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Events & Launches

dollydaggerfeat
Clothing, Dresses, Events & Launches, Retro / Vintage

VIP vintage style fashion at Dollydagger in Brighton

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A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the gorgeous Dollydagger boutique in Brighton for a taste of their VIP shopping experience. I’ve been a fan of the brand for years so I was very excited for an excuse to head down to the seaside for the evening. The event is all about the full-on retro experience. Think vintage-inspired shopping with a personal touch – small groups (hen dos, birthday parties etc) can book in with the store for a night of bubbly, pampering (hair and makeup to complete your retro look) and plenty of retro fashion fun, with a goodie bag at the end of the night. The shop specialises in 1950s dresses (own brand and hard-to-find labels like Bettie Page Clothing), rockabilly style and quirky gift ideas, so it’s perfect for a retro fan like me!

I was invited along with a few fellow bloggers, and we had an amazing time working our way through all the frocks on offer and getting some makeup tips from amazing makeup artist Alessia Mancini. Here I am modelling just a few of my favourite frocks…which you can save 10% on until next Thursday (4th April) with the code WELOVEGEMMA (awwww).

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In the Midnight Rose Scarlet DressThis one is in the sale at the moment at £89, so grab it quickly! I’m wearing the Large which runs smaller than other larges in the Dolly Dagger range. It’s listed as a 12 – 14 and that’s pretty bang on – it only just fit me!

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The Dita dress (£149) was probably my favourite – this baby looked amazing on everyone who tried it. There’s really clever gathering and seaming around the hips and waist to shape it to the body, and the sweetheart neckline is really pretty and a favourite of mine. The red was definitely my favourite, but I’m holding out for green before I invest. A little birdie told me that might be a possibility in the future, but in the meantime there’s another amazing green dress coming to Dolly Dagger – more on that soon!

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I tried the Greta dress (£159) in two colours, but the fit just wasn’t quite right on me. I adore the leopard collar and 3/4 sleeves, but the shape just isn’t as nice on me as the Dita. This dress is made for Caroline, though! It’s really amazing for those with bigger busts.

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And finally, a bit of Bettie Page. I’ve got a few Bettie Page dresses already that I bought from the store in Vegas, but they can be hard to find in the UK so knowing Dollydagger is a stockist is great. Unfortunately, the Rita (£89.99) is not my perfect Bettie Page partner. I love the colour and the huge collar, but it doesn’t do anything for my upper half – making me look quite straight-up-and-down and pushing my boobs downwards (not to mention the tight sleeves). This is less of a curve-enhancer for size 14s like me, and is perhaps better as a curve creator on slimmer figures!

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Thanks so much to Dollydagger for inviting me to play with all the gorgeous dresses and take a look at the beautiful shop. As I mentioned above, as a special treat, they’re offering all you lovely lot 10% off a purchase at Dollydagger for the next week. Place your order now using the code WELOVEGEMMA to take advantage of the deal. And don’t forget to comment and let me know what you chose!

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Events & Launches

The Evans Shape Studio Event

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I’ve been to loads of great events over the last few weeks that even finding time to write them up has been difficult, but I’m playing catch-up now starting with the first, the Evans shape studio event. It was a brilliant chance to catch up with the fab ladies from the Evans team, plus the new models for the latest Swan by Clements Ribeiro collection (coming soon) who just happen to be five fabulous plus size bloggers – Georgina, Callie, Bethany, Marie and Nicolette. By now you may have seen *that* Liz Jones article (and the usual bile-filled comments on the Mail online) relating to this campaign – if you haven’t, congratulations for avoiding it. You’ll get a far better idea of what this is all about by reading the thoughts of the people that matter – their consumers, the plus size bloggers and the people who SHOP at Evans, not a bunch of unimaginative trolls who think they’re being clever. What I saw at the event were five incredible women having loads of fun and perfectly representing the people this brand is trying to target. And who can argue with that?

