How many more can we afford to lose?

This week marks the closing of two important brands who have serviced the plus-size industry here in Australia (and overseas)… really?

Yes, really 🙁

Can we afford to lose such businesses?

Bennetts Boots have been around for years, an Australian company offering wide-calf boots in 3 different calf sizes. The first time I tried on a pair of Bennetts Boots I was in love. They fit! bennettsbootsNot only did they fit but the quality was second to none and everything had been thought of – anti-smell, quality leather, extra cushioning and beautifully presented in a box with instructions on how to care for your boots. I have 3 pairs in my wardrobe, and 5 years on they are still in excellent condition! Now that’s quality (and the argument I always use when convincing someone to invest $300+ in boots!)

Not only plus-size women have wide-calves, in fact a friend of mine is a runner and she too (even at a size 10) requires wide-calf boots, I know she’ll be saddened by this news too.

Plus HQ run by the gorgeous Amanda, face of the brand, started just over 2 years ago with a fabulous website dedicated to gorgeous, stylish and stunning garments for ladies size 16-26. Amanda’s website became so popular, that she expanded to a bricks & mortar store which opened in Eltham, Vic just over a year ago. PlusHQI was a huge fan of her store, in the quaint “village” of Eltham you were always welcomed with Amanda’s huge smile and welcoming spirit, she was a whizz at styling and nothing was too much trouble, but her customer service was also second to none – she just got it, you know! She had a keen eye for picking gorgeous styles to feature in her store, as well as the most amazing bags and accessories this side of Texas! I’ve never heard a bad word about her brand, only rave reviews.

Plus HQ hosted two incredible VIP nights where I was amazed at the turn-out, so many supporters, and all there to shop too! I shared a lovely dinner with her a few weeks ago where together we discussed the pros and cons of running such a business, and the difficult decision that had to be made to close the doors.

Both Amandas’ are extremely passionate women who saw a niche and went for it and they both made an important mark on our Industry. The challenges of business in the current economic climate, coupled with the explosion of internet shopping and keeping a solid cash flow have proven too big a hurdle. I know that these ladies did not come to this decision lightly. It’s just so sad that as a Curvy girl I can no longer look forward to their offerings.

As always, I want to encourage you all to SUPPORT AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS. It’s so important to recognise that businesses can only survive if we are actually buying, not just talking about how great they are. Both businesses have blitzed their final day’s sales, it’s sad that we are prepared to buy only when things are “on sale”.

(Incidentally, both brands have HUGE sales on right now, so visit their websites by clicking on the links/images above to grab a last minute bargain – and hang on for as long as you can!)

Just the other day, my hubby Pete and I were discussing issues with retail these days. He actually put the problem into a nutshell, he said “People just do not value quality anymore”. In fact we realised that the focus has shifted from quality completely. Such a shame.

It’s easy to buy cheap anything these days. I’m guilty of it too, don’t get me wrong. I can buy a kazillion pairs of “ankle” boots from the “cheapo” stores, but I can’t buy a kazillion pairs of quality wide calf boots from these stores. I need to invest in, and look after my quality boots. Equally, investing in key pieces (such as those always on offer at Plus HQ), equates to a quality wardrobe, not just a kazillion pieces of cheap nasty Chinese rip offs.

It’s time to re-think our buying patterns. I personally don’t feel we can afford to lose any more Australian brands – do you?

Amanda & Amanda, congratulations on your achievements and THANK YOU for providing me with quality & choice. Good luck with your future endeavours.

(SOB).

Love your shape!

Janine x

Want to know where to shop? I’ve got it sorted… The Curvy Girl’s Guide to Shopping

 

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

Plus HQ expands to a Bricks & Mortar Store in Melbourne…

In April 2012 I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda, a vivacious and passionate woman with a dream to make a difference in plus-size fashion.

I assisted Amanda source plus-size brands for her online store and consulted to her business on all things plus-size.  Amanda came to me with a dream, and in a little over a year the impact she has made is incredible!

Plus HQ the website has been up and running since May 2012, it quickly gathered momentum and fostered a loyal following. Feedback was always positive on the great customer service and quality of the products received. Amanda was frequently asked about opening her own store, and it became clear that there was a big need for another bricks & mortar store catering to sizes 14+.

Now I know personally with my styling & shopping services how frustrating it is to gallivant across the city from suburb to suburb to cover all bases when it comes to building a wardrobe, sometimes the majority of the day is taken up in the car getting from place to place, This is especially true when I’m dealing with customers in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but now no longer!

