Wardrobe Wednesday – Perfectly Priscilla
An interview with Owner and Founder, Deidre Thompson. Perfectly Priscilla is an online boutique that specializes in trendy, fashionable clothing at affordable prices for women in sizes 10-24.
What inspired you to create your line? Tell me about how you got started.
Being from the South, I’ve always loved boutique-style clothing and never had a problem finding it. After having my second child, I found that to be a completely different story. The boutiques that I once frequented, I could no longer buy from, because they only carried sizes small to large and I now fell into “plus size” according to their size charts. I knew having children changed your body, but I didn’t know that would mean I couldn’t continue being stylish at the same time.
In February of 2014, I went shopping for an outfit to celebrate my husband & I’s tenth wedding anniversary. Every piece of clothing I tried on either didn’t excite me, didn’t fit right or was far too expensive. I left the mall completely angry. I realized that no matter how hard I tried to find stylish clothes that fit my curves it just wasn’t happening. I shopped both locally and online, but it always ended with disappointment. Retailers seemed to only carry what I loved in small, medium & large sizes with “select styles” in plus sizes, and of course those “select styles” weren’t what I wanted at all. It wasn’t my body that upset me, it was the choices I was being given. This was the moment I knew I had to make a change.
In March of 2014, I finally had enough and told my husband that I wanted to open a boutique that catered only to women in sizes 10 and up. I also wanted to take out the corporate feel and create a connection directly with the customer. I knew that I could choose clothes that made me feel beautiful and confident, something to help me tackle whatever my day would hold. I had a passion for fashion and a great mindset pushing me.
In June of 2014 www.perfectlypriscilla.com launched from the foyer of my home. For the first six months my husband and I worked our full-time jobs, came home to have family time with our little girls, and then worked until the early morning hours filling orders that had come in that day – I wanted to make sure that our customers received their orders very quickly rather than having to wait a week or two for something to arrive. Each piece of clothing was individually wrapped to give it that boutique feel, that personal touch you don’t get from big brand retailers. Within those first six months, I quickly learned that so many other women felt the same way I did and were tired of the “options” we were being given or, more accurately, the lack thereof. We grew so quickly that by November of 2014 we needed to move into our first warehouse, a 3,300-square-foot space. In January of 2017, we moved to our current location, an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Valdosta, GA.
How have your designs evolved over the years?
Our styles change with the trends. We work tirelessly to find new manufacturers that will cut exclusively for us so we can continue to bring the newest styles at affordable prices. Based on customer requests we began carrying accessories and footwear, and most recently, undergarments. We want to have everything it takes to get the complete shopping experience.
Why do you think it’s so important to cater your line to the plus size woman?
Quite frankly I think it’s insulting that most boutiques only carry small, medium and large clothing when the average woman is a size 12/14 today, and the few that do “dabble” in plus have a very limited selection that is nowhere near as cute as the S, M, L sizes they carry. That type of shopping experience is what makes us feel like we aren’t as important; we love fashion just as much as anyone else. I wanted Perfectly Priscilla to cater to Plus Size because I don’t want women to feel the same way I did before I started this company. I want them to feel like they have the same options as the girl who wears a size two, whether that’s a casual tunic and jeans or a great dress for a date or dinner party – we carry it all.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? Tell us a bit about your creative process.
For me, design inspiration is based on colors and prints. I love color combinations that let me envision how I would style an outfit – we don’t need to just wear black clothing to slim the body. I know when the piece is right because I’ll want it in my closet too. When I try a sample on and I get that “Oh Yes Girl!” smile, that’s when I know I’ve done something right.
What are your core values when designing your products and why?
Quality and affordability are my number one priorities when it comes to designing for Perfectly Priscilla. Someone that purchases a S, M, or L don’t get a price break so why should someone get charged more because they buy it in plus size? We need affordable clothes that are beautiful too. I don’t want to put out styles that just cover your body or look like your grandmother’s clothing; instead, I want to highlight our shapes. No matter what your size, no matter what your shape, you should have the option to celebrate your curves.
What distinguishes you from other designers and brands?
Perfectly Priscilla is fun, fashionable, and affordable; we like to say it’s southern class with a little sass. I love the fun prints, colors, and designs that have been shunned for so long for plus size women. We offer styles that can be worn at the office, on date night, to a wedding and everything in between. Many of our styles are exclusive to Perfectly Priscilla but we carry a number of different brands too. Major brands and department stores generally dedicate to juniors or a more matronly look; we cover the trendy middle that has a great balance between contemporary and conservative.
