Andrea Brown knows all too well what it’s like to wear clothes simply because they fit, not because she looked or felt good in them.
As a plus-size woman who has fluctuated between the sizes of 12 and 24, she understands the frustration that comes with shopping for stylish and flattering garments.
That’s why she created her own plus-size fashion label, Andrea Lucy Designs.
“I was frustrated with never being able to find nice clothes that fit well. And I’ve always thought, how many plus-size women are out there that are not being catered to?”
So began the idea to design a collection of garments that women like herself could wear and enjoy.
After studying fashion and apparel design, Brown spent about three years researching and planning her label, and she has launched this spring with a collection of classic designs that will live beyond seasonal trends.
The Garden Party Collection includes a crisp white shirt with dramatic ruched sleeves, a floral and feminine dress (with pockets), a pleated A-line skirt in a pretty garden print, and other pieces.
The challenge of creating a plus-size clothing line
Even though Brown has chased her dreams of running her own fashion label, getting the brand to launch phase has not been without its challenges.
As an Australian made and owned brand operating at a small scale, it was hard for Brown to find manufacturers who were willing to work with her. Most manufacturers she dealt with would only fulfil large orders for established brands.
The process of designing garments for plus-size women also presented hurdles, including creating patterns for a wide range of sizes and selecting fabrics that can cater to different body shapes.
“Plus-size fashion is about creating simple silhouettes using stretchy fabrics,” Brown said.
“For plus-size women, many of them are not well proportioned so you have to take that into account when designing.”
Brown has used her own body as the label’s size 14 fit model. She acknowledges that being tall and well proportioned has worked in her favour, but it means there has been a lot of trial and error when designing for women with different body shapes.
“With the skirt, the sample fitted me. The lining is slightly smaller than the skirt overlay. But for one of my friends, the lining was too tight around her stomach because she carries most of her weight in that area, yet she is slimmer in the legs,” she said.
Brown revisited the design for the skirt and made sure it had enough fabric and stretch in the lining.
“I try to cater to as many different figures as possible. Being a small designer, I am very open to feedback and I think it is something I will continue to learn,” she said.
‘I want to give women their bodies back’
For Brown, creating a plus-size fashion label was not only about making pretty clothes – it was about including a diverse representation of women in the fashion industry.
All of her marketing and product images are untouched, and she also avoids airbrushing.
“All women are beautiful – and it is important to show those imperfections,” Brown said.
Many plus-size women have rarely seen themselves represented in the media or in mainstream fashion, and even though this has improved in the past 10 years, Brown believes we still have a long way to go.
“I think it is just as important to give (plus-size) people a voice, but I hope to do it in more subtle way; in my way,” she said.
Brown said creating a plus-size fashion label was about giving women more confidence.
“I know a lot of plus-size women… they often dress a lot in black. They simply wear the things that fit, not necessarily the things that make them look and feel good,” she said.
“It is simply about having options in your wardrobe – options for day-to-day wear, workwear and for special occasions.”
At the heart of it all, Brown merely wants to help women and make a difference in their lives.
She recalls a day when her cousin, also a plus-size woman, tried on a dress from the Andrea Lucy Designs collection and she burst into tears. Her cousin had never seen herself like that before.
“I know what it is like to have to wear clothes just because they fit, and not having any other choice,” Brown said.
“I want to give women their bodies back.”