On the plus side
Fashion Editor Baribre Power wonders why couturiers took so long to wake up to the plus-size market
The news that Marc Jacobs is creating a complete plus-size collection for women over a size 14 has been welcomed by curvy women the world over. Jacobs' surprise switch from the skinny-model silhouette was matched by Saks Fifth Avenue's announcement that they were increasing the number of plus-size designer options in their New York flagship store.
These US developments confirm the frustration of curvy shoppers, who have been asking for years: why aren't we better catered for by designers and the high street, and why are we invisible on the catwalk?
Larger women are just as interested in spending money on clothes but have been ignored by the luxe end of the market. Until now. This season, Miuccia Prada and Louis Vuitton celebrated 'female assets' and the 'Mad Men' aesthetic. Prada used voluptuous models such as Doutzen Kroes, and Jacobs, the creative genius at LV, took his love affair with hips a stage further by announcing a new commercial line of his own. However, he doesn't like the term plus-size and is looking for an alternative.
"Why not call it curvy girls or real women," suggests Brianna Connaughton (25) from Waterford, who became something of an Irish modelling celebrity since Gok Wan chose her as the winner of the Simply Be Curvy Model search in November.
In the past 10 months, the juvenile liaison officer with a size 14/16 figure has done a magazine cover shoot, catwalk shows and radio interviews and has embraced a whole new style of dressing she wouldn't have dreamt of a year ago.
"I think curvy is a flattering term, and while I like 'real women', you risk offending people who are not plus-size," says Brianna, clearly mindful of the political correctness that dominates the politics of size.
She says: "I've become more experimental in what I wear since I won the Simply Be competition last year and I would encourage girls to put aside their fears and enter this year's competition, because my confidence grew and my whole attitude to clothes and how I dress has changed.
"I used to 'shop in a box', going for the same shapes, but now I'm wearing skinny jeans and leggings, which I would have steered away from because I'm a size bigger on the bottom. Now, I accessorise them with loose tops and lengthen my legs with high shoes," she adds.
"There is a lot happening in this area of fashion, with bigger mannequins used in shops and now the prospect of designers coming in. It's a very exciting time and I'm thrilled to be involved."