Autograph

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On Shopping and Shaping a Wardrobe

Published December 30, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

In my lunch hour today I went shopping with my friend Nadia.  Originally I just went looking for a pair of black Mary-Janes, my old pair had died and I realised that other than ballet flats, I didn’t have any flat, black, comfortable shoes that I could wear with tights.  I really, really need some good quality shoes that I can be on my feet all day in, so that was my goal.

We popped into Rivers and they had all of their sandals and casual shoes for $20 a pair, so when I found both a pair of very cute patent leather and suede Mary-Janes in black, and another pair of cute leather Mary-Janes in a kind of olive colour, I bought both.

Then since the Rivers store is only two stores away from the Autograph store, and Autograph were having a 70% off sale… well, you know Nadia encouraged me and all.  SHE DID!!  Anyway, I came away with 3 tank tops, 2 dresses, a chemise, a bolero and a pair of swimmers, all for $93!  Weeeee!  I do love me some shopping.

Now let me just clear something up here.  It has been suggested in a few quarters (including one abusive email that I received) that I am somehow “selling out” to Autograph because they have sent me clothes to review.  Yes, they have been very generous, and I really appreciate that they’ve chosen me to do this with.  But that does not mean I’m doing some kind of “blog for product” thing here.  I will be the FIRST to speak up when Autograph don’t get it right.  In fact, there is a woman who works in their Brisbane Myer Centre store who is bloody awful at customer service, it would kill her to be pleasant and friendly.  (Though the other lady that works there is really nice, I don’t want to tar them all with the surly lady brush).  Autograph are in no way perfect when it comes to plus-size retail, (prices are still a bit steep for some things, still a whole lot of crossover busts and still far too many scratchy, non-breathing synthetic fabrics) but right now, review garments or not, they are getting some things right.

Not to mention that I also still BUY from them, because they’re also the one store that I can get to easily that have a) clothes to fit my death fatty, apple-shaped body b) prices I can afford, though usually on their sale racks and c) something that I like, even if I don’t like all of it.  If they want to send me clothes to review, I’m going to bloody take it and give honest reviews.  When I think they do good, I’ll say so, when I think something sucks, I’ll say so.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I was having a little think about all the shopping I’ve done lately.  For the first time in my entire life, my wardrobe is bursting at the seams.  I actually have more clothes than I have space for them and that I’m able to wear.  Not only have I bought clothes (and yes, received clothes) from Autograph, but I’ve also had a bit of a spree from Evans, Yours, thrift sales, Target and when I can get to them, Big W and Kmart.  So I’ve added to my wardrobe quite considerably over the past few months.  I’ve become adept at finding marvelous bargains, mostly through the word of mouth online, so that I can afford a whole lot more than I once would have been able to as well.

The reason it’s so stuffed is because I’ve actually not removed anything much from there for the past decade.  I still cling to clothes I bought ages ago.  Marianne and Lesley have talked about this in one of their early Two Whole Cakes fatcasts, the phenomena of fat women buying clothes that are in their size simply because they fit, and are affordable, and then hanging on to them forever because they might never find them again.  As I looked through my wardrobe, trying to make room for the new stuff, I realised that this is exactly what I have been doing.  What if I can never get a decent pair of black pants like these again?  But I loved this skirt so much, it doesn’t fit me any more, but it was so beautiful, what if I never owned anything this beautiful again?  This is one of the first dresses I bought after I got my first decent job, I just have to hang on to it, it’s SO significant.  I bought this when I was in the US, and I’d never seen anything like it back here, I can’t let it go.

It is time for me to shed these things that I never wear, that don’t fit, that aren’t appropriate for my current lifestyle.  Not only because they take up too much room in my small flat, and not only because I can no longer wear them, but because they are representative of an old way of thinking about myself as a fat woman.  They are the things I clung to because they flattered me, because they were the few crumbs of what I could find to fit my fat body, because I might not find something else.

I clung to these clothes like one clings to a dying relationship… because I was scared might not have another one.

