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FASHION : Two Who Didn't Fit the Mold Cater to Tall, Plus-Size Shoppers : The women, neither a department store Size 8, open their own specialty shops and find some very grateful customers.

June 15, 1995|ANN SHIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're used to pants above your ankles, or maybe a dreary, shapeless muumuu that covers your wider-than-average girth, take heart. Specialty shop owners Colleen Hancock and Lin Anderson didn't fit fashion standards either, and they fought back.

"I'm 5-10 1/2 and kept looking for pants that were long enough, jackets that fit right and one-piece bathing suits that didn't kill you," says Hancock, owner of Heads Above the Rest, a store that stocks clothing and accessories for women 5 feet, 8 inches tall and taller, in Sizes 6 to 20.

Excited to be meeting the needs of others like herself, she stocks youthful, attractive-looking clothes with recognizable labels, such as Pendleton, and striking jewelry from Westlake designer Ca Ropa. From jeans to leggings, dresses to sweats, swimsuits to sweaters, everything is made for tall women.

Desperate customers who discover the store practically cry with relief. In fact, some actually have.

"When you go shopping in a department store and nothing fits right, you start feeling like there's something wrong with you," Hancock says. "Family members buy gifts for birthdays and anniversaries and tell me how excited the person is about the store."

Hancock enjoys offering individualized service, such as helping customers find a size that fits and coordinating outfits. Although she admits to little retail experience other than a summer stint in sales while in college, she doesn't consider it a disadvantage.

"I figured out what kind of store I like to shop in and how I can make customers happy, which seems to be the only way to have a successful business these days," she says.

Hancock has observed a strong trend toward more casual dress, particularly in Ventura County. Also, the very narrow pant leg is coming back, along with a more modified palazzo, which is preferred over the very wide leg. Pantsuits continue to be popular items for fall and winter.

Polyester is another story. "I think we've pretty much gotten away from polyester, but they're still using it in blends. Most people prefer the purer fabrics like all cotton and rayon," she says, adding with a laugh, "There are other customers who don't buy anything they have to iron."

Mention polyester to Lin Anderson and you can almost hear the sneer. Anderson, owner of More to Hug Fashions in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks, which cater to women Sizes 14 to 60, refers to "bulletproof polyester with the seam down the leg of the pants because they think we're all slobs and can't put a seam in the pants."

An unabashed Size 24, Anderson started her own shop eight years ago because she despaired of ever finding anything attractive in department stores, especially anything not duplicated in every other plus-size section from Broadway to Bullocks. Originally catering to Size 16-plus women, she added 14s to meet increased demands.

"I go up to Size 60 right across the board from swimsuits to underwear to sexy lingerie," she says. Sexy means red lace, peek-a-boo teddies and a black leather bustier that a plus-size Madonna might wear. "Some manufacturers think if you're above Size 8, you're not feminine and you're not sexy," she says.

Details

* FYI: Heads Above the Rest, 4732-1A Telephone Road, Ventura, 658-7176; More to Hug Fashions, 140 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, 371-9149; 644 N. Las Posas Road, Camarillo, 388-2992.

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