Curve Fashion Festival 2018, A Hit Or A Miss?

On Saturday 17th November was Curve Fashion Festival, the event I've been looking forward to all year and the thing that actually truly began my blogging journey. It was my second year attending and the excitement had been building up for weeks in anticipation. Curve for me feels like freedom, the chance to be myself and have no judgement in a room full of women who have similar lived experiences and who are beautiful each in their own way. A room full of fashion that is accessible to me as a plus size woman and to many other women attending, its the dream.

Unfortunately this year wasn't so much a dream for me. Get settled guys, this will be a long one.

St Georges Hall is a beautiful venue, it has high ceilings and the features that are retained from years past are a sight to behold. But with such an old building and the hundreds of steps outside and inside it's not fully accessible. Personally, a venue that does the bare minimum to be compliant isn't where its at for being actually accessible for disabled people.
For Curve the 'accessible' entrance was used, to one side cobblestones (which the Christmas Market was on) which weren't the greatest to walk on with chronic pain and outside the entrance was blocked off for cars due to the Christmas market - so taxi's couldn't pull up outside. Its a good job we were on foot with our hotel over the road.
Once inside there was directions on the floor toward a lift, what the directions didn't tell you that the lift wasn't close by, and once upstairs the lift was what seemed like miles from the entrance of the festival too. For someone able bodied these distances wouldn't seem to be as big a deal, but having to walk such a distance to even enter the festival didn't bode well or help when wanting a break through the day in the fresh air (the heat in the hall was difficult to cope with when you can't regulate your own temperature).
Stairs up to the hall if you didn't take the lift
When we finally reached the entrance to the hall I was greeted by the large crowds blocking the first aisle, with my walking stick it was extremely difficult to navigate and I became frustrated quickly and quite upset. The first aisle was extremely narrow, without the crowds it was still not very wide. For an event for plus size women, I don't feel like this was well thought out - we aren't exactly narrow when plus size and the stalls didn't reflect the size of customers who would be attending.

When we painstakingly reached the end of the first row I had to go out and take a break, the large crowd in such a tight area was already taking its toll - being shoved (I'm sure unintentionally, due to space) and not being able to use my stick properly left me feeling already drained. We went to sit on chairs outside the hall and these were very flimsy folding chairs that I didn't feel safe sitting on, there were also benches - but these moved when people sat on them. The seating didn't seem to reflect the clientele of the day. I sat on the bench but felt on edge the entire time, and embarrassed because of it.
This was the first row, you can see how narrow it is without lots of people, imagine what it was like earlier on.
I didn't get a chance to look at the Nicky Rockets stall properly, which I had planned to stop at. I didn't feel comfortable packed in so tight with my mobility and anxiety. Nicky Rockets are one of my favourite brands for t-shirts and I do like to shop independent when I can. I'll have to keep shopping online in this case, which is a shame as its always nice to speak with the creators.

Being outside the hall was the only real chance to actually have a conversation with people, where others voiced their dismay and disbelief while we talked. When inside the hall it was difficult to stop, or make conversation due to the lack of space to do so - there was no seating within the hall apart from (as I'm told) a small amount near the bar; though I couldn't actually get near to the bar during the day due to crowds, queue's on stalls or the sheer fact it wasn't in the easiest place to access it.

After a break we headed back in, the second aisle was wider, but the stalls were still extremely narrow which made it difficult to get around even if able bodied. I tried to look at the Lovedrobe stall but there were so many people in the queue that with the width of the stalls you couldn't look at most of the items on sale so we decided to head back later. When we did head back I picked up the party dress to end all party dresses for my work Christmas do, at 50% off I was very chuffed with their discount (especially since I'd been eyeing the dress online).
This row was much wider but the stalls themselves were still really narrow
The Boohoo stall was full of sparkle and I knew I'd need to get a photograph with the backdrop later but there was no chance of getting near the stall at the time - and when Gemma Collins was scheduled it was like a madhouse.  Due to the queue for the meet and greet the aisle was actually made narrower as the queue took over a lot of space and this didn't make the venue feel as safe for me with my mobility issues and I wouldn't have felt comfortable in that queue either given the limited space in the area cordoned off. I'll admit the clothing on the stall this year wasn't very me, but I did like their layout and the photo opportunity they had created with a lack of photo booths for use this year.
You can sadly see the pain in my face at this point.
I briefly looked at New Look but nothing really caught my eye, it seemed bit dull to me for the most part. I'd recently been into one of their stores and they had some stunning clothes in their straight size range, full of colour and vibrancy and it just doesn't seem to translate across to the curve section at all in recent months - I'd love to see more of  shared patterns and styles, sized up into plus size correctly in their stores. At Curve the great thing is usually there are some brilliant discounts to be had, in New Look's case though they only had discounts on blue label items (things that were already on sale in store/online). And just more of their curve range in stores in general since its usually hidden away and very limited. Honestly, I also struggled to get around their stall which put me off and made it difficult for me to look around without getting huffed at for being in the way with my stick.

