Saturday, 21 November 2009

Happy Shopping News

A couple of new developments on stores front this week that mean that against the prevailing tide there new places for non-standard sizes in the Glasgow area to find clothes.

Firstly there is a new mega-sized Sainsbury's near the Braehead Shopping Centre. Now mostly I turn my nose up at supermarket clothes, lousy styling and lousier trading policies leaving you wondering who is really paying for those £2 t-shirts. However Sainsbury's are very upfront about their sourcing and claim that their cotton t-shirts are fairly traded. The stuff is cheap, but not pile em high cheap. I bought a lovely tweed skirt for £25 and would have expected it to be priced about double that in Monsoon. The clothing range is also laid out in a spacious nicely-lit special area of the store so it avoids that jumble sale feel that you sometimes get from supermarket clothing. The Sainsburys TU range goes up to 22 in the mainstream range and includes a "Grace" range sized from 18-28.

Then in Glasgow today I visited the new H&M emporium that has taken over the ground floor of Buchanan Galleries. And Huzzah they have reinstated their BiB clothing which has not been available anywhere in the West of Scotland for a while now. This range tends towards the boxy and the word acrylic appears on labels at lot more often than I care for. However there are some very wearable things and its still its a major boost for fashion aliens to be able to walk into such a mainstream shop and just pick up a little number from their shelves.

I'd love to show a couple of pictures from these ranges but sadly neither Tu or BiB have a dedicated website that shows the range which just seems a bit odd really. You need to do actual shopping the old-fashioned way to source this stuff, and you can pick up your bread and milk at the same time.

Monday, 2 November 2009

My New Winter Coat

I spend a lot of time surfing the web looking for new sources of distinctive clothes in larger sizes. I keep coming across the same 10-12 sites usually connected to the same mail-order group.
However it was my pleasure recently to find Curvety which I came across as one of those banner adds that skulk annoyingly at the side of your google search.
This site has a small but mostly well chosen selection of Clothes in sizes 16 up to 36 in some styles. As an example of how lovely their stock can be I direct you to the picture of my new winter coat.
Had I seen this in Monsoon or Planet I would be whooping for joy. Look at the lovely mismatched button detail and the flattering semi-princess shape with no annoying flappy belts or bits that just move around on larger bodies. I will watch this site with interest and hopefully purchase more from them

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Tights of might

So many things can wrong with tights that buying them can seem like an ordeal. Sagginess, chafing, rolling waistbands and holes that appear from nowhere can make these the most hated part of your lingerie wardrobe.
However if you find a pair that suits your shape then you will love them forever. Stocking up for winter now is a shopping ritual. First, check the fashion press for current trends (colour is still big as are patterns, texture not so much this year) and then you look for the best black opaques anyway.
So far this year I have gone as most everyone does to Marks & Spencer. There range is wonderful and this year is augmented by an extra-extra large size in some styles that gives some welcome choice to what is a very limited market for plus sizes. I particularly like the wide range of styles with a Bodyshaper top including those with zig-zag and diamond patterning.
However John Lewis has the edge on M&S this year with plain opaques that will fit up to a size 20 comfortably. The colours for these, including a good true black, are glowingly perfect and the fabric is durable but fits and holds it shape well.
For non-opaques I recommend Aristoc Body toner range which is like a nice pair of Spanx type thingies with tights attached which are reassuringly supportive and comfortable to wear and which come in a good selection of shaping styles High leg, low leg, tummy tuck,etc.
As an update I decided to broaden my search by trying a couple of continental pairs of black opaques bought from the UK Tights website. Classic Transparenze Sophie 70 and Cette Classic Dublin. Neither is as good as M&S or John Lewis's. The Transparenze in particular being a crotch-dangling nightmare to wear requiring frequent trips to the loo to hoist up. However the service from the website was quick and efficient if you want to try this mail-order option.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Every time I passed a bus stop for the last couple of weeks I've seen posters for New Look's Yes Yes jeans line. I happened to be shopping today and thought I'd have a look half expecting to come out with the usual scowls cause it would not be available in my size. I was happy to be proved most wrong. There was a full selection from the Yes Yes range in their Inspire section that goes up to size 26. And even better their core range of bootcut Jeans comes in 4 leg lengths; 28, 30, 32 and 34 inches.
The cost for these is £12. Amazing. I tried not to think about exhausted, overworked third world labourers as I handed over this small amount at the till. The fit of the jeans is good, a nice bit of stretch in the fabric and a good inky colour. I highly recommend these for anyone wanting a good basic pair of denims

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Secrets of Planet Fashion

I've been writing this blog for a while now and through that time been searching magazines, websites and mail-order catalogues for the perfect place to shop for tailored clothes in natural fabrics that look distinctive and feel comfortable to wear.

