Not all plus size bodies are created equally. And with the dawn of ELOQUII's Viola Capsule Collection, a 26-item line exclusively designed for babes who are one-to-two sizes larger at the hips than at the bust, one retailer is finally acknowledging this simple truth.
Oftentimes, mainstream and sartorial representation of fuller-figured bodies seems to suggest that folks above a size 14 most often fit into hourglass proportions, tapering in at the waist while maintaining those symmetrical Marilyn Monroe-esque curves at the chest and bum. If they don't fit into this box, the implication is often that they should be aiming to.
In reality, this is but one generalized body shape. Plus size bodies, like all bodies, exist far beyond triangles, apples, pears, eggplants, or any other arbitrary produce or geometry-inspired label. Sometimes our shoulders are broad and our booties are small. Sometimes we are boxy, rather than rounded. At other times still, our hips are several sizes larger than our busts.
When it comes to the latter body shape, finding button-downs that actually button all the way down might be a challenge. Putting on a bodycon that's tight at the hips without being loose at the ta-tas likely feels impossible. Slipping into a winter coat that actually provides warmth from neck to thighs without gaping open at the hips? Forget about it.
This is precisely where the Viola Fit comes in.
With a selection of trousers, tops, coats, and dresses, ELOQUII is focusing on "an assortment of cult favorite styles from this season as well as tricky-to-tailor wardrobe essentials," according to the retailer's Instagram page. The goal? "To make dressing your body just that much easier." The brand teamed up with plus size fashion and fitness vlogger Anna O'Brien of Glitter & Lazers and Kenya Bradshaw, Vice President for Community Engagement at TNTP, a non-profit that works with school systems in 30 cities, to show the Viola Fit on actual consumers whose bust-to-waist-to-hip ratios fall outside the hourglass window.
As Bradshaw tells Bustle in an interview, her shape has long meant that finding well-fitting dresses and pants has been incredibly challenging. "Dresses tend to be fitted for your bust, and if I purchased a dress that fit my hips, it was too big up top," she says. "In pants, I had the glorious gap that meant I would always have to wear a belt or get my pants tailored to fit my waist. The Viola Collection adds inches to the hips, which ensures that my thighs have all the room they need while clothes fit at the bust and waist."
ELOQUII's Vice President Of Design and Creative Director Jodi Arnold confirms that the motivation behind the line was customer-driven. Repeated feedback from shoppers "who could not buy many of our items or who had to alter everything they bought" made the team take notice. "We created this fit for this particular shape by making the bust size to be the part that you order to and then we adjusted the pattern to accommodate a wider hip measurement and a smaller waist,"Arnold tells Bustle.
That ELOQUII would be among the first brands to actually listen to plus size customers regarding the struggle to find clothing that properly fits a body requiring two different sizes isn't particularly surprising, though. This is the same brand that extended its offerings to a size 28 in 2015, going beyond the size 20/22 cut-off point of so many other "plus size ranges" seem to enact. Its lookbooks for the extended range actually featured models who represented the larger sizes as well — an undeniable deviance from much of the plus size fashion imagery we consume. The company even started selling wide fit shoes last year, acknowledging the void in the market for chic kicks able to accommodate broader feet.
The brand's commitment to its customers is evident across the board, including through its collaborative efforts with vocal members of the online plus size fashion community. "It was important for us to collaborate [with the community] because this collection was created specifically based on customer feedback," Arnold adds. "We are constantly inspired by Glitter & Lazers' website and unique style — it was a natural fit to have her be involved."
ELOQUII indeed has a reputation for listening, and the Viola Capsule Collection is merely an extension of that. Many plus size women have long known that scaling up straight size versions of garments into plus sizes doesn't usually work. After all, straight size sample sizes aren't typically built to cater to bellies or love handles or the myriad different needs a larger body might have. But oftentimes, scaling up sample sizes of plus items — even if the sample sizes have been specifically designed with plus bodies in mind — doesn't work for everyone, either. "It is important to acknowledge that scaling up a garment from sample size measurements isn't guaranteed to cater to all body types," Arnold tells Bustle. "Scaling up a pattern does not account for fit, and only accounts for a size difference."
Because customization and personalized tailoring of garments doesn't usually come cheap, however, the end result of having a body that doesn't fit into a prescribed sizing box has long been forced acceptance: "This style just isn't for me." "I just can't wear that silhouette." "Those cuts aren't right for my body."
As Anna O'Brien, who modeled the Viola Capsule Collection, tells Bustle in an interview, the plus size industry has long been "the forgotten child of fashion." "In a culture that tells us our worth is sewn into the tag in our pants, plus size women face an added set of obstacles to self worth because many garments [...] are scaled up from a body type that doesn't mirror their own," she adds. "Women don't hold weight uniformly — so why is it that all our clothing options have been confined to one cut that fits only a small percentage of the plus population perfectly?"
A self-identified pear shape, O'Brien has long struggled with excessive amounts of fabric at the waist and gaping arm holes when choosing garments. She appreciates the thoughtfulness that has gone into the Viola line, and the fact that ELOQUII measured multiple pear-shaped individuals in order to truly clue into this demographic. As a result, she says that "things like needed extra space in the upper arms of the sleeve, a detail that could easily be overlooked, wasn't."
Although the Viola Capsule Collection is currently only available in sizes 14 to 24, Arnold confirms that the initial run is a trial. "We are asking customers for lots of feedback on Viola Fit since this collection was created on our customers needs, so we want to know what they think," she tells Bustle. "If the customers are as excited about it as we are, then we will be adding more [sizes] to the collection."
Because efforts like the Viola Fit further shift the narrative of what it means to be plus size, its offerings should hopefully help give more plus size women the options they have so long deserved. After all, plus size bodies are not all identical recreations of one another; merely scaled up and down a few measurements within hourglass proportions. And ultimately, it's pretty refreshing for a brand to be acknowledging as much.
Images: Courtesy ELOQUII (10)