An Afternoon at Autograph

Published November 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Sometimes being a bolshy fat activist blogger means I get to do some pretty awesome things.  For anyone who has been reading Fat Heffalump for awhile, you know I’ve had quite a regular blog review relationship with Australian plus-size clothing retailer, Autograph Fashion.  Being the only brick and mortar dedicated plus-size store that actually have clothes that fit me (most only go to 22 or 24 AU) and that I can afford (MySize – $90 for a t-shirt, fuck that!), I am pretty vocal about how they’re doing with serving the mega fatty like myself as far as price, quality and style are concerned.  In the 12 months or so since they first contacted me and asked me to review some of their clothes, I’ve watched a vast improvement in the quality and style of their stock and the look of their stores.  They’ve gone from this to the outfits I’m going to show you below.

I’ve been really, really lucky that they’ve sent me so many pieces for free to review, and I really appreciate that they are working to get it right – and of course, I’m the kind of bolshy fat activist blogger who is going to be honest with them if they don’t.

Earlier this week they contacted me and let me know that some of the marketing folk were going to be here in Brisbane today, and asked me if I would like to come in and meet with them, have a look at the new stock and give them some feedback and discuss how they’re doing with their product and service these days.  HELL YES!

Being on holidays at the moment (back to work Monday, sob!) meant that I had plenty of time to spare and could relax and just enjoy talking with the ladies and trying on clothes and letting them see how they work on someone at the upper end of their range.  I’m a size 26AU in most garments (though often lower sizes in pants/skirts) and therefore definitely at the upper end of their 14-26 range.  I also have a body that is not a traditional shape – no hourglass or pear here… I’ve said before I’m more of a barrel with legs.  We know as fatties ourselves that our bodies are diverse in shape even though we might take the same size garment, so it’s important for the folks from a plus-size clothing company to understand the mechanics of our fitting garments to our diverse bodies.

I did make sure I was wearing a mostly Autograph Fashion outfit today, because I also want them to know that I certainly do buy their clothes – boy do I buy a lot of their clothes!  So this is what I wore:

This dress originally came with a belt, but because I’m round in the middle, it looks better on me unbelted.  The sandals are from Payless Shoes and earrings from Ritual.  I also had an Autograph Fashion bracelet on, but my hand is behind my back so you can’t see it here.

So I met the Autograph ladies and we started out by having a discussion about what I liked about the store and the current stock.  The Myer Centre store looks great at the moment, inviting and as if they’re proud of their stock and their customers.  Compared to a lot of plus-size clothing retailers, who either shove the plus-sizes in the back, or they fill the windows with something other than their clothes on plus-size mannequins (why put something other than your stock in the window??), I like how their stock is highly visible from the front of store, and they have plus-size mannequins right there in the middle of the front of the store, highlighting the plus-sized clothes they sell.  It looks like any other clothing store, just with bigger clothes.  Their stock has some great colours that are bang on trend at the moment, and some really fab on-trend prints and styles too.

We also talked about the stuff that I’m not so fond of.  Shark-bite hemlines anyone?  I HATE those things, though I’m stuck with several in my wardrobe because options are so limited for my size.  They actually don’t have much that makes me go “yuck” at the moment.   I also told them about some horrible things other companies are doing, like cutting off at size 20 or 22, offering only casual clothes, charging exorbitant prices for t-shirts and capri pants ($90 for a t-shirt!!), or the worst practice – having lower quality fabrics for the upper sizes, ie 22 and 24, than those that are 14-20 in the exact same garment.

We also talked about how clothes fit on “everyday” fat bodies, as opposed to their current “face” of Autograph Fashion, plus-size model Fiona Faulkner – who is gorgeous but is a bit of an Amazon – very tall and hourglass with long legs.  That’s not the average Australian plus-size woman’s build, and so we talked about the practicalities of fitting clothes to women with bodies like mine that aren’t shaped like the current cultural beauty ideal.

