Monday, December 15, 2008

The Making of a Voluptuous Vixen

The gorgeous Kerosene Deluxe - Plus Sized Pin up.

I recently received an email from a reader who is wanting to put a little more sassy in her step. After having children however, she now finds herself wearing a somewhat larger clothing size and is faced with a dilemma.

"I really love your blog, your style and your approach to life, which is why I'm writing for some advice re vintage/50's vamp styles for women bigger than a size 6...all the retro shops I can find supply basically nothing over a size 12, with *very* rare finds in size 14...I *would* like to dress in a way that has a distinctive style and pizazz of my own. Are there shops that sell gorgeous retro/psychobilly/50's vamp style clothing in other than uber skinny sizes?"

Size and/or weight is not an issue I have discussed on this blog before. But perhaps it is time to remedy that, after all I wasn't always this small and I know first hand the dilemmas faced by many of you when it comes to putting together a unique look.

Firstly, the silhouette is key to a great retro look. This means that even if you don't have a waist, create one. If you want to go really retro you could go in for a girdle or even a corset. Although corsets are somewhat restricting they can be very sexy for a special occasion. In the absence of period appropriate underwear, I suggest getting hold of some of the Nancy Gantz shapewear, or Spanx for my USA readers. It can be purchased inexpensively, is easy to move in and has the added bonus of helping you to improve your posture. Being able to stand tall with our shoulders back, strips kilos before your very eyes. Even better, it gives you a nice smooth line to work with.

Make the most of your womanly assets and wear a good supportive bra that does the lift and separate job well. If you are really looking for a vintage vixen look, you could always source a bullet style bra on Ebay or other online vintage stores. You'll find these over at What Katie Did too.

When it comes to vintage and retro styled clothing in larger sizes, there are two major problems. With original vintage, people were generally smaller in those eras, so the chances of finding something to fit is not high. With reproduction vintage, the bricks and mortar stores cater to the 8 - 12 market, so pieces made in quantities like this are somewhat cheaper to find. However, the good news is that there are some great reproduction makers out there who will custom make to your measurements for a reasonable price. When I say reasonable I mean that, should I be making these for myself, the price they are charging would cover my time and materials but wouldn't be looking at serious profit.

If you sew this will be your savior. There are vintage patterns galore on Ebay and you can also find some great resources here on A Dress a Day. You don't need to necessarily find patterns in your size, just Google - "How to resize a pattern" for loads of links to find the one that explains it to you best. I learnt to sew fairly recently for this express reason, as the stores never had anything I wanted.

Additionally, you can always look for clothes that work for this look in your regular stores. The trick is to pick things with the right silhouette ( circle / flared skirts, single button cardigans, lots of red and black etc), and pair them with retro accessories to translate something ordinary into the extraordinary. A great elastic waist cincher belt, that can be found everywhere from Supre to Myers to Ebay, and is one of the tricks of the trade to turn your look into Retro Goddess.

So much of what I wear day to day is not authentic vintage ( I can't bare to see them ruined by the children), but I style them in such a way that they take on a retro flavour. It is about injecting the right stylistic elements into your look to create the overall image you want. For instance; the classic pin up look relies on a smaller waist to hip ratio, utilises lots of curls and flowers in the hair, and is nothing without the ubiquitous red lips. You can achieve this at any size, and even if your waist isn't usually visible, create it with the help of undergarments, belting and cross over styles.

Adding this Retro Goddess flavour to your look can be achieved in two key ways that don't rely on clothes at all. Hair and Makeup. For simple hair go with high ponytails and a rolled fringe. When your skills advance a little more, check out the great range of vintage hair tutorials on You tube for more inspiration. (Yes, you'll find mine there too). The basics for the vintage goddess look are windged black eyeliner and red red lips. Check out this tutorial for a great starting point. What you do outside of that is up to you. You may want to add a dramatic beauty mark, heavily penciled brows or something else to make it your signature look.

Links for your looks

Daddy O's Retro - a gorgeous range of all sorts of reproduction vintage styles and dresses up to 3XL!

Hey Viv! - Stocking Vintage and reproduction vintage wear including XL sizes.

What Katie Did - Super Sexy, super glamorous lingerie with some bras up to a 42 DD

Mode Merr - As their slogan says "Dressing every girl from XXS to XXXL!"

My Baby Jo - Fabulous collection of pin up style clothing and vintage styled accessories. including things for your pad. Some styles in sizes up to 16.

Whirling Turban - For classic pin up looks custom made to your size - this is the place to be. Very very reasonable prices too!

Etsy - For a fabulous range of accessories, just search for your favorite style. eg: rockabilly, psychobilly, goth etc... Support hand made and look killer to boot!

Pinup Girl Clothing - Skip the clothes and go straight to the shoes. From hoochie to down home, these girls have your look covered.

I've kept this as short and sweet as possible for you all (as with most things I could ramble on forever), but I'm happy to answer any other questions. So with all these secrets to add to your kit, you're ready unleash your sexy self on the world.

