Designers and retailers are now offering plus-size women of all ages the opportunity to wear fashionable, feminine, and trendy clothing. Clothing sizes 14 and above are categorized as plus-size and can be found in specialty shops catering to sizes 14 and up exclusively or as selections within a size-inclusive collection.
Plus-size fashion designer Katia Bernardi told me how she styles and designs her collections. She also gives a few insightful tips to help plus-size women find the perfect fit.
First of all, tell me, do you prefer the term plus-size or size-inclusive? And why.
I prefer the term plus-size as it is clear, and the customer knows what to expect. Oftentimes, we see some brands use the terms extended sizes and fit-wise which do not correspond to the measurements of a true plus-size.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you study to become a fashion designer and how long have you been in the fashion industry?
I have been in the Fashion Industry for over 35 years. I studied Fashion Design in Montreal, Canada, at Lasalle College. I have designed ladies’ sleepwear, childrenswear, and ladieswear. The last 20 years have been dedicated to designing plus-size fashion for the Montreal brand Claire France, a division of Boutique Marie-Claire.
I have also volunteered as a stylist for Dress for Success and have seen first-hand how a simple outfit can completely change a woman’s posture, humor, and attitude and help her walk out feeling confident and ready for the workforce. I love how Fashion can achieve such an incredibly positive impact on a woman’s life.
How long have you been designing for plus-size women, and have you seen a change in the industry over the years?
For the past 20 years, I have been working in the plus-size Industry. Thankfully, I have seen how far we have come and the evolution of the plus-size garment. In the past, the lines of the garments were boxy, square, and completely shapeless.
Of course, la couleur du jour was black!
Fast forward, and today we see plus-size to be just that, fashion. I believe that fashion has no size. We have injected bold colors, prints, and gorgeous flattering lines where the woman’s body is celebrated and not hidden. There are no limits – a plus-size woman can wear anything a regular-size woman can!
What does your workday as a fashion designer look like?
A day as a fashion designer is very much about communication and being on top of the evolution of the collection. As we have over 61 boutiques, we need to make sure our deliveries are on time and that we have the best quality garment to offer our customers.
I approve the fabrics, colors and qualities, work on the garment fittings with our fit technician, and have daily communication with our suppliers overseas to ensure everything is on track. When we start a collection, this is where the magic happens!
Where do you get your inspiration for your collections?
Europe shopping trips are the basis of our inspiration as well as trend books and our internal trend meetings. We put together different themes each month with specific color stories. As a design team, we all work together to ensure that every piece of the collection can be mixed and matched.
For example, the print colors of our tops will match perfectly with our bottoms. Our coats will have scarves that complement the colors perfectly. We also have accessories, footwear, sleepwear, swimwear, and lingerie to complete the collection and make our boutique a one-stop shop!
Do you follow trends, and if so, do you find it difficult to apply them to your designs? As we know, the fashion industry mostly promotes thin models and curvy women don’t always feel represented.
Regarding trends, we have seen how plus-size women have a seat at the table more than ever today. We can find representation on the runway, in the music industry, and with top influencers as well. The work needs to continue to make sure each body type is represented, and body shaming must stop.
When designing our collection, we take into consideration the trends of the season and we make sure to keep women’s needs at the forefront. Office attire, weekend wear, and all-day comfort. We want to make sure a woman has everything she needs to complete her wardrobe with the latest looks, and most importantly, to help her look and feel beautiful.
Is there (if any) difference between designing plus-size and regular-size clothing?
When designing a plus-size collection, we have access to easy-care fabrics with a focus on comfort, stretchability, and quality. Our pants have a fabulous tummy tuck panel that gives support where support is needed. We also have carefree fluid fabrics for extra comfort and versatility. Our lengths vary from petite women 5’4” and under to taller women measuring up to 5’10”.
What are your styling tips for plus-size women over 50?
I have had several opportunities to assist our customers in our boutiques on various occasions. One tip that I often share is to not judge an outfit on a hanger; one must try it to see the full effect. Nine out of ten times, the customer is pleasantly surprised at the results.
The reason is that many people have a form of body dysmorphia where they do not see their full potential. Being an observer, I can see the customer’s potential and have no preconceived ideas. They try on the dress, pants, or top I suggest and come out of the changing room pleasantly surprised with how amazing they look in their new outfit. So basically, be FEARLESS!
What are your fitting tips for plus-size women over 50?
No two people are made the same, regardless of shape or size, this is when a tailor or seamstress is your best ally. Sometimes all you need to perfect a look are small adjustments made to a ready-made garment. Shorter blazer length will add inches to your physique as will a pant that is too long. Take the time to have the garments tailored to your needs for a polished look.
Find Katia Bernardi’s collections at Claire France.
Do you wear plus-size clothing? What is your favorite plus-size brand? Where do you shop for your plus-size clothing? Tell us about it in the comments below.