Big and beautiful

Tired of the lack of options when buying outfits, Ms Lynn Bakri started her online boutique selling plus-sized clothing. STACEY CHIA reports

Growing up, Ms Lynn Bakri was a tomboy, but it was not by choice.

She says that she wore baggy pants and T-shirts only because these were the only clothes that fitted her plus-sized frame.

"For my secondary school prom, I decided to help out with the logistics instead of attending it because I just couldn't find a nice dress in my size," says the 35-year-old Singaporean designer and owner of Jane Watson, an online plus-sized boutique.

But she could not hide behind casual baggy clothes when she started working in 2000 for a clothing distribution company and that was when she decided to pay more attention to her looks.

She found the plus-sized offerings in local stores then "rather dowdy", but soon found Alight (www.alight.com), an e-tailer based in the United States, and bought her first dress and pencil skirt.

She notes that more fashionable plus-sized boutiques have been opening up here recently, but there is still room for more.

Ms Bakri, who named her boutique after Mary Jane Watson, a character from the Spiderman comic books, carries clothing sized between UK 14 and 46. Prices range from $39 for a blouse to $149 for a jumpsuit. She designs all her clothes and has them made in Vietnam.

She says that while she does not have any formal education in fashion design, she believes she has a good eye for fashion.

Her clothes are designed based on what she sees in magazines and on the runway.

Her top seller is a cotton empire waist eyelet dress. She explains that empire silhouettes are good for full-figured women as they are flowy and hide the bottom half of the body.

As sizing is often an issue when shopping online, she recommends that customers indicate their measurements when making an order, so that they can ensure that they have picked the right size.

Ms Bakri, who has a full-time job as a personal assistant at advertising company Ogilvy & Mather, says that sales have been healthy.

Her lunch break is used to sort out orders or create new designs. Occasionally, she ropes in her engineer husband to help with deliveries.

She sells about 20 items weekly online and through J.Elay, an American boutique in Richmond, Virginia, where she is stocked.

Come February, she will be staging her first fashion show at the British Plus Size Fashion Week.

She was invited by the organisers, plus-sized boutique Trapped In A Skinny World and Evolve International Media, who chanced upon her boutique.

The mother of four boys aged four to 13 says that the fashion show takes her a step closer to realising her dream of helping plus-sized women gain confidence.

"Being big does not mean that you have to wear a gunny sack," she says.

staceyc@sph.com.sg

Go to www.janewatson.bigcartel.com and www.facebook.com/janewatsonshoppe to check out her designs.


OOZE CONFIDENCE AND STYLE

Do not hide behind baggy clothing. Here are MsLynn Bakri's tips for dressing with confidence and style:

1. Go monochrome

Wearing one colour from head to toe helps to elongate your body visually.

2. Add texture

Textures, such as lace, add interest to your monochromatic outfit, but will not steer the eye off the vertical course.

3. Find the right vertical prints

Stripes should be close to one another. Avoid horizontal stripes as they visually widen your frame.

4. Avoid bottoms with too many pleats or gathers

These make you look even bigger.

5. Empire waist dresses are good for those who are bottom-heavy

They help to draw attention to your assets on top and hide the bottom half of your body.


OTHER PLACES TO SHOP

Here are some other boutiques that offer plus-sized clothing.

  • Kaylene

04-16 Far East Plazawww.kayleneonline.com

The home-grown label carries sizes UK 14 to 22. Clothes are designed by Ms Kayde Yeo and produced in Singapore and Thailand. Last year, Kaylene became the first Asian brand to show at New York's Full Figured Fashion Week.

Prices range from $39.90 to $62.90 for blouses and $49.90 to $99.90 for dresses.

  • Dorothy Perkins01-28 Plaza Singapura

The British high-street brand carries sizes up to UK 22. Prices range from $26 to $103.

  • Ms Read

02-30 The Centrepoint

The Malaysian label carries clothes sized from UK 12 to 24. Prices range from $19 to $89 for a blouse. Dresses start from $29.

  • Plusylicious

www.plusylicious.com

This two-year-old home-grown online store carries everything from underwear to winter clothing up to size UK 28.

Prices range from $13.90 for underwear to $79.90 for a winter coat.