A Dressmaker for the Digital Era: Q&A with KIT’s Natalie Christopher

Kit Shift dress in Graphic Poly.jpg

Add “shift dress” to my list of #bustgirlgoals.

When it comes to finding clothing that actually fits, the struggle is real.

The sheer number of female-owned specialized online clothing companies is a testimony to how frustrated shoppers have been. Instead of using the internet to find cat videos and unauthorized downloads of ’90s cartoons like normal people, we buy clothes without even trying them on in person.

And it’s all worth it. Because every time we sacrificed our hard-earned cash to the Fashion Gods, the industry noticed. Every year, new companies offering a specialized fit arise, often generating a devoted fanbase in the process.

Among them is KIT, a spanking-new, U.S.-based company that creates gorgeous, classic pieces customized to their customers’ specific body shapes.

I had the pleasure of meeting the ladies of KIT at a recent pop-up event in Greenwich, CT. To learn more about what KIT is doing to address diverse body types, I spoke with Natalie Christopher, the Director of Customer Experience.

Tell us about KIT, and what role you play in this company.

 

Kit is a dressmaker for the digital era.

We have thrown out the arbitrary vanity sizing chart and built a unique fit algorithm to make clothing that fits. Kit was inspired from a love of women, fashion, and a bit of despair about the options out there for women.  Fed up with the poor clothing options out there, Merin, the Founder, built Kit to be a new type of clothing company that empowers women.

My unique role is the Director of Customer Experience. I focus on the outward elements of the company while working closely with Merin to build internal company systems to improve the customer’s experience.

What is the best piece of customer feedback you’ve received since launching?

A customer wrote us this email:

“Moment of brilliance as I sit under the dryer waiting on the foils to dry at the salon. Wondering if you’ve overlooked a slogan opportunity……

“Kit’s the shit!”

And the best piece of constructive criticism?

“Fix the website.”

As we grew, the ecommerce platform we chose couldn’t grow with us. We kept trying to strap new things to the side of the already bulky and confusing website. Finally, we sat down and figured out that we had to spend a little and start from scratch. We just launched our new website, and we couldn’t be happier with the user experience and ability to see the customizable options.

How did you determine what information to ask for in the “size you” form?

Before starting the company, Merin became obsessed with measuring women. If she had a chance to talk to you, chances are you would end up being measured. She compiled this information and figured out that vanity sizing misses key elements to a woman’s fit.

I would say first and foremost, our primary and secondary body type elements: pear, hourglass, straight, busty, and apple determine what needs to be adjusted on a dress. Every element of our fit quiz goes into adjusting the pattern and making the dress to fit that customer.

kit Tiered Sundress & Swim Cover up in Graphic Squiggles

I am legit obsessed with their fabric.

Most specialized clothing companies focus on one body type — plus size, curvy, petite, and so on. You address nearly every body type there is, and offer different fabric options on top of that! Is anyone worried this is too ambitious? How do you control the overhead costs while offering this level of customization?

Everything about launching a business seems ambitious! We manufacture each garment in house after the point of sale. This helps keep our inventory low. Fabric inventory will always be tricky, but we have found and cultivated relationships with fabric vendors to allow us to do small batch orders allowing to maintain a controlled amount of fabric.

You haven’t been around for too long, but would you consider any of your pieces to be “bestsellers”?

Our bestseller to date is The Popover, but it may be given a run for its money this spring with one of our newest styles, The Short Sleeve Shirtdress.

Kit Sleeveless Shirtdress in Liberty

Merin Guthrie: Business owner. Artist. Model.

For that matter, which piece is your personal favorite?

It is so hard to choose. I would say that I wear The Tunic Blouse the most, but my current favorite is The Short Sleeve Shirtdress. I am a get up and go person, so I love that you can throw The Short Sleeve Shirtdress on and look put together.

kit short sleeve shirtdress

That is one put-together lady.

Are there any plans to feature models with different body types on the website to give a better idea of how garments fit?

Yes, as a fairly new company we have learned two things. First, it is a challenge to have non-professional models model, and second, professional models are EXPENSIVE. Right now, we love our model who is a normal person with a pear shaped body. That said, as we grow, we would love to increase our budget to have a more inclusive selection of models.

Like a lot of smaller clothing companies, you’ve been marketing through pop-up shops recently. Do you have any stories to share from your most recent cocktail parties?

We learn so much about and from our customers. The biggest thing we find is that women say about their bodies when they are being measured. We actually did a short Instagram series about this. The moment the measuring tape comes out women use all different ways to describe their bodies.

All of your clothing is American-made, which is very rare in this industry. Is the plan to stick with domestic talent no matter how big you get?

It is hard to say what the future holds, but as of right now, yes the plan is to continue to build capacity for manufacturing in Houston, Texas. The good news for us is that Houston has a large number of refugees with seamstress experience.

I’m thrilled that you are designing for different body types, but since this is a blog for busty ladies, what specific structural changes do you make to your clothing in order to accommodate busty figures?

Recently, I spoke to a customer on the phone about this very thing. She is busty, and she ordered our fit & flare. She told me that she has never owned a dress in this style because the seam below the bust never fits over her bust correctly and the hips are always too large. Our Fit and Flare accommodates for both those fit challenges.

Kit Fit & Flare in Tomato Supalpino.png

Another garment that has received extra love in pattern making for the busty gals out there is The Lady Blouse. We added extra fabric to accommodate for the busty figure to prevent gaping on the front of the blouse.

Kit Made Lady Blouse in Cream Silk

How can busty shoppers keep in touch with KIT on social media? And are there any upcoming events we should be aware of?

We are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Our final Fit + Flair Pop-ups are in SoCal in mid-May and Chicago in early June.


