Browsing Tag


Clothing, Dressember, Dresses

The Perfect NYE Party Dress by Bastyan

For me, half of the fun of party season is in the getting ready, so when Bastyan offered me the chance to style up one of their party dresses, I couldn’t resist. Their dresses put modern spins on classic formal shapes, from cutouts at the waist to sheer panels and embroidered details. I wasn’t so sure on the styles that flashed the flesh and I knew I wouldn’t get much wear out of one of the more formal maxi dresses, so the dress I chose was the Sophia, a fitted black pencil dress with a gathered section, sheer 3/4 length sleeves and a curved plunge neckline. It’s one of those dresses that looks quite innocuous until you put it on. Then you realise what a difference a clever cut can make!


Coming in at £195 (though it’s reduced to £125 in the sale) this is one of the most expensive dresses I own, but you can tell the difference between this and a cheaper style. It’s fully lined, and the fabrics are heavy and luxurious, meaning it skims comfortably, rather than clinging too tightly like a cheaper unlined version. I often find that tight fitting dresses like this can end up clinging in unfortunate places – and I don’t always want to wear shapewear, especially around Christmas. With this, I can wear tights without worrying about digging in, which is definitely an added bonus.


In terms of styling, I don’t really think this dress requires much so I kept it simple, with sparkly studded tights and a black and white clutch bag, plus my go-to festive hairdo, the beehive (with a jewelled headband). The dress would look great with a bright coloured pair of shoes or belt, but I wanted to show that it doesn’t need any extra cinching to work with a curvy figure. The lower neckline is perfect for a big necklace if you prefer, but I actually think it looks just as striking without, as that curved shape is quite a strong design detail. Despite the fact it’s plain black, I think the little touches (the sheer sleeves, the little front split and the neckline) give this dress that extra something, so accessories should be kept to a minimum. Too much drama with a dress that’s already an attention grabber can be a bit much!

Disclosure: The dress was a gift, however I wasn’t paid to write this post and all thoughts are my own


CLOSED Dressember giveaway! Win a Pepperberry party dress worth £89!

I promised special Dressember treats this year, and here’s one that I think you’re all going to really love! My good friends at Pepperberry are offering one Big Girls Browse reader in the UK the chance to win a gorgeous party dress worth £89. The competition will run over the weekend and a winner will be picked early next week so hopefully the winner will receive their prize with plenty of time for New Year, if not before Christmas (if you’re lucky)!

I chose the jacquard full skirted dress as the prize because I knew the retro style and 50s shape would really appeal to readers of this site. It’s a timeless, universally flattering shape and I think it represents this site very well – we all know I love a full skirt and a cinch waist and this is the dress I would want to wear if I won!

Pepperberry dresses are designed with larger busts in mind, so this dress comes in three cuts (Curvy, Really Curvy and Super Curvy) and sizes 8 – 18. I find Pepperberry sizes come up relatively large because I quite often size up due to my bust – I wear a 12C or 12SC in Pepperberry, so if you’re a busty size 20 don’t be put off entering as I bet the 18RC or SC will fit you perfectly.

To enter the competition, just leave a comment on this post telling me when you’d wear the dress. Anyone who has sponsored me this Dressember gets an extra entry instantly. I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday and the dress will be shipped out ASAP by Pepperberry. Please ensure you leave a valid email address or twitter with your comment so I can contact you to check your size should you win. You can find a Pepperberry sizing chart here. Please ensure you check this – Pepperberry sizes are different to those you’ll find on the high street.

Terms & Conditions:

1) The prize is one Pepperberry jacquard full skirt dress worth £89 in your chosen size (8 – 18 C, RC, SC)
2) Only one entry per person – IP addresses can be tracked on comments
3) This competition is open to visitors in the UK only (sorry!)
4) The prize will be sent as soon as possible but we cannot guarantee delivery before Christmas
5) No cash alternative is available
6) Closing date is Monday 17th December at 11pm (UK time). The winner will be notified shortly after.

The prize:

Lace Jacquard Full Skirt Dress £89.00
Available in sizes 8 to 18 in Curvy, Really Curvy and Super Curvy
To view the full collection visit



Top 5 dress plus size dresses from Simply Be

Today as part of Dressember I’m looking at some of my favourite dresses from one of the brands that has supported Big Girls Browse since the very beginning, Simply Be. I wore a Simply Be dress for one of the very first days of my first Dressember, so I think there’s nice synergy in this post happening now!