On April 24th I was thrilled to be invited to the VIP Opening of the Plus HQ bricks & mortar store in Eltham.  The evening was wet and rainy as I set my GPS to Eltham (a mere 1 hour drive!). From south-east to north-east I navigated my way through peak hour traffic to arrive for the 7pm start. When I arrived the car park was jam packed. When I finally secured a park, I opened my umbrella and bolted across the car park to the store with the lights on – low and behold I discovered at least 60 women milling around excitedly!  WOW what an incredible turn-out. It was clear from the onset that the location of this store was very welcome indeed.

The store is beautifully fitted out with grey/metallic fittings, the bursts of colour come from the incredible accessories (hosiery, scarves, costume jewellery galore and to-die-for handbags & clutches), and racks and racks of fashion clothing ALL in sizes 14+ – a treasure trove for the curvy girl. I was in heaven!

I was welcomed with a glass of bubbly and a tray of sushi was soon coming my way. I squeezed my way in through the crowds and was happy to see lots of familiar faces.

The room was abuzz and Amanda (who looked stunning as always) was radiating “dream come true”!

The inspirational and beautiful Julie Parker from Beautiful You was MC for the night and after a welcome speech from Amanda, Julie took over the microphone for an incredibly empowering speech on Positive Body Image. The room was still as we all listened and identified with Julie’s message.  At the end, the silence was broken as a thunderous round of applause filled the air. Congratulations to Amanda for ensuring such a strong message went hand in hand with her dream of bringing curvy fashion to the Melbourne masses.

“I’m everything that I want, I’m everything that I need, I am enough”,

Julie Parker, Beautiful You.

Then it was on to the fashion parade, four beautiful ladies, not models, just curvy girls of different ages and sizes paraded up and down the packed store wearing labels represented in the store including 17 Sundays and Harlow Fashion.  It was wonderful to see the garments on real bodies, not just hanging on a rack, really identifiable and certainly got everyone talking and oohing and aahing.  It was also fantastic to see that the two Australian Plus-size designer labels, 17 Sundays and Harlow Fashion were present to mingle with the crowds. The level of support is telling as to how passionate these girls are about their product and their designs. I was especially excited to see the girls from 17 Sundays wearing a selection of current stock and a few “sneak peeks” of what’s to come!! Nice one girls!

With the fashion show over, the guests were really keen to get at the racks and have a good look and try. The store was hectic, I took the opportunity to mingle outside the store with a lot of guests. The cash register was ringing away and lots of happy customers were happily showing other guests their stash of beautiful garments.

I love the selection of garments Amanda has on offer, the styles, colours and selection are impeccable, great labels with an accent on supporting Australian plus-size fashion designer labels, and the most amazing selection of gorgeous accessories.

I encourage you all to make the trip to Plus HQ at 9 Dudley Street, Eltham Vic at your earliest opportunity.

Amanda’s online store is also available 24/7 here and it’s $10 flat rate postage Australia wide.

NEWSFLASH: Hope&Harvest are now available in-store at Plus HQ… get on it!

Please tell Amanda I sent you.

Love your shape!

Janine x 

Wardrobe staples you don’t have to live without…

Recently I was reminded by a client how many women are driven by lack of choice or fear of not looking their best in a garment. My client is a size 22 and insisted that jeans do not suit her! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that she had completely closed herself off to the possibility of ever finding jeans that flattered her shape.

I’m happy to say that during our personal shop, we DID find jeans that flatter her figure and she is now the proud owner of TWO pairs of jeans!  “Suddenly there are options, thank you” she said.

It’s common to meet women who feel their curvy bodies are not suited to jeans, I constantly get asked about this topic and I encourage all of my clients to step out of the box and try on a pair (after years of avoiding them and omitting them as a wardrobe option) they are often surprised at what an important item jeans are to their wardrobe.

Jeans ARE a great option for curvy girls, but the trick is in sourcing a pair that not only suit your body shape, but are comfortable to wear. This not only applies to jeans, but it’s essential to have some wardrobe staples for each season in which to build a base for great, simple outfits that flatter your curves.

TIP No 1: When you find THE perfect pair of jeans for you, buy two pairs!

Let’s take me first. I am currently a size 20-22 (Australian sizing) hourglass in shape, but in jeans can appear to be top-heavy. I find that a bootleg in most instances suits me best as it balances me out.

I have two pairs/styles of GO TO jeans that are a staple in my wardrobe.

The first pair are NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) which I have always found are of high quality denim that retain their shape and colour even after many washes. The jeans wear well over time and I always feel comfortable in them (no muffin top here!). I hate that too tight feeling around my waist and although these jeans fit my waist snugly, they do not roll or squish! Very important.

