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Are shapeovers the next 'big' thing for women?

If you go down to Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow today, you're in for a big surprise.

Marisota's 'magic mirror'
Marisota's 'magic mirror'

Big is not a word we're supposed to use any more - curvy, more to love, or fuller figure are terms we see on billboards and in catalogues. I understand why the word is out of fashion, so to speak, but it doesn't mean I agree with how it's been dropped from the lexicon like it's something dirty, something to be ashamed of.  Its replacements - goddess-sized, plus-sized - are on the up, and to be perfectly frank, I'm not sure how I feel about them.

Of course, the concept of women's body image is a vast, looming issue, discussed in greater detail and depth elsewhere. But Marisota - an online store dedicated to big women - claims to be different. It has research-based analysis of women's shopping habits. According to Marisota, 39% of women aged between 45-65 would rather stay at home than attend a special occasion wearing something they weren't happy in. Those special occasions are unspecified, but whatever they are - weddings, parties, or any other place to celebrate and enjoy oneself - these stats are a sorry indictment of the way things are.

In Glasgow until Sunday, Marisota has erected a pop-up shop (another recent addition to the modern lexicon) which invites big women to receive a shapeover.

I am a journalist. I really, really like words - it goes with the territory. But sometimes there are only so many new additions to the language I can take before I start to wonder whether this is simply a way to give what is essentially straight up 'styling' a rebrand. Bored of a makeover? We'll give you a shapeover.

The premise at the Marisota pop-up shop is simple. Have your figure assessed by the shapeologists and let them pick clothes to suit you. There is also an opportunity to stand in front of a magic mirror, have your picture taken and see in life-size form on-screen what you would look like in the clothes.

There's no denying that this is a good idea for an online-only store. And more than that - it's actually very effective. The brand's shapeologists (sorry, I'm going with stylists) are enthusiastic and sweet, which is what you want when you're standing in front of a mirror, waving your hands about trying to get it to work and feeling like a bit of a wally.

Behind me, a woman is crying. She is mid-way through a shapeover and her stylist has put her in a patterned dress. Apparently, on paper it shouldn't work - pick up any copy of something similar to Trinny & Susannah and they'll tell you with arched eyebrows that big women can't wear prints, or if they can, there are restrictions. Essentially, there are terms and conditions to dress your body in what you want.

Let's get one thing straight. Women can wear whatever they want. And it seems Marisota agrees - the dress the lady has on has multiple prints and colours and there's things going on with hemlines and necklines that have terms I will never know. She's crying because she looks brilliant, and she never thought she could wear something as bold as this, and look so great.

There is a part of me that feels desperately sad that we are at a point in time where a woman can put a dress on and weep with joy because she received affirmation from someone else that she was finally allowed to do so. But, also, there is a part that just feels happy that she is, and it's catching - without coming over all Disney, everyone around her is smiling. It's infectious.

A defining point came at the end of the visit, when I tried to catch celebrity stylist Mark Heyes to discuss the lines he has produced exclusively for the brand. Apologetically he explained that he had two or three customers waiting for his help, and could I hang on until he was free later. If this sounds like an unusual thing to be impressed by, then it is: too many events like this - open to both the press and public - involve organisers and stylists overly keen to ingratiate themselves with journalists, while potential customers are downgraded to a secondary priority. In shunning me (in the nicest possible way) Hayes unknowingly cemented what - despite myself - I felt about Marisota. That it is doing something different, and that it cares.

Is Marisota going to challenge industry ideals of how women should look, or attempt to play a part in the battle on body image? I don't think so. But then, it feels refreshing and more relevant than Gok Wan grabbing women's "bangers" in a misguided attempt to secure TV ratings.

I like what the brand is doing. I didn't expect to. And I don't even mind the made-up words so much, because I came away from the store feeling that as a woman, I mattered, and as press visiting to cover a story - when there were many women who wanted to be helped - I wasn't a priority.

That is exactly the way it should be, but that's not to say Marisota's public relations skills are lacking - they aren't. Just that there's more to the brand than smoke and magic mirrors.

The Marisota pop-up shop is located opposite John Lewis in the Buchanan Galleries, 220 Buchanan Street, Glasgow G1 2FF until Sunday.

Customers will also be able to order items featured at the events in-store and will be given a special 20% discount and free home delivery.

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