Things have changed.  I have changed.  Where once I waited for the clothes to miraculously appear for me to buy, now I have the power to tell retailers what I want and tell them that they can have my money when they provide it.  Where once I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing things without sleeves, or high waisted skirts, or fairly body-con dresses, or dresses at all, now thanks to fabulous fatshionistas who have gone before me, I will be bold, wear things that please me, try new things, be proud of my body.  Where once I would have hidden in black, shapeless sacks, now I look for colour, for shape, for style.  Where once I had the option of one or two budget department stores that had a small selection at the back to fit my body, I now at least have a couple of solely plus-size clothing retailers and some fantastic overseas retailers selling online at an affordable rate with shipping that is reasonable.  Not to mention the smaller, independent sellers who are cropping up as well.  The internet has not only opened up a world for them to sell to, but it has opened up a world of contacts to share and network when it comes to finding plus-sized fashion that is affordable and desirable.

Not to mention that I have built a career over the past decade and through bloody hard work and passion for my field, can now afford to shop when I feel like it, as well as when I simply need to.

I can say goodbye to the garments that I have clung to for so many years.  Because I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things, clothing-wise.  Because I don’t have to stay in that bad relationship any more for fear of not being able to find another.  Even the fabulous garments that I have metaphorically outgrown, or desired but never really connected with can go, remembered fondly but bid farewell, perhaps for another to love, as a better fit than they were for me.

Christmas OOTD and A Review

Published December 25, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Merry Christmas lovelies!  I hope you’ve had a fab and groovy Christmas, I know I certainly have.  I spent most of today with my friend Teresa, her hubby Craig and Teresa’s family.  It was an absolute joy to spend Christmas with such awesome people.

So, what did you wear today?  I wore a mostly new outfit.  Check it out:

Christmas OOTD

My buns are lopsided.  The ones in my hair smart arses!

I bought the dress from Evans and fell in love with it the minute I got my hands on it.  It’s the most beautiful soft fabric that breathes beautifully and drapes so well.  It’s this one:

Evans dress

It’s really wet in Brisbane at the moment so I needed a wee cover up to keep the arms from getting too cool, and the orange cardie that Autograph Fashion sent me to review  works perfectly with the orange in the tartan of the dress.  They also sent me one in a kind of mid blue, and both of them are really lovely.  Soft fabric, not very thick and breathes fairly well, so good for that kind of in-between weather where you just need a little something of a layer.  It’s also good to get some more colour into my wardrobe as well – plus-size clothing is usually an ocean of black.  At full price they’re marked at $49.95 which is a little more than I would happily pay for a cardie.

I’m still absolutely boggled though that I would need a cardie in Brisbane on Christmas day!  But it’s not exactly normal weather here, that river behind me in the photo is VERY swollen and full of silt and debris.

The other bits in my outfit are a pair of leggings from Autograph (I wear those a lot, they’re a great colour), shoes by Novo and my lovely fox brooch from Thousand Island Dressing.  Here he is in detail:

Fox Brooch

I have one other product to review tonight, but sadly it’s not good news for this one.  Autograph sent me this red bandage dress:

Red Bandage

Which looks great here in this picture.  Looks great on the hanger as well.  I saw the black version on someone else the other day (waves to Jenn) and it looked awesome on her.  I planned to wear it to work yesterday for a bit of a celebratory Christmas outfit, but sadly when I put it on, while it looks great on me, it is the most horrible fabric.  It’s REALLY hot.  Not a little bit warm, I sweltered in it.  It’s a very plasticky synthetic (polyester viscose) that does not breathe at all, and feels like sandpaper or steel wool to wear.  I couldn’t stand it against my skin.  I will admit that I am uber-sensitive when it comes to textures, but there are few things I cannot wear against my skin.  This I’m afraid is one of them.  Which is really, really disappointing because it is such a beautiful looking dress.  I don’t know if it will be any better in winter when the weather is cold, but somehow I don’t think so because it is just so prickly and hot against the skin.  And as they’re selling it for $80 (psst, it’s on 50% off sale on the website right now), I would highly advise that if you want one, try it on first.  Because while it looks gorgeous, no use buying something you can’t wear.