I love the label for offering a great combination of classic styles and trend-led pieces in a really good range of sizes. I know that a lot of my plus size friends rate Simply Be as one of if not *the* best when it comes to UK plus size retailers, because they have such a big range and some great collaborations. I also love seeing the clothes on models with bodies like mine – Naomi Shimada and Laura Catterall can sell ANYTHING to me! Here are some of my top dress picks from the Simply Be Winter collection…

Peplum PU Panel dress £55 – this is similar to the dress I wore for the Ways To Wear challenge, but with a bit of a sexy twist by way of the PU panels down the middle. I love that this sticks two fingers up to plus size conventions – it’s fitted, it’s sexy, it’s got interesting textures and while it’s black, it’s not boring.

Ruby Rocks Butterfly print dress £55 – I’m a sucker for a butterfly print, and this is a really nice one that doesn’t look too twee or 90s. I also love the cute pink-trimmed collar, which makes the dress look youthful despite the modest length. I’d add a bright coloured wedge or platform shoe and belt the waist to add a bit more definition.

Bonded lace dress with beaded collar £70 – Though I know Simply Be have a brilliant plus size bridal range anyway, I can absolutely see this being worn by a modern bride for a low-key wedding. It’s such a great shape and the collar detail stops it from looking too ‘timeless’ and thus boring. For a festive party I’d add accessories in a bold colour like cobalt blue or red to keep it away from the bridal look. As for the hair, this is crying out for a beehive!

Anna Scholz bird dress £70 – It’s easy to see why this is one of Simply Be’s bestsellers – Anna Scholz is the queen of great printed plus size designs, and her more affordable diffusion range for Simply Be is a great place to look for cool day dresses in quirky prints. She always picks fluid fabrics that hang well (and wash well) and I love the shape of the skirt on this slightly retro dress.

Flock baroque print skater dress £48 – You can’t beat a skater dress and this one comes in one of my favourite colours for clothing, a bright sapphire blue. I love a fit-and-flare skirt style because it’s so comfy and easy to wear, and the long sleeves make this a bit more practical for the cold weather than some of the skimpier options. Baroque print is a key trend this Autumn, and I’d love to see this dress teamed with a leather jacket and really high heeled ankle boots to keep it looking current.

Disclosure: Post in collaboration with Simply Be

Gemma Recommends, Uncategorized

Three designer inspired items I’m crushing on…

I always feel a bit naughty buying cheaper high street versions of designer clothes, but the truth is I’m never going to shell out £500 for a jumper that’s a one-season wonder, or blow £500 on shoes that I’ll only wear twice. If I had the disposable income to buy designer clothes all the time, maybe I would (I suspect I’d still love trawling the rails of Topshop, though). But right now, my designer purchases tend to be the things I know won’t date so quickly – handbags, coats, retro style dresses and so on. When it comes to trends and seasonal styles, I have to budget, which means fast fashion. I think so long as the items are designer inspired, not fakes being sold as if they’re the real thing, they only strengthen the brand they’re emulating by drawing more attention to the specific look or style. Besides, a lot of the designer pieces don’t hang around for long, and I’m sure Victoria Beckham isn’t sweating the fact a few cut-price retailers are selling low cost alternatives to her sold out dresses.

So on that note, here are three designer-inspired looks I’ll be sporting this season…

The Primark ‘Pow’ comic book jumper

You know when you see something in a shop, carry it around for a while, then put it down thinking ‘no, I don’t need this’, only to find yourself thinking about it for days afterwards, wishing you’d just gone ahead and bought it? That happened with me and this jumper. I didn’t buy it because I’d already bought two slouchy jumpers for Autumn and thought three was overkill. But when I saw it at The LOOK Show last weekend (pictured), I knew I’d made a mistake. I’m hoping my new ‘local’ store (the huge new Oxford Street East branch, which is 3 mins from my office) will still have it in stock so I can pop it on and pretend I’m wearing the 3.1 Phillip Lim it’s based on. This is going to become my weekend wardrobe – I’m getting more and more lazy and casual as time goes by.

