Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Eliza Parker Portofino By Night Dress

Alternatively Titled, "Kelsey vs. The Cleavage-Baring Dress"

Dress: c/o Eliza Parker/ Portofino By Night Dress in Black (here)
Earrings: Forever 21
Bangle: Forever 21
Belt: Target

When Eliza Parker recently offered to send me an item of my choosing from their online store, I squealed with delight. Lilli and Rebecca had both managed to convince me that Eliza Parker makes some of the comfiest -- and most beautiful! -- clothes out there, so I had been dying to feature the brand on Charming Pumpkin. I waffled back and forth a bit about what I wanted, but ultimately settled on the Portofino By Night Dress in Black. My reasons were two-fold: first, I own exactly zero -- count 'em, ZERO -- long dresses. Second, low cut dresses and I have had an interesting? hate hate? relationship in the past. In the interest of trying something new, though, I figured this would be a wonderful opportunity to give a long, low cut dress a whirl, and boy am I glad that I did!

Made of a soft, weighty, wrinkle-free and luxurious jersey knit fabric, the Portofino by Night Dress is fully lined, and has thick straps for those of us with, ahem, heftier maidens in the chestal area. No spaghetti straps here, ladies. Hallelujah! I sit right around 5 feet 6 inches tall, and the dress proved to be the perfect length with flats; it doesn't drag on the ground at all.

I initially had no idea what kind of a bra to wear under this dress, low cut as it is. Enter the amazing and oh-so-helpful Jessica. I sent her an email enquiring what the models on the website wore under this dress, all the while crossing my fingers that they hadn't rigged something up that involved copious amount of duct tape, and no small amount of luck. Thankfully, she responded promptly and informed me that the models had worn one of Lane Bryant's plunge bras. How's that for customer service?

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this dress. As I'm sure you've noticed, I don't typically wear low-cut dresses. I apparently have the sensibilities of a Victorian maiden that way. I felt surprisingly comfortable and at ease in this dress, though. I felt sophisticated. While it certainly falls ever-so-slightly on the dressier end of the spectrum, the Portofino By Night can be dressed up or down depending upon the occasion, which makes it a versatile addition to anyone's closet.

Eliza Parker carries dresses from sizes 10/12 to 26/28, and every single item on the site is impeccably tailored, beautifully colored, and utterly flattering for curvier figures. I have my eye on the Monaco Dress in Burgundy and the Nantucket Dress in Navy. If you haven't checked out Eliza Parker's site, you should head over there right now! I would be shocked -- shocked! -- if something doesn't catch your eye.

Eliza Parker's founder, Jessica, was kind enough to answer some questions for all of you about her clothing collection! Enjoy reading her answers; I know I did! =)

CP: When did you first know that you wanted to break into the fashion industry? 
I have been plus size my entire life, and I have always been passionate about fashion. Throughout my life, I have struggled to find stylish clothing that fit my body. I did a bit of research and found that I was not alone. 43% of women in the US are size 14+ and many of them are unsatisfied with current apparel offerings. If you walk into a shopping mall, there may be six stores where a plus size woman can shop, but 40 stores for a "straight-size" woman. The opportunity was apparent, and I knew that with the right team, we could offer curvy women stylish clothing that fits.

CP: What's your design and/or fashion philosophy?  
Fit is critical and I love silhouettes that show off a woman's curves.  I also spend a lot of time thinking about fabrics, colors, prints, and special details and trims.  My goal is to excite our customers.  I want women to wear our clothing and love it.  I develop silhouettes that flatter the curves, pick fabrics that are luxuriously comfortable, and add details, like pockets, that make me smile. 

CP: What is your design process?
We sketch out different ideas, develop patterns and samples, and have fittings with our fit model to perfect the fit and details.  We will never produce anything unless everyone on the team loves it.  I even wear all of the samples out on a couple of occasions to make sure that I'm happy with the fit and that the style can be worn multiple ways.  The fit, style, and fabric all have to work together perfectly before we'll put it into production.

CP: What's your favorite thing about what you do?  
I love interacting with our customers.  I try to personally answer as many emails from customers as possible.  I want to hear feedback (good and bad!) about our clothes and service. 

CP: How would you describe the quintessential Eliza Parker woman?
I am designing for a woman who is always on the go. Our customer needs great separates for work and party dresses to wear to weddings, cocktail events, and other occasions. She is stylish and loves clothing that fits her curves. 

CP: How would you describe your collection's aesthetic?
Our aesthetic is classic with a twist. Many of our looks can be worn season after season and are easy to
transition from work to play. At the same time, we add great details and trims that keep our styles youthful, special and on trend.

CP: What are your current favorite pieces?
It's so hard to pick a favorite (it's like picking a favorite child!).  I will say that I wear the Sofia dress every week and I wear the Million Ways Cardigan almost every other day.  Both are just so easy, comfortably and chic.  My favorite party dresses right now are the Monaco and Portofino.  

CP: Where do you find your inspiration?
I love to draw inspiration from 1950s and 60s silhouettes -- a time when women's curves were really celebrated.  Our Monaco dress was inspired by a dress that Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window.  It's timeless and dramatic, yet wonderfully charming. 

*Eliza Parker was kind enough to send me this item free of charge. This in no way affected my opinion of the item or the company. I'm an opinionated beast of a woman, so you can be sure that if I hadn't liked the item and/or company I would have said so. For serious.

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