It would be really lovely if they could get this dress made in a better fabric.  Because it really is a beautiful looking dress.  And would make a PERFECT Christmas dress!

Second Review: Autograph Fashion

Published December 6, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I know, I know, I’ve been promising to review the rest of the clothes that Autograph Fashion sent to me for weeks.  But as you may know, I’ve been working on two HUGE projects at work for the past few weeks, which has meant that I’ve had little time for a social life, and that I’ve had to be in kind of boring clothes for practical reasons of late.  There’s no point wearing that pretty new frock when you’re going to be on a building site around paint, dust, furniture in plastic bags and equipment under bubble wrap.  Though the tradies might like it!

However, on Friday, another parcel arrived from Autograph Fashion with MORE clothes for me to review, so I figured I’d better start finding opportunities to wear these pieces and review them.  Autograph have been more than generous in sending me these garments (they have sent me 10 garments in total!) and the least I can do is get some reviews happening for them.

So, yesterday, I finally got the opportunity to go and see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 with my friend Kylie (hello Cupcake!)  I’ve been wanting to go since it came out but have been so crazy busy and I worked 11 out of the previous 12 days, that the time wasn’t there.  However Kylie and I booked our tickets for Gold Class.   For those of you unfamiliar, Gold Class is a fancy pants cinema with big squishy recliner chairs, only about 20 or 30 people in the cinema at any time, and you can have hot food and drinks (including coffees and alcohol) served right to you throughout the  movie.  It’s expensive, but really lovely for a treat.

I figured what better time to wear one of the pieces Autograph has sent me.  So I wore this dress:

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Yeah, the photo is a bit washed out because it was a bit dark and we had to use the flash.  But you get the idea.  My bloggy friend Mim bought this dress a while back and I really liked it on her, and I was actually considering buying it when I got time to go shopping.  So I was rather tickled to receive it from Autograph.

I quite like it now I’ve seen it in the flesh so to speak.  The waistline is a bit dull, but I fixed that up by adding my new belt (bought it from Kmart for $17!) and I wore it with footless tights from We Love Colors ($16), ballet flats from Rubi Shoes ($20) and a satin flower headband I picked up at the Reject Shop ($5).  This dress is a size 26, and a generous one at that.  I had plenty of room in it, I probably could have even gone down a size.

My only criticism is that it’s more synthetic fabric, but for $39.95 on the price tag, it’s not too bad a price for a synthetic dress.

I think I could wear it over pants or leggings as well, which gives it more scope for styling.  You can’t really see it but there is a little bit of a tan colour in the print, and I had it with a woven handbag in almost the same tan colour.

The next garment I have to share with you is this top:

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I have to admit, I’m not all that fond of this one, but it will be fine for a work top.  It’s a bit mumsy for me, but that’s a taste thing, rather than anything wrong with the garment itself.  You can’t see in the photo but it does have these nice slits down the sleeves that give it a bit of style.  I really don’t like the plastic buckle do-dad in the middle there, I think I might remove that and just wear it with a belt.  I was out on site today so I have to wear closed, flat shoes – thus the knock-off Chucks (they’re black sequins, I love them) from Rubi Shoes ($15) and the plain black pants, from Autograph a couple of years ago (I think they originally sold for about $40).  I am living in knock-off chucks (and my one real pair) at the moment.

It was a really comfortable top, I just felt a bit bland in it.  But hey, I have hot pink hair and visible tattoos, I’m a little more “out there” than some folks.  It’s also a size 26, but it was a bit neater in sizing than the dress.  Sometimes consistency in sizing is a bit of a problem for Autograph.  This one had a $49.95 price tag on it, which I felt was a bit steep for just a synthetic top with a plastic do-dad on it.