Buy it: Pow! Jumper £14 at Primark Stores

Boohoo’s Cat Face Wedges

I already have the flat version of these, and I’ve just ordered the ridiculously cheap and stupidly high £15 wedges as well. Though I wish I could afford to fork out the £500 the Charlotte Olympia real deal would cost me, I just can’t, so I’m forced to go for the cheap option. The flat shoes get comments wherever I go in them. I recently wore them to go on holiday and even the tour group of pensioners on my flight asked me about them. So for £15, I thought I’d give their sister shoes a go. I’ve never been scared of things that are twee and a bit childish, and these really are big offenders in those stakes, but I think they add a sense of humour to a more grown-up outfit. Provided I can walk in them, I’ll be teaming the wedges with pencil skirts and blouses to avoid looking too ‘sexy secretary’, and with skinny jeans for the longest legs ever!

Buy it: Suky Cat Face Suedette Wedges £15 at Boohoo

Everyone’s collar-detail bodycon dresses

Where Victoria Beckham goes, the high street inevitably follows, which means this Autumn / Winter there are loads of fitted dresses with cuffed sleeves and high collars. I love Internacionale’s burgundy dress with black stripe detail, and obviously so does everyone else as the £19.99 bargain is sold out at the moment in everything but the smallest sizes. Loads of brands have versions of the drop-cuff dress in blue and khaki. Goddiva offers the best price – £28 for both colours. If you’re looking for larger sizes, the Contrast Collar & Cuff shift dress from M&S goes up to a size 22. My only concern is how this style will work with bigger boobs, as the high collar and fitted shape might end up giving the shelf-boob effect. I will be investigating this and doing some trying on!

Dresses, Sewing & Craft

I’ve been sewing: Simplicity 2444 dress with cape collar

The last thing I sewed and actually finished was my bridesmaid dress for Kat’s wedding. Given that she’s been married for two years now, I thought it was time to get some more use out of my sewing machine and dressmaker’s dummy! So spurred on by seeing how fab it looked on Roisin, I decided to raid my pattern stash for Simplicity 2444 (I have patterns, just never actually *make* them). I’d read nothing but great things about this pattern, which has four darts in the front to really shape the bodice for a good fit. It’s one of the Project Runway sewing patterns, which means there are lots of elements you can add and remove to make different dress styles. I decided to go for the cape collar version (as seen on the model in blue floral print).

It took me about a week to put together, just doing the odd hour here and there. I reckon it could easily be constructed in a day if you really concentrate (I tend to work slowly in front of episodes of Fringe). I used about two and a half metres of black gingham I bought from eBay and notions from my stash – the only other expense was the zip, taking the total cost of the dress up to about £10 excluding the pattern (which I will definitely use again). Here’s the final result…

Simplicity 2444 dress

I’m really, really happy with the finished item. Sewing pattern sizes don’t usually equate to UK or US clothing sizes, so you really must get to know your measurements. I cut the 14, which is actually closer to a UK 12, but I know from experience that the ease in most patterns means I can go down a size. I made the darts ever so slightly smaller than they were meant to be to allow an extra cm or so on the waist, and the dress fit perfectly. I’d read that it was good for big busts and it definitely is – I wish I could find dresses in the shops that fit like this!

Simplicity 2444 with pockets

One of my favourite things about this pattern is that it has pockets! Never underestimate how useful a dress with pockets is. It was my first time sewing in pockets, so that was a good little trick to learn, too. I’d also forgotten when I bought the fabric that I have the perfect shoes to go with this dress, an old pair of slingback wedges with bows in matching gingham. I can’t wait for a sunny day (please?!) to show this off somewhere other than my flat!

Simplicity 2444 50s style dress sewing gingham

I’ll definitely be making this pattern again, though I think next time I’ll leave off the cape top and just make a simple sundress. I’m hunting down an interesting fabric as we speak – I’m wondering about the car print from Ditto Fabrics for a Prada-esque look?

Before I go, here’s a little extra pic for those who don’t follow me on Twitter. I went to Royal Ascot on Friday (as a guest of the fabulous folks at Longines) and this is what I wore. We were in the Royal Enclosure, so hats and modest hemlines were a must!

Outfit for Royal Ascot

My nan was right. People should wear more hats.

Dresses, Retro / Vintage

Ten more 1950s style dresses (you know you love ’em)

Oh, you predictable bunch! It comes as no surprise to me that my posts on 1950s style dresses are, by far, the most popular pieces on this blog. And who am I to complain that one of my favourite looks is also one of yours? As far as I’m concerned, any excuse to spend a few hours hunting down yet more fabulous frocks with those trademark nipped-in waists, full skirts and fabulous prints is good enough. Though I am going to bankrupt myself soon enough if I keep buying things as I do ‘research’. This round-up of another ten great Summer dresses includes a few old faithful brands, a couple of new ones, and hopefully some styles to suit all budgets and bodies. I hope you enjoy!