Not everyone can be successful in the designer world, let alone the plus sized. What would you say contributed to your success?
I was determined and very stubborn. No matter how many times I was told there was no place for a plus size boutique, I wouldn’t take that answer. I strove to give women what they wanted, and for some, what they needed. Our customers have built this business with me; I consider them another family that I’ve gathered along the way. I’ve created this girlfriend mentality where we can chat about what we need next. We give them the boutique feel without the shame of what the size is. They are the ones who have made us successful.
What are some of the challenges that you experienced being a plus sized fashion designer?
When I first started going to markets across the U.S., manufacturers didn’t want to work with me. I’ll never forget taking my oldest daughter with me to Los Angeles and having one of the manufacturers tell me that if I was only doing plus sizes I’d be bankrupt within a year and he wouldn’t expect to see me back. No one wanted their line associated with plus size at that time; they wanted to stay known for small, medium, and large sizing. I had to develop my own stronghold to show them this could be done and there is a market for it. Once I found a couple that was willing to give me the chance, I ran with it. Now we have many manufacturers that want to run plus size in their styles for us.
Tell me about your own personal journey to loving your curves.
I have always loved my body. With each child, my body changed a little and that was okay with me. I grew up with a plus size mother and sister so body image was never an issue in my eyes. Now, having two daughters, I feel it’s more important than ever to love your body no matter what. A tag and a scale should not determine your level of happiness.
Do you have any suggestions for curvy women on how to dress their body and feel confident?
The best way to appreciate your body is to accentuate your positives. The part you love most is what you should focus your style around; don’t focus on covering up, rather show off what you love. Throwing something on to hide your body is the worst thing you can do. Highlight your best feature(s) and you will love every outfit you put on.
Tell us a little bit about your early days and starting your own business – what types of challenges did you face and tell us a little bit about how you overcame them.
I already owned and operated a waxing salon when I started Perfectly Priscilla, so everything was overwhelming and sometimes I felt like I bit off more than I could chew. I started Perfectly Priscilla in the foyer of my home, which soon spilled over into our bedroom and eventually into our laundry room too. Every night my husband and I worked until one or two in the morning filling orders, doing customer service, etc. We were every department. The day the rack in our laundry room broke because we had too many clothes on it was when we knew we needed to find a small warehouse. In November of 2014, we moved into our first warehouse, a 3,000-square-foot space, but our continued growth was much faster than my husband or I ever expected. In December of 2016, we moved to our current location, an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Valdosta, Georgia.
Another challenge I encountered was finding enough looks to shoot each week. Because we release new styles every day (Monday-Saturday), I had to spend countless hours searching for styles that fit my vision. It was incredibly difficult to get unique styles that I loved and felt were worth it. Finding a style available in small, medium and large that plus size would also love was hard to get. My husband would constantly tell me “It’s not forever, it’s just today. They’ll all come around eventually.” I knew I had to keep pushing through to find the gold and eventually I did.
What tips do you have for other women who may be interested in designing and starting their own business, or women entrepreneurs in general?
Never give up. Women are built for business. We are great organizers, multi-taskers, and managers – we do it every day in our own homes. If you have a true passion for something you will work through any problem.
What kind of feedback have you received from your customers in terms of clothing style, fit and quality?
The feedback we receive is extremely positive and is the best part. We have so many women write to us about how they feel so good wearing the styles we put together, or how they’re gaining their confidence back, or how they’re now getting compliments from other women about their outfits. Our customers don’t have to guess how our sizing runs because we try every item on prior to it going live on our website and size it accordingly.
Is there a particular designer or era that has inspired you?
The 1950s is my largest fashion inspiration. I love that it was a time of embracing curves: pinups, Marilyn Monroe, those types of women. The curvy girl was dressed to be shown off. The fit and flare dress and styles are timeless and still a favorite today. We show fashion that mimics that era often. Our swimsuit line for the past two years has featured retro styles, becoming a huge hit with our customers.
What are your future plans for your business, and are there areas you’d like to expand?
We have plans to open a flagship store here in Valdosta and eventually start to wholesale. If the customers will back us we would love to expand our sizing as well. I want to see Perfectly Priscilla become a household name, a true lifestyle brand, offering everything our customers may need.