They also asked me if I could buy clothes from any other plus-size retailer, if they had my size, shipped to Australia and were affordable, who I would buy from.  Dorothy Perkins got my main vote – I love the styles they have but they simply don’t cater to my size and I mentioned that I like Asos Curve but they also cut off before my size as well.

Then we got to the fun stuff.  They let me loose to just try on a whole bunch of stuff and see how it fits, which ones I like and which ones  didn’t work.  I selected a HUGE pile of clothes, I really wanted to get in and put stuff on my mega fatty body and show them how it looks.

And yes, I have photos for you all.

The first one is this print maxi dress that they actually posted on their FaceBook page today and I liked the look of.

I like the super long length and that it has little cap sleeves, which cover my tattoo enough for work.  It’s lovely and cool and the neckline is really pretty.  This one got a total thumbs up from me.

The next one was this glittery lurex stripe maxi.

I liked the look of this one, especially as the fabric was all glittery and sparkly, and the cut and length were great for me, but unfortunately the lurex was kind of itchy and prickly.  I’m sure it would drive me nuts here in the Queensland heat.  It does look cute though.

Another dress next, this time a shorter length one in blue (not available online):

I love this dress.  The intense blue colour, the just-on-the-knee length, the slits down the sleeves and the soft fabric.  Total winner, one of my favourites of the day.

I did try on a few other dresses next, but they didn’t work on me or there wasn’t one in the right size.  This one clung in all the wrong places despite being a gorgeous colour and print, a pretty frilled one (available in red or black, not on the website) that just wasn’t suited to my shape, and a sleeveless one in a gorgeous pewter satiny fabric that gaped all weird around my armpits.

On to a few tops next, and the first I tried on was this black and white sleeveless tunic (not available online):

I absolutely love the starry print on this one, and it was a delicious cool cotton fabric, but there was that damn shark-bite hemline!  However it was softened by the little frill around the bottom (I do love a frill) and there are slits up the sides that make it fall nicely.  I may even go back and buy this one, I love that print so much.

Then there was this one in a taupe with frill neckline and pockets:

I liked it much more on the hanger than on my body.  I think the blue would have been a nicer colour on me too, but they didn’t have one in my size.  It was soft and comfortable, and I LOVE the pockets, but yeah, it just didn’t work for me.  It gaped a bit weird around the armpits, which seems to be a bit of a common theme for some of the garments there.

Those of you who know me know that I love leopard print like only a fat lady can, so it will come as no surprise that I had to try on the sheer leopard print shirt.

This one was my other firm favourite of the day.  I was in love the minute I put it on.  It has a dipped hemline (very on-trend this season) and tiny gold buttons, and cutouts in the sleeves.   It’s quite sheer so I just put it over a plain black tank top.  Gorgeous and floaty and perfect.

I did try a bunch of others that I didn’t take photos of in the tops too.  A cute one with a lace frill in apricot that was really lovely (I may go back and buy it), a watermelon peasant blouse that was lovely but didn’t fit me right, and a ruffly one in the most gorgeous bird print in black birds on midnight blue (not available online) that wasn’t available in my size.  Oh and I also tried on this striped maxi skirt, which is beautiful and soft and cool – yep, might go back and get that one too!

Finally the Autograph ladies brought me a bunch of other things they wanted me to try on just to get a look at how they were on my body.  There was this top which was really quite cute, I may go back and get that one too!  Their new sandals which are a wide foot fitting and super comfortable, and a little denim vest that I absolutely fell in love with but didn’t get a photo of!

But there were also these two dresses, which demonstrate the power of trying things on before you buy, and to get out of your comfort zone.  First there was this black one with cutout detail (not available online) that I totally would have picked out for myself but left on the shelf only because I already have a zillion black dresses.  But looking at it on shelf, it would have been one that I would have bought without trying on because it’s a style that usually suits me.  But when I put it on:

It just didn’t work on me.  It clung, it rode up in the back, and just wasn’t right.  Which is a real shame because I love that cutout detail and it’s a great length too, just below the knee.  It would have been a dress that I’d bought and never wore.

