Here’s a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes work here at SP: Practically every email thread among the five of us, whether it’s about blog biz or work gripes or righteous feminist anger, eventually turns into a discussion of dresses. What can I say? We like dresses, and I think part of the reason we cohere so well as co-bloggers is that we have similar ideas about how internet goof-off time should be spent: baby animal pictures, clips of Morgan Freeman in The Electric Company, and looking at pretty dresses. Oh and looking at shoes.
Pretty dresses are not without their political dimension, to be sure. There’s the cult of femininity, and class issues inherent in clothing purchases, and the problems of the fashion industry, and the narrow ideas of what’s “attractive” and “appropriate” in clothing (which, as Snarky pointed out in the recent fashion thread, are strict for most women but even stricter for marginalized groups within that group). But there’s also room for those of us who like dresses to just get excited about dresses. So when a commenter stopped by to alert me to the new store Lucie Lu, I thought “you know what? It’s so rare that there’s a new plus size store with cute stuff. I’m going to review this place on the blog. We can unpack the semiotics of dresses later.”
Lucie was nice enough to send me a few things to review for you, and somehow they got through last week even though the mailman only fought his way to our house twice and only pried open our iced-over mailbox once. And even though I barely got dressed in the last week, I managed to put them on! Below the cut, some thoughts on this new store for those of you who like dresses or pictures of dresses.
Lucie is a former buyer for B&Lu, a store whose strengths and weaknesses we discussed in a previous post. My hit rate with B&Lu is probably 50%, but the half I keep I love — quality has varied, but they’ve reliably carried clothes with a bit of an edge but not a Torrid “ten pages of Twilight t-shirts” sort of edge, young but not Size Appeal “as many cutouts as possible as fast as possible” young. I have found that they’ve been going more juniors-y lately, though, just as I’ve been nearing 30. (Though to be fair, their last crop of new clothes has some much better stuff — don’t worry, I’m not quitting you, B&Lu.) Anyway, I have a feeling Lucie was responsible for sourcing a lot of the B&Lu stuff I kept and loved. She seems to have an eye for prints and detailing.
Here’s the dress that made me send a link around to my cobloggers saying “HELL YES”: the Audra dress in teal. Honestly, I kind of want this in the eggplant color too. The vintagey print is something that is hard to find in plus clothes. I am already having fantasies of wearing it to meet agents with the book proposal I haven’t written yet.
This is a faux wrap and the bit under the bust on the left side is a little wonky — I’m going to put in a stitch or two and it’ll be perfect, but if you don’t think a $42 dress should need any alterations, verbum sapienti. Good news for tall girls, though; I’m 5’7″ and, as you can see, the dress hits me just below the knee. I think you could be up to 5’10 or 5’11″ before it started getting unprofessionally short, and even then it would probably look cute as hell. And the (synthetic) fabric is reasonably nice for this price point — not super luxurious or anything, but definitely not chintzy. I didn’t feel like I had to wear a slip to be comfortable. An important point on sizing: this is a 3x and it fits perfectly, even though my measurements are consistently an inch or two under the 2x measurements on the size chart. And even in the 3x, I think that at a 38F I am the MAXIMUM bustiness possible for this dress (it’s the interaction between the waistband and my bustline that makes the wrap a little off). Since 3x is the largest size available in this style, this means that if you typically wear bigger than a 16W in dresses, you’re out of luck for this one. (On the other hand, inbetweenies could probably be perfectly at home in a 1x, and having to tell people “sorry, the store where I got this has nothing that will fit you” has been a common and bittersweet experience with my B&Lu dresses.)
Here’s the Eau Claire dress in lilac. This one, you’ll be pleased to know, fits roomily and goes up to 5x, which is listed as a 54″ chest. (I’m not sure why some of the size charts have more measurements available than others — I think, given my experiences with the other dress, that they must be listing the actual garment’s measurements instead of the suggested measurements for the person wearing it. This is a bad idea, because while most fatties who shop online know our own measurements — we have to — we don’t always know the relative stretch factors of every type of fabric.)
The reason I am wearing a shirt under this is twofold: One, this is really what I wore yesterday, and it was cold as balls out, plus a bird got stuck in our chimney (third one this week!) and we had to turn off the furnace until we got him out. I am wearing essentially an entire stagehand’s uniform underneath the dress. Two, it is super duper low-cut. For sure I would have worn it without a camisole when I was 22, but if you are a grown-up and not trying to seduce terrible older men I definitely recommend layering up. Other than the low cut, though, this is hip — I love big screen prints like this one — while still being sophisticated. Oh, and I guess it’s also a bit clingy so that’s another reason for the shirt — but it’s soft-clingy, not flimsy-clingy. I suppose it’s not “flattering” in the Stacey and Clinton mold, but it is comfortable like pajamas (hence why I was wearing it yesterday, when I was still stuck in my house by epic snow and technically did not HAVE to get dressed) yet still looks very cute. I don’t care that much about “flattering” (which nearly always means “makes you look less fat”).
So, how does Lucie Lu stack up to other plus size clothing shops online? Well, the main criticisms I heard of B&Lu were that there weren’t enough natural fibers and that the size range didn’t go high enough. If you care a lot about natural fabrics you are still out of luck with Lucie Lu — this stuff is definitely made out of Vaseline and dead dinosaurs, or whatever they make synthetic fabrics from. This doesn’t bother me a bit but I know it bothers some people. Sizes go up to 5x, but like B&Lu they run small and don’t offer everything in 4x and 5x. And even with a number of pieces going up to 5x, there are still some — like the Audra dress — that nearly size out even people who still shop in straight size stores. (I’m a pretty solid plus, but the majority of my clothes still come from Old Navy’s and Target’s straight sizes, and I am at the top of the Audra’s size range.)
In my personal opinion, stylewise the clothes are miles above most stores, on average. There are some dresses that are just not my thing, but when I discussed them with stitchtowhere from Fatshionista, she liked the same ones I didn’t dig — and she’s one of the most stylish people I know. I don’t like any of the skirts, but again, that’s a personal style preference — and I’m excited to see what could be non-mommish but not overly juniors-ish jeans. I generally find Lane Bryant and Avenue too matronly and Torrid and stores like Casual Plus and Size Appeal too cheap and young. There are happy mediums — but there aren’t lots of them. SM and I joke about how we need there to be a store called “Forever 32″ that’s equal parts trendy and grown-up; Lucie Lu has the potential to be one of the few Forever 32s available in plus. But a store for hip plus clothes that aren’t just for teenagers is only a valuable resource if they actually fit plus-sized people. If you wear a 4x or larger by their size chart and like the stuff, make a noise in the comments! Newer shops will sometimes listen.
(One more tiny thought? More clothes on models! Fat models! The current ones at least aren’t fake-plus; they look to wear a 2x or so, but B&Lu was briefly using real and fabulous fat women to model and we loved it. And while most styles at Lucie Lu can be seen on models somewhere, the model pics are only posted on one color of the same style, so you have to go looking for them. This may change as the store is around for longer.)