Every girl has an image in her head of that special dress for her special day. When Pete proposed to me on my 40th birthday in July 2011, I suddenly I realised I had to start thinking about what MY special dress would be? Our plan was for an intimate wedding with close family & friends, in the bush in Western Australia. What style of dress will best reflect me and our marriage?
I started googling dresses, typing in the words “plus size wedding dresses” bought up thousands of options, but as I scanned the images hopeful for some inspiration I didn’t see one dress that looked like ME.
I was keen to have a more relaxed, less formal style dress, I knew I wanted some type of lace detail and I was keen for it to be white, but I wanted something say, boho. So I started googling Boho wedding dresses. This image caught my eye. I loved the casual cool cotton with relaxed detail, chic and beautiful, but relaxed. Obviously the dress was designed with a non-plus-size figure in mind, but my mind was adapting the feel and working out how to apply it to myself and what would work for me.
I was grateful for the kind offers of a dress from many Australian plus-size retailers and brands, very grateful. But to be honest, none of the designs were what I wanted for ME.
Then suddenly it hit me, I needed to have my dress made, for my body. Mmmm, took me a while! So I made a call to my girls at Hope & Harvest. Now most of you will know Hope & Harvest have their own amazing plus-size designs, but I was really asking a huge favour, would they do me the honour of designing a dress just for me?
A phone call later and the gorgeous Harvest was almost more excited than me that we were designing a dress together! YAY!
The first step was to share the images I had sought with the girls, and we talked about roughly what I was hoping to achieve. The wheels were in motion and the excitement was building.
Step two was to select the material. I had already decided that I wanted a simple white cotton for the main part of the dress but I was looking for some lace embellishment to make it special. Harvest & Ainsley met me at Clegs in Brunswick one warm Melbourne morning in April and we spent a lovely morning exploring the options.
Funny thing is, during this process of choosing material, the original design I’d had in my head had already started to morph into something else. I remember I had butterflies during the whole morning, it was really difficult to pick fabrics for my idea, to be honest, I didn’t even know if it was going to look good on me or not.
Reflecting on this whilst I was walking around Clegs, I realised something. When you walk into a store there are usually more than 2 garments you are attracted to and want to try on. Often, I try them all on, and often the one I thought would suit is the one that didn’t or vice versa! So to be smack bang in the middle of a process that was making a dress from an image of a dress style I’d NEVER tried on was really a little crazy! I started to relax a little and went with my gut. Harvest was amazing, she truly understood what feel I was after, and she understood my body shape. Even more impressive (and I wasn’t to truly understand this til further down the process), Harvest has an incredible talent for haute couture, it’s like the design just flows out of her. The lace I chose that day was calling to me, I fell in love with it, and it became the foundation of the design with the dress evolving around it.
There was plenty of time, so we planned the next stage. I would visit H&H HQ for my first fitting a week later.
The first fitting day was quite an experience, not only was it FREEZING COLD, but I really didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived, the girls had made a “toile”, which is the beginning point of a Haute Couture design where you make a “test garment” sewn from the same material. The toile was hanging on a hanger, it looked like a bag or sack with pieces of cotton loosely threaded at different points around the pieces. Quite confusing for someone who had never been through this process before.
I peeled off my warm clothes and subjected myself to the elements. Goose bumps appeared – not only because I was cold but because I was nervous! Don’t get me wrong, these girls are amazing, and I KNOW that they knew exactly what I was after, but I just couldn’t get my mind around this sack of material turning into the dress I had imagined!
Trust the process I kept telling myself… and boy am I glad I did.
The process was amazing. In front of a mirror, the talented hands of Harvest fluttered around me as she placed, pulled and prodded the material into place around me. We tried this and that, gathered, ungathered etc. and finally we all agreed that this wasn’t it! Slowly, I began to see in front of me, with the help of this toile and the talents of two amazing designers, what would look great on me and so in front of my eyes the design evolved into something completely different! I went from wanting an unstructured dress with a boho feel, to a very structured dress with a boho feel! I GOT IT! This process of Haute Couture although quite scary, was truly remarkable. Harvest worked tirelessly and seemingly effortlessly to draw all over the toile and pin here and there, until she was satisfied. Then it was quite an effort to get out of the toile without pricking myself! Reassuringly, the girls told me they’d work their magic and see me in two weeks!
