A few weeks ago I was invited by Fashion World to meet the new face of the brand, Steps star Claire Richards. Fashion World, for those who’re unfamiliar with the brand, is a catalogue shopping brand aimed at busy women sized 12 – 32. As a working mum with a busy life, Claire is a great fit for them, and what has begun as a simple collaboration where she chooses her favourites from an existing range should extend to Claire co-designing her own range in the near future.
Claire’s yo-yo dieting and battles with her weight have been highly publicised over the last few years so I was interested to hear what she had to say about body image and acceptance. After years of trying to slim back down to where she was in her Steps days, she seems to have finally accepted that she’s not meant to be that size now.
It can’t be easy being ‘the one who put on weight’ in a pop band. Regardless of how Claire looks now, she will always be held up against her teenage self, strutting about in a bikini top and combat pants with a waist the same circumference as one of my thighs. The press event was held at a cake shop (BB Bakery – yum) and at the photocall the photographers couldn’t have made it more obvious that they wanted snaps of Claire that made her look as gluttonous as possible. “Can you hold the whole cake stand, Claire?” “How about two cakes, one in each hand?” Claire was a consummate professional throughout, but it’s a good thing I wasn’t the one standing up there – those cakes might have ended up smashed onto some very expensive camera lenses!
I got some time to sit down with Claire and a couple of other bloggers towards the end of the event, and despite the fact she’d probably been answering the same questions for hours, Claire was open, honest and more than happy to chat clothes, curves and body image. She’s frank about her body and how she feels about it now – that it’s taken a long time, but she’s realised the only person she has to answer to is herself, and she feels happier now than she ever did starving herself in her Steps days. I asked if there was a lightbulb when she finally realised that your weight does not equal your worth, but she said it was more of a gradual thing, that she slowly learned not to care so much.
When you have battled with your weight (in public) for a decade, you can’t just one day say “I AM HAPPY NOW” and expect that to be it. It’s a long process, changing a lifetime’s worth of negative thoughts. I truly do think she’s found a happy weight, but years of being told she’s fat or that she has to lose weight have obviously affected her.
This was evident in the fact Claire’s fashion advice was straight out of the unspoken ‘how to dress your curves’ guidebook. Choose things that “work for your body”, that are slimming, flattering, cinched at the narrowest point. And don’t forget the shapewear! She loves her shapewear.
There is obviously nothing wrong with this (I love my shapewear too) but I know there is a large portion of the plus size community, particularly online, which hates this approach to dressing. Claire is not part of the ‘f*** flattering’ movement, and I don’t think she ever will be. She’s the ambassador of a mainstream brand that aims to make dressing well easy for busy women who don’t have the time to spend hours shopping, nor any big desire to be ‘trendy’ if it doesn’t work (in traditional terms) for their body shape or age bracket. And she seems to be doing a good job of that so far, whilst gently pushing the boundaries. I liked that in her picks from this season it wasn’t all wrap dresses and illusion panels. There was a jumpsuit, a textured bodycon style dress, and skinny red jeans – all slightly more adventurous styles for those with a fuller figure.
My last question for Claire was, of course, what her favourite Steps song is. It’s the same as mine…
ps. I still know the entire dance routine. And I’m not ashamed.