A transplanted New Yorker, Babe Hope currently makes her home outside of Baltimore where she gets to enjoy a countryside view with her husband of twenty years (and their rescued Golden Retriever) as they settle into their new roles as "empty nesters". In her previous life Babe worked as a lawyer but now she is a professional stylist and blogger. She authored the guide Pretty Plus: How to Look Sexy, Sensational, and Successful, No Matter What You Weigh which "demonstrates that style, comfort, and sexiness can coexist with a bigger body".
Moe: What is a stylist and personal shopper?
Babe Hope: A stylist helps you imagine you at your best and bridge what is available in the fashion landscape to your reality. A personal shopper is where the "rubber meets the road," she implements the plan. I work with plus size women because I am a plus size woman. I get it. As a stylist, I help women interpret the styles they love in ways that are flattering and meaningful to their body and lifestyle. As a personal shopper I help them develop a wardrobe that works. Some research shows that women wear about 20% of what is in their closet and the remainder is bought on whim. My goal is for my clients to reverse that ratio. There should be very little in your closet that you don’t wear regularly.
Moe: How would you describe your style?
Babe Hope: Updated classic with a tough edge. I love boots, vests, and big accessories!
Moe: When you decided to write Pretty Plus what was your main goal?
Babe Hope: I wanted to help women who wear plus size turn the pity party into a pretty party. I intend to counter the marginalization of women of size and level the playing field. Anais Nin said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." I whole-heartedly agree with this. Clothes represent the place where a women gains confidence which grows into courage. I may deal in clothes but I am all about improving lifestyle and "going for it" – now!
Moe: Why is considering your overall shape important?
Babe Hope: I work with a concept of "fade and focus". Fade or camouflage the parts that are less attractive to you and focus or accentuate your positive attributes. Common sense really, but too often, there seems to be a disconnect in what women wear and what flatters them. We ALL have positives and until you can see them, you cannot celebrate them. When you understand your shape, you can dress accordingly. I liken body shapes to the shape of diamonds. I have identified five diamond shapes to work with. The body shapes are somewhat different for the plus size woman than the woman who wears straight sizes.
Moe: What are three things every plus size woman should have in their closet?
Babe Hope: Great jeans. Great knee-high boots. Well-tailored long jacket.
Moe: At the beginning of this year you partnered with Ulla Popken as a stylist and blogger for Talking It U.P. Why did you decide to partner with Ulla Popken?
Babe Hope: I stumbled upon the fact that Ulla Popken's US headquarters are a half hour from my home and so I approached them. Phyliss Mosca, Ulla Popken's President, and I agreed that Divine Providence brought us together. It would seem I approached Ulla at precisely the right time as they were making significant changes to product, image, and position in the market. We are mutually driven to help our customers be their personal best, and use clothing as a means to do just that: To seize life now -- and not wait to "lose 10 pounds, pay off the mortgage, get a better job, etc.'"
Moe: Plus size fashion over the last decade has grown in leaps and bounds. Do you think fashion in particular for plus size women over forty has been neglected?
Babe Hope: Absolutely. While the rest of the world thinks fifty is the new forty (and recently I heard sixty is the new forty) plus size fashion retailers seem to have missed that memo. My work in social media circles has confirmed the marginalization of the over forty plus size woman. This is so interesting because the spending power of women "of a certain age" is staggering.
Marginalization also exists within the advocates of plus size fashion. Moe, you are one of the few bloggers in the world of plus size fashion-cyberspace who has been open-minded and warmly welcomed me and Ulla Popken. I must add that Diana Rajchel of fatchic.net has also been very supportive.
Moe: Many women over 40 are uncomfortable with the idea of shopping online both for security and fit. What do you recommend for women venturing into the world of internet shopping?
Babe Hope: It is important to put a new paradigm in place to shop on the internet.
1. You must educate yourself to become the expert; you do not need the "expertise" of the salesperson. Why? Because YOU are the expert on you.
2. Bookmark the sites you love, and visit them often, much in the same way you would peruse the mall for ideas. They need not be limited to plus size sites. I look at Tory Burch often for ideas that I will translate.
3. Put together an electronic list of resources for all your fashion needs: intimates, footwear, accessories and all types of clothing, so you can develop full outfits easily. Purchase items that fit into your "closet", meaning if you do not have what you need to wear that item right away, it may be the wrong piece and may sit there indefinitely. Think: complete outfit over great pieces.
4. You must select a couple of brands you know you can trust for fit.
5. Set up an area in your home that mimics your ideal dressing room – lots of space, an area to set things down or hang them up while you are developing the whole outfit, privacy, time to yourself with a good mirror and good lighting.
Moe: What would you like to see for the world of plus size fashion over the coming year?
Babe Hope I am going to answer that question selfishly from a personal and professional perspective--footwear, specifically high heels that support and redistribute weight. I have a patent on a revolutionary design to do just that and hope to find a manufacturing partner so we can make my Happy Heels available in the marketplace.
Get Babe Hope's book Pretty Plus from Amazon.
Visit Ulla Popken for plus size fashions.