Featured Shop Review: Three dresses from SWAKdesigns

By | January 16, 2009


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Awhile back, SWAKdesigns popped up as a subject of conversation on the Fatshionista community over on LiveJournal, as a relatively new and heretofore unknown option for plus-size clothing. Lots of folks seemed happy with it, and honestly, I looked at the site once or twice and then stopped, because it seemed like the offerings in my size were sorely limited if not altogether nonexistent. So when the site contacted me recently, I sort of shrugged and almost didn’t go check them out again, since I remembered feeling frustrated the last time I was there.

Good news, though; in a climate where many plus-size shops are trimming back their extended sizes (I’m looking at you, Fashion Overdose and B & Lu), SWAKdesigns now has items that run from 1X all the way up to 6X! Considering the challenges in finding any kind of selection for extended sizes, particularly at affordable prices, this is fantastic news. Also, they’re kind enough to collect all their extended sizes on one page, here, instead of making fatter fats hunt around for the larger sizes, only to get their hopes up on an item and then to discover said garment only comes up to a small 2X. More than that, each item’s page has a size chart that gives item-specific measurements, from the standard bust-waist-hips to length and armhole circumference (a freaking godsend for those of us with arms and shoulders that make fitting sleeves a constant challenge).

The offerings at SWAKdesigns lean toward the most popular plus-size silhouettes – think lots of surplice-style tops – and the widely-beloved matte jersey. There’s a variety of stock basics (t-shirts, knit gauchos) and more overtly stylish offerings. If I have a criticism, it’s that their designs occasionally seem too varied and not particularly cohesive as a collected group. However, this sort of variety works for some folk just looking for comfortable garments that they also feel good in, so who am I to say.

For my part, I got to test out three of their dresses. I know, I know, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Desi dress at SWAKdesigns Dress the first was the Desi, in black, in a 4X. I was truly impressed by the quality of this garment – it’s cotton (plus!) and fully lined (with stretch poly jersey, but still) and the construction is impressive for the price. The bust runs a little small, and by this I mean the bust fits me and my smallish bosom with little room to spare. Or possibly it’s meant to be extra-cleavagey and I simply don’t have the cleavage to supply. Either way, I dig this vaguely boho, peasant-style dress a whole lot and it’ll definitely become an easy staple in my wardrobe, particularly in warmer weather, something on which I can rely on those mornings I just want to put on something comfortable that looks good without thinking about it too hard (as I am oft wont to do.) Frankly, this dress makes me stare bleakly out at the frozen heaps of old snow outside my windows and wish I had a beach vacation coming up. It’s that kind of dress. The kind you want to wear stretched out in the sun with an alcohol-laden frozen drink in your hand.

Leona Cowl Neck Dress from SWAKdesigns Dress the second was the Leona. I chose this dress sort of on a whim, and to see what their jersey garments were like, even though it’s not really my personal style (though I do know someone whose style it totally fits, nudge nudge). I was mostly seduced by the colors of the stylized floral print. The Leona is a pretty standard print-jersey dress, on a par with what you’d find at your local Torrid. The fabric is lightweight and forgiving, as jersey is, and the fit is right where I’d expect a 4X to be – I had worried a little that SWAK’s stuff might be fakeout junior plus sizes, but this is totally not the case. In my experience with all of these garments, a 4X is a 4X, and that’s that, though if you’re shopping with them I’d still encourage you to check the size chart to be sure (if you don’t know your measurements, measure a favorite garment around the bust, waist, and hips to get an idea of how much room you need). All in all, the Leona is a cute dress that has one of those cuts that’s flattering across a wide variety of body shpes.

Alicia dress at SWAKdesigns Dress the third was the Alicia. First, I have to give a little backstory here: back in the days of The Old Torrid, in the pre-pinkening, they had a really ridiculously popular Dickies shirtdress. As I recall, I believe it was called the “Nurse Betty” dress, even though that would make no sense because it was only available in red and black, which are not generally colors nurses are known to wear. But whatever. I digress. Once Torrid sold out, they went for insane prices on eBay for a year after. I had one of these coveted dresses in black – I actually still have it. It is, frankly, a near-perfect stretch-cotton poplin shirtdress. Mine was getting a little faded, however, after years of wears and washes, but I couldn’t give a thought to retiring it. That is, until recently, when I was running into the stairwell at work (I take the stairs a million times a day not to Be Healthy, incidentally, but because I am way too impatient to wait for the elevator) and somehow my dress caught on the door handle and… rip. I mean RRRIP. EPIC RIP. I had to pin the thing closed from the waist down for the rest of the day (yes, ultra-professional, I know). I was crushed! Disproportionately so, because y’all, I’d had that dress forEVER and I’d never seen another quite like it – a simple, straightforward, a-line, above-the-knee-length, fat-girl-fitting shirtdress.

Enter the Alicia dress pictured to your left, there.

This is basically THE SAME DRESS. On SWAKdesigns’ version, the skirt flares a tich more (not a bad thing) and there’s also a tie belt (which I can take or leave), and the SWAK dress is a slightly thicker fabric (a VERY good thing), but it’s essentially the same dress. I was ridiculously gratified to find this dress. My only complaint is that A) it doesn’t go up to 6X so fatter fats can also enjoy it and B) it doesn’t come in a million colors, because I would totally buy this dress in a million colors and wear it all the damn time. I’ve written here before about my troubles finding simple cotton shirtdresses and so this is an excellent find for me.

Of course, these dresses will inevitably find their way into Outfitblogging posts, so you’ll see them in real-life action on me before long and you can judge for yourself.

When I first got the request from SWAKdesigns to check out their offerings with the idea of writing a post about it, I was sort of worried: What if I hate everything? But I can honestly say that overall I have been pleasantly surprised by my SWAKdesigns experience, particularly by their variety of sizes and plentiful real-measurement info on each garment. I’d love to see them venture out into more dramatic and edgy territory, style-wise, but having a good source for the basics can’t be understated, especially when so many of the items in question go up to a 6X. Did I mention that they have free shipping on all US orders?

If you’ve had an experience, good or bad, with SWAKdesigns, please do share it in comments.

I’m totally going to go hug my Alicia dress now.

Hey, you – do you have a plus-size retail business? Would you like your shop profiled in a feature review on this obnoxious, politicized, occasionally profanity-strewn blog? If you answered yes to both these questions, by all means contact me at lesley@fatshionista.com, or using the contact form on this site, and let’s chat about it.


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