Then they brought me this floral one (not yet available online) that I had looked at and thought was pretty, but totally not me.  I never would have even tried it on, had they not asked me to.

I am so glad I did!  I love it to bits!  It’s so femme and retro (it feels like a vintage piece) and is such a cute length on me.  It was also really useful to show the Autograph folk the dress on a super fat body.

By that time I was quite over trying things on and I was getting hot and sweaty!  But it was lots of fun and we had some really useful conversation about fit, fabric, construction, the politics of fatshion, marketing to fat women and body positivity.  It was interesting to talk about the diverse types of customers they have, from those who are looking for “flattering” clothes that they can feel comfortable wearing, and those of us who are more fat positive and are looking for fashion, fun, colour, and visibility.  It’s hard to make such a diverse group of people happy when there is currently so little available on the market – but women who want to cover their bodies and dress in a “flattering” manner have as much right to choose that and have product available to them, as those of us who want something more fashion forward and visible do.

We also had a good talk about the practicalities of garments for plus-size bodies.  Things like garments needing to cover plus-size bras (which are by default, big and ugly), of lengths of dresses not getting longer as the sizes get bigger (they sadly often do, which means larger sized women who are not taller end up swamped), how necklines work differently with large breasts and chins, the fit over different shaped breasts, hips, arms, bellies and thighs, and the different climates Australia has and what is practical in Melbourne may not be here in Queensland.

Once we’d finished up there, they very kindly gave me the first print maxi dress, the blue shorter dress, the sheer animal print shirt, the floral dress and the denim vest (not pictured) as a thank you for my time and feedback, which has me very chuffed.  I can’t wait to style them myself with my existing wardrobe and do outfit of the day photos with them when I wear them later.

All in all, all of the women from Autograph that I met this afternoon (and the effervescent Michelle and lovely Sue who are my local Autograph ladies) were friendly, genuinely interested in conversation with me about their product, the industry and the politics of fat fashion and were a lot of fun.  Other plus-size fashion retailers could learn a lot from them.


50 comments on “An Afternoon at Autograph

    • Erylin I believe they do ship internationally – might be worth watching them for sales.

      And yes, I wish that all plus-size clothing was universally available to all fatties world wide.

      • I thought they shipped internationally….and they a point. You can get all the way through choosing your clothes, and logging into your account and trying to put in a shipping address, and discover then that they ship internationally to select countries only. About 14 of them I think. If your country is not on their list there is no way to have it shipped. I checked with their customer service and got the standard “we ship internationally to the countries available when you place your order” spiel…and no response to my request that they amend their “we ship internationally” claim to include “to the following countries: listed a to z”… Sorry bitter autograph shopper who was trying to spend a few hundred dollars with them at the time but as her asian country was not available..saved her money!

        PS Kath great idea to document the visit and show how things looked, and glad that they discussed lots of the issues, as that’s what they need to hear from us!

  • love it, love it, love it!

    although about the bra coverage thing.. i actually really hate that about a lot of plus size clothes (though I realize it’s necessary for people who don’t have small breasts like me) because I prefer low cut shirts (cleavage! woo!) and I hate that plus size bras, firstly, don’t generally come in varieties that allow low cut tops and, two, that many plus size clothes have higher cut necklines for that reason. I’ve gotten around this by managing to use lingerie as tops 😉 but man, fat bodies come in such a wide range that it’s so hard to find something that really works for your body

    • I have a fairly small bust for my size, and my bane is the low cut shirts because they actually expose my entire bra! More evidence that fat people come in all shapes!

    • I actually prefer low cut shirts too – but they need to have the right cut around the shoulders and arms to conceal an ugly bra. If pretty bras were available in plus sizes (especially super sizes), then it wouldn’t matter so much, because you could show them off. But who wants to show off the industrial strength hospital elastic that most plus-size bras are made out of?

  • Thank you for welcoming me to the Fatosphere! I couldn’t be happier to be here! I loooove that starry is it a dress or a tunic? Also the leopard print is pretty amazing 🙂
    I’m with Erylin, we need these in the US!

    • My pleasure Karlene.

