I'm in my forties, work in middle management in the public sector and studied Film and Literature at University. I've been overweight all my life and am trying to learn to live with it. As well as clothes I like knitting, movies, Geek TV and The Guardian.
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.
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.