Browsing Tag

simply be

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Special Ranges, Tried & Tested

A bride’s opinion of Simply Be’s plus size bridal range

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It’s time for a slightly different – and very special – post with a special guest!

A while back, when this site was still Big Girls Browse, I featured the lovely range of wedding dresses from Simply Be. This was a collection I felt really passionate about the moment I saw it. Wedding dresses are expensive, and plus size women get a very raw deal when it comes to their big day, often having to shell out for really expensive made-to-measure pieces, or settling for the very few cheaper off-the-rack options, most of which are pretty ugly and old-fashioned. Simple Be managed to produce a capsule collection of pretty, simple and non-frumpy styles in sizes 12 – 32, all costing £100 or less. They felt modern, chic and special, but fit a tight bridal budget. I knew they’d be popular, but I didn’t realise quite how popular! My post about the range quickly became one of the most visited on this site, and perhaps one of the loveliest moments of my entire blogging career so far was discovering that, in a tiny little way, I helped a bride have a brilliant wedding day.

With no further ado, I’ll pass you over to Rebecca…

Simply Be bridal collection Grace dress real life bride

“I was a bride on a budget. At 25 I was marrying my college sweetheart and had set a budget of around £400 for my dress.

At a size 20, I am plus size and was a follower of Big Girls Browse. When I saw Gemma’s post about the Simply Be bridal range I fell in love right away with the Grace dress. With its petal shoulders and simple but elegant design it suited my ‘Spring Tea Party’ theme perfectly. Not only was it beautiful, it was also a quarter of my allotted dress budget!

Plus size real bride in the Simply Be Grace dress

The dress is ankle length on my 5ft 11 frame, which firstly meant I didn’t ruin the bottom by standing on it or dragging it along the floor. Secondly, it meant I got to buy and show off some amazing shoes!

bridal shoes

The fit of the dress was perfect on me. True to size, the measurements on the website were spot on! It is floaty on top and the lining is fitted for a smooth appearance.

I love my wedding dress, it was perfect for me. It made me feel beautiful and bridal without being too fussy. It was comfortable and easy to wear and to dance in, and thankfully I was able to visit the bathroom on my own without any assistance!

I would highly recommend the range to any other plus sized bride on a budget, or even without a budget – why not have more money to spend on other things!?”

I think we’ll all agree Rebecca looks gorgeous in the dress, and hopefully this ‘real life’ review will help anyone else thinking about making a purchase from the range. I’d like to thank Rebecca so much for taking the time to write this post and share the photos from her beautiful big day. If you’d like to pass on your congrats to her or ask any more questions about the dress, she’s on twitter as @msmagic.

You can shop the Simply Be Bridal Range by clicking here.

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Dresses

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

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Dresses, Special Ranges

Simply Be launches gorgeous plus size wedding dress range

Words can’t begin to explain how excited I am about Simply Be’s new plus size bridal range. I don’t have plans to marry any time soon, so I’m not looking at these with my big day in mind, but I’m hugely impressed at the quality and variety that they’ve managed to pile into such a small range. There are only four dresses so far, but if they’re a sign of what’s to come, this could be the start of something very special.

This could have gone so wrong. It could have been a pile of horrible, frou-frou strapless numbers and ugly toilet roll holder shapes with cheap embellishment. Instead, I really feel like the Simple Be team have done a wonderful thing; they’ve created a capsule plus size range of wedding dresses that will genuinely make people who wear straight sizes go ‘wow, I wish they did that in my size’.

Not only are these dresses pretty and modern and wearable, they’re affordable too. Coming in at around £100, they make looking amazing on a budget for the plus size big day a real possibility. They’re available in sizes 12 – 32.

Grace petal trim wedding dress £100

What I love the most is that there are dresses with sleeves. But not ‘guys, we’d better make one with sleeves for the people who want to hide their arms’ sleeves. Proper, pretty dresses that look special, and beautiful, and unusual, but just happen to cover the upper arms. The Marilyn is a gorgeous example, a formal take on the much-loved wrap dress.