The idea of the event, as well as introducing the blogger-spokesmodels was to give us a chance to see the new ranges from Evans. There was a photography studio set up at the event, and the rails were full of styles from the new Spring / Summer ranges that we could try on and be snapped in, including some great stuff from the girly, trend-led new range Scarlett and Jo, which has just gone live on the website.

I wasn’t originally going to step in front of the camera myself because I was having too much fun watching everyone else, but after a couple of glasses of bubbly, a gentle nudge from Georgina and the lure of free hair styling and makeup, there I was strutting my stuff with the best of them. I have to admit it was a bit of a novelty after going to various ‘try it on’ events to find one that I could take part in. At most there are no samples larger than a size 10, but Evans had made sure to stock the rails with loads of items in various sizes from 14 upwards.

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The black 60s style dress with lacy collar that I’m wearing is £40 from Scarlett and Jo. It isn’t available online yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as it is. It’s a classic shift shape, but they’ve added ties at the back so you can pull it in at the waist if you want. I thought since I always go for the tea dress or the fitted wiggle dress that this time I’d try something new. Carina from Evans picked the dress out for me, and I think she did a great job. I did some standard blogger poses, but my favourite pictures were the more silly ones. I can’t do ‘serious’ when there’s a camera in the room. Immediately the OTT poses and goofy smile come out. Life’s too short to look grumpy in photos!

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Ps. The incredible shoes are these, sadly sold out online now.

The other exciting thing to see at the event was the forthcoming 8-piece Alouette range by Alex Monroe. Evans always does so well with its accessories collaborations (I still wear my Georgina Goodman shoes from years ago) and this one continues in that grand tradition, bringing some of the jewellery designer’s most popular trademarks to a wider audience, with lower price points but the same delicate, pretty look. I’m so glad this keeps the simplicity Monroe is known for, I love the leaf pieces.

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The word from Evans HQ is that this range isn’t going to hang around long, so if you love it, get ready to fight for the best stuff!

curvykate
Events & Launches, Lingerie

Wishing a Happy 3rd Birthday to Curvy Kate

A couple of weeks ago I took some time out from unpacking at my new flat and melting in the heat to head over to Curvy Kate HQ in West London for a blogger party to celebrate the lingerie brand’s 3rd birthday.

It’s safe to say there are very few brands I love as much as Curvy Kate, and this was exactly the kind of fun night I’d expect from them. There was pass the parcel, ‘pin the bra on Lauren’, bubbly, party food and a sneaky peek what’s to come from the brand. It was a chance to meet or catch up with loads of amazing bloggers – some new faces like Kitty, Callie, Hanna and Jess, some gorgeous girls I’d met before like Lilla and Cheryl, and Becky, who I’d virtually adored for a very long time and couldn’t wait to meet in person. Here we are with the birthday cake.

Aside from the fact they make very pretty, competitively priced lingerie in my size, I just love the Curvy Kate ethos. Their advertising has such a strong positive message. The brand doesn’t hire professional lingerie models and airbrush them beyond recognition. The girls you see in the catalogue and shoots are customers. And they’re always smiling – there’s no pouting allowed!

Many of you have probably heard of the brilliant ‘Star in a Bra’ competition, which is run annually in the UK and now in the USA and Australia to find these new models for Curvy Kate.

What I love about Star in a Bra is that it’s not just a clever marketing stunt. The women who take part in the competition aren’t just used for one promo shoot and then forgotten in favour of professionals a few months later. The winners (and often the runners up too) become part of the Curvy Kate family. Winners from years ago are still modelling frequently for the brand.

Some of those models were at the party – 2011 and 2012 winners Lizzie Haines and Sophie Morgan, along with 2012 finalists Alice Rose Rayman and Charlotte Upton.