The narrower bootcut gives me a longer legged sillouette and helps to balance out my figure.  These jeans are worth the investment! I also LOVE the sticker that comes on the “bum” of the jeans… check it out:

 NYDJ Jeans – Barbara Modern Boot Cut in Dark Indigo – $199 – Size US16 (Aus 20)

I’ve teamed my jeans with a long sleeve cuff shirt with horizontal stripes. I LOVE stripes, and am so thrilled with stripes being on-trend this season. I often opt for monochrome colours as a twist on the classic white shirt.This shirt can be dressed up or down.  The fabric feels amazing on my skin. It’s so versatile and looks great with and without accessories or a vest or similar.

My Size – Long Sleeve Cuff Striped Shirt – AUD$99.95 – Size L

The vest I’m wearing is one from a few seasons ago that I picked up from a sales rack for $10 at Target. It is a classic cut vest and I love that it adds value to my wardrobe all year round. In my wardrobe, vests are a key signature of my own personal style.

My second go-to pair of jeans are skinny legs that I love to wear tucked into my favourite boots. There’s nothing worse than bulging ankles in boots, so make sure when tucking jeans into boots that they are straight leg and are wrapped around your ankle to create a smooth fit.

These “A Stitch in Time” skinny leg jeans are a medium blue colour. They have five pockets and I just LOVE the stitching detail on the pockets and inner leg. They are cotton/spandex allowing for good stretch whilst not losing their shape (and fit so comfortably especially around my waist again without creating a muffin top!) with lovely silver star diamante buttons.  They are a valuable addition to my wardrobe, and give me the versatility to wear my boots on the outside, or with flats or heels, look amazing too.

PLUS HQ – A Stitch in Time Skinny Leg Jeans – AUD$59.95 – Size 20

 

My boot of choice for this season are from Australian company Bennetts Boots. The Mona Lisa in chocolate – just sensational, one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn. The heel is 7 cm and is very comfortable to walk in (I’m not a big heel person, so I’m always wary of height creating an awkward walking gait, but these are just perfect and I can glide along). Made of quality Crocodile/Nappa Leather, the boot fits my calf beautifully, with plenty of room to tuck in my skinny leg jeans or wear stockings or leggings without squishing my leg. The quality is great, 100% leather, and comes with instructions on how to care for them so they last for years to come.  Oh and they are fully lined with anti-smell, anti-sweat breathable lining with extra cushioning for comfort and shock resistance – seriously it’s like walking on a cloud.

Bennetts Boots – Mona Lisa (Chocolate) – AUD$325.00 – Size 9 WW

 

TIP No 2: Invest in Quality – I realise that these boots are a significant investment, but if you are like me and have made the mistake of buying cheap sub-standard shoes/boots on a budget only to have them ruined and tatty in a very short period of time after purchase, you will agree that it is 100% WORTH investing in a quality product that not only will fit properly but will last for years to come.

I asked the gorgeous Michella from my Curvy Revolution agency to pick her favourites too. It’s so important to talk about plus-size fashion from different size and body shape perspectives. Michella is a pear shape, and a size 16.

For a fabulous and comfortable day look, I teemed a pair of on-trend colour skinny leg jeans, which flatter her shape.  Married with a classic style white shirt – a staple in every girl’s wardrobe, and topped off with some gorgeous accessories, this outfit is not only comfortable by gorgeous! The accessories from Franky and Cate are just amazing, the necklace is a quality piece with a great length for curvy figures and the cuff bracelet, which unfortunately I forgot to include in the pic, is not only gorgeous but is elasticated allowing it to fit beautifully on any size wrist!

NYDJ Jeans – Sheri Skinny in Dark Teal – AUD $209 – Size US12 (AUS 16)
My Size – Boyfriend Shirt – $89.95 – Size M
Franky and Cate – Long Strand Earth Tone Chain – $69.00
Franky and Cate – (not pictured) Elasticated Metal Alloy Cuff – $69.00

 

Another wide-calf boot option is this gorgeous pair from The Pear Tree.  Now just a warning for those of you with calf size over 45cm.  Beware, my calf measures just a smidge over 45cm and  these boots are a size 9, the sizing chart on the site states that they should fit from 42-48cm calf, for me they did not. It’s fair to say that a size chart is always just a guide only, it always pays to try on anything for the fit just for you.

The Pear Tree offers a refund for the purchase amount or exchange for UNWORN boots in original condition within 30 days of order date. So this is reassuring.

Michella’s calf measures 42cm and as you can see from the photo, they fit her perfectly. In fact these boots are extremely flattering, I love the kitten heel and the 100% leather is again an investment in quality which I highly recommend.

The Pear Tree – Asha Boot – Wide Calf  – $325 delivered!

 

TIP No 4: A beautiful signature piece such as this gorgeous lace top is a wonderful investment, perfect for dressing up a pair of jeans and flattering your figure.

