gailsedotes: (evil me)
People, when asked after an earthquake, what it was like when the final tremors stopped responded, "Is it over yet?" That's how I feel about UK Plus Size Fashion Week. #UKPSFW did a lot to focus me on what my vision is, on what my goals are and what message I want to put forth as what identities not just my brand but what I personally stand for.

First some hard truths. RavenDreams Plus Size Lingerie is a one woman show. There is only me (and a great group of friends whom I love and cherish who are nuts and willing to do silly things like get naked in front of cameras and fashion shows and sit in London traffic for 7 hours to get me there and talk bollocks to complete strangers... etc.). I am the Designer, Manufacturer, Web Developer, Photographer - you name any job in the company, it's me. This is what Indie Business truly is - hard slog. I get the credit for the success of a project and all the blame of a failure. For a while I have been using the royal "we" to make it sound like RD is somehow larger and therefore more reliable a company. UKPSFW showed me that I don't need to do that and that stops today.

And what's my message to the world? It's fashion week all around the world and I can't help but agree with the Daily Fail (erm Mail) that's there is nothing new on the catwalks. What little innovation there is has been swamped and marginalized by the conglomerate ready to wear. I am really disappointed by what I have seen that the press have covered. And here's the thing - that the "press have covered". Plus Size Shows are so busy finding funding that they are forced to go to big Ready to Wear companies who then hog the catwalk and I suspect force true design out to the margin to prevent being shown how awful their products have become and often always were. Even "bold new" lines are ... unimpressive. Ex: All I had to do was type into google black lace halter bra... abd there were hundreds of them. This was just the first result )on sale at New Look for £12.99). Addition Elle - now don't get me wrong - bringing "On Trend" items into the hands of plus size women is laudable but don't start calling it new or high fashion. And it is still as the DM said, "They're just not good enough. For the most part, they are simply scaled-up versions of something a person who's a size 10 might wear."

not what I call haute couture

 

Sure, I would love to make a bra like that for the line - but IT'S COPYING! Fashion Week is for Haute Couture to inspire ready to wear(R2W - tired of typing it out)! Something has gone terribly wrong in Plus Size that R2W is running the trend and innovation and design just isn't there. (Btw, that halter bra isn't even on sale in Addition Elle as of this publication date.)

So, what's my vision? Innovation; new shapes, new patterns, not trend lend. RavenDreams is a Couture Experience. I am not here to be "on trend" - I will be the design two years in front of the trend. So far I have been creating pieces for my own needs, like the Melanie, and I will continue to do that. Piece by  piece, I intend to up the bar on the quality and fit and shape of plus size lingerie. I fully expect to be copied. But that's the point of Haute Couture isn't it? To Inspire!

My mission? (I should really put that in all caps but CBA...) To change the way the industry looks at fit. Or at least start a meaningful conversation that isn't ignored. So, I am going to use this blog to rant. No one is safe, especially me. As Eminem said, "Tell me something else I don't know about me." To all you plus size bloggers out there feel free to join in! I am not after your market share - I want to change the world through fit and design. Weigh in with what you want!

So - Innovation, Design, Couture, and taking no prisoners!

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

 

 

PS. those with no sense of humor need not apply ;p
gailsedotes: (Default)

Originally published at RavenDreams - Confessions. You can comment here or there.

As you will have guessed from my many other rants articles, I am passionate about redesigning shapewear to fit real needs not thought of by men. Like:

  • How do you get in and out of it when you need to pee?
  • The same goes for inconvenient times of the month.
  • How it fastens and where. Can you reach the closures? Are they in a comfortable location or does it shove a load of hooks in the most ridiculous of places?
  • Does it sit smoothly under your clothes and not roll down, ride up?
  • How to make this sexy – because currently it is a choice between unsexy sausage tubes which totally ruins the illusion that this is the real you.