      The starry one is a tunic on me, comes to just under my butt-cheeks. But it’s that kind of length that could be on a dress on some women, depending on their height and shape.

      I love that leopard print – I think it will get plenty of wear.

  • Thanks for the review. I had gone into Autograph up here in NQ to buy the white demin crop jacket after I saw your outfit only to find there were none left in my size. It was probably for the best anyway – it looked great but knowing myself as I do it would get stained so easily I wouldn’t want to wear it.

    I also liked your boots review but it appears they did not make it up to NQ either, or if they did it was only a brief period – our winter of discontent indeed! I will going to down to BrisVegas during the holiday period so looking forward to hitting the shops!

    • It’s a shame that the regional shops get different stock to the urban ones. Mind you, the suburban shops get different stock to the CBD ones too. I hope you find lots of fab stuff on sale when you’re down here.

    • Thanks hon – I will have to go in store more often and try stuff on and photograph it for folks, to show it on a body that isn’t 6 foot tall and shaped like an expensive hourglass!

  • Oh Kath, I LOVE that blue one, I HAVE to go and buy that!! And the floral one too!! I hope Autograph know that they are getting sales DIRECTLY as a result of your reviews! Also, if I had a wish for plus size retailers – stop with the glittery/blingy crap already! I mean, sure it’s ok occasionally, and I know some people like bling but not me. I feel like an old nanna of the bride when I wear bling! (and I’m not even 30 yet!) And I DO like sleeves, not because I’m uncomfortable with my arms but because I LIKE sleeves! Not all the time, but most of the time. Shark bite hemlines are ok sometimes too, but not on every garment available! Variety for the WIN!

    • I’m not a fan of big ole bling either. I like a fine sparkle (like in that second dress up there) or some sparkle in my accessories, but blinged up tops and dresses and pants etc… blecho!

      And I’m sure the fab women at Autograph will be reading this post and it’s comments.

  • Oh wow that blue dress is awesome! This whole thing was pretty great of them. Maybe next time they can even get someone who’s the same size but has a different body type, so they could really compare and take notes. I would also love to do this with some of the local plus size retailers and really tell them what I think.

  • So many great dresses. I love that they are asking for your input and actually wanting to see their clothes on a very fat body.

    The last floral dress is a beauty as well as the short blue one.

  • Oh Kath what a day you had. I would love to have a chance to be heard about clothes for the mammoth sized fatties like me. I love that first maxi dress, and would wear it should it be made in my size. I dream of feeling nice and looking half way decent in clothing.
    So glad that they are listening to the people whi actually wear their clothes. Their business would take off like wildfire if they took on board the suggestions.

    Good on Autograph.

    • Jan I am hoping that by making inroads at the upper end of “standard” plus-size ranges, I can contribute to getting people to listen to those of you who need clothes beyond that size. We’ll work on it together!

  • Good post! Those are some great outfits–I especially like the star print and blue dress. I appreciate your taking time to provide fat clothes’ manufacturers with feedback to help them improve their offerings (God knows they need it!). I’m hoping that this drive to improve choices for plus-sized people is really gathering steam. Fit is so important, and it can be so hard to find something that fits properly.

    The clothing industry in general needs to come up with better metrics for measuring people. The inseam/waist measurement really isn’t enough. One problem I have (edit if you feel this is off-topic), as a man, is that a lot of pants don’t have a high enough rise for me. My natural waist is a couple inches above the belly button, and when pants fit there they are really comfortable and afford me a wide range of motion. But getting that measurement upfront when ordering pants online can be problematic. Argh! Anyway, keep up the good work.

    • Bluesphere I think it’s really important that we give them constructive feedback. So much of what they hear is “You suck!” How can anyone improve what they’re doing with just that? It’s really important that when we give them feedback, we do so in a way that is clear and constructive.

      Not all of them are listening. But when you find the ones that are, buy their product to reward them for doing so.

  • You are a breath of fresh air. Your review actually sounded like a review and not just a paid advertorial like so many other fatshion blogs atm!
    That floral dress is absolutely gorgeous! Looks great on, too!

