Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ModernGear Women: Bigger and Bolder with Bodacious

Vervegirl.ca wrote about Bodacious today, a fantastic Vancouver boutique for larger-sized women. And that got me to thinking. You see, a few years back I pitched a piece to the Style section of one of Canada's national newspapers about Bodacious, and I got the assignment. I was a fairly regular contributor to the section and the paper. So I completed what I thought was a really nice article about the store and its owners, cousins Barb and Lorna.

I'd known the two lovely ladies since moving to Vancouver, and I really wanted to tell their story. But I was dismayed, not once but twice, when the paper said they were going to do a photo shoot and then after, that the photos didn't do the store justice. I was never able to see the pictures in question, and the piece was killed.

As a journalist, that is the worst thing that can happen. There was, of course, the hours of pouring sweat over my keyboard, struggling to find the words that would honour these women. There was the idea that they had been waiting to see what I would write, how I would encapsulate their very real contribution to the lives of women. They had also told their customers and friends and families that they were to be profiled in the Style section of our country's most prestigious newspaper.

When I couldn't deliver, with no real reason as to why (because I hadn't ever been given one), I felt incredibly disappointed, and that I had disappointed them incredibly. Anyway, I want to take the opportunity to share the story of these two women and their vision now. I am going to borrow images from their website to better introduce you to the store.

Better late than never...after you're done, check out their website (linked above) and their own blog. Barb and Lorna have always been so kind-hearted to me, and this is the only way I can thank them and share their story. Enjoy!

Large in Spirit
Boutique for “Bodacious Babes” gaining an XL following
Tamara Nowakowsky

Engage in a conversation with the two women running a certain store on Vancouver’s Main Street, and you’ll notice some things about them almost immediately…as a matter of fact, it’s difficult to think of anything else. What makes them stand out so much is their warmth, energy, and drive.

What will also catch your eye is how they are dressed, because without fail they’ll both have on clothing so utterly unique and completely funky, that you’ll want to have the same thing in your wardrobe. Unless you’re between sizes 10-24 though, you’re out of luck. Barb Wilkins and Lorna Ketler own Bodacious, a store serving larger sized women, and they happen to be the store’s best advertising.

Women of their size are not usually given either the opportunity or frankly, the permission, to look so damn good. With Bodacious, celebrating its fifth year and a growing legion of customers, cousins and business partners Barb and Lorna are helping other women largely ignored by fashion designers and manufacturers, to step out of the shadows where the “fat girls” are supposed to stand, and into the spotlight.
They’ll practically take a woman by the hand, if need be. “A woman wears self-loathing like a cloak, and it’s so painful to see,” says Lorna. “We don’t let any customer speak badly about her body. This is a safe place for these women to come, where they won’t be ignored or marginalized.”

One such woman is repeat customer Bonnie Kaserman, who found the perfect place to shop after years of being disappointed in other clothing stores.

“Going in that store is a different experience than any other usual shopping experience for someone with a curvaceous figure,” Bonnie enthuses. “For them, having clothing that fits is about more than just being able to get the zipper closed – it’s about fitting your personality, and accentuating and flattering the curves you have.”

Customers like Bonnie used to be relegated to what Barb calls the “fat stores”. She explains, “There is this idea that I as a larger woman am going to have to buy an item of clothing I don’t like solely because I can get it over my hips, versus the whole variety of items that are actually cut to flatter a woman’s body, but not one piece will fit me. In our store, we’re offering these women what they haven’t been able to find elsewhere. And we believe that self confidence and body issues are not only size issues, but not being able to find clothing that fits just exacerbates it.”
The store is quite like its owners – bright, bold, and glowing. It’s completely girly and a pink-lover’s delight, with racks full of amazing items like their best-selling Diane von Furstenberg-like wrap jersey dress, and their own butt-flattering Bodacious blue jeans.

Those jeans are so well designed and sewn that they earned a nod from InStyle magazine in the April issue. Customers are excitedly awaiting the expansion of the Bodacious label, and Barb and Lorna are in discussions about selling it in other boutiques across the country.

They have been mentored during this growth by another local female entrepreneurial success story, Karin Piett of Omega Frontline Apparel, who knew immediately after setting foot into the store that she would do anything she could to help the partners succeed.

“I am almost six feet tall and not a small woman, so shopping is always on the edge of painful,” Karin says. “To see garments and collections that were interesting, different and actually had shape, in a great size range – I couldn’t believe it. I did buy some pieces that day, and I said ‘take a good look at this face because you will be seeing a lot of it.’ The idea of their passion, dedication, and conviction made me want to be around them.”

Other business-minded women agree with this sentiment as well. Barb and Lorna partner also in leading Vancouver’s first Ladies Who Launch business incubator program. Classes happen during the evening, right in the store, where women are once again given a safe place to share their business hopes, dreams and plans.

Both women credit each other and their supportive partners and family for their success. When asked what, from among awards and accolades, makes them the most proud, Barb recalls a story that makes both women’s eyes well up. “The best thing was when my Mom said, ‘Can you believe we made such smart girls?’”

As those who design and make clothing realize that “average” isn’t size six, we can expect to see more clothing lines and stores that cater to a larger clientele. Like the two Bodacious babes show, life can be grand when you confidently go big.


Cathy said...

Bravo!! The word must get out!

ModernGear TV said...

Hi Cathy!

Well, I sure think so...was so gutted when the piece didn't get published but this way people can see it now and it'll stick around online.

Glad you liked it!!

Kathryn said...

it's a real shame that the original article was killed

one question, though - since when is a size 10 "plus"??

Ms.Barbara Jane said...

Wow! That was well worth the wait. Thank you so much for posting that, it made me cry just a little.
Kathryn- We don't use the term "plus size" in our business, that's an industry term. Our only concern is that women who have a hard time finding clothes in most stores can come to us and find clothes that fit. A lot of stores sell up to a size XL and in some cases that's about a size 8. If a woman is busty and a size 10 she may have a hard time finding tops that fit. We sell size 10 because that's what our customers are asking for;-)

Anonymous said...

This is so inspirational, and really, why in the world did the paper not publish it? They really missed out on an opportunity and you must have felt crappy after that experience. Sorry about that one, for you. Are you going to try to sell the piece to someone else?

Gracious Host said...

This is a great article, the paper missed out, because I think a lot of readers could identify with what was said in the article. It is inspiring to know smart women are finding solutions to their own and sharing it with others.

One must remember the outer packaging is just a mere form of one's inner artistic expression. So let's hope Bodacious expansion will put Fat stores out of business, so women of all shapes and sizes can feel their own beauty naturally.