But then I almost never pay full marked price for anything, because I pride myself in finding a bargain!

I was in the Autograph store in the Myer Centre here in Brisbane last week and some really nice new stock is coming through.  I picked up a couple of pairs of tailored shorts for work for a song (and wore them with tights underneath, you can see a photo here) and some casual tank tops that actually have armholes that fit under my arms – not halfway down my sides!  They’re very cool and comfy for a hot Brisbane summer.  There are some dresses in stock there that I really like at the moment, and quite a few other pieces that jumped out at me as really lovely.  Not many natural fibres still though, but I’m not really expecting that from chain retailers.

I have to say though, there is one dress that Autograph have sent me that I would have paid every penny of the price tag (and more) for that is absolutely exquisite, that I’m dying to wear and share here with you all, but it’s very swish, so I have to wait for just the right occasion for it.  And you’ll have to wait too!  But I promise you, it’s worth the wait.

Plus-Size Clothing Retailers Take Note – Positivity Makes Money!

Published December 5, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

As part of the + Plus-Size Plus + campaign I’m working on to improve the variety, quality and price of plus-sized clothing options from major chain retailers in Australia.  I’m focusing on the major chain retailers like Target, Big W, KMart, Myer, David Jones, City Chic, My Size, Autograph Fashion and the like because these are huge companies with a lot of buying power, and they’re the places the most plus-sized women go to first for their clothing needs.  Those retailers are the most prevalent, offer a range of price points that cover the broadest range of Australian women’s incomes, and in being the biggest companies, have the most room to give.  I believe they also have an obligation to their customers to offer ALL of their customers an equal range, prices and quality, not just the straight sized ones.

One thing I’ve been doing as I think about ways to go about this, is read the social media pages of these retailers.  Some of them don’t have any presence at all in a plus-sized clothing retailer capacity, but the specialists like City Chic, Autograph Fashion and MySize all have Facebook pages and I follow them all.  One thing I really notice is that every time one of them posts, most of the comment threads dissolve very quickly into a whole lot of body loathing.  It only takes one or two comments until the “flattering” concept comes up (usually a big old bun fight about whether plus-size retailers should bother selling sleeveless clothes) and then ends up with a mix of “We fat women shouldn’t wear *insert garment feature here*.” or “I really like that but I could never wear something that bares my *insert body part here*.”

This got me thinking about the marketing we see from plus-size retailers, the language they use about the bodies of their customers and how they could change their marketing to really encourage women to enjoy wearing clothes/fashion, which I believe would encourage women to BUY more clothes/fashion.

What I would really like to see, is one of these retailers be brave enough to come up with a truly body positive, empowering marketing campaign for their products.  Instead of playing on the whole “flattering” concept, and tiptoeing around the fact that their customers have fat bodies, how about a campaign that focuses on raising the self esteem of their customers?  Here’s what I’d like to see a plus-size clothing retailer do:

  • Get rid of the euphemisms.  No more crap about “real women” and curves/voluptuous and all of those things.  Just call themselves plus-size clothing retailers and focus on selling plus-sized clothing.  I know they can’t/won’t use the word “fat”, but let’s stop with the euphemisms that imply shame for being plus-sized.  Let’s stop pretending that your customers are not plus-sized/fat.
  • Focus on positive body messages.   Fabulous fashion for fabulous women.  Love your body, put our clothes on it.  Be confident in our fashion.  Gorgeous you, gorgeous clothes.  Messages like this.  No more talk of “flattering”.
  • Use models who actually look like the women who will be buying the product.  Let’s face it, most size 14 or 16 women, while they are catered for in these stores, don’t shop there.  You can get size 14 and 16 and sometimes 18 in quite a few straight size sections.  There are a lot of women in a size 14 and 16 who are not even going to go near a plus-size section.  The plus-size retailers are catering to those of us who cannot buy from the straight-sizes at all.  How about some models with bodies that look like ours?  Often the models they use are not even plus-sized at all.  UK blogger Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion has done posts this week on the topic (here and here).  I shared the first post on + Plus-sizes Plus + and the response I got back was that women want to see what clothes look like on bodies similar to their own.
  • Seeing women that look like we do is only going to make us feel better about ourselves in the long term.  Especially if these women are depicted as fashionable, happy, fun and glamorous.
  • Value your customers, understand what they want, treat them like they’re special (after all, they’re giving you their money and keeping you in business, that makes them VERY special) and understand that they have different needs to straight-sized customers, but want the same experiences.