Visit three saw me arrive to a more complete toile, which was sewn in the structured design we’d come up with. I was amazed at how a sack with lots of pins and pen marks had been transformed into a toile that fit like a glove! I turned toward the mirror and realised this was IT! Hooray, the design was taking shape. I gave the ok to go ahead and MAKE the dress! That felt incredible. The next step was to work the lace into the dress once the base was complete.
Fitting four took place the morning after my Hen’s Night. We were all very tired but excited to weave some magic with the lace.
WOW, This was looking amazing. I was so excited, and couldn’t believe how different, yet how perfect this had all come together. Off the girls went with my dress pinned and ready to be completed.
The final stage was another visit to H&H HQ where we had the big reveal.
One of the important steps to having a dress that is made well and fits well is to chose correctly fitted foundation undergarments. I did a lot of research on foundation undergarments and spent a lot of time trying to find the right fit for me. In desperation I even purchased two control wear garments online from overseas, but when these arrived I had to contort myself into such strange positions to get them on that I just knew that that wasn’t going to cut the mustard! Interestingly, even after visiting some specialist stores I still couldn’t find THE perfect fit – that was until I visited my local Autograph store. I know right, not where I was expecting to find what I was looking for in undergarments, but I was wrong. I’m happy to say that I found exactly what I needed and left the store with a beautifully fitted Rita Lace Underwire Bra in Pearl (oh and I bought one in red too because I loved it so much – but that was for the honeymoon!), and the Essentials Panty Girdle in Café. Now I ummed and ahhed about the Girdle as I just think it’s not that attractive right? But I hate having separate garments with shapewear, I’m a bodysuit girl (but that’s another story). The Girdle is beautifully made, very comfortable and the wide elastic silicone trim on the waist sat perfectly under my bust and bra band and didn’t roll, not even once (and the lace detail at the top of the leg made it feel a little less ugly)! It felt as though I was wearing a bodysuit and it worked well to create a great silhouette under my dress. So for me, this combination worked a treat and added value to my dream dress. Having the foundations in place BEFORE building the dress was an important part of the process.
Two weeks before our wedding I very excitedly drove to H&H HQ and picked up my dress. The feeling I had when the girls helped me put it over my head and zip it into place is indescribable! We put everything into place and then I turned around and looked into the mirror – HOORAY! I felt amazing, I felt beautiful, this was my dream dress! All three of us cheered and hugged with tears of joy.
Mum gifted me a beautiful citrine & diamond pendant for my birthday this year, it’s just stunning, exactly the same setting as my engagement ring but it’s oval instead of diamond shaped. I found my string of pearls and the pendant clipped perfectly into place, the most gorgeous adornment for my dress.
Flash forward to our special day, surrounded by family & friends, I walked down the “bush” aisle with my gorgeous son Zac and beautiful mum Dianne, I felt amazing, special, beautiful, curvy and loved, but most of all HAPPY. I did my own hair & make-up (and after many hair trials with curls, and all sorts of do-dahs, I decided I wanted to look like ME so I went for my usual style!).
Married to my Superman Pete and wearing “Janine” by Hope & Harvest, Dryandra Village, Western Australia 14th September, 2013. My bouquet was specially made for me by my sister-in-law Donna out of native flowers from my parents-in-laws’ garden. My shoes were purchased on e-bay and are Beige Leather Bernardo Farfalla – just loved them! – Perfect x (Image by David Entz)
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to have such an amazing wedding dress made just for me. THANK YOU Harvest & Ainsley, you were both incredibly amazing during this whole process and I am forever grateful for the experience and honour of wearing one of your designs.
Love your shape!
Are you a curvy bride? Here’s my top 6 tips for brides to be…
A few months ago, whilst researching fashion and styles for my wardrobe, I stumbled across an amazing designer based here in Melbourne. I was compiling my Curvy Girl’s Guide to Melbourne, and I got in touch with her about her designs to include details in the guide.
