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.