The Ultimate Wrap Dress reviewed - CQ Discovers Gok Wan for Tu at Sainsburys
Itt was only a matter of time before Gok Wan launched a clothing range. Hitting the rails to cleverly coincide with the new series of Gok's Fashion Fix, which puts outfits from bargain retailers and supermarkets up against high street retailers, Gok has created a capsule range for Tu at Sainsburys.
As CQ's resident celeb range expert, I was sent to investigate...
The range plays on Gok's idea that every woman only needs a handful of interchangeable items in her wardrobe to create loads of looks, so the items are designed to work with each other, and there's a lot of black and red. For me, the collection is a bit hit and miss (jodhpurs?!) but it's clearly aimed at an older shopper, so I was hardly expecting to love it all. Of the separates, I thought the palazzo pants and cropped jacket with curved hem worked well. But really, the dresses are where this collection comes into its own.
I'm no stranger to Gok's 'figure-fixing' approach. For years he's worked with Simply Yours on a range of shapewear and lingerie, and having tried a few of the pieces I can safely say this is not shapewear for the faint-hearted. His powermesh is definitely powerful.
What I wasn't expecting was for quite so much of this shapewear to be transferred to Gok's clothing range. A lot of thought has been put into making sure these clothes work on more than just a size 8, and all the fitted dresses come with built-in sculpting slips. This is a fantastic idea in theory as the right foundations do make an outfit work.
The only problem? Gok appears to have forgotten that we also need to breathe. It feels like the slips are two dress sizes smaller than the dresses. Once you've got them on, you're fine, but trying stuff on in the shop proved difficult. I took three dresses into the changing rooms but gave up after two!
I tried the Cheongsam Dress (£45) in red first. The slip is a knee-length number with rubberised edges (to keep it in place) and a powermesh around the top. It definitely does its job, but it's sewn to the main dress, so attempting to get into both layers in a tiny cubicle in the middle of a supermarket was no mean feat. It was like squeezing into a wetsuit that hadn't dried out properly.
The problem is that the slip makes you think the dress itself is a lot smaller than it is. Halfway through struggling to get the dress on, I almost gave up thinking it would never fit. But when I did finally get it zipped up I was surprised to find the dress itself fit fine, I just wasn't wowed by it on my body.
Luckily, I still had the Ultimate Wrap Dress (£40) to go, which is the one in most of the publicity photos. A wrap might not be the most imaginative shape, but it is timeless, universally flattering and easy to wear. I love the little details on Gok's dress - the fact the sleeves are full-length and have fabric covered buttons, the ruching up to the mock wrap, and the curved split in the hem.
On the hanger, the 'slip' you get with this dress looks like a built-in vest. The good news is you can unfasten it from the dress at the shoulders and put it on separately. So, with a LOT of wiggling and yelping, what started out about 9 inches wide and 14 inches long easily stretched to accomodate my ample curves. And once I got the dress on over the top, I could see why the slip was so important. I don't think my waist has ever been so defined!
Overall, I think Gok has done a great job of creating a range of clothing that works for the average woman. However, supermarkets are not short of kimono jackets or godet hem vests, so with some pieces I don't feel like he's bringing us anything new or unique. I know this collection is deliberately safe and wearable, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring.
The dresses are where this range works best, and I do really like how the wrap dress works on my curvy figure. I got loads of compliments when I wore it, and my mother (probably closer to the target consumer) loves it on me and is only disappointed I didn't buy the red version too!
My only slight issue with the dresses is that the shapewear could do with being slightly less restrictive! I know it's good to have the right foundations under a fitted dress (more for VPL and the confidence factor than any 'slimming' potential) but there's shapewear and there's "sorry, I can't sit down in this" and these dresses are walking a fine line!
Gok Wan for Tu is available at selected Sainsbury's stores. Click here for a store finder.