Lizzie, Alice, Charlotte from Curvy Kate (she designs the bras!), Sophie and Charlotte

There was such a sense of fun and feeling of friendship amongst this group and the Curvy Kate team. These models are brilliant. They’re all stunning beyond words, and though none of them are above a size 12 or 14 they are all different shapes, with fleshy bits, varied proportions and perhaps even a few stretchmarks and a bit of cellulite here and there (though I didn’t see much on show on the night)! It was so refreshing to see models messing about, having fun, not feeling the need to “stand up straight and breathe in” (I can’t be the only chubby child raised on THAT advice?) and think, just for a second, ‘hmm, their bodies kind of look like mine’. In ten years of working in this industry and attending events I have never felt like that, and it’s a surprisingly powerful thing.

As well as meeting the models we got a sneak preview (in the flesh, natch) of a few of the designs that are now available or coming soon from Curvy Kate. The big star of the night was Entice, shown here on Charlotte and now available at Debenhams.

You wait until you see what colour this is coming in for Spring / Summer!

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Events & Launches, In The News, Shoeper Challenge, Special Ranges

A Fortnight in Pictures: Fabulous Frocks & Saving Shoes

It’s been a bit of a mad couple of weeks in terms of events and nights out, so I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front as a result. Even this is going to be a bit of a quick post, mostly made up of various photos from the last ten days or so. If you follow me on twitter you’ve probably seen most of these already so sorry for the repeats! In the last fortnight I’ve been to blogger meet-ups, shop openings, photoshoots and parties and at one memorable moment even found myself listed alongside some of my fashion idols as I was placed at number 3 in the top fashion tweeters according to The Telegraph. Their cheque is in the mail…

First up, the official photos are in from the pop-up studio at the Plus London meet-up and they’re amazing. Huge huge to Diana at Fashion Loves Photos and The Second Floor Studio for doing such an amazing job at making me look ok! You can see the whole set featuring all the Plus London attendees her blog. But here are the best ones of me.

The dress is H&M, and I love it even though it’s so tight I couldn’t even wear a strapless bra underneath. Damn their tiny sizing! I really should have worn heels to properly glam it up!

Me with the gorgeous Tahlie from Style369 who I spent much of the night chatting to!

A few days after Plus London, I visited the lovely Carnaby quarter for the opening of the Debenhams Edition pop-up shop. I showed you a preview of some of the range (from Preen, Jonathan Saunders and Jonathan Kelsey) and it was brilliant to get the chance to get up close and personal with the final garments. It’s safe to say if I wasn’t on my Frugal February spending ban I would have bought a lot of pieces! Instead, I just had a bit of a dress-up session. Debenhams had a photographer on hand at the event, and she snapped this amazing pic of me trying on the Jonathan Saunders maxi dress…

The shape is based exactly on a piece from one of his catwalk collections (Spring 2008), reproduced in a new print for Edition. I love that this affordable collection is so similar to the main range, and not just some range of crappy logo t-shirts and denim skirts or something. It truly is a gorgeous piece and I fell completely in love with it.

The Debenhams team very kindly let me choose one piece from Edition as a gift, and I (unsurprisingly) went for this frock, which is now stashed safely in my wardrobe for a very, very special occasion!

Following the Edition event came another Frocking Friday. I was going out for a meal in the evening so decided to pull out my vintage floral number. I bought this for about £12 on ebay a few years ago and it was probably my best ever vintage find. The perfect fit, a fabulous shape, and it’s hand made with a really durable zip (and a hand-finished hem!) so it’ll last forever. It was listed as 1950s and the shape certainly suggests that era, but as it’s handmade we’ll never really know. It really reminds me of the recent 50s inspired Louis Vuitton dresses. I teamed it with a black belt, opaque tights and patent shoes from New Look.

And finally, comes the Shoeper Challenge which began on Valentine’s Day. I need to wear every pair of shoes I own by this time next year, or I have to get rid of all the unworn pairs. The rule is if you don’t photograph a ‘save’, it doesn’t count, so while I’ve worn more than one pair of shoes in the last few days, these are the only ones officially saved so far – a pair of studded leather flats from New Look.

Here’s a close-up of the saved shoes, since the photo above’s a bit rubbish. This is a bit of a dull start to the challenge, but don’t worry, there are still 108 shoes to go and most of them are heels! I wear these babies a lot but wanted to snap them with a decent outfit. The dress is New Look also – I buy a little too much from there I think!

