The things I want to wear are made for women who are thin
Five stylish Irish women reveal their favourite outfits, best shops and body positive outlooks
Louise McSharry demonstrates a high level of sartorial elegance. Photograph: Ruth Medjber, ruthlessimagery.com
Louise McSharry, writer and broadcaster
Describe your style: I suppose you could call it eclectic, though as I get older it has become more refined. I wanted to blend in for a long time and then as a response I wanted to stand out. I loved new rave fashion – fluorescents and neon colours, Lily Allen dresses and runners and big gold jewellery.
These days I am a fan of Scandinavian style, but I like bold accessories. As a plus size person accessories are more accessible than clothes, though it is hard work finding them.
Where do you shop? Mostly online because we have been driven out of actual shops and it is very frustrating. So I shop in Asos and Monki (which is part of H&M). Monki don’t do larger sizes, but their clothes are often oversize for bigger bodies. I like Navabi, they would have mid range but their styles are just that bit older. Bethany Rutter, the blogger is about to launch a capsule collection and I am really excited about the fact that it is designed by a plus-sized woman and made for our bodies.
What sort of clothes do you like wearing? I like to wear good-quality tailored clothes, but (in plus sizes) they tend to be cheap and not well made. I like Marina Rinaldi, but sometimes these clothes are too classic. I would be happy to spend money on something wonderful but I just get angrier and angrier mostly because things that I want to wear are made for women who are very thin and we are not catered for and it is infuriating.
I am a stylish woman. A plus-sized, well-dressed woman has to work 15 times harder than a thin woman to find something great – take my money!
Anything or colour you wouldn’t wear? I used to hate pink, but not so much now. I have a deep aversion to silver ever since I changed to gold. I see it on others and it works, but I am just so married to gold and not one for delicate jewellery. I also never wear white because I can’t keep it clean – I am not just that kind of woman. I admire Danielle Vanier, a plus-size fashion blogger and stylist who put things together so well and breaks all the rules.
Aisling O’Toole, editor of U magazine and yoga teacher
Describe your style: It’s a bit of everything really – a lot of print, a lot of vintage and a lot of colour.
Where do you shop? Mostly online and in second-hand and vintage shops. I absolutely love Asos but I also shop in Marks & Spencer and Debenhams because a lot of the high-street shops like H&M don’t do plus sizes but these department stores do – I am an 18-20.
What has been your best recent buy? Probably white shoes because I think they change everything and go with everything and brighten up every outfit. The only downside is that they have to be replaced regularly. I usually buy from Asos or River Island.
What advice do you give to larger women about dress? Don’t try to dress like you are a size 8-10. You should never look as if you have been shoehorned into a smaller size that doesn’t fit.
What is the biggest mistake you have made? Trying to look like Alexa Chung and Kate Moss in skinny jeans and smock tops – I tried and it didn’t work.
Best advice you’ve ever got? Get fitted for a good bra. Debenhams have good ones Lejaby (at Brown Thomas) are great because they pull you up, give you a waist and are worth the expense.
Louise O’Reilly, model and blogger
Describe your style: I would say it would be quite girly with a hint of biker chic. A biker jacket is my key piece and I always wear one travelling. I love dresses and girly styles even in winter with tights. I buy jackets from River Island who do very good ones for curvy girls. They have their main line and a plus collection. I also buy from Asos – Cos has a broad size range up to 22. I am size 16-18.
What would you never wear? My worst hate is low-cut jeans – they just don’t work with curvy girls. High-waisted jeans are a safer bet. Also I walk past Urban Outfitters and American Apparel because for me personally I can’t fit their sizes.
What’s your best advice for swimwear? This is a huge issue. If you know what shape you are – and the apple shape is the most common shape of Irishwomen – it makes dressing and shopping easier. Shopping for swimwear tends to be an emotional experience because women get upset when things don’t fit them. Again it all boils down to knowing your shape. A lot of women have long torsos and you don’t have to be tall to have one – M&S do long-line torso swimsuits.
