Haute Couture… my experience

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 BohOriginal Ideao 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.

Ainsley Janine

Ainsley holding up the lace I chose.

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.

Harv and Janine

Harvest explaining to me the options within our design with this lace

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.

Janine

With my lace – very excited!

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.

Arms

Harvest working on the sleeve with the lace. This part of the process was all about looking at what worked and how I felt.

Fish Tail

Harvest & Ainsley working on applying the lace to the skirt. I just LOVE how they made it flatter me, there was a beautiful “tail” at the back where the lace kicked out, and it draped over my hips to a point at the base of my back.

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.

 
Ainsley, Harvest and I celebrating – the finished product!

JANINE WED

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.

3photo

The beautiful pendant given to me by my mum for my birthday and as a wedding gift.

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!).

janine_and_pete_032

Entering the ceremony walking down the aisle with my son Zac and mum – so happy! (Image by David Entz)

Bottom of Dress & Shoes

I loved the detail of the tail of my dress! We stood in a heart shaped with rose petals (Image by David Entz)

janine_and_pete_179

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.

Thank you.

Love your shape!

Janine x

Are you a curvy bride? Here’s my top 6 tips for brides to be…

Repel those stigmas…

In two weeks time I’ll be in the air flying to Perth for my Wedding! I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. For over 2 months now I’ve had a countdown on our whiteboard in the kitchen. Each morning I patter out to the kitchen, wipe the previous count off the board and happily count down one more day. Can you tell I’m excited?

BUT, over the past few weeks I’ve found myself checking myself on more than one occasion. You know that niggly feeling you get when something doesn’t feel quite right? Today I suddenly realised I’d fallen for it, the state of mind I pride myself on had fallen prey to stigma.

“Oh what diet are you following for your wedding?”

“How much are you hoping to lose before the day?”

“How much weight have you lost so far for your big day?”

Those are but a few questions I’ve fielded with perfect strangers during the past few months whilst shopping for my wedding or buying a coffee.

Really?

When I answer with “none” or “I’m not planning to”, their faces change from musing to complete shock.

What is wrong here?

For years I’ve worked so hard to project positive body image. I’ve lived, worked and breathed it. I, like every other woman on the planet, have the normal twinges of doubt about how I look, or those parts of my body that I might prefer to be different, but on the whole I am proud to say I am a VERY confident woman. So what happened?

I’m really annoyed with myself. I let others stigmas and yard sticks measure me and impact on my own sense of self.

My superman Pete loves me just the way I am. In fact, he doesn’t just love me, he LOVES ME, all of me. My kids love me just the way I am, my friends and family love me, and suddenly I realised I was doubting my love for myself.

EBook_Teaser_1_Final

Last year I invested in the Inspirational Self Love Quotes, a beautiful e-book by my gorgeous friend & colleague Julie Parker at Beautiful You. Now this lady knows her stuff when it comes to Positive Body Image. I have some of her quotes framed in my office, and today, I decided it was a good time to re-visit this book again. Relief, and pure irony – cause you know what? – this is what I preach and I KNOW THIS STUFF, I live it, it is me.

STOP. STOP. STOP.

So today I had a shower, moisturised my skin, and then for five full minutes I stood naked in front of the mirror and I just took all of myself in. All of me.

Janine Sans

….and you know what? I’m ok. I’m beautiful just as I am.

Silly thing is, I ALREADY KNEW THAT!!! Oh the things we do to ourselves!

Message to self: I repel such comments, I repel other’s lack of confidence in themselves masked as a question couched to me – and I REINSTATE my own body confidence. I own my own self. I will NEVER give my self esteem and spirit away – I am BEAUTIFUL and UNIQUE.

I love and appreciate

that my body is entirely unique.

There is no other like me and

I will never compare my body to anybody else’s.

I am beautiful, and…

I love my shape!

Love YOUR Shape!

Janine x

Janine Size…

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!

FinalJanineSize

I tried my kaftan on and was immediately in love! With my Hen’s night coming up it was the perfect outfit.

Kaftan1

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.

Kaftan2

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. Kaftan3

 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.

ReadytoGo

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:

Mum1 Mum2

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!)

YumCha

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!

Janine x