There's a strict 'Nothing Frumpy Here!' rule at Taking Shape, the new plus-size fashion retailer in Belfast's CastleCourt shopping centre – and it has fuller-figured ladies flocking through its doors.
With the jolly motto Celebrate Your Curves – and 28 years in the rag trade – the Australian company already has a strong online fashion presence at www.takingshape.com and more than 130 stores across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
"A plus-size store was desperately needed here – there was very little choice for curvy women," says Taking Shape store stylist Liz Heath (52), from Leicester.
"We've had a really great response since we opened last month from all ages. Our core customers are in the 40 to 60 age group. We're getting increasing numbers of fashionable over-60s and under-40s ladies, who can't find the variety of styles we offer elsewhere."
A one-stop shop for work, weekend, evening and active wear – as well as accessories and shoes – Taking Shape's collections are in sizes 14 to 26. Layering is the key, according to Liz, who admires Dawn French's confident sense of style.
"We specialise in very fine layers to avoid adding bulk," she explains. "We do sleeveless all year round and lots of cotton under-tops and shrugs to hide the arms – many women of whatever size don't like their arms. Petticoats can be added for a different look; they're really versatile. We have no frumpy stuff – our look is colourful and slightly quirky. As we say, it's all about celebrating your curves.
"Maxi dresses are very popular at the minute and we're already selling our transitional summer to autumn collections in lovely darker shades of orange, purple, which layer together beautifully."
Belfast city centre has already attracted a range of new retailers in the first half of this year, and the opening of Taking Shape further establishes us as a target destination for international retail companies, which are bringing unique brands and product ranges to the city.
Taking Shape alone is catering for a UK market valued £6.26bn, with sales are expected to rise by 21% and to reach £7.57bn by 2017.
So does that mean we ladies are becoming more portly?
"Well, the average UK was always said to be 16 but I'd say it's 18," says Liz. "That's our bestselling size.
"We understand what fuller figured women are looking for and we offer clothing that is fashionable, has personality and flatters, in a fun, relaxed environment.
"The local ladies really appreciate the advice from our in-store stylists, whether they're choosing something to wear to a wedding or work or leisure."