Friday, August 21, 2015

Style XL: A weekend of fashion and body positivity and awesomeness!

This year Style XL was held in Birmingham. A plus size fashion conference, it's a great chance to be exposed to new brands and check out some forthcoming stuff from more familiar ones, to network with people with familiar interests, and to soak in the general positivity and good vibes. The event was tirelessly and lovingly organised by Leah of Leah XL who did an amazing job putting on an incredibly smooth running event (depsite the fact that The Paragon Hotel is actually the worst hotel in the world - NEVER stay there! Imagine a cross between The Shining and Fawlty Towers and you're halfway there).


A collection of moments from Style XL. With some amazing bloggers - 


Leah's biggest achievement (in my opinion) was creating this beautifully safe space. A body positive haven where a lot of women who are used to feeling perhaps a little out of place could relax and enjoy themselves. Celebrating fashion and community. It was a great weekend, and I left on a mega high from spending so much time with such wonderful women.





Black cut out flats - Primark
Hair flowers - Collectif and Accessorize

On Saturday, during the day, I wore my red Ophelia dress from Lindy Bop. You can find a full review here. I wore it with a black Lindy Bop petticoat, my lovely Wingz and some Primark shoes. It's quite busty, but I felt great in it to be honest, always feels like a fun and flirty outfit this one.

The Saturday was largely about the catwalk shows and checking out some of the brands and what they have coming up - it was great to see some wonderful brands represented at Style XL.

Scarlett and Jo are one of my favourite brands (you may have noticed!). I love the fact that they are a dedicated plus size brand that does true cross over vintage styles. Wearable retro styling that ranges from work wear to evening wear. There was a real buzz around the stand at Style XL. Creator and owner Gifi (a true character if I've ever met one) was surrounded by a bevy of ladies at all times, all keen for a peek at the new collection and to share their thoughts on styles with him. Gifi is really keen to get any feedback on his beautiful clothes from actual plus sized women and so listened intently and explained some of the motivations behind his latest pieces.

Georgina from She Might Be Loved  was masterminding a catwalk line up when she realised they were in fact a model short. Unbeknownst to me, Georgina and Gifi had decided that I would be a good fit for the dress and might fill the gap! I was despatched to try on the dress - a form fitting velvet number. You may have noticed, but I don't do body con. A lot of insecurities around my tummy mean that while I love the look on plenty of plus size girls I have just never felt comfortable in a really fitted dress. And then I put this dress on. Oh. My. God.



I felt like I should be draped over a piano singing some sort of sultry jazz number in my most throaty voice. I couldn't believe the way it hugged my curves (and without hard core shape wear too!) and celebrated my body. I know, all quite dramatic, but a true revelation for me. That is easily the most glamorous I have ever felt in my life. And this is what I really love about Scarlett and Jo - these dresses are not imitations, they're not trying to pacify buxom girls with something just adjusted for their proportions.  Scarlett and Jo are not adapting fashion - they are designing for bodies like mine!

I was still pretty nervous at the thought of taking to the catwalk in front of all those people but my nerves were calmed with reassuring words from Georgina and Nancy from Sugar, Darling (who I have the BIGGEST style crush on), and some super quick and amazing styling from Chiara who transformed my hair into a chignon with about 3 bobby pins in about as many seconds (Chaira is a wonderful photographer, stylist and makeup artist who I am hoping to shoot with soon. Seeing what she could do with less than a minute I can't bloody wait to see what happens when she really gets her talented hands on me).

Dress by Scarlett and Jo, image by Alfie B-Smith Photography


Oops, a little bit of smug face.


Me, doing a final walk with Leah and Georgina (what glam company to keep!)


I won't lie to you, moments before I had butterflies. I am quite outgoing and bubbly, but this sort of thing really isn't my comfort zone. However, as soon as I got up there and did my little strut I realised that really this was the most supportive and lovely environment to have this experience in. It was a room full of women who were too pleased to be seeing clothes on bodies that looked like theirs. It was also a room full of friends who whooped and cheered as I took to the catwalk. I felt totally exhilarated and very proud of myself to be honest. And it was great to get the opportunity to wear such a magnificent dress too. Big thanks to Gifi and Georgina for being lovely and opening this up to me.


Sian Yapp absolutely rocking a Chubby Cartwheels bikini. Images by Alfie B-Smith Photography




So that was my little sashay down the catwalk. I was so bust chatting (suprise suprise) that I sadly saw very little of the catwalk shows. However, one show that really stayed with me was Chubby Cartwheels. I have always loved this independent American brand which makes incredibly fun and playful pieces, that are very much pulling their tongue out at what is "appropriate" and "flattering" for fuller figured women to wear. Go and check them out. The piece that really stuck out for me was the fast food bikini (above) modelled by the absolutely sensational Sian Yapp. She smashed it. What a gorgeous body and what a gorgeous girl. Her energy was just amazing and inspirational. It's so good to see someone just own and inhabit their body like that.