How many times have I walked past Planet ? Either in one of its department store concessions or its high street store. I'd just discounted it as overpriced clothes for tall women with too much fussy detail.

I recently followed a link to their size guide where things are very generously proportioned. This led me into their Glasgow Store in Buchanan Street which feels pleasantly boutiquey and picked a selection of items to try: a wrap dress, jersey top and pair of boyfriend trousers as pictured left.

These have turned out to be just about the most comfortable pair of workwear trousers I have ever bought. The fabric has a slight pinstripe and is a soft wool with 4% elastane. It was reduced from £99 to £29 and I might never wear anything else. I did however need to get them taken up.

I loved the trousers so much that I asked the staff if there was a matching jacket, two people came to my aid. There was not a jacket but a waistcoat and were a bit apologetic that though it too was reduced in the sale it was not so much of a bargain having gone down only from £89 to £59 . I tried it on and again it looked and felt fantastic. Sold!

I didn't get the dress or top mostly because , as anyone keeping up with this blog will know. I have plenty of bloody clothes already and sometimes its good to show restraint.

However I think Planet is now my new favourite shop and I expect to be revisiting it plenty of times. I already am in love with this Jacket from their upcoming Autumn collection

One last lovely surprise was that when I went to pay at the cash desk I was offered a card that records my purchases over a year (including concessions) If I spend £500 (duh!) I get a £50 voucher back.

Also I was chatting to the woman serving, telling her how much I liked the stock. She said to me "Most of our customers buy their stuff in the sales" This is one of the most-honest and confidence-inspiring things anyone in retail has ever said to me. Its lovely to have a new store crush.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Shopping for Beth Ditto in Bluewater

Just spent a week in Kent which is the opposite side of the country from where I live. Shopping was not something I really wanted to do but Friday was rainy and too miserable for sightseeing so en famille we trooped off to the famous Bluewater Shopping Centre just outside London, home of the banned hoodie. (I got Jackson to wear one there of course).
And although sad to say there was not much in the whole place available in plus sizes (A House of Fraser with nothing over a size 18 was a partiucular joy). However they did have a decent sized Evans wherin I had one of my oddest shopping experiences ever.
I'd not had a chance to look over the Beth Ditto at Evans range since its launch in early July and they had it displayed promiently at the front of the shop. There was also a very solicitous (though not plus-size) lady asking me what I thought of the range and recommending that I try on a couple of key pieces. This has never happended in Glasgow! I'm not sure if I liked it, she was friendly enough but the approach did seem a bit heavy-handed though it is a pleasant change from the outright hostility I've come across in other fashion emporia.
So I browsed through the clothes as discretely as possible. There are some cute things in the range for sure which the 20 year old me would have swooped up by the armful. I'd love this range to do well which would surely signal to fashion retailers that there is a market for directional clothes in larger sizes, but I'm just not confident that it will.
Anyway I picked up a pair of these lovely pumps which are possibly the most conservative items in the range. I'm wearing them write now and and love them, they are comfy, cute and distinctive. However again at the sales counter the assistant remarked "Oh, you are buying from the Beth Ditto range, isn't the stuff great?" and asked where I had heard about it. I mumbled something about the Evans website and tried to pay but she was up for a full dialogue about the merits of the clothing line. (There were others behind me waiting to be served too) Now I'm really puzzled by this and by my negative reaction to it. I want to be able to say that I enjoyed the attention of sales staff but I think I'm not quite up to it. I'd love to know if this sales pitch is normal for England, Bluewater or was it just a desparate Arcadia ploy to shift a difficult line in which they have over-invested? I may investigate farther...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Summer Dresses-Guardian Fashion pages in Public Service Surprise