Pretty Little Thing were offering some cute goodybags this year, with brow gel in and mirrors in their tote bags and near the end of the day they declared everything as free, so it was a bit of a scramble for people to find items. I was elsewhere but my Mom picked up a beautiful blazer dress for herself a green zebra top for me. This was a great PR plan and worked really well if you were near by. Plus they didn't have much of a stall to travel back with which is always easier.
The empty rails after the free for all.
The beauty section this year was fuller, which was nice to see. Giving more of a whole body approach is great, but it was so squashed in and the stalls were so tiny compared to last year.
Doll Beauty had this amazing stand last year with dressing tables and stools to sit on and have your lashes applied - this year they were having to apply lashes while standing and mine came unglued during (we did return to the stall and they re-glued them for me) which I can't blame the lovely girls for, but it was much better when they had the space and could actually do things in a way that were more appropriate for the brand.

Boohoo had a stall with lashes, lipstick, eyeshadow and little palettes from their beauty range which were given in small amounts to each customer as freebies. I love a good freebie, and the boohoo makeup last year was something to remember so I was glad to pick up a couple of lovely bits including a new matte red lipstick and iridescent eyeshadow.

Other than from Doll Beauty who I had experienced last year (their lashes are lovely and last so well!) and Boohoo's makeup stall I didn't get a proper look at the other beauty products, the limited space was off putting and I overheated at one point while trying to look so my Mom rushed me out of the hall to sit down otherwise I'd have passed out.

For a second time we were out of the hall because I was struggling and my Mom was too. The heat in the hall was uncomfortable and I couldn't cope with it or the lack of space. We sat outside for quite a while trying to cool me and took the long journey outside too so I could feel some cool air once I was ready to be able to move.

Once we came back in we braved the final aisle, reaching Matalan and having a little look at what they had brought, I returned to their stall later and discussed fit with a very helpful lady from the corporate side who I'm going to email my thoughts to on some items soon as she was really open to ideas and making sure that their sizing was the best it can be. They had some pretty pieces but unfortunately that included a couple of pieces that hadn't fit me previously, even sized up (which is what I discussed with their buyer).  It was slightly easier to be able to look at Matalan's stall because of how it had been set out, though the narrowness was still limiting. Also on my later return I got to meet Danielle Vanier, a fellow fibro warrior and all round superstar. She was so kind and genuine and I can't wait to watch her vlog on Curve.
Isn't Danie so beautiful?
We got to Topsy Curvy to be greeted by Jo and Nat and have a nice chat and browse their clothes. Their stall was so busy and I couldn't have been more pleased for them. In their exit from Lovedrobe I really hoped this would be great for them. I picked up a couple of lovely items that I can't wait to wear and their selection was great for such a little stall. They're the perfect plus size brand on a budget, they're my kind of fashion - you can wear an item a few times and still get the worth from their prices because they're so reasonable. They really brought their A Game and made sure that people would be able to look at their clothes as much as possible with the space they had.
River Island brought some beautiful pieces this year and that jacked Callie Thorpe was wearing was the sparkly jacket of dreams (if you know, you know), but they are as always a little out of my price range for general wear and with removal of all plus size clothing from their stores recently I felt a little sad too.
Cute embellished shirt from RI
Curvissa are another brand that are generally out of my price range but Laura (What Laura Loves) has designed a beautiful little collection with a faux fur gillet that is to die for. You could feel the quality in their clothing and it is definitely worth the expense if you can afford the cost. I really liked some of their pieces and it was great to chat to Laura about her collection and about Curve - talking to her last year really helped me in my decision to start blogging, she was so kind and is very encouraging of others and their journey and hearing more about her journey was really great. Its always so nice to see bloggers creating collections with big brands and their efforts being seen by so many people.