Underwear? For the fuller bust, it is really important to have a bra fitting and there are so many places where you can try different bras on – and the right bra gives you support and shape. A lot of fuller-busted women think they need to spend on a good bra, but a good bra makes a massive difference to your posture and how clothes fit you.
Where do you shop? I shop online because being able to try things on at home and return them if they don’t fit is the most stress-free shopping. I also go to River Island and Penneys for bargains and because they go up to size 20 you can get amazing pieces. I am very open to a lot of things but old school Sex in the City long-line tutus personally don’t suit me though I have seen them on other curvy girls and they look great. Also extremely short shorts are not curve friendly for me either.
Andrea Horan, founder Tropical Popical
Reluctant initially to participate in this feature, Horan, who has a strong sense of style, objects to categorisation. “I think it is important to have representation (of the bigger size), but separate representation is not fair.
“My main example of a fair representation would be Ashley Graham (celebrated US model) when she was cast on the Vogue cover “Women Rule” with other models and it was a true representation of diversity and different aspects of body shape and ethnicity.
“I am passionate about body positivity and inclusion and I see myself as a being, not as a plus. Companies try to sell more by making sizes smaller – like marking a size 16 as a size 14 to make people feel better about themselves and manufacturers make different sizes of the same item for different stores and play havoc with people’s self-esteem. Clothes are just what you wear and do not define your being.”
How do you define your style? I would describe it as tacky but I see tacky as a good thing, a positive thing. I like bold print and bright colour and feel close to drag queens in that I love sparkly, eye-catching things and accessories.
Where do you shop? I stock up in New York because it is very difficult to get anything dramatic here except in Om Diva – showstopping tacky dramatic is very difficult to get in Ireland. You have to be safe to make a profit and very few shops take the risks.
Is there anything you wouldn’t wear? Not really. I’d wear anything. My wardrobe is overflowing and I never throw anything out because I suffer from fast fashion guilt. When it comes to Irish designers, I like Natalie B Coleman and Joanne Hynes, but independent boutiques and designer sizes in Ireland stop at size 12.
What advice can you give others? For me, I don’t like living by fashion rules clearly, but with body positivity becoming such a big thing, I would wear belly tops one day and cinched waists another – rules don’t apply any more.
Any places you wouldn’t shop? I avoid Zara. Ideally I would like to shop Irish and independent boutiques but needs must H&M and Asos. The only thing about internet shopping is that you are back to vanity shopping. I wish people would be honest with their sizing – and that it was standardised internationally.
Who has influenced your style? My mam Teresa Dillon was so glamorous and she was a real 80s glamour puss, so I grew up with Dynasty and Dallas which remain my inspiration. I am also at home with drag queens because I love tacky glamour. I love adding sparkle to what I wear and not just in the literal sense. Drag queens project an overly feminine persona that is fun, but strong and confident and also challenges gender preconceptions.
Irena Drezi, model with NotAnotherAgency, Dublin
Describe your style: It changes all the time. I am not big into pattern and prefer solid colours. The 70s period was one of my favourites – I love flares and oversized shirts. I am not much into jewellery either – I like hooped earrings and that’s about it.
Where do you shop? My favourite high-street shop is probably Zara but also Topshop and River Island and I buy a lot of stuff online from Pretty Little Things and Fashion Nova because they have plus sizes. I am a 14 in most clothing, but sometimes 12 and sometimes 16.
What’s the most you ever spent on one item? Around €200 on a jacket from Zara from one of their exclusive ranges and it was my first investment. I love jackets and think that they can make an outfit look more expensive and a statement piece. It is beige so it goes with everything. A good pair of jeans is also an essential buy. For my shape the high waist is best and I like the super high waist of stretchy Joni jeans from Topshop and those from River Island. I would never wear low-rise jeans.
Do have a style icon? I really like Kim Kardashian because we have the same body type and I would definitely look at her pictures to see what she is wearing. I like the style of her husband Kanye West too – streetwear is getting so big now.
Has modelling affected your style? It has in some ways in that I am a bit more conscious of trends and know what clothes suit my body. But my style is still my own and that’s important. Fashion is a way of expressing who you are so why copy somebody else?