    • Thanks Pruesaysit! It’s important to me to make sure that people know that if something isn’t good, I’m going to say so. That said, when they get something right, I’m going to say that too.

  • Oh, that blue dress! I simply must have it RIGHT NOW! One thing I really wished Autograph would do more of is pieces in these sort of intense colours. Maybe it’s just my local store, but I’ve been a bit disappointed by the overwhelmingly navy blue/white/black/beige colour scheme of the majority of clothing – I want some colour!

    I glad to see that they’ve bought in a few more dresses which have sleeves but aren’t frumpy. I’m not entirely confident with flashing my upper arms but with the hotter weather coming in, wearing a cardigan over anything sleeveless isn’t really a comfortable option.

    One question: Are Autograph currently stocking the leggings you’re wearing with the starry tunic and the leopard print shirt?

    It’s really refreshing to see an honest, open review on fashion which you’ve been sponsored to talk about – many people don’t bother with honesty in such a situation so it’s nice to see it.

    • C – let the staff in your local store know about the colours. Jump on their Facebook page or their website, pick out colours you like and ask them if they’re going to have it in your local store. Let them know you want it.

      And yes, those leggings I have on in the photo above were Autograph ones I picked off the shelves – I was wearing a dress that day so I needed something to go under tops that I was trying on so we could photograph them, and I have LOADS of leggings in my wardrobe, so I thought that was the best pick.. They have long ones too – and I found them really generously sized. Those were an XL and I reckon I could go down to an L no problem.

  • the black cutout …and the blue …nice ..must find autograph to try on.
    I was only thinking today (wearing a sleeveless dress in searing heat) that im glad i found websites such as yours which pass on the message that its ok to be fat and show your arms/belly/ legs …..i was cool and comfortable ..invested in footless tights and cut them off mid way to prevent thigh rubbing.Being fat doesnt mean you dont get to be pretty and stylish .( Im a 16-18 so smaller i guess than others ..but having found websites proclaiming HAES has helped me so much

    • Definitely try on that black cutout Melissa, hopefully it will work way better on you than it did on me. It’s a shame because it is a cute dress.

      And rock your body as it is. If anyone has a problem with it, that’s THEIR problem, not yours!

    • Thank you gorgeous! Blues and purples usually do work best for me. I have to tell you though – the hair is coming off tomorrow. It’s fluffy and hot and driving me up the wall. But I will be dyeing it back to hot pink in a few weeks, once it’s grown in a bit.

  • You look fabulous! I have never ventured into an autograph store-mostly because I thought it was all granny gear. But I love the last two dresses and the blue one eespecuially. Thanks fo sharing 🙂

    PS This may be a noobish new reader comment-but-I’d love to see a close up view of your tatt 🙂

    • Jayne – go, have a look, try things on, talk to the staff in the store. Some things look so different on the rack than they do when you put them on, I’ve picked up a few things that didn’t really interest me on the rack but the gals have said “Try this one.” and it’s worked perfectly on me.

      And go back about two weeks for pics of my tattoo up close – maybe half a dozen posts back? If that.

  • So in love with the starry print top, it looks great! I love the short blue dress on you, looks so good with your hair! You look so happy in these pictures, you can tell you love the clothes and they make you feel good.

    When I met with Autograph they were so great, had me try on a few things and took a few photos to take back to the team. I loved that they listened to what I had to say, and that they actually took notes. My main problem is that while I am a size 20-22, I am only a b-cup. I really love Autograph because they certainly seem to be listening to what people are wanting, and yes, catering to the larger sizes and staying within an affordable price range.

    • It was a fun afternoon Natatree, I really enjoyed talking to the Autograph folk and playing around with the clothes to show them how things work on a body like mine.

      I was very impressed by how engaged and interested they were in what I had to say.

  • You definitely need to go back and get that black and white starry tunic. It looks the bomb on you. I would KILL for that taupe top only if it wasn’t taupe (or blue). I simply do not do blue and I don’t like the taupe. It does gape weirdly around the arm holes though doesnt it? I am so glad you have an in with Autograph, like you say, their range has improved SO much since you started doing the reviews so I am holding you totally responsible!

