Sometimes, a gap in the market isn’t obvious. Sometimes, it’s such a glaring hole that it seems to have neon signs pointing to it! This is one of those times.
Hotties Vintage is a business belonging to a plus size woman, Tricia Cox. It caters for a much-neglected part of the vintage scene; plus size women.
When it comes to true vintage clothing, larger sizes are like gold dust. This has only helped to perpetuate the myth that there were no plus size women in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. This is, of course, nonsense! The truth is that there were, but their clothing didn’t survive as often because it was worn to death. As such, true vintage pieces in larger sizes change hands for vast sums of money. So, any women that love the vintage aesthetic are pushed into the Vintage Reproduction markets. Early on, these companies only really made clothes in S, M and L. Over time they extended to XL and more recently we’ve seen companies like Pin Up Girl Clothing expand their range up to 3-4xl, using actual plus size women to model their lines. Excellent news for our American friends, not so great if you’re in the UK and subject to huge customs charges.
This is where Hotties Vintage comes in…
– Hello, Tricia! Thank you for speaking with me. What is Hotties Vintage?
–Primarily, we are a plus size, pre-loved reproduction clothing company. We also sell true vintage jewellery and accessories. I also provide a styling service and private shopping at my by-appointment, private, boutique in North London.
– How did Hotties Vintage get started?
— I started with a company called The Hostess Hotties. That was a small events company providing vintage style event hostess staff, burlesque stage management, and everything in-between! Thanks to a contact within that world, I had a stall at a vintage fair to sell some of the many vintage jewellery pieces and accessories I’d collected over many years. I absolutely loved having the stall and before I knew it I was buying pieces especially to sell and attending fairs every weekend.
My best customers were always plus size women. They would be hunting for the true vintage finishing touches to go with their reproduction clothing. The one question they always asked was “where can I find pre-loved reproduction clothing?”. I had a few pieces I wanted to sell, so I set up a rail on my usual stall and it was really popular!
Around the same time, I took redundancy from my day job and decided to concentrate on the stall full time. I changed the name slightly to suit the new direction, stopped doing event work, and took the plunge!
– Can you tell me some more about the boutique, please?
— The fairs are a great place to meet people and really get chatting. One of the things that kept coming up is that people aren’t always comfortable trying things on. They want to be able to take their time and really get a feel for the items. So, after a long conversation with my partner, he offered me the chance to take over a room within his workshop. We redecorated and have created a great space that’s really private. Every piece of clothing in stock is available to try on, and there is a selection of jewellery and accessories to view as well.
– Has the slight change in direction of the business been popular?
— Yes, very! I have regular customers and I get much the same excited reactions from women as they discover my stall. At some fairs, I’ve been the only person that had sizes available above an XL! Plus size women have a really hard time finding vintage and reproduction clothing that’s available to try on. When they see the stall, customers say “Oh, normal people clothing!”, “look fat people clothes”, with a smile on their face, and “Finally, something that will fit me!”. They see my rails and just about squeal, sometimes they do squeal! How many times have we all cried “Why, oh why, can’t I just go somewhere to try it on before I buy it?!”. Well, I provide it!
-Why so you think it is so hard to find plus size reproduction clothing?
— Luckily, it’s not as hard to find as it used to be. A lot of companies have widened their size ranges in response to the demand for plus sizes. There are plenty of US, UK and European companies selling online, but there aren’t many brick and mortar shops. That’s the main problem now, that’s what makes it so hard. If you take the risk and order online from the US, you can’t send it back if it doesn’t fit due to huge shipping and customs costs. Most of us are pushed to scour eBay for pre-loved pieces. That can be a great way to find gems, but it also means sometimes being stuck with something that doesn’t fit, has undisclosed damage or is a cheap Chinese knock off instead of the real thing. If you manage to find an imported piece from a UK store, it’s usually well over £100 for a dress. For most, this is simply not feasible. Conversely, because of that cost, most ladies really look after the pieces. As such, when they come into the pre-loved market, they are often in excellent condition. That makes buying second-hand pieces the best way to get your hands on something that you’ve been lusting after for ages!
– Where would you like Hotties Vintage to go in the future?
— I’d like to keep making plus size women happy by pairing them with their dream clothing!I am branching out slightly by offering a bespoke vintage styling session. I’m teaching women how to style high street pieces and combine them with the right accessories, makeup and hair styles to create vintage outfits that look amazing and don’t break the bank. I want plus size women to feel confident and comfortable with their clothing and appearance in the same way as I found my body confidence within vintage styling.
– Why do you think the vintage style is so popular with plus size women?
— Length! A skirt that hits below the knee is so flattering on everyone. No matter your height, size or shape. Vintage style gives plus size clothing shape, style and colour. It’s not sacks, or shapeless like a lot of the high street to hide women’s curves and figures, but it embraces it. Mix that with quality fabrics that have a slight stretch and a good weight, beautiful prints, bright colours and sweetheart necklines and everyone looks wonderful! And that’s before we start talking about the novelty prints! I’ve never seen anyone that didn’t look great in a vintage, 40’s/50’s shape dress. No matter if that is then styled in a vintage or a modern way. There’s a definite nostalgic element to it too. For me, it’s become a way of life. I not only sell vintage items, but my partner and I run dance classes and gigs too.
– Do you have any tips in regards to vintage and reproduction clothing for our readers?
— A ‘top tip’ is to take your measurements. Go armed with those when shopping. Measure or ask to measure clothes and try those on. Disregard what the label says!
5th & 6th August, Festival of Wheels, Barleylands, Essex. Www.essexmotorshow.co.uk
11th, 12th, 13th August. Retro Festival, Newbury Showground. Www.retrofestival.co.uk
26th & 27th August, American and Custom Car Weekender, Whitewebbs Museum, Enfield.