup, you need to be informed, maybe ask more questions and dig a little harder but we do have some freakin fabulous designers in Australia consistently producing on trend lines.
Some work two jobs, mortgage their house and burn the candle at both ends to bring you exciting fashion each season, because they are passionate and believe that all women should look and feel fabulous.
When I choose my clothes I don’t shop at just one store, my outfit is rarely made up from just one label. I have an open mind when shopping, a piece from here, another from there and not all are plus size I also need to be creative, but if the truth was told so do most women. I know very thin women, short, tall and athletic women and they don’t get an easy ride when it comes to fashion and personal style.
Manufacturers can not (ever) cater to everyone. Women need to be creative and find their personal style.
There is sometimes so much choice that it can be difficult to decipher and feel overwhelming. Where do we look? Who has what we are after? Are we after a one stop shop easy option? Well are you? It just doesn’t exist ladies.
Don’t we all want that? ALL Aussie women no matter their size would like lower prices. Ladies there’s good and bad at all price ranges but it’s up to us to filter through the crap, share our wins and speak with our feet. Quality product costs, end of story.
SIZE APPROPRIATE MANNEQUINS
This is something that has started to change in retail but not consistently. I believe if you are a retailer who is stocking larger sizes then for goodness sake spend the money and invest in a larger mannequin, I can guarantee it will pay off because women WILL relate.
No more clips and pins cinching in plus clothing on regular size mannequins, we are not fooled…just insulted and sometimes even hurt.
RELATABLE SALES ASSISTANTS
Retail ain’t what it used to be, the training and mentoring just isn’t there for most retail assistants (not all) any more. Careers are transient and if businesses don’t actively aim to retain staff through training, reward and other incentives then we, the consumers will continue to feel under-serviced and undervalued
It works both ways though ladies. Please get to know your retail staff at your favourite stores. Give them a smile, ask how their day is going, ask for advice because they are there for you and if you continue to allow them to give you zero service then that is exactly what they will think women want.
Put your hand up to go on the VIP list and be kept in the loop, enquire about new arrivals or ask them to demonstrate how to put some pieces together, I’m sure they would love to help. Of course if they don’t want to help and you feel invisible and your shopping experience is less than pleasant then talk with your feet…shop elsewhere.
Let’s not judge a book by its cover though, retail assistants come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Their hair could be platinum, mousey, pink, purple, blue or even natural grey. They all have their own story and experiences and just because at first glance they might not be fat enough/skinny enough/ young enough/ old enough/, give them a chance. We all want that in life right?
CHOICE IN LENGTHS
This was a big one! Lots of you are frustrated with pants that are either too short or too long. You’ve had it with shirt sleeves that hang down past your palms or don’t quite reach your wrists.
Some label’s can definitely do better in this department but stocking every style in multiple lengths is just not feasible financially for most labels. We don’t see straight sizes in multiple lengths and fits (OK, sometimes we do, but we sometimes see it in plus too), so ladies find yourself someone who knows their way around a Janome.
A good alterations lady is someone everyone needs to have on their side. Custom fit and ‘slightly tweaked’ garments will always sit better and feel better than a bad mood from a poor fitting or ‘not quite right’ garment. Factor the cost of a little alteration into your purchase, it’s either worth it or it isn’t.
CLOTHES TO FIT YOUR SHAPE
Quite a few you were vocal about better fitting garments and clothes to fit your shape. Here’s the truth ladies…NOT ALL STYLES WILL SUIT YOU. Uhuh, I know, harsh but true.There really is no point trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, and this is exactly the same for personal style.
It’s up to you to know your shape, understand how things like your height and bust size will alter a garment. Read up, Google, attend a workshop, hire a stylist or follow bloggers with a similar body shape to you and you will feel empowered in no time.
I’m not saying you can’t wear whatever the heck you want to go for it, I’m saying that we are all unique, and we will not all fit into or suit all styles.
Personally I love lots of styles and colours that don’t love me, I fall hard for them but, I’m informed and educated and show restraint. When I see those styles and colours that I know don’t work for my beautiful unique body I keep on walking. I flip the page of the magazine. I hover my mouse over something else.
Admire it and move on!
MORE INTEGRATIVE VISUAL MERCHANDISING & RELATABLE MODELS
This is my biggest gripe with plus size retail in Australia. My heart aches when I see plus size poorly merchandised, it’s akin to telling larger women that they just don’t matter. Department stores are the worst for this and here in Adelaide I’ve seen some atrocious merchandising.
I do have confidence. I do feel good about my body. I am a stylist so I know a thing or two about how to put an outfit together. BUT, I feel for women who don’t have any or all of that. Women who are broken, ashamed, nervous, lacking confidence, time poor or on a budget. Women who will feel overwhelmed and frustrated by poor merchandising.
Merchandising should be exciting, inviting, easy to decipher and it should tell a story.
In some stores visual merchandising is seriously lacking, non existent even. I would love to see plus size clothing integrated within stores and not in dark corners or dead spots of stores. I don’t want to see racks of black clothing with no effort put into creating relatable, on trend displays.
I want to see accessories integrated into visual merchandising and brands clearly displayed. I want to see good lighting, tidy racks and beautiful changerooms.
Listen up retailers, if you show us ‘how’, treat us ‘like we matter’ and are ‘inclusive’ we. will. spend.
Oh yes, we have money and we will make a beeline for your store or your label…and we. will. support. you!
You want to see relatable models in the images. Models with bigger arms, soft bellies, thighs that kiss, ample bosom, different heights and of course women of all ages.
Style has no expiry. Women’s desire for stylish clothing does not extinguish when they blow out a candle at a certain age.
Show me women with short hair, shaved hair, long hair, curly hair, grey hair, women like me and you.
And I guess that’s what we all really want across the board, we want to be seen, feel included and accepted and we want to dress like our authentic selves.
Plus size fashion in Australia has come a long way, there are most definitely trailblazers and labels accommodating for those of us who want style at any size. We are doing good things but we could do better, on both sides.
As consumers we need to shop around, get informed, hire help, let go of outdated ideals like sizing labels and finding everything in one place. We need to tweak a garment to suit our shape and personality.
We need to support the labels that are supporting us.
We need to raise our voice (politely) and ask for what we want.
Retailers, please listen to us. See us. Ask us what we want more of, stock some more colour, on trend, fashion forward and better fitting pieces. Invest in quality, vibrant visual merchandising and use models we can really relate to.
Don’t try to do it ALL, do some of it but do it bloody well and we will find the rest somewhere else.
Somewhere where others are also doing what they do…bloody well.
If you are all doing ‘some’ of what we want and nailing it, then heck we have half a chance. We will nail getting dressed each day and we will continue to support you!
You’ve told me on my Facebook page what you don’t like in plus size, I would really love to hear about stores and labels you love, the ones ‘who are’ nailing it.
Of course, feel free to add whatever you like to the discussion, just be respectful and constructive as labels I collaborate with will read this and together we can all learn more.
How did I do? Did I cover your concerns? Do you feel heard? Do you think differently after reading this?
Til next time,