Fashion: At last, real clothes for real women

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High style that's smart but not too prissy

Diana Hall, co-owner, Modus PR.

I'M 6ft tall and my personal style has probably been determined by my height. I can't choose a look the way other women can, instead I have to go with what fits me.

It hasn't always been easy. As a teenager growing up in Scotland, I would have given anything to be 5ft 4in. It then took me all of my twenties to work out the balance in what I wear and how I would be perceived. For example, in business, things I did or said that may have come over as aggressive would have been deemed fine when said by a shorter woman. Now, at 30, I'm confident with my height and with what works. I like this suit, (by the young designers Sonnentag Mulligan) because it is smart without looking Margaret Thatcherish and it doesn't need to be teamed with a prissy blouse.

Usually I wear trousers, especially men's suits, which I get second hand. But I realise that I am fortunate to work in an industry which sees that look as fashionable and not as too masculine. For a woman in one of the regional cities, it might be a more difficult look to carry off.

As a tall woman, people think you can wear anything. But when skirts are short, they are far too short and the long lengths are often not long enough. Trouser suits usually flap at half-mast at my calves.

I almost never wear heels. I was a teenager when wedgies were in, so I wore flats and hid them under my flares. Now, if I ever do put on heels for a formal occassion, I feel like Dick Emery, with my bum sticking out and unable to walk properly.

I mix designer clothes, like my Donna Karan trouser suit, which is stretch - so I just stretched it a bit more - with high street clothes, particularly from Marks & Spencer because of their long lengths. I usually take a size 14 in high street clothes because of the extra inch on the hem. But I very rarely find mass market clothes that fit me. Sometimes I happen upon the one piece that somehow got cut extra long. It's the same with shoes. If I find a pair that fits, I snap them up.

I'm lucky in my work in that I do get the chance to buy samples, which tend to be cut longer. Marina Avraam, whom Modus represents, cuts for a tall woman, although she herself is not tall. When we are looking for new business, I suppose the question of whether something will fit me, or women like me, is in my subconscious.

I don't shop in 'tall' shops. The ranges aren't directional enough and the prints are too garish. As for mail order, I've thought there was no point, but I might give some of these newer companies a try. I never feel desperate about clothes. Working in the fashion business, I have enough choices.

A classical, casual way to cover up

Julia Lee, photographic agent at Camilla Lowther.

I DON'T feel mega-conscious of my body. My stomach, bum and thighs are the areas I most try to cover up. I have cellulite around my legs and waist, but I don't spend hours in front of a mirror at home sobbing about it. I know my body hasn't got that out of control. I just have a pear-shaped, feminine figure. To hide the area around my middle, I wear blouses and jumpers out instead of tucking them in. I'm lucky because the top half of my body is fairly narrow and I have a thin face, so people assume that the rest of my body is the same.

For work, I don't wear anything too over the top - usually jeans and very casual, unless I'm seeing someone important. Even then, I'll dress very simply and classically. I try to keep my work and going out clothes separate. Basically, I wear more clothes in winter, fewer in summer. I don't make much distinction between seasons and I don't follow fashion trends because it's too expensive. I tend to dress in my own way. Fashion does have some relevance on my wardrobe, but like most people, as they get older and put on a bit of weight, I take what I like and ignore what might make me look absurd.

I go for fairly severe, neutral colours, hardly ever anything bright, purely because then it's easier to match clothes together. I like to spend a bit more on shoes and usually buy a couple of relatively expensive pairs each season.

I enjoy shopping, but I only get the chance to do it on Saturdays, which can be a bit of an ordeal. I frequently make bad buys, and buy more accessories than clothes. I tend to make a lot of my own clothes - skirts and tops. I find that chain-store clothes usually don't fit that well and by making them myself, I can make them fit exactly how I want them. With classic lines, I think fit is all important.

The clothes I would ideally love to wear are usually expensive. I may buy a couple of expensive items and then fit the rest of my wardrobe around them.