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Events & Launches, Special Ranges

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Simply Be SS11 ‘Angel Ribbons’ Collection

The team at Simply Be have always been really supportive of Big Girls Browse and I was really happy to be offered a bit of an exclusive on one of their Spring / Summer ranges. The ‘Angel Ribbons’ collection won’t be available until next week, but you can have a little sneaky peek at some of the pieces right here. I saw some of the samples a month or so ago at the launch, and this was definitely one of the ranges that really stood out for me. I do love a bit of girly glam! Keep reading for all the pics…

Keep your eye on Simply Be’s website next week for the launch!

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Events & Launches

Big Girls Browse at BNTM Live

I have to admit that when I was invited to take part in the Style Icon Workshops at Britain’s Next Top Model Live, my first thought was “Me? At a modelling event?” Judging a plus size modelling comp is one thing, but turning up to an event chock full of tall, slim wannabe models is another. Especially as I chose to talk about learning to embrace your body and enjoy clothing whatever your size.

But I learned some really interesting things talking to people between workshops. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages were at the show, and some of them gave me a much-needed reminder that it’s not just curvier women who have trouble knowing what to wear!

For those who don’t know, BNTM Live was an exhibition at London’s Excel that celebrated all things fashion and beauty related. A bit like the Clothes Show Live, it had live catwalk shows, workshops throughout the day, and exhibits from brands ranging from Bourjois to Max C. The finalists of Britain’s Next Top Model were there, as well as stars like Diana Vickers, Alesha Dixon and Eliza Dolittle.

Messing about on the bloggers \’bus\’, pulling my best model pose by the sponsor board, and doing my presentation!

I was stationed at the Style Icon Workshops studio, a small area with a stage and seating for about 50 people. Alongside other bloggers, You Tube gurus, stylists, designers and fashion industry folks, I did six talks over the three days on my chosen subject – embracing your body and dressing to make the most of it.

My aim was to remind people to use their own common sense and stop relying on a set of silly rules about body shape. So often we’re told to dress how to hide X or conceal Y…or to compare our bodies to things like bricks, vases and cellos. Why don’t we concentrate on picking clothes that fit well and show off the bits we love instead? I told people to throw the rulebook out the window, try everything on ‘just in case’ and have fun with fashion – but gave a few handy tips to help out those who didn’t have the guts to go straight out and try on a jumpsuit.

It was a great show to be part of and over the weekend I met some really brilliant women, from fellow exhibitors to the ladies from Models of Diversity, an initiative I support wholeheartedly.

I’d like to say thanks to the BNTM Live team for inviting me to take part, double thanks to everyone who came along and sat in the audience for one of my workshops, and triple thanks to the lovely Darika for taking the photos used in this post!

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Events & Launches

Come and see me at BNTM live!

It seems like everything I’m doing right now is related to models in some way. This is not a regular occurance, but I’ll enjoy it while I can! Next weekend I’ll be making an appearance at Britain’s Next Top Model Live, the fashion and beauty extravaganza that celebrates the top rated TV show of the same name. As part of the Style Icon Workshops, I’ll be taking to the stage to do two presentations per day on a subject that’s very close to my heart – dressing for your body shape!

This won’t involve a Trinny and Susannah-esque list of rules and regulations and stupid made up body shapes you have to compare yourself too (who wants to admit to being a ‘brick’?). Instead, I’ve got a slightly more positive ways of looking at things and would love to share a few secrets with you.

If you fancy popping along to show your support (and I’d absolutely love it if you did) you can check out the full schedule here. There are some great guest speakers appearing throughout the day, including my blogging friends from My Fashion Life and Fabsugar UK and YouTube beauty gurus Pixiwoo.

The show takes place at Excel in London from 22 – 24th London. Tickets are available by clicking here, and start at £18.