Using the same gorgeous jeans, Michella added a beautiful Lace Flutter Top from Volupture and a pair of heels and she was ready for a night out! This stunning lace flutter top is a beautiful addition to any wardrobe . The lace detail is so beautiful, the v-neck flattering to a curvy figure and the wide lace gives it structure. The crinkled chiffon fabric is cool and flattering.

Volupture – Lace Flutter Top – $53.00 – Size 2X

 

I encourage you to step outside the box and experiment with garments that you may have put in the “no-go” zone – you might be surprised. I’m always available to add value to your shopping experience, you’ll find more about that by clicking this link.

What are your favourite wardrobe staples?

Love your shape!

Janine x

Plus HQ – now that’s what I’m talking about!

One of the many things I LOVE about my “job” is the passionate people I meet on a daily basis. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda, a gorgeous lady with a dream.  Today marks the launch of her dream, an amazing online plus-size store – a pandora’s box of beautiful clothes & accessories – exclusively for women with curves size 16-26.

I sat down with Amanda for a chat with the aim to share this with you, we don’t often hear the stories behind the ideas… here goes…

 

Q:   Amanda, who is behind Plus HQ?

A:    Plus HQ has been a dream of mine for many years.  I decided to launch this business with the assistance of my gorgeous Mum and the support of my beautiful family.

Q:   What was the event that sparked your dream to launch Plus HQ?

A:    I was working in a family business that was recently sold.  The sale of the business prompted me to do something for myself.  I decided that there was no better time like the present to follow my dreams.  I wanted to make a difference for others and for myself. Thus, Plus HQ was born.

Q:   What has been the greatest challenge to get Plus HQ up & running?

A:    I knew this was not going to be easy as I have always found it difficult to find good quality clothes.  This hasn’t changed now that I am buying for others.  There is a huge lack of plus size designers, not only in Australia but around the world.  It certainly has been a challenge to find a good range of stylish fashion at an affordable price.

Q:   What can we expect from Plus HQ?

A:    Plus HQ will stock a range of clothing from basics to designer wear.  We will also have a large range of costume jewellery, accessories and handbags to complete your look.  You can expect an ever changing range from season to season, from a basic tee, to a cocktail dress for that special evening out. The goal of Plus HQ is to offer an experience that is a destination store, a one-stop place to purchase clothes made for your curves.

Q:   How are you different from other Plus size online retailers?

A:    Plus HQ is passionate about being able to help women achieve a look that makes them look and feel beautiful.  An online store that is solutions based, and aimed at satisfying a fashionista with curves. I know myself that by choosing clothing that suits your body shape, I seem to walk around with my head held a little higher and feeling confident.  I want to be able to share this with others and I will do this by stocking clothing to make you feel this way.  I won’t just stock an item because it is a large size.  It must be the right style.

Q:   What’s the best perk of the job? Is it wearing the clothes?

A:    I am a shopper.  I love shopping! So to being able to choose my range is pretty cool.  I am having to refrain from keeping one of everything, however, in saying that my wardrobe is growing at a rapid pace.  Definitely a perk!!!

Q:   What’s the most exciting part of this project so far?

A:    My Mum and I took a trip over to LA to check out the fashions.  It was the first time over there for both of us so that was a great experience.  I learnt a lot and came home with lots of ideas.  I also found it very exciting when I discovered the 17 Sundays label.  I fell in love with their whole range, as it is exactly the style I love and the fact that they are Australian made it all the more enticing for me.

Q:   What prompted you to use yourself as the model for the website?

A:    Nothing bothers me more than seeing plus size clothing modelled on regular sized women.  I am 5’6 and a size 18 and I really wanted for women to be able to see the garments on a plus size person.  I am not a model, just an everyday woman with plenty of curves.  It was important to me that customers know that they are dealing with someone who understands their needs.

Q:   How would you describe your own personal curvy style?

A:    I wouldn’t say I have a particular style.  I love to wear anything that makes me feel good.  I tend to lean toward dark colours and I love layering as it keeps your body in proportion.  I also love to accessorise with jewellery, scarves, shoes, boots or anything else that will top my outfit off.  I tend to spend more money on key pieces for my wardrobe, and then change the look with accessories.

To celebrate the launch of Plus HQ, if you type in the coupon code “LOVEYOURSHAPE” you will receive a 20% discount on all purchases (this offer is valid until Sunday 15th July, 2012).

Amanda’s Top 5 Wardrobe must haves:

  • A pair of good fitting comfortable jeans
  • A black dress – A great all-rounder for layering or on its own for day or night
  • A good fitting bra to give you lift
  • A leather Jacket – dress it up or down, day or night
  • Knee high boots!!!  I love these and wear them all through winter

Amanda, congratulations on your new store, I look forward to watching you go from strength to strength.

Love your shape!

Janine x