With a number of weddings on the horizon, fashion news editor Billie Bhatia finds out that actually there is very little on offer when it comes to occasionwear for the plus-size market.
I love weddings. I love looking back at the groom as his beautiful bride takes one step closer to married life (I love it even more when they cry). I love trying to guess what the first dance will be, and the kind of awkwardness that follows. I love the father of the bride’s speech and the warm fuzziness that wraps around the whole room when he reminisces about his little girl. I love the dancing. I love the drinking (it really is the only place where, as an adult, minesweeping still happens). I love the details, the little bits of ‘them’ they have scattered over the day. I love the love. I love it all.
Well, except for one thing: I hate getting dressed for a wedding.
Working in fashion you would think getting dressed for a wedding would be a piece of cake. That it would be a joyous occasion – a time to really show off the fruits of your labour and stand in the style spotlight.
Not for me. For me getting dressed for a summer wedding is a time for pure sweat inducing panic (a really undesirable look for the occasion). Why? Because there doesn’t seem to be anyone who cares about women who are going to a wedding or any occasion for that matter who are over a size 16.
Over the past couple of years there has been a real surge in those sweet-spot contemporary brands that promise to make you look incredibly chic at a wedding (or any occasion) and at a reasonable price. Self-Portrait, Rixo, Kitri, Sleeper, Ghost, Ganni, Staud, Faithfull The Brand, Paper London… the list of cool brands catering to occasionwear goes on. But none of them go beyond a size 16. And, in some cases, they don’t even go bigger than a size 14.
It’s a real problem. I desperately want to look good at a wedding but how can I do that when the offering is so slim? The high street has some options courtesy of ASOS Curve, Simply Be and Mango’s Violeta – but, while their everyday offering is plentiful, their occasionwear is seriously lacking when it comes to cool. It’s either a cinched-in waist with puff skirt, or nada. Fancy a silk midi dress with ruffle hem? Forget about it. A printed wrap maxi dress with a cute slit up to the knee? Don’t be ridiculous.
In a bid to be stylish at a wedding, I have had clothes custom made in Dubai, commissioned a designer to make me a dress (which had to be dyed in Bali and shipped over to London), added fabric to an existing dress because I could only buy it in a smaller size, and I’ve asked my mum to cut up an Indian sari to fashion me a dress because I had nothing to wear to a ball. It’s not exactly swinging through a shop is it? Or adding something to basket?
It’s stressful, and it’s not enjoyable. In some cases, I have even wanted to stay home and avoid going to the event altogether, solely to save embarrassment.
So what’s the solution? Right now, I can’t really say there is one. The brands that have the power to evoke change are out there, and I hope that one day they realise that being more inclusive will spark a positive moment. But, in the interim, I have quite literally scoured the internet for beautiful occasion-worthy brands that actually fit.
Resortwear brand, Kalita, has come to my rescue more times that I can count. Their super floaty silk dresses are oversized in their fit and a total dream to wear. I first wore a Kalita to a red carpet event and was sold from the first swoosh. I have gone on to wear Kalita to meet the President of Georgia, and donned a custom-made piece for one of my best friend’s weddings in the South of France.
I recently wore a Three Graces dress to an Indian wedding, and it was similarly heavenly. Made from a slightly weightier (but still incredibly elegant) silk, Three Graces has made a name for itself via easy-to-wear timeless pieces. Plus, the honeymoon dress has pockets: win!
Loup Charmant and Lee Matthews also cater to this more whimsical style of dress, creating fashion-forward floaty dresses which are helping me navigate the six weddings I have on the horizon. But if it’s something more structured you’re after, or even just something that isn’t swathes of fabric, I’m afraid verdict is out on who can help.
So if you’re reading this, occasion-wear dress brands, then hear my plea: be more inclusive in terms of sizing. Because I really, really want to wear you, too.