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Curvy Models, Events & Launches, Uncategorized

Judging the Simply Be plus size model competition

This week I left London for a couple of days and headed to Manchester for the long-awaited final of Simply Be‘s ‘Face Of Plus Size Fashion’ modelling competition. I was absolutely honoured to be asked to join Alison and Natalie from Simply Be, Jackie from Best Magazine and Sarah from 12+ UK Model Management as one of the judges, though I don’t think I realised until I got there just how difficult it was going to be to pick just one woman from the group of amazing ladies who made up the final 16!

The rules of the competition were left wide open, with no restrictions other than the fact you had to wear size 14+. The finalists (who’d been preselected by the team at Simply Be) were a really wide range of sizes, heights and ages, which I thought was fantastic. It was so wonderful to see women of all shapes and sizes looking gorgeous – and not shying away from fitted shapes, tricky trends and bold colours – but it also made choosing an eventual winner really difficult, because I loved so many of the girls for different reasons.

For the first part of the day, the girls bought their favourite outfit to wear on the catwalk. They were treated to professional hair and makeup and had catwalk lessons, then they faced the judges for a few questions. Our first job was to make a cut from 16 down to 5. Eeek! I felt like I was at Judges Houses on X Factor – we even had the polaroid photos and the coffee table! I have so much respect for people judging any competition like this after having to make this cut. The more you sit and discuss with your fellow judges, the more you realise you’re going round in circles!

That said, I was really happy with the final five we picked. I probably could have picked a whole other five and been just as happy with them (and another after that…), but the girls we picked had everything I was looking for; women I thought embodied the brand and could represent curvy women with the right positive attitude. Obviously, they also had to have striking features, good skin and so on (this was a modelling competition, after all!) but they also had to have the body confidence, personality and sense of fun that the brand is known for. Simply Be girls are fun-loving, free-spirited girls who know how to pull off a party frock, they aren’t moody, pouty fashionistas (not that we had any of those)!

Once we’d announced the final five, the girls were whisked off for a bit of restyling, and all put into the same Simply Be dress for final round of judging. I have to say, picking one dress was a masterstroke. Not only was it really pretty (it’s definitely on my ‘must buy’ list) but it really levelled the playing field, especially for someone like me who tends to be swayed by what people are wearing (I asked more than one girl where they got their outfits on the day). One more round of judging (and lots of holding our heads in our hands) and we finally decided on a very worthy winner…Amy Sellu.

Amy completely won me over not only with her gorgeous curves, killer legs and beautiful smile, but also with her confidence, intelligence and how incredibly articulate she was. She told us about her journey towards size acceptance, and her healthy attitude towards her body is really inspirational. This is a girl who works in a gym and faces hardcore gym bunnies all the time, but she has grown to realise that though she is built differently, she just as fabulous as them!

In fact, that’s what blew me away with all the finalists I had the chance to talk to. It was an inspiration to meet so many women who’re so body-confident. None of the women I met on Wednesday were lazy, unhealthy people who’d ‘let themselves go’, as so many (awful) people seem to assume plus size women must be. They were a cross-section of British women today – some short, some tall, some with long legs, others with long torsos, some with big boobs, some with big bums (some with both!) but all of them knew exactly how to work it on the catwalk. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a room with so many smart, savvy women with so much to say about beauty, size and body confidence, and I was completely overwhelmed for most of the day. As someone with her own set of body hang-ups who can relate directly to what a lot of these ladies had to say, it was quite difficult sometimes to stay detached enough to make a decision about the winner.

But eventually, we made that difficult decision, and it was lovely to see how supportive the rest of the finalists were. I’d like to say congratulations to Amy for winning, and to all the other women for getting to the final and for being brilliant, beautiful and completely inspirational. If any of you are reading this, you’re amazing, and I mean that.

I’d also like to thank the Simply Be team, Jackie, Sarah, Claire and Sheena for being great company during the trip, and also thanks to all the behind the scenes folks, the camera crews, the hair & makeup team, and finally uber stylist Karen for being absolutely brilliant!

There are loads more photos on Simply Be’s facebook page.