    • I think I will Bri. I did like it a lot and it was beautiful and cool. I think it would look great with coloured leggings too.

      The taupe top also comes in blue, silvery-charcoal and I think a stone colour. Blue is definitely my colour out of those, but I think I missed the boat on the blue!

      They have improved by leaps and bounds but I’m not sure I’m responsible for that!

  • I have long tried to give feedback to plus-size stores here in my area about their products, but universally they were absolutely not interested. I still told the managers my feedback and asked them to pass it on to the Powers That Be, but I’ve never seen it make one iota of difference.

    So how cool is is that they sought out your input! WOW. Very impressive. Retailers here should TAKE NOTE.

    I recognize it would be difficult to design clothes that fit a wide variety of body shapes and tastes, and we plus-sizers are a diverse group. However, my pet peeves on fit are arm sleeve holes that gape hugely on sleeveless stuff, and necklines that are too wide side-to-side and constantly show bra straps. UGH! I also am not a fan of super-long tunics (mid-thigh) or super-short shirts (to the waist). Neither look good on most fatties. And too much bling just looks pathetic and grandma-y. I recognize that grandmas are part of the clientele and deserve that look if they want it, but don’t make *everything* with bling. Give us some variety.

    I agree that you rock the blue dress. Make sure you get it! Love it with the sandals; looks like a toga. I love to see super-saturated colors for us after all those years stuck in black or brown, I’d rather have vibrant colors than garish prints.

    I like the starry top. It’s not a style I’d wear with my body type but I think it looks smashing on you and I love the print (one of the few prints I like).

    Another thing I like to see in plus-size clothes is COMFORTABLE fabrics. Nothing itchy or irritating. Maybe it’s just me but I suspect many of us have sensitive skin and there’s more “rub” for us than for others so iffy fabrics are especially irritating. I was so thrilled when they started taking out tags or putting them on the sides!

    I applaud you for taking time to give feedback and I applaud the store for listening to it and even seeking out more. Kudos to you all. American retailers, take note!

    • That’s the best thing Well Rounded Mama – they actually listen. They don’t give people a cut and paste answer, they actually acknowledge the feedback and work to act on it when they can. That really impresses me. I’ve tried to engage with enough plus-size clothing retailers, well, just businesses in general to know that it’s actually pretty unusual.

      And yes, they actually gave me the blue dress, so it’s safe in my wardrobe!

    • Just please not this “x and y don’t look good on most fatties” thing again. You, dear person, get to decide what looks good on you, but that’s it.

      Sorry, this just struck a chord. But we can all agree on needing variety from the retailers.

      • Ooh yeah I didn’t pick that up Beep, thanks.

        Well Rounded Mama – let’s drop the “that doesn’t look good on fatties” thing. It’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t like X because I feel it doesn’t suit me/I’m not comfortable in it.” but no prescribing what looks good and what doesn’t on other people.

  • I am really liking a lot of autograph clothes lately. I bought 2 dresses last week-one was a blue ruffle dress with removable straps, and it was enough for my dh to wolfwhistle at me when I walked in the room when I tried it on.
    I like the blue dress you tried on-I’m not sold on the sleeves though but I might try it when next I am in store if they have it.

  • Wow! It’s so nice that they are listening to your feedback! I like the style of the blue one. And though it’s not my normal pattern choice I really like the floral one too. But on me, I wouldn’t buy it without sleeves. I personally like having a a bit of sleeve to cover my wobbly arms. But in the heat of summer it needs to be a nice loose, flowy sleeve that still fits well. I also don’t mind a bit of patterning or earthy colours and adore comfy, machine washable fabrics that don’t stretch out of shape after 3 wears. One gripe I have with Autograph though, is they changed the elastic on my favourite pants I have bought for years. The waist elastic on all the new ones gets a memory fold that doesn’t go away and it curls and twists. I’ve never had that problem with them before.

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