Recently, we collaborated with globetrotter Stacey West to share a blog post and a live video discussing what it’s like to be a plus-sized horse rider. Well, I am thrilled to say we were INUNDATED with comments and messages from globetrotters who connected with what we were saying, and more than a few recommendations for one particular brand of equestrian apparel: Fuller Fillies.
Now, rather than try to explain the brand myself, I reached out to the founder of Fuller Fillies, Suzanne Wild, to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth. Read on, plus-sized globetrotters!
FULLER FILLIES – BECAUSE BIG GIRLS RIDE TOO!
“My name is Suzanne Wild; I am the designer and owner of Fuller Fillies. Fuller Fillies was launched in the UK in 2006; the research behind the brand had been ongoing for two years at that point, and it is interesting to hear the background…
As a 39 year old, I returned to horse riding after a 25 year lapse. I was a slight size 8 back in the day, but now I couldn’t even fit that on one leg – I was a UK size 18/20. Still, I thought I could waltz into a tack shop and purchase what I needed. After all, I was pretty representative of over half the ladies I saw at yards, events, markets – in fact, EVERYWHERE there were horses, I saw carbon copies of me!
The weekend came and off I trotted to my local store. I flicked through the legwear, got the biggest two sizes and went to try them… but I couldn’t get them over my knees! So I asked the shop owner, ‘Excuse me, but do you have anything to fit me?’
Repeatedly, the answer was ‘Yes, of course,’ and I would be guided to their bigger sizes, but it was all in vain! Occasionally, a shop owner would be intrigued that their offering didn’t fit: ‘This is XL and you are nowhere near that, so it should fit!’ … it never did.
My husband worked in accountancy and there was an insolvency division; one day the liquidator called with a great deal on horse tack and clothing. We bought the stock and organised a week packed full of sales. We had some lovely clothing, but nothing bigger than ‘skinny minnie’, and I was constantly asked, ‘Do you have this in a bigger size?’
So when the sales ended and we had some stock left, we built a website. I scoured the brands trying to find clothing to fit ladies of my size; there were some bits and pieces available, mostly from brands that had now folded… but it was soon clear that we had a solid and loud calling!
I had studied fashion design in the early 80s, so I refreshed my knowledge and began to think about what needed doing to bring a well-fitting and comfortable brand to market. Then we mortgaged ourselves to the hilt and put a launch wardrobe into manufacture! We sponsored big events and gave talks; we paid a fortune to advertise in magazines, starting in the UK and then in Australia, the USA and Canada. For some reason, we always struggled in Australia. The USA embraced us and we built a string of trade re-sellers, and now we send more there than we sell here on home soil… but Australia was always like knitting treacle!
Aussie Ladies, we would LOVE to find a professional partner to stock our brand PROPERLY and work with us, and you, to establish a supply on your home soil. Coming out of a worldwide lockdown seems to be the perfect opportunity for this – and hearing how so many of you have found us, or stayed with us, is such a buzz!
If you know of a tack business with multiple outlets and a great website, and you think we should be talking to them, please send us their details and we will do the rest.
And of course, we would like to hear what YOU want from us! We have started over with our best sellers in our store, such as boots, half chaps, breeches and socks, but we want to do more! We are working on leggings, and as soon as COVID releases its nasty grip on the world we will be forging ahead – so let us know what you want!
We have a great and well established Facebook page and community group, not to mention a group for Australians to buy and sell pre-loved Fuller Fillies apparel. Get on board with us because this train is heading to YOUR destination!
*** FULLER FILLIES Q&A ***
How does sizing work with Fuller Fillies? We noticed it seems different to other brands.
Fuller Fillies sizing is VERY different from any other brand, either equestrian or fashion. To be honest, the whole issue of sizing is a mess and we believe our ‘XLovely’ ladies deserve different… they deserve the BEST.
Can I first dispel the ‘dress size’ myth? NOBODY, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, CAN SAY THEY ARE A DRESS SIZE X OR Y WITH ANY CONFIDENCE WHATSOEVER! Look in your wardrobes – I will wager you have at least three different sizes in there. The ONLY way you can be certain of the size you are getting is if A) the brand gives you the size of the garment in inches/centimetres – what it actually measures, and how that fits, and B) you know what YOU measure.
Every product we make has a guide attached which tells you how to measure yourself, and how to apply YOUR measurements to OUR sizing. If you follow the product’s guide, you won’t go wrong.
We do get asked if our breeches accommodate big bums or thighs because we only give waist size, but let me tell you, in 16 years we have not once failed to accommodate either!
*Occasionally, due to say a deeper waistband, we recommend you ‘size up’ – the info is always added to that product to inform your decision.
What is the Fuller Fillies difference?
We are wholly dedicated to plus-sizes, meaning we don’t scale up a size 12 to get a 16, or a 16 to get a 24; we understand how the body changes and design accordingly.
We also go through rigorous sampling before any new garment is brought to the market; if I can’t ride for two hours, go home and cook dinner, watch a soap opera and fall asleep in the garment, it isn’t going out to you!
Lastly, we don’t follow fashion; our customers want quality, comfort and classic styling at a good price, and that is what we focus on. We do adopt some trending ideas that work for our ladies, though – the Sticky Vicki Breeches are an example where we took the ‘zeitgeist’ and made it work for Fuller Fillies.
Have you thought about making smaller garments?