Scene and Believed dress by Bernie Dexter $139 Modcloth – Vintage rockabilly model Bernie Dexter’s range of dresses has some amazing bold prints, and this one is my favourite. The cherry blossoms are really distinctive, and you can see from Modcloth’s customer reviews how well the dress works on a variety of body shapes.

Yellow floral vintage rose dress £45 (was £85) Oasis – I loved the ‘floral frocks’ range from Oasis this season, but the prices were pretty crazy – upwards of £80 for a cotton frock? Luckily, they’re all now being put into the sale, so those of us on a budget can possibly afford to splash out. This yellow would look amazing with dark hair.

Silver grey and pink floral swing dress £40 Lady Vintage – My favourite discovery of 2012, Lady Vintage, has just released a range of Summer prints, including this lovely pink and silver floral. Remember these swing dresses come up big – I easily fit into a 12 in Lady Vintage styles.

Kelly Brook bardot scenic print dress £39.99 New Look – Retro 50s fan Kelly Brook has extended her collaboration with New Look to clothing this season, and there are lots of Summery florals and polka dots on offer. This off-the-shoulder dress is my fave, but there are plenty of others on offer. Amanda has done a great in-depth review of the whole range if you want more info.

So Fabulous printed prom dress £45 – Going up into plus sizes, this 50s floral frock has a bit more coverage across the bust than some of the sweetheart neckline designs, plus the dark print will last into Autumn with tights or seamed stockings.

Blue tapework prom dress with sheer top £90 Warehouse – I love this pretty pastel shade, the dress reminds me of something that one of the hideous but very well-dress Junior League girls in The Help might wear. I’d wear it with silver accessories and a beehive hairdo.

TS Wonderful royal style dress $69.99 Light in The Box – I bought this dress when Light in the Box was having a sale (this happens a lot) and was pleasantly surprised with how quickly it arrived and how nice it was. It’s a bit heavy for Summer but I’ll be stashing it away for Autumn / Winter when no doubt I’ll get plenty of wear out of it. The TS brand sold through the site specialises in vintage-inspired pieces, so keep an eye out for bargains.

Black Red Herring cherry print full-skirted day dress £30 Debenhams – Red Herring’s 1950s style sundresses are really good value and I have a couple of them now. They cut quite small on the waist which works for my figure, but the skirts aren’t stupidly short, which is a problem I find with a lot of high street dresses inspired by the 50s.

Taupe spot fit and flare dress £40 Wallis – I love the combo of taupe and cream in polka dot, partly because, like so many girls, I love the dress in the polo scene of Pretty Woman, but also because it’s such a brilliant colour combo for just about every skintone going. This dress would be fab for work or weddings, or just about anything in between.

Coral spot dress with short sleeves £40 Simply Be – Naomi makes this dress look fab, and I’m sure plenty of my readers would too. Coral’s a fab shade for Summer and the simple shape of this dress is a bit more comfy than the super-fitted, structured bodices of some 50s inspired styles. Also, I know a lot of people don’t like dresses without sleeves, and the fluted shape of these is really fab.

In My Wardrobe, Tried & Tested

In My Wardrobe: Lady V London bird print green sundress

I’ve written about a lot of beautiful dresses in my time, but I don’t think any has received such a huge (and fast) response as the Lady V London dress that I put in my 50s sundresses feature earlier this week.

My twitter feed and blog comments were full of people telling me they were either buying it or thinking of buying it, and by Friday I even had twitpics of happy customers thanking me for introducing them to the label. In the end, I couldn’t resist ordering one myself, if only to report back on whether it really could be as good as it looks when it retails at only £30!

But first I have to give credit where credit is due – I actually saw the dress on Georgina‘s Facebook page, so she’s the one who deserves all the love for hunting down such incredible value retro-inspired frocks!

Now onto the dress…I ordered on Wednesday and it arrived on Friday, so thumbs up for quick delivery! It was quite creased in the packaging (a cellophane bag) but that’s nothing new when ordering online. I also noticed the tag on the dress read £50. This style comes in loads of different fabrics, and some of the others are still £50 (like Kat’s amazing poppy print one), but a lot, like mine, are selling at £30 / £35, which I think is excellent value.