Annalisa Trembath is a Melbourne based designer. Her label Kaftans by Annalisa are handmade, using the highest quality fabrics and most amazing prints from around the world. The design is elegant and simple, but simply stunning. Each kaftan is produced in only limited amounts, so the chances of running into someone in the same gorgeous design is small! Her range includes sizes 8-26 and also maternity kaftans.
I have to admit that the word kaftan brings an image of Demis Roussos to mind, a great voice, but not a snappy dresser! LOL – NOT ANY MORE – I love kaftans now I’ve discovered the perfect design.
I was thrilled when I received my own kaftan, it arrived beautifully wrapped with instructions on how to look after it. The fabric I had chosen is simply stunning, a statement in itself. The tag however was thrilling – Janine Size! Now that’s a size I can relate to!
I tried my kaftan on and was immediately in love! With my Hen’s night coming up it was the perfect outfit.
Just look at how the design flatters my figure! I felt so amazing, a goddess! I styled my kaftan with footless tights from City Chic and my wedges from Joanne Mercer.
Every part of my body felt hugged, the clever design showed my curves and shape and flattered my arms and tummy – I felt a million dollars and got compliment after compliment. When you wear something that adds value to your shape and stays true to YOUR own fashion style, it shows.
Although I know that my new kaftan is a statement piece in it’s own right, I felt I needed something amazing to compliment it. I went searching for THE perfect piece to set off THE perfect kaftan, and this is what I came up with – the Venus Necklace by Coussinet. The timing couldn’t have been better, Coussinet had just sent me their new season look book and this piece just jumped out at me! I love my pieces from Coussinet, they are big and bold and feel just oh so right.
My Hen’s weekend started off wonderfully, my gorgeous friend Erika flew down from Queensland especially for the weekend. She arrived at lunch time and after a catch up in the sun on our balcony with Pete and my boys, Erika and I headed off for an afternoon of pampering at my local shops. Our first stop was the Body Shop where I was treated to a makeup session. I’m a lover of minimal makeup, and so I struggle to find a good foundation that gives me good coverage (especially for photos) but doesn’t feel like I’m wearing a mask. The Body Shop offers great options and the trial session resulted in me purchasing a great foundation for my wedding, with the added bonus of not needing to do my makeup for my special night! I have to say I felt a little silly walking around the shops dressed casually in jeans (and with my thongs on – in readiness for a pedicure!) – and bold eye makeup, but it was fun. Erika and I stopped for sushi and coffee, then it was off for a mani and pedi. Oh the bliss of being pampered and preened. We giggled like school girls and enjoyed the opportunity to just kick back.
I’m not a fan of the traditional hen’s nights with crazy stunts, and walking through crowds dressed in strange attire… my idea of a hen’s night is some of my nearest and dearest friends sharing a meal and enjoying a laugh together. My wish came true.
My gorgeous friend Erika and I ready to leave for the evening. We headed off to a restaurant I had never been to before, but came highly recommended from a friend, and boy was it a great recommendation. Kamel Restaurant in Albert Park is da bomb! The food is Middle Eastern and North African inspired and is the perfect food to share in a group. We had a private room with a fire place, a huge table surrounded by seats, it was like being in our own home but with fabulous service and I didn’t have to cook!
I was joined by my gorgeous mum, my daughter Nikki and 8 of my closest friends. Women are so important in your life, and as I sat and enjoyed the company and the food, I marvelled about the story of each of the women in the room. All so beautiful, talented and warm. I love every one of them and am grateful for each of our stories.
We laughed, joked and ate and had a wonderful time. I enjoyed sitting next to everyone and taking “Selfie’s” together, but with just my iPhone as a tool and in the dimly lit room with the glow of the fireplace the photos came up quite grainy. I used the photo to send a thank you to each of my friends individually. Here are two I LOVE so much, my mum and I sat together and we were trying to wrangle the camera to get the right angle, and were pressing the buttons and took about 6 images, here are two that tell the story:
Can you see how we have the same smile, and the same crinkle next to our noses? Ha!
