Wednesday, January 19, 2011 Review

My Curvy Revelation

I never thought I'd identify as a "curvy girl" because, to this day, my bra cups don't exactly runneth over! But, whether I like it or not, my hips and booty most likely make up for what I'm lacking on top thus defining me as a "curvy girl."

I've lamented several times over the difficulty I've had finding clothes that fit me in Australia. I'll remind everyone that a size 12 U.S. is equivalent to a 16 AU meaning that, by Australian standards, all women size 12 (16) and over are "plus size." This means that (excluding a short window of time from 2005-2007) I have been "plus size" by the Australian standard for 10 years, even though I only recently broke into the plus size market in the U.S. in the last year.

This new plus-size territory, has left me feeling more lost than I ever have when it comes to finding a good fit. My measurements at the moment are 41-35.5-47. (I've lost 2 inches in my waist and 2 in my hips since June so I am EXCITED to share this news!!) According to the Lane Bryant size-chart, my bust and waist measure right smack dab in the middle of a 14 & 16. HOWEVER, my hips measure right smack in the middle of a 18 & 20. Do you know what the bust measurement of a 16-18 is? 45 inches. When I measure at 41 (on a good day.) This is the equivalent of a women with a size 2 bust having to buy a size 10 dress in order to accommodate her hips. Admittedly, the woman with the size 2 bust would also have a size 8 waist based on my proportions but I digress.

Buying clothing that fits me all over just doesn't happen. Clinton and Stacey would say "So see a tailor!!" but, hello, so much easier said than done in this town. This is not such a big deal when I buy shirts. I can still buy t-shirts in most shops in Australia, but tailored shirts are always out of the question because my arms are so large. I had the same problem with my arms when I was a size 10 though, they're just big. What can I say? Dresses are a whole different ball game. I can usually get away with finding something that fits okay if it has an a-line skirt and the lining isn't too fitted. But if I ever want to pick up something more figure hugging that doesn't also have a lot of stretch? Never. Gonna. Happen. Nothing will fit me, ever. Anything that fits my hips is absolutely gaping in my shoulders.

When I found Torrid, I breathed a sigh of relief. While I found a few essentials that I liked in Lane-Bryant and Avenue, they are so obviously geared at a market more along the lines of women aged 35-55. However, the fit and quality of products at Torrid left me wanting in a bad bad way. The embellishments on several products in my past orders with this shop have been already falling off upon reciept requiring me to pull out the needle and thread. The stitching on a dress started coming unravel after a single wear. And, the most dissapointing thing: the shoes fit horribly. I own two pairs of Torrid shoes; a size 12W and 11W. The size 12s I've never actually worn in public because they are so HUGE. They feel at least 2-3 sizes too big. I wore the size 11W pair once to a cocktail event, and I think the only reason they worked is because they are a cuffed sandal so the cuff prevented my foot from slipping out of the shoe. Regardless of my ability to wear them without them falling off, the fit was just awful and my foot slides all around in the shoe giving me the feeling that I will fall off of the shoe even if they aren't falling off me! I'd liken the quality to anything you'd find at Payless even though they cost about twice as much. So, with great regret--because so many of their clothes and shoes are so HOT--I've decided the only thing I'll allow myself to buy from Torrid in the future is jeans. I do love my Torrid jeans and the quality is not bad. :)

And then I found Evans.

I am so completely blown away by this shop, I cannot express it enough! Evans is a plus size retailer based in the UK who offers women's clothing in sizes UK 14-32 which would be US 12-30 or AU 16-34. They also offer shoes in sizes UK 4-11/US 6-13 in wide and double wide widths and boots with extended calf sizes. As much as I liked the younger vibe of the products at Torrid, it's owned by Hot Topic and that shows in the collection. Sooo much of the Evans collection is exactly my taste, especially in the shoe department. I was initially drawn to the store because the shoe collection is so incredibly on-trend, and not in a watered-down-for-the-masses way, but a I'll-hold-my-own-on-the-runway way. But then, when I started looking at the clothing, I realized that these guys really know their stuff! I'm a person that LOVES trying new trends the first season they're introduced which can be tough when a lot of shops won't commit to offering new trends in larger sizes until the trend becomes more of a mainstream expectation: skinny jeans, ankle booties and "power" shoulders are all case-in-point. (I'm still struggling to find a nice power blazer in my size!) So, I made an order.