Can you imagine how awesome, and how radical, a marketing campaign that promoted body love, self esteem and positive representations of their actual customers (rather than “aspirational” representations that would never actually purchase the stock) would be?  Particularly from a major chain retailer?  How many women would be empowered and inspired to enjoy dressing and fashion and shopping?

I know that’s a company I would want to give my money to.

First Autograph Fashion Garment Review

Published November 9, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I promised you I would start reviewing the garments I got* from Autograph Fashion soon, so let’s get this party started.

So far I’ve only worn two pieces of the six I got (two cardies, two dresses, a top and a crochet cover-up), and as I mentioned in my earlier post, I wanted to put them through a wash before I reviewed them.

The first one I wore was this crochet cover-up:

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Look, Nadia made me pose like I was doing something:

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Can you tell I felt kind of stupid?

When Autograph contacted me to ask me to review some of their clothes, they asked me to choose some items from their website, and while I actually really struggled to find much I liked, I had already seen this one in store and really liked it, but wasn’t going to pay the $50 price tag on it.  Despite being regularly disappointed over the past year or two, I still do browse in store in the vain hope of finding something**.  The skirt I am wearing in these shots is a VERY early Autograph piece, back from when they were still called 16-26.  As you can see, it’s worn exceptionally well, and still looks great.

The crochet cover-up is actually meant to be worn over a swimsuit, but I like it so much I just popped it over a gold coloured cami (old Autograph), and wore it with this chocolate skirt (the print is in cream, a tan brown and a pale blue when you get close up) and brown suede ballet flats (Novo) and a cream headband (Rubi Shoes).  The cover-up is fairly well made, I was worried about the crochet catching on things but it didn’t at all.  It’s soft and comfortable and hangs nicely.  I washed it as per instructions, and it has kept it’s shape, colour and size well for the first wash (I did use a garment bag).

I think I could wear it with other coloured cami’s underneath to mix up the colours I wear it with.  If you go to the website now, it’s been marked down to $19.99.

The other piece I have worn so far was this dress:

Autograph dress

Not the best photo sorry, but you get the idea.  This is one that is from their new stock, that they chose for me, before it went up on the website.  I kept it simple with flat black sandals (Rubi Shoes), Spanish style earrings (Diva), a wee black and white feather hair dodad (can’t remember where I found that one) and a big red flower ring (Thousand Island Dressing).  This is also the first time I’ve worn a sundress since I was a child.  A THIN child!

I already have a dress from another store (Big W I think) in the exact same print, but a different fabric and style, and a friend and colleague of mine has one from Autograph in the same fabric and print that is a maxi dress that is very close to the same style.  This one sits just below the knee at the highest point of the hem. While I quite liked it in the picture on the website, when it arrived it felt so strange.  It’s a polyester elastane that feels almost like swimsuit fabric, cold and stretchy, and quite heavy.  I wasn’t sure what it would be like to wear.  Since I was going out to a fairly casual dinner by the bay on Saturday night, I thought I’d give it a go, and take a little black crochet shrug with me if I got cool.

The minute I put it on, I really liked the feel of it.  It’s very soft and cool, which for a texture junkie who suffers from the heat like me, feels great.  The bust is cut fairly generously (could give me a little bit more but I have a rack of doom) and is shaped properly for once – not just two triangles to cover the boobs, it actually has shaping panels across the bust.  The back is also cut fairly high, so it actually does cover the kind of bra that a rack of doom requires.  The wide straps also cover the bra, and I didn’t have any gape or side-boob risk under the arms.

