Now, one could try to argue that I already have ‘too many’ Claudia dresses from the Alexandra King for Deadly is the Female line. Could, but I would suggest no one even bother, because there’s no way they could convince me. I own 4 of the bishop sleeve knee-length dresses (a pure classic, I don’t regret a single one of those purchases,) a bishop sleeve velvet floor length gown (bought for my sister’s now-postponed wedding, which I will now be desperate to wear ASAP as a result,) and a chiffon-y delicious flutter sleeve knee length dress, which is a summertime glory. So, yeah, you might have thought I ‘have enough,’ BUT. BUT! That would be wilfully ignoring the fact that they’ve recently released their first line of printed maxis, and my goodness, they are gorgeous.
I was lucky enough to see the entire spring-summer line when I modelled for Deadly in early March, before everything was shut down due to Covid-19. I’m so grateful for that experience not only because it had been a while since I’d modelled for them, so it was a joy to get to spend time with Claudia (Deadly’s owner,) Sarah (AKA Scarlett Luxe, Deadly’s shop manager and model,) and Kevin (their photographer,) but also because I got to meet Alexandra, the bespoke designer and maker with whom Deadly partnered to create their own line. The experience also meant I, duh, got to try on the new line, to not only see for myself how lovely it was, but to be pleasantly surprised by how much I loved these new maxi styles on my figure, something I would not have expected.
I don’t often wear maxi dresses. As a dress type they rarely catch my attention anyway, but once I take into account how they look on me I find that only a rare few fit me the way I’d like and happen to be a style I would gladly wear. I bought a few cheap, basic maxi dresses last summer during the heatwave in attempt to find something airy and easy to wear that made me feel as comfortable aesthetically as they did physically, but they were nothing special and I largely just wore them at home or for my lazier days when friends were coming for dinner. The Deadly maxi dresses, though? Oh, they are definitely something special.
The clear stand-out in their design is that they follow the same ingenious cut as the original Claudia dress, which is to say that they are basically a billowy smock when unbelted, but carefully crafted to transform upon belting into a sexy, sleek 1940s loungewear inspired vision. As such, it’s a one-size-fits-most design, and upon launch exactly one year ago they thought the Claudia would work for up to 42-inch busts. I gave the Claudia dress a try in the autumn, tentatively, and was delighted to discover that my 46, sometimes-47 inch bust fit in it just fine without drastically altering the flow of the dress, enabling me to join the ranks of ladies who were more than a little obsessed with this dress style.
The new printed maxi dresses provide the same gorgeousness and glamour as their plain predecessors, this time in white- or black-based red florals, or black and white polka dots. The floral prints come in a flutter sleeve version (so dreamy! I love the black,) while this polka dot specimen oozes elegance with full length bishop sleeves. During our March photoshoot I fell in love with this maxi dress on Sarah, who modelled it flawlessly, but when I served as a plus-sized fit model for Alexandra for this dress we discovered it didn’t fit me. Alex, determined to create the most beautiful and comfortable pieces, simply took notes that the bishop sleeve should be elasticated (the bishop Claudia’s made in stretchy fabrics usually have a fixed cuff,) and that there needed to be some extra fabric added into the upper and under arm area. Voila! After treating myself to this dress with my birthday money, I am beyond thrilled to report that it’s now a perfect fit for me.
If you’re familiar with the Claudia dresses then looking at these pictures will tell you everything you need to know about the cut and fit of this iteration, but if you’re new to the design then let me break it down for you. The dress is a loose, shapeless V-neck smock that is cut to fall into a pleated, hourglass gown when cinched with a belt. The largely-sizeless cut means you can truly create the right fit for you by choosing exactly where to wear your belt and how deep you want the V-neck to plunge. I find that pulling the shoulders back a little means I can pull the V-neck up to a slightly more modest alignment that’s sure to hide the centre of my bra, but gently pulling the middle of the dress downwards below the belt once it’s tied will pull the bust lower, giving a deeper plunge and closer fit.
Even though this dress shimmers somewhere between luxurious lounging robe and glamorous dress, it still offers practicality with hidden pockets in the skirt. A key tip when arranging your pleats post-belting to get the best shape in the dress is to locate the pockets then pull them into place at your hips. Not only does that mean they’ll be easy to find, but it also brings the dress into the shape it was designed to be worn, with all that flowy, buttery fabric gathered in the front of the skirt for maximum flattery to your figure. Like all Claudia dresses, this maxi version features a slit in the skirt, to roughly mid-thigh–be prepared to feel like Aphrodite as you walk, with your legs peeking out with each graceful step. The skirt is also cut slightly high-low, so that you’re less likely to catch the skirt in the front as you walk, while also having the added benefit of better displaying your fabulous footwear, but without losing any of the drama of having the dress kiss the floor in the back.