I have been playing with the concept of playsuits and body shapewear for a while. I started out with soft supportive cups in the Kate line of babydolls and progressed with redesigning knickers with the Jane panties. So part way there!

I have always felt that the best way to learn good design was to look at bad design. Hooboy! Not currently at a loss for choice with the offerings in the general market! Ok. So keeping in mind the above list, I sat down and looked at the engineering stresses of conventional shapewear and asked what part of these contraptions were necessary and which were psychological.



Shapewear is there to give you a smoother profile, take out all the lumps and bumps. In some aspects slim waist and flatten abdomen. Some also lift and shape your bum. The lovely Matilda above shows how I started with the most problem areas. I was looking at how to use the grain of fabrics and cut in the first image to flatten, in the second to lift the bum and flatten the upper back and in the final image sooth the hips to create a waist and support the bust. What I noticed was that unless you are intentionally cinching the waist, any excess material in the back and you get uncomfortable bunching and worse it makes whatever you are wearing look really amateurishly made and cheap (but not in a good way). This is one of the main reason to avoid dresses with zippers down the back.

The next stage was to drape. But Matilda is a cold herd hearted woman with no softness in her and is unforgiving. Off to the phone tree to friends and clients who volunteer as fitting models. They are a courageous group of women who will happily (or with a little grumbling) will stand in weird positions near naked in my workroom gossiping while I stick pins in them. The result of that first attempt was a powermesh playsuit called the Elizabet (after the Countess of Bathroy because of the deep red colour chosen. Almost decided to do the photo shoot in the bath…;) The fit is lovely, but it is a playsuit as opposed to shapewear.

The Elizabet

With what I had learned from the Elizabet, I began to draft what I hoped would be something you could wear under a business suit – The Melanie, for the working girl in all of us.

The basis for any pattern when working with stretch materials is the fabric choice. So long before I even started drawing I had been trawling the world for excellent lycra and elasticine based Chantilly and levers lace in black. It had to stretch, be strong and durable and gorgeous. Lace on its own isn’t strong enough to shape your body and and be uncomfortable having a pattern imprinted on your skin! So mounting the lace onto a super soft, super strong powermesh is an ideal solution.

For this iteration a lot of consideration and experimentation went into the details. I wanted it to be sexy, but more than that I want to be able to wear it under a dress OR a pair of trousers and not have to get undressed whenever I needed the loo. Traditional bodies will have hooks or spans in the centre of the crotch.

WHY?!!!!! Who the hell ever thought that would be a good idea?!! The gymnastics to grab both ends alone are just unbelievable! And then put it WHERE?

Again, taking a page from Victorian lingerie, my thought was to create an overlapping open gusset to provide modesty and comfort. The back sections of the pantie  hook together in the centre providing lift and smoothing the hips. To go to the loo, simply unhook the back and open the gusset. The added benefit is the ability to take this from the office to playsuit… not necessarily changing location.



 

 

gailsedotes: (Default)

Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

The JaneGussets! We all hate the cheese wire of centre front and centre back sewn panties and the camel toe that inherently comes with too small or too narrow gussets. Traditonally gusset front seams are placed just at, to be plain, the vulva. This can be very irritating and absolute hell on a very sensitive area. Placing the seam there may be more visually attractive, but it does not address the health issues many women face.  First I made the gusset both wider, to cup rather than cut, and then longer to extend over the sensitive areas and to help you feel more protected against possible exposure or accident. Then I employed Victorian tailoring techniques usaully only applied to jacket or bodice fitting to create a seam line that allowed for more fullness right where a mature woman needs it. The back seam uses the same techniques creating a more luscious curve to your bum while also reducing bunching and wedgies. What’s the point of having expensive elegant underwear if you are always having to pull it out of… well, you get the point.

And, I hadn’t thought of it until this very moment, but for those who practice a more “glamorous lifestyle” – there’s more room to tuck too! We do try to encourage diversity!