The Guardian yesterday carried a really rather terrific article about the joys of summer dresses.
This surprised me in a couple of ways. The piece was written by Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue which nowadays carries precious little advice for anyone who does not have a personal account at a select number of Notting Hill boutiques and it directly addressed (ahem) both the sensual joys of wearing a summer frock and some of the practicalities that you might want to consider when shopping for one, such as covering key body parts like upper arms and not remortgaging your house in order to afford one.
Even better accompanying it was a gallery of no fewer than 23 examples of desirable and wearable dresses including this fresh, linen wrap dress from my beloved Betty Jackson Black range.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

In which I regain my shopping mojo

For at least two or three months I've bought very little and had no chance to do any real shopping. I've looked at plenty of mail-order stuff and online catalogues but really these are not for me. Its nice getting something delivered to your door but nothing beats the thrill of actually coming across something in a shop and thinking how great it would be to wear that.
Also because of various orthopedic problems I'd not bought any pretty shoes for an age. I really don't like the multi strapped killer platform things that are in vogue at the moment and could not imagine where I could wear (never mind walk) in such a pair of things.
And yet it came to pass that last Saturday I was given just over two hours to myself at Braehead Shopping Centre, just on the outskirts of Glasgow. Not the most exclusive or inspiring place in the world but happily I was able to find plenty of things that I wanted to wear and even managed to make a few purchases.
In Dune I found a pair of elegant and wearable wedges for £50 then after happy browsing in Wallis and Monsoon and a mini make up blowout in Boots (my new vibrating Lancome mascara is quite something) I got into Marks and Spencer where they have a rather lovely selection of clothes to celebrate their 125th anniversary. Nothing there in my size though but I did get some new work clothes including this very sweet jacket which I am hoping will save me from death by boring black trouser suit at work.

Shopping in person for clothes is what I want to be able to do and happily in the mainstream part UK "high street" there is at the moment enough choice to make this an enjoyable experience. I wish that there was more choice and that some of the more exclusive retailers that I like were available more readily, butr really things aren't too bad.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Sizing Directory

I thought it might be useful to record in one place the size range available in various UK stores. Hopefully I'll be able to keep this updated and expanded.
Should add the caveat that the actual sizes of garments will differ from one store's manufactuer to the next and also that not all sizes will be stocked in all places at all times.

  • Anne Harvey 16-30 limited petite range
  • Bravissimo 8-18 curvy, really curvy and super curvy
  • Debenhams:Betty Jackson Black 8-20
  • Debenhams: Rocha, John Rocha 8-22 (with short, regular and long trouser lengths to 22)
  • Dorothy Perkins 6-22
  • Evans 14-32
  • Jaeger 6-18
  • Marks & Spencer 6-24 (main range, short, medium and long trouser lengths)
  • Monsoon 8-22
  • New Look 6-18, Inspire range 18-26
  • Next 6-22, limited range up to 28, petite range up to 18
  • Planet 6-20
  • River Island 6-18 (x-short, short, medium and long trouser length)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Ethical Fashion

Blogger: Fashion for Aliens - Create Post
Ethical fashion is not generally available over a size 14. Marks and Spencer is the big exception to this, you can have a whole wardrobe full of fair-trade cotton vests up to a size 28. However useful as these items undoubtedly are it is nice to find something a bit more distinctive made by a small scale producer.
So I was delighted to come across the mail-order label Quail by Mail
This is a Devon-based company promising ethical, fairtrade and organic fashion and a few of their designs go up to a size 20, including the pretty Amelie top pictured above. When I placed an order with them for this I was slightly disconcerted to find that the item would be made specially to order for me as is the case with all the items in my size. However having received it in the post I am very happy with the finished result. The sleeves in particular are well-cut and the top is very flattering. I'd love to see more producers getting involved in this sector of the market that were interested in designing for non standard body shapes, but I guess they need to know that there is a market out there that would be interested in purchasing from them.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Anne Harvey