I have NEVER been able to wear tailored shirts. This has been a problem all my life, even in skinnier days, but I took a risk and decided to order two shirts from Evans. I also ordered a sweater coat and a pair of interesting brogue/oxford/boot hybrid shoes. The package arrived on my doorstep today, the 8th business day from when it shipped, which is incredibly fast especially considering shipping was only $15 or somewhere around there.

First, and the thing I was most nervous wouldn't fit: my brogue/boot/oxford thingees (can you tell I don't know how to define these shoes?)

After my shoe experience with Torrid, and also with Avenue's Cloudwalker line, I don't have a lot of faith when it comes to integrity of fit in shoes from plus-size stores. My first impression was how soft the leather is and, with a hint of panic, that they looked a bit small. See, I had to order a size 10 UK based off a size chart and --since every Aussie size chart says a US 12 is an AU 11 which I KNOW is not true-- I was afraid these would not fit. So...I slipped my foot in...and.....TADA!! They fit! and They fit great! They feel great, not stiff, not too big, no slippage, just overall incredibly excitingly perfect. For only $80, I know these shoes will be by my side for years. I'm ecstatic.

So then I start unwrapping my other purchases from their protective plastic. First, a tailored plaid shirt:

I took a risk on this shirt because I knew that the way they've sewn the pattern on an angle would be very flattering. This is the first button-down tailored shirt that has fit my arms without pulling and has buttoned at my hips without gaping. It's also the first shirt like this that hasn't made me look 2 sizes bigger than I am. I'm so relieved! The quality of the fabric is great. It's been doubled over at the button panel to be nice and thick, I really think this one will withstand the test of time. I only took a risk on this top because it was on clearance for $15 and I'm so glad I did because I won't be shy ordering similar cut tops from them in the future. Gotta love that!

After the success of the first two products, there's no way I could be disappointed by this next shirt:

I bought it because I loved the cut and color. I knew that, if the first shirt didn't work out, this one would definitely because of the room in the hips. I didn't know it had a tie in the back but it's good it does because it allowed me to adjust the fit to my taste. What you can't see in the pic is that there's a very slight shimmer to the fabric giving it a bit more of a smart-casual feel than I expected so that was a nice surprise. It fits beautifully and is unbelievably light and comfortable. It's the perfect weight to wear under a sweater because it's so light. I couldn't be happier! This top was $47.50 and, because I think it's light enough to wear in almost any season, it was worth it.

Last but not least, my ivory sweater coat:

I loved the vintage feel to this sweater. It reminds me of a sweater I used to have as a kid with the little bobbles on it. I liked that it doesn't have buttons because I purchased it specifically to belt over long tops and the buttons would distract from the effect of my belt! The sleeves are long enough which is a relief because I have issues with that on sweaters and the knit feels very soft and expensive to me. I bought this sweater because I thought it would work really well with alot of the tops I already own and help my light Queensland wardrobe translate into the cold Texas winter next week. I think I'll have this one on the plane with me, it's so cuddly! At $80 this was more than I'd usually pay for something like this but I've been wearing my $20 Old Navy cream cardigan for 5 years now and it's starting to show so I think it's worth investing in a worthy replacement and maybe I'll have it for the next 10. :)


In summary, Evans is my new go-to shop. You may have noticed I didn't order any bottoms from them, so I can only hope that my skirt and trouser experience is as nice as my top, sweater and shoe experience was with them. :) If you fit in their size-chart, I'd highly recommend giving them a go. Their stock is so different than anything you can get in a plus-size shop here in oz so I can't wait to deepen my relationship with this company. Even though I'm losing weight, I doubt I'll ever be smaller than a size 12 again, so hopefully this is the beginning of a beautiful life-long relationship between Evans and me. :):):)

I can't wait to order some boots with the extended calf!!

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