I have always loved the ease of a dress and the way it can make you feel instantly put-together. As a size 24, it can be more difficult to find an amazing dress, and in my role as a size-inclusive brand consultant, I am aiming to help more fashion brands design beautiful clothes for others like me. First, let me tell you my backstory and why I’m a little dress-obsessed. When I was working as a designer at ASOS and the contemporary dress market was booming, the design team was filled with 20-something women with weddings to go to all the time. Everyone was always talking about the dress they were going to wear, and wearing a Rixo or a Rotate was the thing you really wanted. It was at that point that I realised people were saving up or splashing out on these more premium brands and doing it for “the dress,” but I couldn't even if I wanted to because I couldn’t get one in my size.
That kicked off an obsession for me. So many of these brands are quite “cultish,” with stunning, iconic dress styles, and I wanted to be able to be part of that gang. Although there is still a way to go, there have been some improvements in terms of size inclusivity. Everyone has their own idea of what size-inclusive means, so I will define what I mean by this term. Perhaps if you don’t know the struggles of dressing a bigger body, you might think going up to a size 22 is inclusive. However, unless a brand does bespoke orders for all sizes, I wouldn't definitively call it fully inclusive. One of the best examples of a size-inclusive brand is Universal Standard, which caters to sizes 2 through 44 in all of its products.
When it comes to plus-size dresses, on the high street, I’m impressed by Never Fully Dressed’s curve options, but I’m hoping it continues to expand its size range, as it mostly only goes up to a 24. It’s exciting that Anthropologie’s plus-size collection is now available in the UK. I think it can be good for a put-together, special dress or an easy summer chuck-on style. Another high-street brand I love is Neon Rose. I think it does cute styles and pushes the trend look a little bit farther than other plus ranges. A lot of the time, where you might have a trend happening, the plus range will get a watered-down version or you might get the trend style five months later than everyone else. I really hope brands stop doing this.
Luxury-wise, I’ve been looking toward 11 Honoré and Marina Rinaldi. There is still a massive void of plus-size luxury fashion, even more than on the high street. Marina Rinaldi has a designer fashion background, as it is the plus-size sister brand of Max Mara and Sportmax. The quality of fabrics it works with is beautiful and the make of the clothing is always incredible. I designed for the brand when I first graduated, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
It’s also so exciting that Olivia Rubin is opening up her sizes to a 24. Independent brands are probably the fastest-growing market for plus-size and size-inclusive clothing. This is because they often produce more locally and usually produce to a made-to-order or pre-order system, meaning they have the flexibility to work with a seamstress and make one-off styles. A lot of brands now make items bespoke no matter what size you are. Olivia Rose, Benjamin Fox, Molby, Mary Benson and Megan Crosby all do that. Loud Bodies is also one to highlight, as its size range is one I would actually call size-inclusive. It offers sizes XXS through 10XL and will also do custom sizing for petite, tall or atypical bodies at no extra cost.
If you want a more formal, statement piece, that's often harder to find in plus-size. There are a couple of brands in America that if people can afford to have them shipped to the UK are beautiful options. Selkie is doing well with its really princessy organza dresses, available up to a size 5XL in lots of gorgeous colours. Rachel Antonoff does amazing conversational prints, and the brand Wray does really cool colourful checkerboard-printed dresses. I would also say to keep an eye out for Tamara Malas, as her designs are beautiful and bold too. The rental platform Hurr has some dresses from Wray, Selkie and Loud Bodies that you can borrow from the UK. It has recently started expanding its size offering and set a goal to add over 750 unique pieces in sizes UK 16 and above, growing its plus size offering by 120% by 1 August, 2021.
Dresses give you a complete outfit and are quite simply the maximalist’s dream because you can have one bold print head to toe and not have to dilute the look down by adding a plain piece to make it easier on the eye. I personally love oversize, flowy dresses—something with big sleeves that has lots of fabric and that you feel luxurious in. When I wear a dress, I love it to have a lot of special design details like ruffles, statement sleeves and collars.
Keep scrolling to see four of my favourite dresses from my wardrobe, where I found them and how I'm styling them.
1. Knitted Rainbow Dress
This is a knitted dress I bought from Twinset in Italy about five years ago. It was quite a splurge at the time, but I think it is my favorite piece of clothing I have ever bought. Because it is knitted, it has fit me whilst I have been four different dress sizes.
2. Vintage Green Floral Midi
This is a vintage find from Portobello Market. Secondhand and vintage can be even more difficult to find in my size. There is quite a TikTok trend to thrift things and change them to fit your body, and often people buy things that are four or five sizes bigger than them. That means you are buying out the vintage clothes that should be there for the people in their size. Ahead of the Curve is a platform that does plus-size vintage fairs, and the next one is on the 8 May.
3. Printed Midi With Puff Sleeves
This colourful dress is one I designed and made myself. If all goes to plan, it should be my first dress that I will be launching this summer at my brand, Dolly Rocket. It will be available in sizes 6 through 32, and I will be able to make bespoke orders for anyone outside of that size range. I will be doing pre-orders to cut down on excess wastage too. I am planning on launching it in a mini and a midi length, and people will have the option of three different prints, each designed by me and each unique to my brand. There will be this rainbow wave print, a pastel version of the rainbow wave and a multicoloured paisley print.