Meet the breathtaking bombshell Anne Shea—former academic, businesswoman, class-act, tall role model AND designer behind the fabulous Sarah Vain and Tall line—a capsule collection of timeless, perfectly-crafted dresses for a variety of tall body types. Sarah Vain and Tall has been in the works since Anne’s fashion-savvy youth, and the line is featured both online and in-store at Glamazon Shoes in Ascot Vale, Victoria (Australia). Tall lovelies worldwide, don’t fear—Anne kindly offers free international shipping on Sarah Vain and Tall dresses! She has a gem of a blog as well, so please read up on her latest projects here.
Designer and the next Bond Girl: Anne Shea of Sarah Vain and Tall
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background: where you grew up, whether you have siblings, where you went to university/what you studied, etc.
I grew up in country Victoria, Australia, with tall parents and a tall “little” brother. We lived in a small town, and I was a bit of a strange kid — obsessed with reading novels, spending all my money on Vogue. It was a special kind of torture I subjected myself to in those years, dressed in men’s jeans and huge tee shirts, cutting out pictures of couture!
When it was time to leave for Uni I wanted the same things that a lot of ‘odd’ kids from small towns want — the freedom to do, say, make and wear exactly what I wanted! I studied literature and costume and planned at first to work in the theatre. I wound up working in a huge research library, and created Sarah Vain and Tall on the side — accidentally perfect.
Q: What inspired the creation of Sarah Vain and Tall?
Even as a teenager I knew the world needed amazing clothes for tall women — something out of the ordinary. However I really just made things for myself and friends until social media and easy online shopping came along. Suddenly it was easy to connect with tall women all over the world and I could have my own online store. I discovered that I was not the only tall woman who wanted something different, something the established tall stores were not (and are not) offering.
Think of it this way: only about 2% of women are over 5’11″. That’s a tiny number in a small Australian town, and a huge number when we’re connected worldwide.
So the advent of blogging and Facebook and Twitter was the catalyst for me. I realized that I could make the dresses I craved and sell them to a small number of women who love them just as much as I do.
I especially love the way this lets me connect with people — especially with girls who are going through the horrible teenage years where being different is just what you don’t want. I love being different and I hope that our conversations help in some way. It’s immensely rewarding and I love it.
Q: Taking into account your current selection of dresses, would you mind running through the four styles and indicating particular flattery points and (tall) body shapes each one fits?
Of course! I am trying to make classic dresses that won’t date, and to create for a number of different shapes. The Audrey and Veruschka are slim line, stretch dresses designed as work-to-evening wear. Both of these dresses are utterly perfect on column shapes and hourglass figures, especially when they’re belted.
Then there are curvy girls like me: I am your classic pear shape!! The Kenya wrap dress is built for women like me. Seriously, curvy girls stop traffic in this dress. It’s fantastic to go from feeling too big in the butt (oh hi, denim manufacturers!), to being just woman enough for the dress.
The Betty dress is something completely different, a party classic that’s all sweet Japanese cotton on the outside and all businesslike structure on the inside. It’s great for anyone from a column to a pear, because it’s got room for curves but if you don’t have any, it’ll fake some for you. This dress is my favourite right now and I’m wearing it with a little red cardigan.
Q: Do you have plans to further develop the Sarah Vain and Tall line and add additional separates? And might you sell your designs in United States and UK boutiques, or host pop-up shops internationally?
Oh, yes indeed. I have deliberately been growing slowly, so that I can refine the fit and quality of the garments I sell. I started out selling only in person, then online, and now I have one amazing stockist — Glamazon in Ascot Vale, Melbourne (www.glamazonshoes.com.au).
I am definitely planning on more stockists in the future, as long as they are the right stockists. Pop up stores would also be a lot of fun. Many people don’t know this but I love to come out and meet groups of friends (or basketball teams!) and show them my clothing. The thing they always say is “it’s so much nicer on!” And it makes me all teary when I can fit a girl who has been thinking she is wrong for all the fashionable clothes — when the clothes are simply wrong for her.
Q: What are some “style staples” for you? How would you classify your wardrobe?
My style staples are classic dresses and huge costume jewels — we tall girls can go bold and I can’t walk past a vintage store without checking out their accessories. There are often a few amazing pieces lurking around that smaller girls have had to leave on the shelf.
Most important to me is to buy and look after classic garments that I can play with when the fashions change. There are so very many ways to style a black dress or a wrap and I honestly could not care less what skinny jean is “in” right now.
Q: What are some of your favorite tall-friendly stores/boutiques in the Melbourne area?
I love Glamazon in Ascot Vale. At the moment they’re my only stockist. Mira (the owner of the store) and I get on fabulously because we both share the same attitude — there is no reason why tall clothing should be boring. She stocks the most amazing things and really goes out of her way to find cute shoes in big sizes.
Because lots of tall girls have missed out on ‘normal’ shopping, we often don’t have a clear idea of where to shop or what looks good on us. For that reason I also steer a lot of my clients towards personal styling, and in Melbourne that means Styled By Sally (www.styledbysally.com.au). Sally McKinnon is 6’0″ tall and she can fit you out or revamp your wardrobe in three hours flat. A personal stylist makes shopping easy and you often save money when you shop with their VIP cards!
Q: What piece of style advice would you give tall women?
Spend smarter money on fewer clothes. Most people are surprised to find out that I don’t own many clothes at all — three or four skirts and blouses, a handful of dresses, one coat, a small collection of enormous jewellery. But I love each and every piece and each and every piece fits me. For me, after years of buying things that don’t fit, that’s heaven.
Thank you, Anne! Be sure to visit Sarah Vain and Tall and snap up a designer dress for yourself! Also, be sure to sign up to win your dream dress from SVT by June 28th—this is one amazing giveaway—and follow SVT on Facebook and via Monthly Newsletter.