/end Q&A

If you live in those areas, I highly recommend following Kit on social media and going to their pop-up. Even if you don’t order anything, the Kit ladies are very knowledgeable about their industry and an absolute delight to talk to.

A big thanks to Natalie for answering all of my questions. I look forward to reviewing my first Kit garment soon.

DD-Atelier is Closing and I am in MOURNING.

dd-atelier-closing

I wish I could go back in time and buy a black dress from DD-Atelier.

I have never mourned the passing of a clothing company before, but no other company has meant as much to me as this one has.

Understand that I love most of the companies I have mentioned in the short time I’ve been blogging.

Biubiu introduced me to the busty clothing world. Urkye fits me like a dream. Pinup Girl Clothing made my wedding magical. Naoko is a dream come true.

But DD-Atelier! DD-Atelier changed my life.

When I first discovered this company, the value of the Euro had more-or-less priced me out of ever purchasing anything. This changed around the summer of 2015, when I ordered my first item.

 

dd-atelier-tie-dye-dress

 

 

And . . . it didn’t fit. I couldn’t zip it past my flared ribcage, and as I’d foolishly convinced myself that I could somehow cardio my way into losing a few inches of bone, I never returned the item.

It’s still hanging in my closet, tags attached, waiting for someone with a non-flared ribcage to purchase it.

So why did I order again? Because this piece was so creatively structured around the bust. Often, companies rely on princess seams or darts to accommodate a larger bust.

DD-Atelier took a different approach.

Each piece accommodates the bust in a uniquely flattering manner. Some, like the first item I purchased, utilized additional panels to create an architecturally perfect enclosure for larger busts.

And hey, some of them used princess lines as well — but with a precision that was downright artistic.

dd-atelier-ornella-dress.jpg

More importantly, DD-Atelier was the rare busty line that offered so much more than cotton jersey basics and vintage-inspired numbers. They released basics, yes, but they also provided busty ladies with officewear, sundresses, winter coats, rain jackets, pajamas, evening gowns, cocktail attire, and more.

 

dd-atelier-white_cayenne_jacket

I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d purchased their suffragette suit when it was still in stock.

 

Certainly, the flawless construction of their clothing made me feel like every time I wore DD-Atelier was a special occasion, even if it was anything but. I’ve worn their clothing in job interviews, to meet with my wedding planner, and even on hikes.

 

dd-atelier-diva-dress

The Diva Dress. For divas, by divas.

 

While DD-Atelier had a “signature” collection that included classics like the Diva Dress and the Cayenne skirt set, I will always regard their team as innovators above all else.

 

dd-atelier_cayenne

The Cayenne is equal parts “flattering” and “professional.”

And here’s the saddest part: If the busty clothing world were larger, more profitable, and, let’s face it, less moral, DD-Atelier would have revolutionized the entire industry. Every other company would be copying their styles.

Substandard, mimeograph-quality pieces would be popping up in fast-fashion stores around the world.

Understand, I wouldn’t want that to happen. But I do wish that the small, creative, internationally successful companies that form the backbone of the busty clothing community would receive the accolades and recognition that they deserve.

These are companies that have never participated in Fashion Week. They don’t have name recognition in the wider fashion community.

 

But they make their customers happy. DD-Atelier made me feel beautiful every time I opened my closet.

So I want to honor their contributions to the bust community. I’ll devote a few posts here to the pieces I’ve purchased over the years, with the hope that other busty companies survive, and continue the tradition of creativity and innovation that DD-Atelier embodied.

Introducing Kit: A Bespoke Clothing Company Coming Soon to a Cocktail Party Near You

Kit_dress_page_coupon

Kit: A uniform soldiers wear into battle. Sounds about right!

I am always on the lookout for new busty or bust-friendly companies based in the United States.

This is mostly to save on shipping expenses, particularly for returns. But more than that, I want domestic busty clothing companies to be so successful that investors start to recognize the demand for these products is very real, and very profitable.

In other words, it would be awesome if investors paid more people to design clothing for us.

And by “us,” I mean “me.”

Which is why I was delighted to see that The Houston Chronicle has profiled Merin Guthrie, founder of a new, body-friendly clothing line named Kit.

Guthrie crowdfunded to start this company, and has achieved quite the following thus far. Kit primarily offers classic silhouettes — office-appropriate investment pieces that will last forever and work for a number of occasions. This includes a standard black wrap dress.

kit_wrap_dress

A classic black wrap dress that actually fits? Do those exist?

As a busty lady, I’ve been told repeatedly that wrap dresses are flattering and that they totally hold their shape and flatter the décolletage.

In my experience, however, wrap dresses exist solely to let the curious public know what color my bra is.

I certainly hope Kit can prove me wrong. Because PRETTY.

Kit doesn’t serve the busty community exclusively. Instead, it asks users to create “Size You.”

This is a personalized size based on user-based input, like body shape, height, weight, bra size, and measurements.

kit_body_shape_guide

So this company could potentially be an EXTRA-win. It may be the rare company that offers a Perfect Fit rather than a Good Enough fit.

They recently redesigned their website, making it more responsive and streamlined.  You can also learn more about the KIT team, which is especially refreshing. While busty shoppers are often familiar with company founders, I really haven’t seen anything this personalized on any of the other clothing websites I frequent.

Speaking of personalized, Kit is hosting a pop-up shops this week!

And by hosting, I mean HOSTING.

Their pop-ups include cocktail parties. Two great tastes, one great event.

Actually, make that TWO great events.

If you’re in New York City on Thursday, be sure to visit the Village between 6 and 8 p.m.

If you can’t do weekdays, you can also meet the KIT team in Greenwich, CT between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Be sure to R.S.V.P. if you decide to go. I may visit one or the other, so you just might see me there.

And check back for an interview with Natalie Christopher, their Customer Experience Director.