I am not sure I’d pay the full $69.99 for it, it’s not an expensive fabric, and the print is everywhere over the past couple of years (a friend of mine who wears straight sizes turned up in a little dress in the same print the night I wore my other one to a dinner with her about a year ago), and while there is some extra shaping to most mass produced pieces (around the boobs), it’s still got that crossover bust and two panels of fabric skirt that are EVERYWHERE.

But that said, it is lovely to wear, comfortable, feels soft and cool, was super easy to launder, and I really like it.  I think it’s going to become a staple of mine over the stinking hot months of a Brisbane summer.  I reckon I can wear it over my swimsuit too, I like a bit of coverage when I’m not actually in the water, but am still happy to keep the shoulders and arms bare.

So there you have my first ever fashion reviews!

*Disclosure: Autograph Fashion sent me these garments for free and asked me to review them.  I will be completely honest and if the review is negative, will say so.
**I will admit, I haven’t been into Autograph for nearly a month, but the few bits and bobs I’ve seen online show some promise.  I will have to pop in before I post the next review.

Autograph Fashion Respond

Published November 3, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well as per my previous post, I’m only going to concentrate on positive topics this month here on Fat Heffalump, because I really do think I need a break from the negative stuff, and probably many of you are feeling the same way.

As you may remember from my earlier posts (here, here and here) regarding the campaign I have started to improve plus-sized clothing from major retailers (Facebook group here), my original contact with a plus-size retailer was with Autograph Fashion, which is a purely plus-size clothing retailer here in Australia.  They are owned by a parent company who also own City Chic, Millers, Crossroads and several other chain retailers.  In my first post on the topic, I voiced a strong, but constructive criticism of the road they were taking their “fashion” lines.  I posted a link to my blog post on their Facebook page, and invited them to comment.

The positive news is that they did contact me, via a comment on the post.  I haven’t published it because a) I wanted to give them time to follow through and b) it contained personal contact details that I’m sure they don’t really want published all over the internets.  But here is the comment with the contact details removed:

Thanks for sending through the link to your blog. We really appreciate the open and honest feedback you have expressed on our Facebook page and your blog, as we are always looking for feedback that can help us improve our product offering.

We are sorry to hear that we have not been catering for your needs. We do cater for a wide range of customers and not everything is suitable for every person. We do really value your insight and value your recent positive comments, we would love to send you some product for you to review and help assist us in delivering what you want. Please jump on our website and email me through any pieces that you would like to review or think you can style up, we would love your input if you are interested.

Warm regards,

Elissa

I’m impressed with their initial contact, it’s personal and professional, and shows that they did listen.

Of course I leapt on the chance to review some clothes for them, and we’ve had some correspondence while we’ve made that happen, and I will say at every step of the way I have been impressed with both Elissa, and another representative I’ve had contact with.

So last Friday a rather substantial parcel arrived from Autograph, with six garments for me to review.  I will be reviewing each piece individually, because as well as how they look, and how they fit, I also want to see how they wear for a full day (or at least an event out) and how they wash as well.

There is also one garment that is not my cup of tea style-wise, so to make sure it goes somewhere it will be appreciated, I’m going to set up a competition here on my blog to give it away.

So, keep your eye out here for the first review piece for the items Autograph have sent me, and my first ever competition really soon.

Introducing: + Plus-Size Plus +

Published October 14, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Autograph Fashion’s current stock range and how I feel that they’re selling their key customer demographic short with what they currently have on offer, as far as quality, variety and price.  I am pleased to say that a representative from Autograph has been in contact with me, and we are currently working on something further on this topic for me to share with you in the near future.  I am impressed with their response to my post and comments on their Facebook page, and I hope this is the beginning of some improvements to their range.