It was a wonderful night and I felt so beautiful in my gorgeous kaftan and necklace, surrounded by my dear friends. When I got home, Pete was up waiting for me and I shared some of the stories. The next day Pete made us pancakes (a Sunday ritual for our family) and Erika and I sat with my boys for brekky and shared our stories (the boys had a movie night together!). Then Pete took the boys out for the day and Erika and I spent the day together. I was thrilled that she was able to be there for my final fitting for my wedding dress. The girls from Hope&Harvest arrived with my dress in a suit bag, so very exciting. We spent a couple of hours umming and aahing, pinning and cutting and we now have the final design complete. The girls will complete my dress and I can pick it up late August – I am so excited and am so grateful to have such talented designers working with me. Of course I have photos of the fitting, but they will have to wait until after the big day (only 33 more sleeps to go!)
Afterwards, Erika and I headed out for yum cha. I just LOVE dumplings! A couple of pots of Jasmine tea and a LOT of dumplings later, we sat and chatted and enjoyed the day. The beautiful Amanda at Plus HQ gifted me this gorgeous necklace as a wedding gift, I just LOVE the accessories she has in-store, they really are my style. Thanks Amanda x
When we got home, Pete and the boys had just arrived home too and there was a gorgeous bunch of flowers waiting on the bench for me, from my Superman Pete – what a guy! That just topped off a wonderful weekend.
Life is good. THANK YOU to everyone who made this weekend so special.
Love your shape!
Over the past five years I’ve invested my energy and passion into providing styling advice, education & empowerment tools, a safe social media environment for discussion and I’ve been a loud voice for plus-size women.
I receive hundreds of emails and social media messages per month requesting assistance with sourcing garments or styling advice from women curvy women Australia wide. You are constantly wondering where to shop for clothes and how to put it all together. I’ve spent wonderful hours working with you one-on-one and in groups, but I thought it was timely to put together a resource that you could have at your fingertips, a one-stop guide to shopping!
Welcome to the Curvy Girls Shopping Guide to Melbourne, Australia. This guide is exclusively designed to provide you with resources for curvy girls in our gorgeous city. This Guide contains information that has been compiled from my own research and personal experiences. It will be updated on an annual basis to ensure its relevance as stores and labels appear, evolve and change. Everything you need in one place!
“Hey Janine got my copy and even though I’m in Brisbane like you said GREAT resources that are Australia wide! Being American it has been difficult navigating beyond the ‘usual suspects’ for a more boutique shopping experience. LOVE IT! (Encourage any AU based people to get it!) I’ve read cover to cover & browsed every shop already! (Online that is)” ~ Kenyeal
The guide features detailed listings with all relevant contact details and clickable links directly to retailers and service providers. Fully printable or viewable in PDF.
Curvy styling options
An overview of plus-size fashion in Australia
Australian plus-size designers
Second hand markets and online resources
Activewear, Lingerie & Sleepwear
Specialty Boutiques specialising in Size 14+
and so much more…
Remember, if you need styling assistance or have a special event coming up, I offer lots of options for shopping & styling.
Love your shape!
Well here we are July already! And suddenly it’s only 2 months and 4 days til our wedding (yep I’m counting down the days)!
Those of you who have followed my journey (mostly posted via Facebook) know that life threw us a few curve balls over the past two years. In May 2011 I decided to give up smoking, and you followed me on a blog here. Shortly after quitting I became very unwell and my body suffered severe adrenal fatigue that has taken me almost two years to recover from (that’s a story for another day). In June 2011 we were rocked by the sudden loss of my amazing dad at age 65, just short of my 40th birthday. The pure shock threw us all, but together, as families do, we have stayed strong. Just 12 days after my dad’s funeral it was my 40th birthday and unbeknownst to me my incredible partner Pete (AKA Superman) was planning a surprise proposal. We had already locked in a week’s holiday, an annual event where as a couple (with 4 children between us) we take a week out of our busy lives just for ourselves. Bliss! This particular year we planned a road trip to Lake Mungo and our first stop was in Hopetoun, Vic where we stayed in an incredible silo that had been turned into accommodation – just amazing!
