You know what I hate? I hate walking by the juniors section full of fun, pretty clothes to get to the department where they have my size in “tasteful” beige and navy clothes without any pretty details. There are pretty clothes in plus-size, though; I’ve decided to go hunting for designers that I can actually shop from! This first interview in a series features Cecile Devine of Frenchie Stiles.
Plus-Size Fashion With Frenchie Stiles
How did you get your start in sewing/fashion?
I’ve always had a passion for design and fashion, and as a child wanted to be a fashion designer. However the sewing didn’t take place until much later when I decided, after sewing my own bellydance costumes, that I could sew other items and sell them for extra money since I was a student at the time. Back then Ebay was the place to sell handmade and many sellers had their debut there. I was mostly self-taught even though my mother tried at different times to teach me, and my grandmother was a seamstress on the side. Those graduate study years were what truly launched me. After Ebay, I moved on to Etsy. where I have remained to this day while also having a standalone site
What special considerations influence your designs for plus-size fashion?
(For example, I’ve noticed that on myself and some other plus-size women, skirts hang lower in front than in back. Skinny belts disappear on my waist. I find empire waists flattering, but then, maybe I just like them!).
I didn’t truly understand the need for flattering, eye-catching and appealing plus-size fashion until I had my daughter and gained a lot of weight due to my hypothyroidism. I found myself in a completely new size range and disliked everything I saw. My body image was in the basement. I NEEDED to make beautiful clothes for women, because they deserve to look and feel beautiful no matter what. It was cathartic in a way, since through making these clothes, I also learned to love my shape again. Special considerations are obviously body shape and weight distribution. Women come in all shapes and sizes, which is why most of my items are made from fabrics that either contain spandex or have a weave that stretches. This allows for a more comfortable fit, and also to fit a wider range of measurements. My skirts and dresses tend to be on the longer side as wide hips or wide waists can shorten them when worn. I offer custom orders also which means that whatever your measurements, you can have that dress, top or skirt of your dreams. Most women of plus-size tend to have large breasts, which a lot of plus-size manufacturers don’t seem to understand! This is one of the reasons why I will tailor tops even if they will stretch more than enough, in order to give the garment shape. Also shapewear and foundation garments are making a comeback which allows a person to get close to the body shape they want even if they do not naturally possess it (i.e: hourglass figure through the use of corsets).
Walk us through the experience of placing a custom order with Frenchie Stiles
The process of placing a custom order is very simple. If it is done through Etsy, then you simply need to contact me and discuss the details of what you want. I’ll ask you for a wide range of measurements, what color and type of fabric you’d like, and then quote you time and price based on all this information. Pictures of what you want always help! Then I can create a listing for that custom order. If you want to place a custom order through my standalone site, the same process occurs. Payment in full is usually due before the work starts. Communication, communication, communication! I’m very big on this. My turnaround time is usually 2 weeks or less and I will keep you updated throughout the process with pictures. I want to make sure you are happy with what is being made and it also allows changes to be made before the final product. Once everything is done and all parties are happy, I will ship the item to the customer.
Who should buy your clothes?
My target customer is anyone who wants to look and feel beautiful, gift to themselves, spoil themselves, impress that lover. Life is too short to not walk on the wild side here and there. I definitely want my customers to feel confident and fearless while wearing my clothing. Recently a customer contacted me about a swimsuit. She wasn’t sure if it would fit or how it would look, and that she hadn’t worn a swimsuit in years. She described her body in not so flattering terms. This broke my heart that she was avoiding enjoying life because of how she felt about her body. I’ve been there, I know how it feels. I’ve avoided situations where I would feel uncomfortable showing my body, but I realised I was missing out on a lot by feeling that way. Have fun and enjoy life! Don’t let rubbing thighs stop you from living and loving your life. There will always be someone that thinks you’re beautiful, and the most important person who needs to think this is yourself.
What are your thoughts on body positivity and the fashion industry?
I believe the fashion industry still has a long way to go where body positivity is concerned. High fashion and commercial fashion were empires built around certain sizes and ideals, many of which are unattainable by many. However, I have seen great growth in modeling agencies who are catering to or including plus-size models. It’s definitely a start, and with models such as Tess Holliday, I believe it is helping many women and men accept themselves. I find it wonderful when women of all sizes support each other, when there is dialogue. The human race is very varied in looks and there cannot be a one size fits all.
Thank you so much, Cecile, for introducing us to your work!