However, I think we need to take the campaign further and wider when it comes to plus-sized clothing options in Australia.  I was in Target this morning after seeing an advertisment about their sale on underwear and bras, and when I walked in, I was astonished at the sea of beautiful dresses they have on offer at the moment.  Everything from casual maxi dresses for cover-ups by the pool or a relaxed barbecue, through to dresses for work, cute frocks for the Spring Racing season and even a few more formal cocktail frocks.  The cover of their current catalogue here in Queensland reads “Happiness is… dresses.”  In the store in the Brisbane CBD, the dresses are everywhere.  Spotty dresses, floral dresses, long dresses, short dresses, black dresses, coloured dresses, pale dresses, bold dresses.  You name it, and yes, I looked around in delight at all these dresses and felt happiness.

But imagine my dismay, when I went down to the tiny corner of the entire floor that is the plus sized section.  That section would be less than 10% of the floor space on that level, maybe not even 5%.  While I could see that more than half the floor was devoted to straight sizes, much of that dresses at the moment.  Where were all my pretty dresses?  Oh there were a handful, all maxi-dresses, almost all black (maybe with a little white), basically on two racks in the far back corner near the fire doors.  Everything else was glorified t-shirts, a few button through shirts, long gypsy/hippy style skirts, and plain pants/jeans.  Where were my dresses that are happiness, according to their catalogue?

Oh wait.  I’m fat.  Can I not be happy?  Do I not deserve happiness in the form of dresses?  Or any of the other variety offered to the straight sized customers?

I did have a closer look at the plus-sized range.  I have a few fairly recent purchases from Target as well, and I can say the quality isn’t bad, it’s certainly better than offered in other stores at the moment, but it’s not great.  It’s certainly nowhere near as good as their straight sized range.  The fabrics are all pretty much the same (lots and lots of black, and only two or three other colour palettes offered) and are either polyester/elastane blend knits, or polyester weaves.

Now if these styles and fabrics suit your taste and needs… you’re not too badly catered for by Target.  But if you want anything outside of that very narrow range, tough.  Go elsewhere.  Oh wait, pretty much the same thing is being offered elsewhere!

One thing I will give Target is that the prices are comparable to the straight sized section.  A maxi dress costs $39 whichever section you shop from in their current sale range, which is impressive.  That’s a rare thing for plus-sizes compared to straight sizes.

I’m not just having a whinge here on my blog and hoping that Target Australia somehow find out about it and change their ways.  I have contacted them this evening, with some constructive feedback, somewhat similar to what I’ve written here.  It will be interesting to see how they respond.  If they respond.

I got thinking about it today, and I think that we need to go that step further with plus-size clothing retailers in Australia.  I think they need to hear that we are feeling left out when it comes to clothing options, but that we’re happy to take our money elsewhere, especially now that the Australian dollar is so very strong and that international shopping online is readily available.  It’s not perfect, but it is available and is a valid option for more and more people these days.

I want to offer constructive criticism and feedback, and to encourage other plus-size clothing purchasers to stand up and offer constructive criticism and feedback too.  This goes for their advertising, shop presentation and floor space, and customer service as well.  I also want to offer praise, publicity and good word of mouth for those who get it right.

What I don’t want to do is bully, slander or harass retailers.  If it’s not respectful and constructive, it’s not welcome.

I also am not asking retailers to get rid of any of the particular styles that can be found in abundance at the moment, that I personally don’t like.  What I’m asking is that they offer variety.  Or if someone else is doing it, try offering something different.  I would like to be able to choose the styles I wear, not be forced to work with the same styles over and over to give them my own flair.

So to kick us off, I’ve created a Facebook group, called + Plus-Sized Plus +.  I chose this name because what I’m asking plus-size clothing designers, manufacturers and most importantly, retailers to do is offer us plus-sized clothing plus quality, plus variety, and plus affordability.

Now anyone is welcome to join + Plus-Sized Plus +, but at this moment in time I am focusing on Australian plus-sized fashion.  But you are welcome to use + Plus-Sized Plus + as a platform to kick things off in your own country if you like.

