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By: Rita Zekas Special to the Star, Published on Wed Feb 19 2014

Gussied Up, 1090 Bathurst St.
 
Intimidation factor: Nil. The store was formerly the living room in a non-commercial residence and is warm and cheery with exposed brick walls painted white and hardwood floors.
 
Number of salespeople on floor: One, owner Victoria McGroarty, a bodacious blond in rocker-chic black leather.
 
Response time: Immediate. McGroarty and her Maltese/Shih Tzu pup Betty greet me heartily from the back of the shop.
 
Vibe: Kate Spade meets a funkier Addition Elle.
 
Price range: From $4.99 for a face masque to $299 for a cocktail dress.
 
Rating: Three and a half lip-print sweaters out of four.
 
“I think there are lots of non-skinny-minnies who would appreciate knowing about Gussied Up,” suggests my pal Susie.
Absolutely — since the average North American woman is purportedly between size 12 and 14. So I dutifully schlep to Gussied Up plus-size women’s clothing, located in a formerly inauspicious strip at Dupont and Bathurst Sts., just down from iconic Vesta Lunch.

Owner Victoria McGroarty has me from the hot lip-print cashmere/cotton sweater in the window.

How much fun is that?

McGroarty opened three years come March 29th. She picked the location because she grew up in the ‘hood. A retail virgin, she had a background in business at Bell Telephone, but found it too much a boy’s club. So she researched brands, did a business plan and took the plunge.

“There aren’t many plus-sized stores that are fashion forward,” McGroarty says. “I get customers who are only a size 12 but frustrated by lack of options: When you get hips or bust, you are done.”

Sizing starts at 12 and escalates to 24; 1XL to 3XL. She carries lines from Canada, U.S. and Paris, with tons from veteran Canadian designer Joseph Ribkoff.

I love the forgiving, three-quarter-sleeved dress in a purple and green python print with soft sequins ($185) that would look fabulous on a body of any size.

The store is demarcated by two sections. On one: racks of “designer” wear (priced non-astronomically from $110 to $299); the other is lesser priced ($39 to $89).

The designer-wear side looks like a garden of earthly delights: racks upon racks of florals including a yummy black sleeveless sheath with oversized red roses.

The opposite side houses basics like the perfect white shirt with two breast pockets ($58.50); a must-have black-and-white striped cotton blazer; and an adorable sleeveless blouse with a darling bird print and crochet back.

There’s everything from cocktail to casual and business wear. Not so much matchy-matchy suits, but she does carry black blazers and trousers.

I spot all the staple spring trends: Caftan shirting in a tribal print; boyfriend dressing including the black sweatshirt with silver studs; and black-and-white colour blocking. A sleeveless black-and-white sheath is very Givenchy/Audrey Hepburn but at the non-Givenchy price of $62.50.

She offers a great selection of fun bathing suits, like one with a bathing-beauties motif that has a ‘40s vibe. There are 15 different retro patterns including polka-dot and gingham.

Accessories include lingerie, hosiery, Spanx, jeggings in acid colours (the camouflage ones are sold out) and a line of jewelry called Very Valero, which features amazing pieces like a necklace of tagua nuts that resemble green plantain chips going for the ridiculously low price of $45.

I ferret out an awesome black-and-white horizontally-striped sweater with a huge heart on it by Lisa Todd, the Miami designer behind the lip-print sweater in the window.

What gives? Aren’t horizontal stripes considered taboo for the plus-sized?

“Plus people can wear fitted and striped,” McGroarty insists. “There are no rules.”

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Last week I met up with Liis Windischmann from Lou Lou Magazine 14+ Blog. She came into the store and we discussed Gussied Up, plus size fashion and future plans for plus size events in Toronto. You can read what she had to say about Gussied Up HERE.

xoxo

V

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