What’s different about the new M&S Curve range for sizes 18-32?
Stylish, affordable clothing for curvier women just got easier to find
Print dress (€67) by M&S Collection Curve
Body positivity and diversity are gaining traction in the fashion world. The advent of Marks & Spencer’s new Curve range in sizes 18-32, which has just made its debut targeting style-conscious bigger women, is a milestone in the growing awareness of their demands. Paying similar attention to their needs as those in the 10-16 bracket, Curve was designed on a size 24 block as opposed to the usual 12, and sized up and down from there to get precisely the right fit.
“It’s a similar tactic to those used by German and Italian brands because what fits in one area doesn’t fit on another like the arms, for example so just scaling up from size 10 doesn’t work,” explains plus-sized Irish blogger Louise O Reilly. “M&S have a fantastic size range and not a lot of women are aware of that. The new range will tempt others.”
Two little black dresses in the range were designed by her friend, the UK blogger Danielle Varnier who is a consultant on Curve, and whose favourite item in the new range is a sleeveless khaki trenchcoat. Notable items are flattering high-rise jeans, a faux leather bomber jacket with hidden stretch jersey insets and non-cling fabrics.
More weight means more variations in silhouette and where some women gain in the torso, others do so in the hips or thighs. That has to be taken into consideration when designing for the bigger shape, so it takes time and effort to get right. Marina Rinaldi, part of MaxMara, for instance, employs 50 people in the paper pattern department alone. Activists argue that the pressure to be thin is a form of social bullying and welcome the fact that less restrictive forms of the female shape are now finally being addressed.
It makes obvious business sense as other brands like River Island Plus and Asos Curve have established their affordable and youthful fashion credentials while Evans still struggles with its dowdy image though its Collective for Evans from young designers is a significant improvement, particularly in its swimwear and print offerings. Another successful brand, better known in the UK, is Yours, which will open its first Irish store next week (February 16th) in the Square in Tallaght. This will include its new plus-size menswear range BadRhino as well.
O’Reilly points out that social media have played a huge part in effecting change. “We have curvy fashion bloggers and other spokespeople as well as consumers using Instagram and Twitter and voicing their opinions, giving feedback and more people are going online to describe their experiences. And brands are watching. Before plus sizes weren’t taken seriously, parked at the back of the shop in a dark corner and not marketed or merchandised well. Now it is totally different,” she says. “It’s a new era.”
Jo Hales, head of buying for M&S and the force behind Curve, explains the effort put into the new range. “What you can’t see is the amount of attention to fabric and fit –our jerseys skim rather than cling and are more smoothing and having tactile fabrics that are super soft to the touch and the right weight and stretch makes them feel good. We spent the most time perfecting the jeans, working on the pocket positions, the knee area and the positioning of seams.”
So far the number one favourite has been the black coat, “a beautiful essential piece” according to Hales, who says the range needs to be a commercial success in order to reinvest and demonstrate that demand is there. “You have to feel and touch the pieces as well as having visual appeal, and part of the success has been the beautiful fabrics – jerseys, crepes, cotton all with a bit of stretch – and we are working on some beautiful colourful, drapey linens for summer as well as some great occasion wear and celebrity-inspired dresses. And with the current trend for the oversize silhouette, I won’t be surprised if there may now be a demand for smaller sizes”.
M&S Curve Collection is on sale online and in store in Ireland in Mary Street, Dublin