Never! But we do get asked. The thing is I am a plus-sized woman and I know this size type… it is a long time since I was below size 14. Yes, I could make the patterns, but I have no interest in doing this for a well-supplied market. Our ladies love nothing more than when a friend asks, ‘Where did you get them from? They are gorgeous!’ and they can reply, ‘Sorry, they don’t do them in your size!’ 😉
Are all your jods and breeches thick to cover up lumps and bumps?
Hell no! In the beginning, we did use more robust fabrics, but there has been a real surge in lightweight fabrics which are retentive and robust, looking smooth while still being super comfy. We’ve got our customers’ backs here in all we do… we will always have fabric made to meet our exacting standards!
You offer boots with larger calves, but do customers need to go up a few sizes to get a fit?
I never really understood boot size logic! My degree didn’t cover footwear, but I was astounded that the norm is for the calf on boots to increase with the foot size. That is nonsense! There are ladies who are 5 feet tall with a 21” wide calf, and others who are 6 feet tall with a 16” calf – there is just no correlation! There IS, however, a relationship between foot size and calf length, and it is extremely rare to find a lady with size 4 feet who requires a long-length boot, or a lady with size 9 feet who requires short-length boots. For our boots, we treat the boot ‘sock’ as totally independent from the foot size.
Fuller Fillies used to make jackets; do you plan to bring them back into production?
After our parent company liquidated and we had to begin again, it was a no-brainer to begin with the best sellers (footwear and legwear) and build the sales from there. We had hoped to introduce jackets again by now, but the COVID pandemic put a stop to that, as the factories could only produce the stock they were already committed to.
We will only bring in a new line if and when we can get everything right – and that includes pricing and quantities. You MUST be a reasonable business person to get this right, as well as a good designer, a plus-sized woman, and a horse rider!
How has the market changed now that there are other brands offering bigger sizes?
To be honest, we are astounded it has taken so long for other brands to appear! But the entire clothing industry is becoming more realistic in its sizing now and this seems to have filtered through. However, we still think there are too few getting it right. Yes, they come to market with new lines that look attractive, at a good price – but how many of them will still be around in five or 10 years?
We have actually helped out a handful, but unfortunately many start-ups have a great idea, but lack the business experience to properly cost the project out and get it to market. We were the first, and we are still the ONLY brand dedicated wholly to plus-sized equestrian wear. And you know what? We are the best!
There isn’t much Fuller Fillies stock available in Australia and New Zealand – can we buy direct?
Yes! Australians and New Zealanders can buy direct from our website. The great news is that we are about to swap to a new shipping partner who can reduce most shipping costs by a third! As a result, our pricing will be altering over the next couple of weeks.
P.S. if you would like to tell us about a possible Aussie or Kiwi trade partner, with multiple outlets and a great website, please send us their details!
Can you explain how international shipping rates work for Fuller Fillies?
When you place your order and enter your address, the system will show you the price of shipping to your location for either Priority or Economy (although you may only see one option, depending on where you are). As a rule, the more you order, the better the rates are. We charge shipping as we are charged ourselves – on weight. Boots, however, are ‘volumized’ due to being boxed, so they’re charged according to both weight and box size. This means you can add a pair of breeches (or half-chaps) or two to an order for boots with only a small increase, or no increase, in the shipping fee. Maybe think about consolidating your orders with a few friends – put it all on one order and you will find the shipping becomes extremely economical!
Can international customers return products if they need to?
Of course! We have very strict consumer contracts laws here in the UK and apply them to our overseas sales, too. The customer has 14 days to decide if they want to keep the product once it has been delivered to them, and if they don’t, they MUST email us before day 14. We respond with a link to our terms (which they really should have read before ordering) and they then have a further 14 days to get the product back to us. We extend the return notification period around Christmas, as we know stuff gets bought for prezzies – and if you notify us that the product is a gift when placing your order, we will give you an extended return period whatever the time of year.
We do recognise that making an overseas return can be expensive, so we have created a number of ‘Fuller Fillies pre-loved groups’ on Facebook. Our product keeps its value well, so you can sell new or used items in these groups and get almost all of your money back (more in some cases, as you can get it to the buyer quicker!) It’s always worth trying to sell things in these groups – here is the dedicated group for Australia/New Zealand.
You have measuring and sizing info all over your website, but can customers contact you if they are unsure?
Absolutely! There is a contact form on our website and we answer within a day or two (we don’t can’t respond from Friday to Sunday). You are right – we put a lot of measuring guides and charts on the website, but we find that if a customer is browsing using a mobile device, they don’t scroll far enough to see them. We can always send our measuring guides and charts to you when you contact us, and provide any clarity you might need.
One request, though: before sending the email, PLEASE ensure it makes sense! You would be amazed the number of unanswerable questions we get along the lines of, ‘My daughter is 15, what size boots will she need?’ – Yeah… really!
You sell in British Pounds, but can international customers pay in their native currency?
Yes, depending on your payment method. On our website you can pay using either your bank account or PayPal. Some banks offer an automatic exchange rate, but require you to advise them that you will be purchasing abroad first. PayPal, on the other hand, will do this automatically! PayPal uses the prevailing exchange rate at the time of purchase to allow you to pay in your native currency.
Google and other search engines have in-built currency converters, so you can easily find out the price of a product in your own currency.
We hope you’re feeling inspired and informed, globetrotters!
Remember, if you need some inspiration when it comes to globetrotting as a plus-sized rider, you’ll find it here.
And if you’re keen to check out some more plus-sized riding apparel options, click here.