So – higher cut legs, a waist line that wraps around your hips, a specifically tailored gusset to a woman’s needs – The Plain Jane isn’t so plain.
What I find so disappointing in other designers is that they say they are creating “NEW” lines that are “innovative”, but actually they are only the same old cut and patterns but in different colours. Here are two examples. Can you tell which top designer or high street shop produced which pant?

Three sets of lace back panties

Three sets of basic thongs.

 

 

 

 

It is the same pattern and the same finishes from all three companies.

As I move forward, my challenge will be to take my pattern and take it from Plain Jane to uber sexy and truly innovate! My first foray is the Low Rise Jane.

Ever buy hip-hugger jeans and have the back of your knickers embarrassingly exposed whenever you bent over to… well do anything? This Low Rise version of The Jane holds to all of the principals of The Jane for comfort and stability. These are designed to hug the top hip and then dip into a well fitting, secure V.  There are other versions on the market that have elastic that crisscrosses over the back linking the two sides like a waistband. But with the way that this Jane has been designed there the V is so secure it wont fall off your hips and as it is attached to the Jane gusset, no bunching or riding up either.

You may now bend over with confidence!

The Low Rise Jane

 

 

 

These and all the current versions of The Jane can be found at the following online outlets :)

@Etsy and @Big Tattoo Planet

Anyhoo tell me what you think and if you have any suggestions on what you would like the Jane to do next!

 

gailsedotes: (Default)

Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

“A seam in your crotch is like a cheesewire covered in sandpaper. Thongs are instruments of torture. Don’t even talk to me about knicker with tight elastic on the legs, or god help us, a non-breathable fabric gusset.” – found in The Lingerie Addict

I have made some serious rants in the past about the sizing and fit of lingerie and now at last I can finally tell you what I have been doing about it! Since I stated the business back in March of 2011 with just an idea that I could possibly make my own lingerie I have been exploring vintage patterns and modern techniques in a journey to create a simple pair of pants that was fit to purpose. The quote from The Lingerie Addict article pretty much sums up how I feel about fit. But having comfy panties does not mean they cant be dead sexy too. to emphasize my meaning below is a picture of two women in your typical bikini knicker. As you can plainly see the same design of pant does not suit both sizes. Plus it was incredibly difficult to find an image a mid-range plus size woman wearing underwear as most places sell knickers modeled by a UK12 or UK14.

comparison

The next set of pictures show a prototype I developed for a new way of cutting and fitting plus size panties in comparison with regular low rise panties on my long suffering intern (LSI) (who is also a size UK14). BTW: I have made all the images in greyscale because we are talking about bodies, not sex.)

Proto Jane front
The image on the left shows LSI with her normal low rise pants underneath the prototype. You can see the regular panties cut in at the waistline and start to create a “muffin top” effect. Also the legs are cut very low on the hip so every time she sits down, the pants begin to slide sown and off. The image on the right shows just the prototype. Instead of a muffin top, she has smoother more elegant curves and as the legs are cut to sit at the top f her leg, no drag AND her legs look much longer!

Proto Jane side view

The industry has not changed in 30+ years. The same patterns, styles and methods are used. They take the one style that was designed for a size UK6 and then scale… Again here we see why that narrow thinking isn’t appropriate. In the high street traditional low rise LSI looks like she has a very unflattering spare tire, a lumpy bum and a possibly deformed back, but in the prototype she has a smooth curvacious and cheeky shape.

Proto Jane rear view

The last photo shows how the prototype sits higher on the hips. The one thing I find many women, myself very much included, is the loss of my knickers in what I call the “rear creep”. They slide down and then fall off while somehow managing to create one heck of a self wedgie.

But so far the prototype looks like basic high leg knickers – the innovations lie in the gusset! But I will cover that tomorrow in glorious Technicolor!