OK I'm scaring myself. Either I am finally turning into the frump-monger I'd always feared or the world is actually turning on its axis. Yesterday I found myself in Anne Harvey and actually coveting some of the clothes on offer there.
For the unfamiliar I can explain that AH have existed for the last 12 or so years and are prime High Street criminals as purveyors of elasticated polyester separates in sizes 12-28. They also had no internet presence until recently which meant that you would need to brave one of their ill considered store plans to look at their clothes.
The store layout and lighting is still from the seventies but the clothes themselves seemed to have improved in part. There was some particularly covetable outerwear. Including this jacket which is in slightly textured cotton blend (also in black). There were also a number of funnel necked formal coats in black, red and cream which were reduced from £90 to £70 and which I would certainly have bought for winter had I seen them earlier in the year.
Their size range also extends to a size 32 for some items and AH also do a petite range which I imagine must cater to a long neglected market, (especially in the West of Scotland, land of wee fat wummin). I'll certainly be keeping an eye on them and hope to post on future purchases soon.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Cast aside your Principles

So farewell then Principles. The last remaining stores of this UK and Irish based chain are fast disappearing and so there is one less place that I can go to search for something that might just fit. I went into the Glasgow Braehead branch today and bought myself this cardi more for old times sake rather than anything else. My version is in a citrussy green and there is detail on the shoulders and sleeves which the pic does not capture. Shopping there was, as always, a maddening experience. Some of the stuff on sale was lovely including some really edgy deconstructed tailoring and some funky silk throwback 80's batwinged tops. However there was much arbitrariness in the sizing. Principles has never put sizes on hangers so you have to go through the swingtags painstakingly looking for what might be there in your size. Some stuff stops at 16 some at 18 and a tiny proportion at 20, but you could never rely on sales staff to help you with this and I certainly would not have pulled them up on this today. Similarly some starts at 8 and some at 10 so there is a lack of consistency at both ends of sizing.
This stuff just drives me crazy-where is the economic sense in making it a challenge for people to find what they want. Good layout of stock and knowleable staff should be nursery stuff for retailers nowadays but it is still ignored. Sorry about the rant I'm feeling very grumpy about this. I wish Principles were staying so I could post their head office with my complaints. Oh well

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Bravissimo and Lingerie Shopping

Bravissimo has grown in just a few years from a specialist retailer to a familiar high street presence. Their USP is "Lingerie, swimwear and clothing for D-K cup women" which is a rather inelegant way of saying that they are not a plus-size retailer as such but that their target market is big-boosomed women who may otherwise be slim waisted and snake-hipped. I know women like this and can empathise with the difficulty they have finding clothes that don't snag and gap simultaneously on different parts of their body.
The bonus for bigger women is that we can at least benefit from the lingerie. Bravissimo in common with other specialist retailers fit women for bras based on the size of their back and shoulders rather than measuring round the bust area. That means that they measure me as a size 36ff whereas in Marks & Spencers when I was last measured I was told to wear a 40c.
The big difference here is that if you fit yourself as advised by leaning down and scooping your boobies into a bra as you put it on (don't fret this becomes automatic after a week or two) then your chest sits higher and more flesh including the soft underarm tissue is supported. The first time you see this effect in a changing room mirror you'll be amazed as it can appear as if you've lost a fair bit of weight and your waist is emphasised as never before.
There is a downside to this which is that the fastening of the bra will emphasise all that lovely back fat and will dig in a bit more than is always comfortable. So while it should not be cutting off circulation you'll probably sigh with relief when you get your pyjamas on at the end of the day.
Bravissimo have also increasingly started to feature clothing in their stores and catalogue. With the majority of items going up to a size 18 in either curvy, really curvy or super curvy. But again as the naming suggests is only in the bust area that there is extra ease and so a size 20 tummy may not button into one of their shirts.
In terms of style there is not much here to set the heather alight. For me the pick from their recent collection is a safari-ish shirt dress shown above, but there are a lot of jersey wrap dresses to pick from which still make reasonable wardrobe staples.
Specialist independent lingerie shops still seem to exist in most Scottish towns where other types of shopping have been superceded entirely by chain stores. Some of my favourites are The Personal Touch in King Street Stirling and Upfront Lingerie in Dunfermline. I've found a better level of stock and service in these places than in any city centre store and would recommend them to all aliens.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Betty Jackson Black

I've not really written much about the Betty Jackson Black range from Debenhams which is strange since it really provides the backbone of my Wardrobe. Over the last couple of years I've gotten a great black full-skirted shirtwaister dress (my own Mad Men office outfit) a couple of pairs of well cut trousers which are as kind as any garment can be to my size 20 proportions and this week I treated myself to a blush pink cardi with a lace placket, wearing it today for the first time I got a couple of complements and felt pretty and feminine wearing it.