Marilyn wrap detail 3/4 sleeve dress £100

I’ve seen so many plus size bridal offerings that look incredibly uncomfortable. This annoying idea that anyone over a size 12 spends their entire life wanting to look as thin an possible has meant it’s corsets and boleros all over the shop. But a corset is not right for everyone and that Simply Be have recognised the need for comfort and prettiness over waist-cinching properties is fabulous. They’ve even paid attention to trends. My favourite from the collection, the Isabella dress, combines a touch of Downton Abbey with a splash of Gatsby for a lovely vintage-inspired look. I really wish this came in colours so I could buy one for my next formal event!

Isabella vintage style beaded wedding dress £90

And they haven’t forgotten those who don’t want to marry in white. The final dress in this collection (which I hope grows over time) is a pretty pink number.

Evelyn knot front wedding dress £100

Shop the whole collection now at Simply Be. And have an AMAZING wedding!

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Clothing, Coats & Jackets

You’d never guess I liked it: The Parka

I have a huge soft spot for the parka. It goes against just about everything that I love in fashion – it’s quite masculine, oversize and screams ‘utility’ not ‘pretty’, but there is something about the artful way in which a really stylish woman can pull off such a functional piece of clothing that I really love. This stems back to about 2007, when The Sartorialist posted a picture of a glam woman in killer heels topped with a massive parka. It’s not a look I could pull off, but ‘Parka on Heels‘ became a bit of fixation of mine. There was even a sequel…

The parka also has a bit of a bohemian vibe, and as much as I say every year that I’m ‘over’ boho, we all know that’s a lie. In Winter it’s easier for me to do the smarter, fitted dress thing. In Summer you will eventually find me in some kind of a slippy little dress, flat sandals, mismatched jewellery and an ill-advised scarf, with my hair in it’s natural wavy shag, pretending it’s just because I’m hot. Secretly, I love that lazy festival look, even if I don’t like the associated chemical toilets, rowdy groups of lads, cramped campsites and cider in plastic cups. Oh, ok, I like the cider in plastic cups.

The king of the boho parka is my beloved Matthew Williamson, of course. Nobody does Ibiza festival babe like him, and I bow down to his unique ability to chuck a massive hooded coat over a diaphanous evening gown. Sequins and khaki canvas? Why not? Fur-trimmed puffa with a floral mini? Bien sur!

So why am I banging on about this now? Because of this…

Ever since I saw the first pictures of Simply Be’s Angel Ribbons collection I’ve been fixating on this parka. The perfect mix of utility and pretty thanks to its tiered shape and lacy trim, I loved it instantly. Then the above shot, from the press lookbook, hit the web and I knew I had to have it.

Now obviously Frugal Feb meant I couldn’t buy it this month, but the incredibly generous Simply Be angels heard my cries and sent me it to try out. Many, many thanks to them for feeding my obsession! It’s a bit light for the current weather, but this will no doubt become one of my must-haves in Spring. It’ll definitely come in handy when I go to Melbourne in May and experience the famous four seasons in one day, especially as it’s light and easy to pack, but has a hood for any unexpected downpours.

Just to tie the whole post together, I’m wearing the coat over a dress by Matthew Williamson (from his collection for H&M).

I love the shape and the detail on the coat, and the sizing is good – quite generous so you can wear more than just a floaty dress underneath if you want to. The sleeves are long but can be rolled up which I think looks much better. It’s quite full in the bottom and sits in an almost A-line shape which is very pretty and great if you’re bigger around the bum and hips! I would have loved if the waist was drawstring like the neckline so I could cinch it in, but that’s a minor detail! If you fancy it yourself, the Angel Ribbons Parka is £45 at Simply Be

Disclosure: The coat was a gift from Simply Be, but the opinions are my own and I wasn’t paid to write this point. The catwalk images come from Style.com.

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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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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.

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Events & Launches

Are you the next face of plus size fashion?

Just a quick note to say that I’m honoured and excited to be involved in the latest project from UK-based size 14+ retailers Simply Be. I’ll be helping out as one of the judges of their search for the new Face of Plus Size Fashion.

This is an amazing opportunity for all those women who feel they could give the current crop of plus size models a run for their money (and I know there are a lot of you). There are no height or weight restrictions except that you need to be at least a size 14 (and over 18 years old). The prizes are amazing; you’ll become the face of Simply Be’s Style Files, you’ll win a massive £10,000 to spend at Simply Be and you’ll get a consultation with 12+ Model Management.

Click here for everything you need to know to enter. And good luck!