 

Stay tuned!

gailsedotes: (Default)

Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

I have slimmed down to a size 20 which means I can buy a swim suit from Tesco. The body is impossibly long but as I am a designer,  I have taken 4 inches of of the crotch to make fit me and stop some very embarrassing exposure. So now it fits at the bottom but my 40 GGs are one bounce away from doing the can can for the public.  Sigh.

In recent moans, being honest about my rants, I have looked at “shapewear”. And in a recent article by Margert Bognerief expounds on the lack of fit to puropse design.  Instead of plus size designed for a plus size body we have size 6 scaled for size 24. Gok Kwan and Spanx making girdles for thin people. I.E. because they don’t have plus size bulges, it sits right and does the job it was designed for. But try and find anywhere that stocks anything above a size 20 for the people who actually need it. Because the advertisers and the TV shows tell you if you want to look sexy or have a high street dress to look half way descent then you must wear a push up bra,  thigh slimming pants and a waist sincher. Why? Because the dress was designed initially to look good on a size six.  Not you. Then, even the size six is wearing shapewear. The dress is not fit to purpose of you have to do all that as a size six to look good in it.

The designer Catherine Clavering in an interview discussing disability and diversity in lingerie, admits that even she does not design for her own needs citing also the complaints of some of her customers; gusset width,  positioning of seams the hell of non-fitting underwear…

This and constant experimentation leads me to the conclusion that what is out there is not fit for purpose.  What is the point of design a garment that you the designer can’t wear?

I know this is my blog where I am supposed to big up my own products and sell sell sell… But we need to radically redesign basic underwear and the concepts around them. Throw away the book and get back to basic questions:
1. Can you take it off to pee easily?
2. Is it comfortable for long periods of time?
3. Does it fall off or roll down when you sit or walk long distances?
4. Does it flatter your shape without pain?

My designs have been slowly mutating as the feedback comes in. In response I have created The Plain Jane which is the basis of all my patterns for knickers. (Pictures to follow) There is not a straight line in them. The seams and fit is closer to Victorian jackets than modern panties. They are designed for to the above purposes and they are my most comfy, secure, and sexy knickers. If only I had time to make more for me!

When I get back from the beach it is time to show you all something new!

gailsedotes: (Default)

Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Something I have begun to notice when searching on shopping sites like Etsy.com or Ebay are the number sellers who come up in the results when typing in the tag “plus size”. But closer inspection shows that the seller has ONE item in a size US14/UK16 or worse yet, a size US12/UK14, and thus they qualify themselves as Plus Size specialists.

WTF?

The common range of plus sizes goes from a size UK18 – 32 (XL – 5XL) with the most popular plus sizes are 18-20 and 22-24. I really don’t see how these sellers can advertise themselves as selling plus size when they sell only one or two items and the size is on the cusp! It is outrageous! It is humiliating enough to know that as an averaged sized plus size woman you can’t walk into the major high street chains and find anything in there. Worse yet now we have sellers telling plus sized women that they wont be catered for unless they are at the smaller edge of being plus size. And then when you try to order an item to be told at checkout the item is permanently out of stock! Those of us who do design and manufacture plus size and being overwhelmed and hidden by the plethora of what feels like those jumping on the band wagon for mercenary profit.

Likewise I am bewildered by the recent attitude by the BBC towards the recent London Plus Size Fashion Weekend. The main story reported that many shops now included plus sizes by going up to a size 18 and SOME went higher… But then the interviews with the organizers and the comments from the morning hosts were focused on health issues and talking about obesity. The questions to the organizers were barbed to obtain odd responses. The subtitle version, which often did not match the content of the interview at all, even stated the importance of loosing weight was more desirable than being plus size.

It is every woman’s right to feel confidant and good about themselves.

When did plus size only become defined to be under a size 16 and the top end a size 18? Despite showing what vast market desire and need for good quality and well designed items there is to be told as a consumer that it is a shameful thing and to be avoided by loosing weight as fast as possible.

/rant

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