Made from a semi-sheer georgette fabric, this dress comes with a matching slip made in a stretch jersey to provide you with the option of modesty, should you choose to take it. If not, you can wear this dress as boldly as you wish, layering under it anything from a plain black bra and high-waisted pants, to your sexiness lingerie–or not much else at all! Certainly for at home wore, you could give your partner a thrill by slipping this dress on with nothing underneath. The flow and movement of the fabric is plenty sexy even when worn with a slip, but without? Oh my!
Considering this is a maxi that can even get use in the bedroom, this dress provides even further versatility with the fact that it can be styled up or down for any occasion. Ignoring our current covid restrictions, let’s daydream some scenarios, shall we? Need to run to the store on a hot summer’s day? Throw it on with your comfiest sandals and try to remember your sunglasses as you run out the door. Going to a barbeque? Sun hat and strappy flats or wedges. Going on holiday? Hello! Your new favourite cover up that can take you to the beach, right out on a walking tour, than straight to dinner. Garden party, day at the races, best friend’s birthday party, burlesque show, picnic in the park, meeting your partner’s parents?? It can work for all of them. You can add wooden or bamboo bangles, a vintage half hat, a contrasting belt, huge cocktail rings and a ridiculously glittery crystal necklace; do anything you want, it will most likely look insanely glamorous and chic. This dress can do it all, and it will, effortlessly.
Can you tell I’m super, super happy with this dress? Yeah, that’s probably coming through.
As a UK size 18/20, I’m technically outside the size perimeter that the Deadly and Alexandra King teams thought would fit this dress, but I and many other plus-sized babes that you can find in Deadly’s Facebook group prove that women of almost all shapes and sizes can wear the Claudia. This polka dot version is made from a non-stretch fabric, so it will have less wiggle room (literally and metaphorically) for plus sized folks to fit than their other stretch-fabric Claudias. However, as mentioned above, there is no issue at all with my 47 inch bust in this dress–it doesn’t strain across the bust, or under the arms. Nor is there a single moment of tightness, pinching or discomfort for my large upper arms, which usually need about a 17-inch circumference in a sleeve across the bicep to have totally comfortable ease of movement throughout a full day’s wear.
This dress comes with a matching fabric belt, which would be the main ‘issue’ in terms of fit because the larger one’s waist is the fewer times one can wrap the belt around it to get the required cinching effect needed to achieve the pleated flow the dress was designed to create. The fabric is non-stretch, so there is literally only so much yardage to work with in this regard, so larger lovelies might need to use a different belt or order one of the stretch fabric Claudia belts to use instead. I’m someone who often likes to switch out matching fabric belts for my own belts, across all dress types, but in the Claudia dresses especially I love the extra definition a thick, sturdy belt gives to my waist, so using a wide faux leather style belt like I have done for these photos would probably be my go-to styling choice anyway. Other ladies can even use a wide elasticated belt to achieve a similar look but with greater comfort, if faux leather doesn’t sound like your thing.
Like all Alexandra King pieces, this dress is handmade a short distance from Deadly’s Frome boutique, which is currently closed to the public. You can order it from Deadly’s online store which is still processing orders worldwide, all shipped with a handwritten note of thanks from Claudia. As both Deadly and Alex’s teams are comprised of a handful of dedicated, hard-working women between them, this is an especially difficult time for their businesses and I’m sure that any support you can give them would be greatly appreciated. I was so pleased to be able to spend my birthday money buying 2 Deadly x AK pieces (expect a review of the other item too!) during such a trying time, but knowing these items will last me an age and can also fit any of my friends and family who might want to borrow them makes them feel like an even more special investment.
The Black Polka Dot Claudia maxi dress is one-size-fits-most. It is also available in a knee length version if maxi dresses aren’t for you; if, on the other hand, you love maxis but aren’t into polka dots, you should check out Deadly’s other printed and plain maxi dresses–there’s even sequins!
Disclaimer: The belt used in this outfit was bought from Collectif Clothing, who have gifted me other items for review in the past. All opinions expressed are truthful and my own, with no input from any of the companies listed or any other individuals.
COVID-19 NOTE: These pictures were taken in the safety of my garden, thus abiding by the strict social distancing rules currently in place to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Please stay home, and when necessary to leave the house for work or necessities remember to keep at least 6 ft away from any persons you may encounter.