Please, if you have any suggestions, or any questions, or any Australian retailers you think we could work on, hit us up in the comments below and let’s get to work!

Please Autograph, NO. Just… NO

Published October 1, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I was just reading the newsfeed on my Facebook page, and saw two posts from Autograph (Australian plus-size clothing retailer) via their facebook page.  A couple of shots of clothing from their most recent range.

Behold the clothing hideousness:

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and

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This is what the most frequently found Australian plus-sized retail chain is offering fat women to wear.  Boring, boxy, dull, frumpy, hideous, granny-style, ugly, dowdy, drab, “old housewives”, cheap, revolting, poorly made, overpriced, horrendous… crap.  All words being used by women commenting on the two posts (here and here).  These clothes even make this nice looking woman in the photographs look daggy.  Put your hand over the outfits and she’s lovely!

There are also complaints of their clothing being “unflattering”.  Now you know I don’t believe in the term “unflattering” – if someone wants to wear something that highlights their bodies, no matter what shape they are, then they shouldn’t have to “flatter” themselves.  But what I will say is that so many of the clothes at Autograph are impractical, uncomfortable and unsuitable.  Elasticated waistbands that ride up over bellies and butts, forcing you to forever tug them back into place.  Super thin knit for t-shirt style tops that cling uncomfortably or get caught/torn by buttons and other features on jeans and skirts etc.  Patterns that are so busy I get an eyestrain headache as the fabric moves past my eyesight.  Ties (neck, waist etc) that never sit nicely, but bunch or catch on things (or ride up or down).  Maxi-dresses that don’t allow for bigger busts (which a majority of fat women have) or for the bras required to hold bigger busts.  Sleeveless tops with the armholes cut so huge that the wearer has half of her sides visible through the sleeves, or so narrow that they pull or ride under the armpit.  And those are just a few things.

How can anyone look stylish and comfortable in clothes that don’t sit nicely on their bodies and have to be adjusted all of the time because they are poorly made?

I shop at Autograph a lot, because there is one within 2 minutes walking distance of my office, the staff are lovely and I can find bargain racks there.  But I will not touch anything that is at full price, because $40 for a knit top like the above, or $80+ for a dress like the above is bloody ridiculous.  I rummage through the bargain racks and see what I can get my hands on on sale that I can work in with funkier pieces, or good accessories.  I’ve noticed that over the past 6 to 18 months, I am finding less and less at Autograph that I like.  A cardigan here, or a dress there, but 85% of their stock is just like the ladies describe on those posts – boring, frumpy, overpriced and very poorly made.  And so often when I do find a piece that looks alright, it doesn’t last.  I bought a wheat coloured cardigan a few weeks ago.  I’ve worn it 3 times and it’s pilling in patches already.

Do you know what though?  My local store is in the CBD.  I’ve been out to the suburban shopping centres and gone into the Autograph stores there, and it’s even worse.  The range is far smaller, the few more modern, younger styles are nowhere in sight (they must all get sent to the CBD stores) and there are almost no clearance racks like you can find in the city stores.

When are retailers going to realise that this is NOT acceptable?  That we will take our money (and contrary to popular belief, not all fat people are poor or uninterested in fashion) elsewhere, overseas if need be, to find clothes that are well made, that fit properly, are good fabrics and have style and fashion to them.  Nor is it acceptable to charge exorbitant prices for mass produced, cheaply made, synthetic fabric junk either.

Bad form Autograph.  Time to have a really good rethink about what you’re offering your customers.  The internet offers us a global shopping centre.  We tell each other where the good stuff is and what’s worth spending money on.  We pool our shipping costs.  And we blog/tweet/status update and more about those that are crappy.

If you want to stay in business, listen to what people are saying on your Facebook page, on blogs and other social media.

If you do, and get it right, I’ll sing your praises to the high heavens.  Until then, I’m going to call you out for the shoddy product and bad practices you offer customers that you should be valuing.