There's good news and even better news if you are a curvy girl - if you wear size 16 or above, that is - and you want to replenish your spring/summer wardrobe.The good news is that plus-size clothing has, to a major extent, lost its ghettoisation - at least for those seeking up to‑ size 20 - with many high street brands now routinely offering their entire collections up to size 18.
In addition, most of the pieces at high street stalwarts Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Long Tall Sally go up to size 20. And while Hobbs sizing nominally only goes up to 18, their cut is so generous (standard 18: bust 43", waist 36" and lower hip 46"), that their size 18 should fit a size 20 without even a teeny struggle. US brand Banana Republic also goes to size 20 (label XL) in many of its blouses and tops, as well as 18 for its skirts, trousers, coats and dresses.
The even better new)s is that H&M seems to have recognised that its capsule BIB, or Big is Beautiful, collection, created some 20 years ago, smacks of tokenism, and earlier this week launched its new Inclusive Collection.
Available on-line only (at http://shop.hm.com), the collection, in sizes 6 to 28, features all the bang-on-trend pieces a typical H&M customer could want, from flirty prom dresses - one-shoulder, strapless spotty or broderie anglaise - to pretty frou-frou skirts, animal print bodies and gorgeous lingerie. The collection also features on-the-knee pencil skirts, statement cardis, tops and tees which should also appeal to a less typical (aka slightly older) H&M customer.
Shopping for plus size clothing has also become a whole lot easier thanks to the internet, with brands like Yours (www.yoursclothing.co.uk), Simply Be (www.simplybe.co.uk) and Asos Curve offering the style vibe of Topshop or River Island, but up to sizes 24 and 26.
There is also the off-line specialist, Evans - like Wallis and Dorothy Perkins, part of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group - which has also been polishing its style act for the past few years.
This season's collection sees some pretty, floaty maxi dresses and maxi skirts, good, wide-leg, 70s trousers - though you would need to be tall and be prepared to rock some high platforms/wedges to make this work if you are larger than a size 14 - a pretty, well-styled shirt in the season's favourite flower print, and a slouchy chiffon top at £29.50 which skinny girls will covet.
Fenwick Brent Cross stocks plus size brands galore - Gerry Webber, Olsen, Betty Barclay, Basler and Gelco - but, ironically, its boutique and main ranges don't go above size 16. The Bond Street store, however, stocks the collections of Joyce Ridings, Annette Gortz and Ischiko, all of which go to size 20 and do fabulous things with ingenious cutting and a clever soft-yet-structured feel.
Joyce Ridings has a stunning purple linen duster coat, at £339, which works perfectly over wide-leg linen trousers, £189, or A-line linen skirt with knot hem, £219. Annette Gortz has a pale grey shirt dress with drawstring hem, £239, which can be worn over slim-leg linen-mix trousers, £259, while Ischiko's spring collection features a grey silky parka style dress (£389) and a grey/silver print, belted kimono jacket at £79, and grey V-neck dress with asymmetric hem, £319.