*** I'm off to the seaside for a little pre Christmas respite, and with the internet connection here being on holiday speed too, posting may take a hiatus for a few days. But don't go away, more tantalizing reads are soon to come. **


Vintage Verve said...

Thank you for this fantastic post.

Like your reader, as a larger vintage vixen I am often vexed with the lack of larger sizes available. You make a wonderful point of dressing for the silhouette and styling using modern accessories. I think the vintage 'look' can be achieved without genuine vintage pieces when you add a little creativity.

Thanks for the links - I'll be sure to check them out!


Emma said...

the whirling turban looks AMAZING - I can't wait until I have a few pennies saved to order something. Lovely!!

Patrizia simulacra said...

I found oodles of large vintage pieces at a Salvos store over in Braybrook - for Melbourne readers!
The pieces were from the 50's and 60's and a couple were a small size 20. Sure there are some ghastly Osti numbers but their were a few gorgeous pieces.

Rachael said...

I'd like to chip in here. I have always fluctuated between a 14 and a 16, and have found it difficult to find genuine vintage clothes to fit. I find most modern designers 'L' is a small size 14. It can be very frustrating. After I had my son i went up to a size 18 and found it even harder. After stopping breast feeding and taking up swing dancing (!) I have lost 9 kilos, but am still a size 16 (it's weird how your proportion change after having a baby - I now carry more weight on my top half than the bottom, when it used to be the other way around).

Anyway - I want to share this with your reader because I have since discovered some WONDERFUL vintage repro stores online, that go up to sometimes 3XL. Unfortunately the kiwi dollar has dropped like a bomb, but for a while there, it was a very affordable way to shop. I can add to your list of great stores catering to larger sizes: (a bit pricey but beautiful clothes)

Also, I have finally, now my son is two, started taking more effort with my hair and make-up and it doesn't matter what size I am now - as long as I can find a dress that fits well and have my curling iron and red lippy, i feel like a million bucks in only about 10 minutes.

Vintage style is also everywhere in chain stores at the mo - I've got some cute little cardigans and scarves that create an instant vintage look if you wear them in the right way.

I hope that helps.

Hammie said...

HI Super Mama,
this is a lovely post. Ironically I find a lot of the dresses in vintage stores in Dublin swim on me, but I have tiny boobs so maybe thats the problem. When I do find something petite it is often too tight on the butt, are bottoms a new invention too?

Good tip about the spanx and Nancy Ganz, I should wear these when I go trying too.

Have a lovely holiday,

Anonymous said...

great links there, would recommned them all myself.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget when you are going from a pattern to take into account the size difference. I am a size 8 now but in a retro pattern Im a size 14-16

deep_in_vogue said...

What a great post, very informative! I absolutely adore your style and the way you carry yourself.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Patrizia: Yes, there are some out there for these later decades, but you really need to be familiar with vintage sizing to understand what those numbers translate to in modern sizing as it is very different. A vintage 20 would roughly fit a modern 14. Also when it comes to quality pieces, as opposed to house dresses and the like, that is where the large sizes are rarer still.

Rachel: That's fantastic thank you. Some of these brands are stocked in the listed stores too, but it is excellent to add to the list. I too found that my shape has altered dramatically after the children.

Hammie: I think that when it comes to vintage wear of the 30's to early 50's, the more stylish, quality numbers tend to be the ones that run smaller. It seems that as people aged they spread the same way we do, but looking at many dresses and patterns from the era, they accommodate (relatively) quite large busts, but very small waists. Perhaps they were relying on the foundation garments to give them those measurements.

The retro housewife: In my experience it is never safe to go by sizes on patterns whether they are vintage or modern. I always go by measurements instead. Typically I find that I fit into a vintage 16-18, but in modern commercial clothing I am a size 8-10 Aus, which is about a 4 US. So it can be a minefield of trouble if you don't measure yourself.

esme and the lane way said...

Ohh great tips! Thanks so much for sharing these – I can't wait to check out those links.

Katja Cintja said...

thanks for this nice links!!
cheers katjacintja

docwitch said...

Fabulous post! I'm going to look at some of those links. As a petite girl I want to up the volume (and enhance the curves) a bit, and try adding a bit of Veronica Lake to my style repertoire...hehe
You have thoroughly inspired me SKM!

Anonymous said...

Hi ladies, a quicky to let you all know that after buying Spanx from the US via ebay, I was thrilled to discover yesterday that David Jones is now stocking a selection. They are pricey (around $60) but well worth it.
Maz, Melbourne

The Clothes Horse said...

Awesome post. This is one of things I love about burlesque--size really does not matter.

Anonymous said...

Hey SKM,
I did a little picture dedication type thing (a illustration!) on my blog for you make sure you check it out when you get back.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love Route 66, their pencil skirts go all the way up to size 18.

KD Haha said...

beautiful in every way.