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Shapewear, Special Ranges, Tried & Tested, Uncategorized

Tried & Tested: Gok Wan ‘Curve Controller’

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of shapewear. I love the 1950s nipped-waist silhouette and wear a lot of wiggle dresses that benefit from a good foundation (and no VPL). That said, I see shapewear as a smoothing, shaping garment, not a miracle fix. I don’t really subscribe to the whole ‘magic pants will make you thin’ idea – this is about creating a shape with the curves you have, not making them disappear completely!

In the past I’ve tried – and been impressed with – pieces from the previous Gok Wan collection for Simply Yours. I was recently offered the chance to try something from the new range, and I jumped at the chance to see what they’d done to improve it.

After trying the corset and the slip last time, this time around I decided to go for the bodysuit, called the ‘Curve Controller‘. I went for the black, which has a nude trim and animal print detail, but it also comes in nude and turquoise.

My first impressions were that, once again, the product was high quality (to match the fairly high price tag). A lot of thought has been put into the construction to make sure it works for larger sizes, and the detailing gives it a bit of edge. Though you’re never going to want to slip it on for a hot date, the body looks less matronly and a bit more alluring than some shapewear, and the nude trim is a nice touch. The back has a long hook-and-eye fastening which is tricky to put on, but works well once it’s fastened to keep everything in place. There’s also ruching down the bum to hug curves – great under trousers or very fitted dresses.

The powermesh inside is the bit that does all the hard work, helping to create a smoother line under clothing. Luckily, it does this without feeling too tight and sweaty. It’s constrictive, yes, but it’s not like wearing a corset – you can still slouch a bit and because it’s a bodysuit, you don’t get the irritating roll-down (or fleshy overhang) you might get with big knickers.

For the redesign, the powermesh (which was hot pink in my older pieces) comes in animal print. I guess this is a bit of a marmite design detail. I love a bit of OTT glam so it gets my vote, but others might think it’s a bit much, and I’m not so sure it works on the turquoise version. But the main thing to consider is that it doesn’t show once the garment’s being worn, so it’s just a little bit of fun!

I was glad to see one of my least favourite elements of the previous range – the jingly bell on the centre of the bust – had been ditched in favour of a little ‘G’ charm. It’s meant to stand for ‘Gok’ of course, but since we share the same initial, nobody need know that!

The other good news, for me at least, is that the style of the bra on these pieces has also been changed. It’s gone from a plunge to a balconette, which I find a much more comfortable shape. However, I did find the cups on this body to be a bit big and quite…pointy! Once I was in it was fine, because the cups are smooth, have small half-cup pads and maintain their shape, but I think I could have easily gone down a cup size, maybe even two.

A close-up of the cup and internal powermesh

The body itself runs fairy true-to-size, bearing in mind it’s shapewear so it’s meant to be tight-fitting. That said, it comes in cup / back sizes rather than dress sizes, and if you’ve been measured for a bra somewhere like Bravissimo where they fit very close to the body with small back sizes, you may wish to go a band size up or fastening up the hook and eye closure will be a nightmare. I went up one band size and the fit was perfect (though that may go some way to explaining why the cups were a little big).

The final consideration with this body, of course, is the gusset. It fastens with a hook and eye mechanism too, which I have to say is the biggest problem for me. It’s a complete nightmare when you’re in a public toilet trying to contort yourself to fasten it! I would have much preferred good quality poppers or press-studs, though I understand why the hook and eye has been chosen. As shapewear is so fitted, there’s a lot of pressure on the seams and joins – poppers may well have just popped open all the time, and the hooks do hold it securely. It just takes some getting used to. And I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you know you’re going to be out drinking!

I’ve worn this body a few times now, mostly under close-fitting dresses to give a bit of a smoother outline down my torso. It’s comfortable, it does the job it’s supposed to and it never budges. On the downside, it’s quite hot (rest assured it will not be worn to any Summer weddings if the weather continues to be as beautiful as it has been) and the hook and eye gusset takes a lot of fiddling to get used to.

However, overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons by a huge margin and if you need something to wear under a dress with a close-fitting waist, it’s really good for creating a bit of an hourglass look. It comes in big cup and back sizes and is really well made to suit a more voluptuous figure.

Disclosure: Simply Yours sent this product free of charge for me to review. However, the review is honest and I was not paid to publish it.