All the selfies with my lovely Caroline from Curvy Wordy


Having recently been soundly told off by queen of bras and busts Caroline of Curvy Wordy (pictured with me above) for wearing the completely wrong size, she was kind enough to fit me into my proper size. I am ashamed to say I was previously wearing a 42C where I should be wearing something around a 38F / 40E! I am honestly so conscious of badly fitting bras I am too embarrassed to have made this mistake. Anyway I now have very happy baps. It's amazing what the right size can do for your boobs! I plan on writing a post on my boob make over in the very near future so stay tuned.


Me looking ridiculously happy to have found the turquoise Madagascar set from Curvy Kate!


But the exciting news is I am now eligible for Curvy Kate bras! I have long lusted after their designs, and enjoyed their body positive ethos, so it was brilliant to meet some of the team at Style XL. CK's tata loving duo, Hannah and Chantelle, were on hand to fit all the boobilicious ladies and to advise on styles as well as tell us a bit more about upcoming styles and ranges. My favourite piece was the gorgeous turquoise Madagascar set (pictured above). Back in July, it was yet to be released but as soon as it was I popped on to Littlewoods and ordered it in a 40E (going on a trying on a session I had at Style XL) and I am very pleased with the fit. I'll give you a look of the fit in my upcoming boobie post.

I also got a sneak peek at CK's new strapless bra. I didn't try it on, but did see it on Kathryn of Miss Kathryn's Miss Takes and all I can say is... that baby defies gravity! My boobs aren't the perkiest, so I am yet to find a strapless bra that doesn't make me look like I have wrapped a inner tube around a sausage, which is gradually heading south, but I think this might be the one. I am desperate to give it a go when it comes out.

Another exciting development on the Curvy Kate horizon is their new high end lingerie range, Scantily. Think Agent Provocateur blended with a bit of bondage burlesque and you might have an idea of the boudoir sexiness they have produced with this new collection. And it's available in big sizes, And at reasonable prices. I know, right?! I am too excited!  The whole collection is indulgently luxurious with lots of satin and lots of gratuitous sexy detailing. Right up my aesthetic alley - so looking forward to its release later this year! Check out a sneak peak over at Invest in your Chest.






Saturday was a pretty insane day, filled with chatter, laughter and a multitude of highs. I changed my outfit for Saturday night's festivities (what a diva!) and opted for this Asos Curve photo floral print dress (pictured above, it's old I'm afraid), which I adore, with some leggings and black flats. I also paired it with my black harness from Pornagraphie who sell via Etsy. I love pairing the rough bondage-ness of the harness with the comparative floral softness of this dress. I felt quite sexy, but I think the outfit was a bit shocking to some of the hotel's more conservative patrons haha. 

In the evening there was Model XL a pageant  that focussed on body positivity, which was wonderful and uplifting. Everyone who took part was a winner for me, but you can read an interview with Sian Yapp (who was crowned overall winner) here. A real stand out for me was Sarah Doyle from Plus Size & Proud, who is equally fabulously gorgeous inside and out, and wrote about her experience here.  






On Sunday I wore my new full circle flamingo print skirt, which I bought from a seller on eBay. This skirt is a full circle, made to order, and incredibly good value for money. I have my eyes on another couple of prints. I wore it with my Bardot top from Asos Curve, and old Primark belt and flats, and my Lindy Bop petticoat. For a more detailed review, check out Debz from Diary of a Wannabe Princess.  

Sunday was a little slower (Thank God! We were all pretty shattered) and consisted of a series of seminars on a variety of topics, from Using YouTube to Make Up to Jewellery Making. The stand out session, however, was a session on Body Positivity run by total warrior goddess Daisy Holland of I Will Not Wrap Myself In Smocks and Apologies. Daisy spoke to us about building your personal confidence, about speaking kindly to yourself and about dealing with those who don't. One of the things that really stood out for me was Daisy saying that anyone (from a family member to a random in the street) who tries to make you feel bad about yourself is just a kn*b. Because that behaviour is unkind and nasty. And when you realise that you know that the opinions of kn*bs just shouldn't matter that much. As Daisy spoke of coming to accept herself and her own beauty I saw many of the women in the room nodding along. Afterwards I was amazed at the similarity of the stories told. And I was heartened by how far along the journey we had all come,. But reminded that it is a journey, and that people get started and move along at their own pace. What I do hope is that this little corner of the internet is helping to start or smooth some of those journeys.

My main take away from this weekend was just how affirming it is to be surrounded by women whose bodies resemble yours, In a media landscape where even most plus size brands are showing clothes on padded and stuffed size 12s it was just great to see how fabulous clothes look on bodies like mine. And how we can all be gorgeous and confident. It is not about dress size or really anything physical. It's about a state of mind and about accepting yourself. So thank you to all those at Style XL. It was a brilliant event filled with some amazing moments. Another step on this journey...

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2 comments

  1. What a great write up about Style XL, you've captured it perfectly. I'm so pleased that you had such a good time. It was really lovely to meet you xxxxx

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    1. Thank you my sweetie. Was brilliant to meet you too, but would love to have more time chatting. Hopefully see you at one of the events coming up?
      H x

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