First up, let’s talk length. I’m 5’7 and the dress hits the knee on me. From the pictures I was actually expecting it to be slightly longer, but I actually prefer it being that little bit shorter as it feels a bit more casual. It also gives hope to petite girls who’re drowned in other vintage style dresses that end up being almost maxi length on anyone below 5’3! The fabric, though it’s synthetic (viscose) is incredibly soft, and the dress is lined, which for £30 is really great value. It hangs really well and I haven’t had any static issues yet. Plus, look how much fabric is in the skirt…

…you get a nice full-skirted effect but enough weight to stop it flying up in the wind. In general, I love the shape. The little cap sleeves, the nipped-in waist with tie belt, and the full skirt are really well done.

Now for the bad bit. I say ‘bad’, what I really mean is ‘annoying’. You can see in the pic above that the bodice actually bags a bit on me. This is no new thing for me – my waist is small compared to the rest of my body so I often find things are a bit loose there (and at least this dress comes with a belt to cinch in) but it’s very big all over. I ordered the 14 because going by the brand’s online size guide, I thought I’d need it to accomodate my bust. But it’s incredibly generous in the top, and there’s so much ease I could have probably bought the 12 and fitted into that better. I’m not going to exchange as there’s not too much in it, and it’s always nice in Summer to have room to move about a bit and breathe, but if I buy another print, I’ll definitely size down. I’d say there’s a good 1.5 – 2″ inches of ease in the measurements on the size guide, so if you are between sizes, definitely consider going down.

Overall, I can’t really fault this dress in terms of value for money. It’s as good as some that are going for twice the money, and if you’re happy with synthetic fabric, this is definitely one to consider. The prints on offer are lovely and the shape is really pretty and timeless. Just watch your sizing, because that’s what’s going to make this look brilliant, not just ok!

See the Lady V Spring / Summer collection by clicking here.

Retro / Vintage, Tried & Tested

A date with Vivien of Holloway part 3: The ‘Peggy Lee’ day dress in green

I’m finishing up my Vivien of Holloway dress reviews today with the third and final dress. This is the Peggy Lee day dress in green (£69), a cotton number with an A-line skirt and contrasting white collar and pockets. Of the three I’ve tried, this is probably the most costumey. The other two can easily be modernised, but as far as I’m concerned, you may as well go the whole hog with this one! So I pulled out my retro glasses, put my hair in a mock-bob with some roller curls and hunted down some hair flowers so I could give this dress the 40s style look it deserves!

Of the three dresses I tried, this one is also the most generous when it comes to sizing. Like the Grace and the Jezebel, I tried it in Vivien of Holloway’s vintage size 16 (B38/W30). I think if I bought this dress in the future, I would probably try on the 14 too see if I can get away with it. You can see in the pictures that it creases up a bit around the bodice – the torso section is quite long and I could do with being more snug around my mid-section. That said, it was a good fit on the bust – if I switched to a non-padded bra I hope I could go a size down.

Because the waist wasn’t as snug as I wanted, I tried the dress with an elasticated belt to cinch it in a bit. This did mean it wrinkled and creased a bit around the waist, and looking at the pictures afterwards, I think I prefer it without the belt. If you want the smoother lines you can see in the model pictures on the website, I’d advise a good girdle underneath! Of all the Vivien of Holloway fabrics, I’d say this cotton is actually the least forgiving on fleshy bits so choose your underwear carefully! Fit is vital too so definitely try on at the Holloway Road store if you can. The zip runs up the back (but the collar is fixed so it doesn’t zip all the way up). It is one of those annoyingly flimsy concealed zips I hate, but because it’s up the back, not the side, it’s not so temperamental and worked fine for me without snagging or getting stuck.

I absolutely adore the colour of this dress, if only because it gave me an excuse to wear my green suede shoes (now reduced to £20 at Chockers) and pose in front of some nearby green doors. The pockets are also a big bonus too – these ones are huge, almost like the big pockets on an apron! Of all the Vivien of Holloway dresses I’ve tried it’s probably the most practical despite the bold design details. If you’re a vintage / reproduction fan and want something a bit different to the usual tea dresses and wiggle dresses, this is a total winner. However, dressing it down for a more modern look is more difficult.

The ‘Peggy Lee’ dress is available in various colours and prints for £69 at Vivien of Holloway

Disclosure: The dress was borrowed from Vivien of Holloway. All thoughts are my own and I was not paid to publish them.