I remember at the time being very sad, quiet and still in shock. It was so comforting to have some time-out, to see the open road, to be in nature and away from the city but mostly to be comforted by being with the one I love.
We had a lot of fun, lots of tears and lots of laughing. Along the way I remember feeling broken, and guilty because I was so sad, and so happy at the same time. Kind of like the ground we saw around us, green moss growing over cracked earth…
The trip was so cathartic and for me it reinforced the incredible relationship Pete & I have together, during the good and during the bad times.
We travelled on to Mildura for a few nights – and ultimately we hit the dirt roads of outback Vic and into NSW on the road to Lake Mungo, NSW. We’d both always wanted to visit Lake Mungo, a dry lake in south-eastern Australia with a rich ancient history. We were excited to explore. We stayed at a gorgeous cattle station called Turlee, a gem in the middle of nowhere. What an amazing place, we settled in and cooked up a steak for dinner.
Now I should mention here that when we were preparing to leave for our trip, Pete said “I just need a half hour to do a few things” and promptly disappeared into our spare bedroom for hours! When he eventually emerged he deposited a large cardboard box on the back seat of our car and instructed me to NOT OPEN the box under any circumstances. This box travelled with us the whole journey untouched! When we arrived at Turlee Station he bought the box carefully inside and put it on the floor in the corner. There it stayed until the next day, my birthday.
In the middle of the night I awoke feverish and feeling extremely unwell, this quickly escalated into a full blown case of gastro! Here I was in the middle of nowhere – literally, more than 110kms down a bumpy, dirt road on a cattle station. No immodium, no nothing. My body ached and I spent the next 8 hours in tears and agony. Not a great start to my 40th Birthday!
Pete was, as always my superman. He nursed me and held me, and even contacted the station owner via the two-way radio (the only form of communication as we were out of mobile range) and arranged a medi-vac if needed. The Jillaroo on the station arrived around 10am with herbal tea and an assortment of other medications to try and finally about 3pm in the afternoon I started to feel a little better. In fact, I sat up in bed, and said “it doesn’t feel like my birthday!”. Pete gave me a huge smile and said “I can fix that!!” and promptly walked over to the corner of the room and bought over the box!
I sat in bed, hair matted, no bra, dodgy trackies, looking so glamorous! I opened “My” box and out came 40 perfectly wrapped presents, one at a time! They ranged from small to large parcels, all lovingly wrapped! No wonder he was missing for hours the night before we left, he had spent those hours wrapping all my gifts. The gifts were fabulous, a voucher for Asian cooking classes (yippee!), cd’s, trinkets, jewellery, herbs & spices for my cooking and so much more. Then in the bottom of that huge box out came my book! When Pete and I first started dating over 5 years ago, for my first birthday together he made me a book, and each special occasion he writes something special in it for me. I unwrapped my book, and flicked to the last page, and my mind was blown! WOW, I was speechless! And then…. I said YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Talk about 10 out of 10 on the unexpected scale! I was, and still am the happiest woman alive. I found my superman and I’m going to marry him! How lucky am I?!
So, enough of all the mushy stuff. That was 2011, we’d originally planned our wedding for September 2012 but with all the upheaval in our lives this past 18 months, we decided to postpone our special day until things settled a little. Oh I forgot, here’s my beautiful Citrine ring…. isn’t it amazing?!
Fast forward to 2013 and we’ve set the date for September 14th 2013. The invitations have been sent…
…and it’s all systems go! How exciting. I’d love to share with you my wedding journey, and I’d love to hear about yours, your tips & hints and share some of mine.
In the meantime, I’ve put together a Curvy Brides – TOP 6 TIPS for plus-size brides to be – I’m good at taking my own advice too, so I’ve ticked all 6 boxes!
Drop me a comment and let me know what you’d like to know, what your experiences are, where you found your special dress, about your proposal, anything wedding. Simply leave a reply below!
I’m off to submit my passport application, we’re off to Bali for our honeymoon!
Love your shape!