Chris Grosser once said, “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” Which sounds annoying until you see it come to fruition. The Carla Kiley Collection was an opportunity I created, born from a deep passion of mine: Make shopping fun for everybody, size, and shape.
The seed to start my own dress line was planted on a shopping trip in Charleston. My sister Emily and I hit up the boutiques on King Street last April.
I was prepared for none of the clothes in the store to fit me, as is life when you’re a plus-size babe. But I was still excited because, as a fashion lover, it’s always fun to look and see what’s new.
But Emily wouldn’t have my “just browsing” mentality. (Big sisters and their compulsion to make us happy, amirite?!)
She inquired about their plus size section, and the employees working that day looked nervous and started stammering about a couple xxl dresses they carried in store.
One of the sales associates did find me three dresses I could try on. (And honestly, they were very nice about it, and it was not a Pretty Woman moment by any means.)
I attempted to try on these XXL dresses, but none fit. One I couldn’t even get over my head.
Again, the sales associates were trying to be friendly and helpful, and one suggested I get one of the dresses in the next size up. That was a solid idea, but that dress literally didn’t exist. I was wearing the largest size they had.
According to Forbes, the average dress size in the US is currently between 16/18. Meaning a size 16 should be in the middle of the size chart, not the very end.
I’m a size 20. I knew that shopping would become more inclusive if more clothing lines put a size 16 in the middle of their size chart.
These were my initial thoughts as we left the shop and headed to lunch with the rest of my family. I jokingly told my dad “I should just start my own dress line.” He immediately concurred with me and said that’s a great idea.
I had no idea where to start, but my family wouldn’t hear it. They believed in my ambition, creativity, and problem-solving skills. They knew I was just the woman for the job.
This is where the movie version of my life would insert a cute 3-minute montage of everything I had to learn and work through for an entire year to get it off the ground.
In reality, it’s been 12 nonstop months of hard work, doubt, excitement, lots of problem-solving, and a massive scoop of faith in my dreams.
I took my time with every step. I wanted my dress line to be flattering on larger bodies and comfortable. I wanted the debut styles to be regular-bra friendly and not too short! (hemming a dress is pretty simple, but there’s no real fix for a dress that needs to be longer.)
With every element of these dresses, I considered my past problems and how I could innovate mine to solve them. It was a lot of hard work but it was well worth it when I received the finished product.
A year after that fateful shopping trip, the Carla Kiley Collection was photographed for the website in Charleston. It was a full-circle moment.
The debut styles for the Carla collection are named after two incredible women in my life. The first is named after my fabulous grandmother, Judy, who was always stylish and joyful, just like I hope these dresses make you feel.
My second dress is named after my amazing Mom, Angela. Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. When the dress line started to take shape, I immediately knew I would name my first two styles after these incredible women.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the first four dresses to be part of the Carla Kiley Collection!
Meet my dream midi dress, the Judy! With a stretchy waist, soft V-neck, easy sleeves, large pockets, and subtle flounce at the hem. This is a dress you can easily dress up or down.
Most importantly, all dresses in my collection will be available, and sizes XS-5X (0 to 34).
The Judy Features:
Emerald is a stunning and versatile color that looks gorgeous on every skin tone and age range, making this address you’ll reach for four years to come.
This rich jewel tone has an elegance and sophistication that can elevate any outfit. Whether you’re looking for a bold statement piece or a subtle pop of color, emerald is the perfect choice.
French Navy is timeless, perfect for everyday and special occasion wear. I love belting this dress and adding a denim jacket for a more casual look or an open-toe wedge sandal and oversized envelope bag for a night on the town.
Introducing the Angela, the short dress you’ve been dreaming of! Boasting a stretchy back panel, flowy skirt, convenient large pockets, and comfortable sleeves, this dress is sure to become a staple in your wardrobe. Best of all, the Angela will be available in sizes XS-5X, so you can find the perfect fit for you.
The Angela Features:
Teal will be a workhorse in your closet. Style this dress with heels and a bold lip for a wedding or date night, or throw on some sneakers and a denim jacket for running errands or a casual weekend! The best part, you can wear your regular bra with all CKC dresses.
The stunning Rose Garden hand-block print features shades of pink with eye-catching pops of teal, perfect for the upcoming spring season.
French Navy and Rose Garden both feature a hand-made block-printed design by artisans in Jaipur, India. Block printing is a traditional method of creating unique fabric designs.
The process involves carving intricate designs onto wooden blocks, dipped into dye, and stamped onto the fabric. The block is carefully aligned with the previous print to create a continuous pattern.
This method allows intricate designs to be repeated perfectly, resulting in beautiful and distinctive fabrics.
The colors used in block printing are often natural dyes made from plants or minerals, giving the textiles a vibrant, earthy feel. This ancient technique has been passed down through generations and is still used today to create stunning fabrics sought after worldwide.
Thank you to everyone who had encouraging comments and DMs for me as I embarked on this journey!
I can’t wait to see the Judy and every one of you! Watching this dress line is a dream come true, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
I’d love to know which one is your favorite in the comments below, Judy or Angela??