These clothes are shapes that I feel most comfortable in and would buy. I wear quite a lot of palazzo pants because I think they are quite flattering. I'm tall (5ft 10in) so I can get away with voluminous clothes. I don't like anything too clingy, but I feel quite at ease with chiffon. I wouldn't wear a bra top on its own but never feel naked in fabric, even if it's see-through.

I think this season's clothes are quite flattering to all shapes and sizes. I love the length - I don't have the legs for short skirts, so I've been wearing skirts right down to my ankles. I haven't bought any platforms, as, being tall, I feel as if I'm towering above everyone else in high clompy shoes.

No skinny midriffs and no hipsters, thanks]

Nicky Greene, knitwear designer for Warehouse.

THIS IS definitely my look. The waistcoat is Warehouse current collection, the shirt is about a season old and the trousers are older - all in linen, which I like for summer. The Levi jacket is my boyfriend's, but I wear it whenever I think I can get away with it.

I don't always wear trousers - I'll wear a long black skirt or washed silk crepe dresses. It depends on the weather and how I'm feeling. I can wear pretty much what I want. The only thing I'd really like to be is taller - 5ft 8ins instead of 5ft 6ins - because I think you can carry clothes better then and you can create the illusion of being slim more easily.

I go to the gym and do step classes, but as much to be fit as to be thin. I'm a size 12, and when we have sample sales at work, I fit the clothes.

I do not like it if I don't fit a 12. If I see something I like and then find out it's a 14, I don't want it any more - it's psychological. But sizes vary. At Warehouse, we're reviewing our sizing. The bust size 34ins for a size 12 has become too small and it's now 35ins. The waist is 27ins and the hips 37 1/2 ins. If you measured the female population, even slim women, their hips would be much wider than the women said they were - often they don't measure themselves at the fullest point.

Is designer fashion going out of style? Well, things are loosening up. Clothes are a lot softer and knitwear is floppier. But I would still like a strict Japanese suit, from Comme des Garcons, except I'd wear it with sandals.

What wouldn't I wear? The key fashion pieces right now are skinny midriff tops and low-slung hipsters. You have to be skinny-thin to get away with them. Also I don't wear much knitwear. By the time it comes into the shops, I'm fed up with it.

The designer I look at most closely now is Ann Demeulemeester. I'd like one of her long waistcoats with little ties down the front. The part of me I try to cover, whatever the fashion, is my hips.

Cut loose for comfort and the feel good factor

Maria Bremmers, manager/director, Almeida Theatre Wine Bar.

MY PRIORITIES when buying clothes are comfort and feeling good. I like to know that both quality and cut are good and that it suits me. A lot of my work clothes come from sales at places such as English Eccentrics or Margaret Howell. I don't buy many clothes at full prices, apart from basics like the odd T-shirt, perhaps from Muji.

When I'm shopping, I look for clothes that are well cut and with good quality fabric. More and more, I look for clothes that will last. I'm not a frivolous shopper.

I find that with a lot of chain-store clothes, the quality is zilch. I will only shop at them for more fun fashion items, not for long-lasting quality pieces. I find that mass-produced clothes are made for a standard model, not for real people with bumps and curves.

I'm very fortunate in that I have a lot of my clothes made for me by my friend Joe Allen. He will also alter clothes to fit me. I recently bought a dress from Oasis which had what I call design faults - it didn't fit across the bust, but was perfect everywhere else. Joe put extra buttons across the bust, made darts under the arms and cut all the loose threads off. I have a lot of clothes altered, even second-hand ones.

I would happily wear all the clothes in this picture. I like Jigsaw because they are quite good quality and are reasonably priced. I think the current fashions are wonderful for bigger women with tummies, hips and busts. The only things I wouldn't wear are flares, which I wore when I was about 15 and now think look too retro.

The area of my body that I feel I most need to cover up is around my thighs, so I will wear quite baggy or drawstring trousers. I am also aware of slight sagging under my arms, and don't wear too many sleeveless tops. It's whatever you feel comfortable in. Other than that, I don't care. If I don't have standard legs, that's too bad.

(Photograph omitted)

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