Made in St. Louis: She designs plus-size clothing to help women feel beautiful

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Home * Florissant

What she sells * Affordable, stylish career and evening wear for plus-sized women designed and sewn in St. Louis

How to buy * Tops, skirts and dresses priced from $40 to $80 are available at livandkiss.com

Whitney Jones explained that her St. Louis-based Liv and Kiss brand for plus-size women didn’t begin as a quest for fame or fortune. She just wanted something smart, sensible, professional and affordable to wear. She thought the same desire might resonate with others. “I’m plus-sized, and I’ve been plus my entire life,” she said. Given her history, she’s tired of feeling that she doesn’t deserve well-made, long-lasting clothing. Her weight is not in transition. This is her weight, and she said she “wanted some simple pieces to fit my life from the boardroom to the nightclub.”

Career confidence * A graduate of Columbia College-St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in human services, she’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. She knew she was onto something when she won an entrepreneurship contest and a $500 cash prize last year at the school based on her Liv and Kiss pitch. She later won third place and $1,000 in a national competition with the college. She prepped for the competition with a presentation at a T-Rex business incubator networking event. Jones started with a simple premise. Appearance, perception and confidence have a huge unspoken impact on your career. “And when you don’t like what you’re wearing, that affects your self-esteem and your ability to move up,” Jones said. She said dressing well makes people feel more attractive and more confident and typically makes them more likely to advance in a career.

Playing dress up * “I wanted to make comfortable, cute clothing that doesn’t wrinkle a lot and to have dresses that are comfortable,” Jones said. “I wanted most everything to be a piece that you can dress up or dress it down to fit where you are going.” She said that there’s a stigma to size that affects women who continually see images that seem to accidentally (or intentionally) criticize them for not looking a certain way or being a certain size. “I think everyone deserves something that they feel happy and confident wearing.”

Sewing skills * She said her “aunties, mother and grandmother and cousins all sew. So it’s all in the family.” Jones grew up making items for herself, but it wasn’t until she started thinking about her future that designing a career line just clicked. By day she works at Wells Fargo Advisors, and by night she’s a one-woman design team working on her line. “I design, make and create all the clothes in the basement of my home,” she said. “It’s still controllable right now.” The next step is production with a St. Louis manufacturing company. She wants to keep production local to make sure everything is going smoothly and “to keep the money in St. Louis. I live here.”

Nondisposable income * “If you make less than $25,000 a year, it’s very hard to find affordable career clothing,” Jones said. She listed fast fashion mall shops that specialized in trendy, lower-quality, disposable clothing that doesn’t really fit into a professional environment. And plus-sized shoppers have an even harder burden because they tend to pay more and struggle with unflattering styles and designs. All of the items she produces at Liv and Kiss are made-to-order and can be customized.