On the Debenhams website there are some examples of why I think the range offers some of the best choice on the High Street at the moment. The Dress on the left is priced £50; I think it is about as flattering a garment as would be wearable for larger sizes while still being lovely in its own terms.
One of the ranges other great strengths is knitwear. Again I love to wear pretty cardigans and the embellishment and level of detail here are a step above the Marks & Spencer functional stuff.
Debenhams is not always the most pleasant place to shop, especially the crowded, strip lit department store in Glasgow, and some of the designers ranges they sell veer towards the tacky. But I'm pretty sure I would buy this stuff without the lure of the Jackson name. Almost all the range goes to a size 20 and prices are reasonable for the quality of the finish.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Jean Muir Exhibition

I visited the Jean Muir Exhibition which is on at the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers St Edinburgh until March this year. The collection is stunning and well worth a visit for anyone with an interest in clothing. There are about 40 outfits on display, for me the most outstanding were the dark crepe dresses which unfortunately do not photograph well, but standing next to one the quality of the fabric and the drape and purity of line are breath-taking. My favourite pieces are a navy dress from 1972, with buttons at the front and pin-tucks which was just lovely. I was also very taken by a floor-length belted dress with contrast stiching at the neck.
It was poignant to see records of requisitions for fabric from mills in Scotland, long since gone and samples of the fabric dyes used in her clothes.
Miss Muir also was highly influential as knitwear designer and although some of the examples in the exhibition are 80's intarsia and thus on the far horizon of what is currently popular the quality of the workmanship is still admirable. I also loved the small selection of designs she produced for the Jane and Jane label in the 1960s including a Paisley Print dress trimmed with feather boa which is a design I've actually dreamed about before,pure B-52s glamour.
I'm happy to report that the exhibition also features something for us aliens too. A navy crepe cape tied with a pussy bow is captioned with the info that "Miss Muir designed for all shapes and sizes" I'd be very happy to wear this or just about anything else from the collection.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Alien Icons -part 2

Adele is a young, pretty singer-songwriter whom I think dresses very well. Clearly she is larger than the norm for girly pop stars but it that does not seem to be such a big deal for her or most anyone who likes her. This a novelty in itself when Cheryl Cole and Amy Winehouse both seem ready to snap under the weight of their own hair. Adele tends to wear dark colours, a lot of layers and knitted items. A lot like the way I and a lot of fat girls dress, but also there is quality of playfulness in her clothes and grooming that I admire. I particularly like the way she upsweeps her hair in a sideways bun and wears a nice even line of black eyeliner which is a creates an uncluttered look which is just retro enough to suit her music.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Alien Icons

I haven't bought much over Christmas and New Year. Mostly my splurging has been on yarn, most notably a Perl Gray kit to make this lovely bucket hat bought in the sale from Purlescence which has lots of gorgeous things, many currently on sale.

So in this spending lull I've been thinking about whose style I really admire and who actually influences the way that I dress.

One of my other Christmas Treats was a box set of the 4th series of Boston Legal. For the unintiated this is a marvellously anarchic and witty US prime time legal series starring two long-time heroes William Shatner and James Spader who spar beautifully in their leading roles. However as the series went on I realised that one of the things I looked forward to the most was to see what Candice Bergen, who plays Senior Partner Shirley Schmidt, was wearing in each scene. Bergen is a beautiful woman and as she eases into her sixties she has developed a distinctive style which is based around wearing dark suits with a high open neck and the most wonderful multi-stranded chunky necklaces. There is plenty of variation in this look which can look smart and business-like and still nod towards exoticism.
So this has inspired a style resolution for me to get chunky. Further fuel for this has come from a new Bead Company Shop which has opened in Glasgow's west end and has an exceptional range of the most gorgeous beads and stones imaginable.