Sara Brown is a designer and a size-inclusive brand consultant, who is working hard to make much-needed changes to the fashion industry, helping brands expand their sizing from a design point of view and working on their strategies. We are delighted that Sara is a new guest columnist here at Who What Wear and over the next few months she will be writing about the items and trends that she finds hard to shop for, and will be sharing her expert tips and amazing product selections. As a designer, she really understands what is needed in terms of fit, and so she always has amazing insights and shopping tips. This month, she talks us through tailoring.
Tailoring or a good fitting pair of trousers really seems to set the “chic” apart from the rest, and if it isn’t obvious, I’d love to be part of the “chic” set. After trading my sewing alteration skills with my friend for her cat sitting skills, I recently discovered a world that felt quite distant from the one where I live. This world was the world of gorgeous trousers. The kind of trousers that are made from 100% wool, have soft internal linings and contrast trims inside the waistband. Those added touches that make a garment feel and hang better. I realised that I didn’t own a single pair of trousers like this, and it made me start thinking about what was on offer for me as a plus-size women in terms of trousers or tailoring.
These great trousers that I lusted after were from Sezane, and although as a UK 24 I can just about fit in their biggest size for knitwear, their other clothing is only made in sizes up to a UK 18, so I’ve got no chance. Their trousers are priced around £130, so understandably you would expect the good quality they provide. I just wish I had the option to invest and wear such a lovely garment.
Ensuring a good fit with tailoring that isn’t made to order can be difficult at the best of times, however as the body grows, and we see more differentiation between body proportions, it gets even harder. One of the most difficult areas to get right is the back and front rise of trousers, these are the measurements that go from the seam at the very centre of the crotch, to either the top of the front waistband, or back waistband. This measurement, along with the way the seam curves, is what determines whether the trousers will fit high enough on your waist after going over your belly or your bum. Both are areas that greatly differ on every plus size body. One problem you might have, is that when trousers fit your hips, they’re too big at your waist, or vice versa. Perhaps you have thicker thighs that make the legs fit too tightly, or like myself the movement of your belly means you can see the pocket lining peeking out, ruining the clean look of a suit.
With all of this to consider, we find that tailoring is often one of the last areas brands making plus sizes will cover. So where do I look for a good suit or great pair of trousers? I really rate the fit of ASOS curve’s trousers for my body, I find that I can nearly 100% rely on the fact I will need a size 24 and they will fit well. I appreciate that when ASOS create an oversized blazer for plus sizes it is actually oversized, giving that dramatic “Chuck on your boyfriend’s blazer” look that you often find in street style looks. And after working on the tailoring design team for two and half years when I designed for ASOS I also know how passionate they are for bringing us new and trend led styles.
The other high street brands I look to for plus size tailoring are River Island, Simply Be, Mango and Trousers at M&S. However, M&S sadly currently only go up to a size 24, and I would really love their “long” trousers available in sizes over an 18 like they do in petite and standard lengths.
As a plus size shopper I am very used to shopping online, meaning that when I receive clothes they are often really creased and crushed, needing a very good press before wearing. This can sometimes be worse when it comes to tailoring, shoulder pads can get distorted, creases in trousers can be hard to repress and collars might lose their correct breakpoint. That’s why I really appreciate that Simply Be suits come on a hanger and are generally folded much less than others I have ordered.
As for a slightly more premium price point, I am really impressed by the range of tailoring pieces available from Karen Millen and Marina Rinaldi. Marina Rinaldi go up to a UK 28, however I have found some of their trousers come up small so would usually try a size 26 or Marina Rinaldi size 31. It’s also interesting to note they have quite a wide range of price points so maybe look at their Persona Collection for a cheaper option. Their quality however is always on point, and they offer tailoring in their stores so if you often struggle with the length of sleeves or trousers you can get them fitted just right for you.
One brand I immediately think of for plus size tailoring is Henning, the New York based luxury plus size brand founded by the fabulous model Lauren Chan. Their goal is to create beautifully executed wardrobe staples that make you feel “smart, sharp and powerful”. Their sell out suits, the “Bank”, “Laight” and “Renwick” have been specifically designed for plus size bodies with hidden elastic waists and reinforced inner thighs.
After trying on the Incredible Blazer from last year’s size extended Ganni Collection with 11 Honoré, I am even more excited to see Ganni producing larger sizes. Keep an eye out for their newer collections as they introduce this larger size range.
Just before I share some of my current shoppable favourites with you I want to shout out Universal Standard and The Hour too. Universal Standard have trousers and blazers available in sizes US 00 – 40 (UK 2 – 44), and the Hour have lots of tailored pieces specifically cut for plus size bodies with fine finishes in quality fabrics.
1. Simply Be Blue Suit
"It was mostly the colour that drew me to this suit, I love this dusky blue as it reminded me of the hue Shrimps used in much of their Resort 22 collection. I feel it would work well styled for lots of different occasions, whether as workwear or in a more colour-blocked look like I’ve put together."
2. ASOS Edition Pink Suit
"This pink suit is from the “Edition” range at ASOS, their most premium own brand range. You can tell there’s a substantial increase in quality in this suit as opposed to suits in ASOS’s core range. Excitingly, these trousers have the internal lining I lusted after in the Sezane trousers, plus the fabric is thicker than ASOS’s usual and has a lovely weight to it."
3. Simply Be Red Blazer
"I chose this red simply be blazer as I thought it would work well styled without a top underneath. I like the slightly higher break point on the collar meaning it would still cover my bra. I would note that I find this blazer to be more fitted than the product title suggests so if it’s possible I would advise sizing up. "