Despite seeing some brands and items I liked - I don't know how many times I had to exit the hall due to crowds, the heat or the pain caused by the event but I do know that despite mine, and my Mom's best efforts for it not to it definitely dampened the day.

I struggled so much to get through, to be able to use my stick properly, and to feel like a valid customer at Curve because I don't feel like the disabled access was a priority or the general comfort levels that we had last year were there.
In having a lack of real, comfortable seating I couldn't rest properly, I couldn't get a drink because the bar was awkward to get to and the queues far too long.
I didn't eat anything all day until we reached our hotel on the night because the Christmas market felt so far away when having to wait long times on the single lift in the building to get downstairs and then walk on cobbles that caused me pain and my stick to slip it just wasn't worth it.
I visited the catwalk floor once, to view the fashion show and part of a talk but the theatre style seating prevented me being able to sit comfortably up there so we had to find some floor level seating at the back of VIP as the old theatre seats were not designed with tall people, and especially not plus size people in mind, and all the theatre seats were up a couple of steps so inaccessible to those in wheelchairs too. The directions on the floor were not the easiest to read or the best for really grabbing attention either.
I didn't get to meet some of my favourite people this year, the layout wasn't as easy to get around or chat to people and meeting bloggers who were there with brands was far harder due to space which was a shame.

I returned to the first aisle much later to look at the Yours stand and talk with their lovely buyer. I didn't however pick anything up from them as they're available in the local city centre and are the only plus size store we have in central Birmingham so I know I can pick up their items and actually look a little more regularly than other brands as well as try things on in store in more spacious changing rooms. Plus the stall was like the others, on the small and narrow side.

Fell a little in love with this Yours pinafore dress
At that point of returning though the t-shirts on the Nicky Rockets stall had all been sold.
Even when things had quietened down and I had chance to look at the first aisle it was still too narrow for such an event, especially for disabled attendees. That feeling of unease when I first walked in certainly stayed with me.

Love4All Plus approached me on my return to the first aisle and kindly gifted me a lovely dress which I'll be posting on my socials soon. Their brand intrigued me when announced this year and it was nice to see the owners in real life and the clothes too. The starfish print dress is beautiful in real life and the wine colour dress I was gifted was such perfect quality.

All in all, the day was not what I expected or hoped for. The lack of seating inside the hall, the lack of general space, one food vendor for cake (which not everyone wants) and a bar that I couldn't really get near definitely left me disappointed. The venue is a beautiful place, but the layout and missing links just left a bad taste in my mouth. I love Curve Fashion Festival, it opened my eyes to a world where I wasn't alone, and to brands that I love now but this year was not a patch on the last and the venue being on 3 floors (entrance, fashion hall and catwalks) just didn't flow. I really hope that next year we are back to an event that doesn't leave me feeling disheartened and in pain for days afterward. I definitely thanked past me for booking the Monday off, as I couldn't move after returning from Liverpool and Tuesday was a struggle to face work. I really hope not to feel this way again, I felt so undervalued and let down as a customer, disabled person, and as a plus size woman.
A stunning venue, just not a suitable one.
I'd just like to say a massive thank you to the lovely vendors and the wonderful people I met and did get a chance to speak to this year, however limited that was. It was great to meet bloggers I've admired for years and see those that I've come to call friends too, though I wish it had been in better circumstances. The plus size community is like home, and I'd really like to come home to Curve next year and feel the same way I did in 2017. I really hope curve comes back next year, bigger and better and more accessible. I don't want to feel how I did at the end of that Saturday next year. Thank you so much to the people who made the day far more bearable and the very long journey feel a little less wasted, including my incredible Mom - who without I don't know where I'd be.
Me and my Mom at Curve.

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