Fairfield resident hopes shop helps plus-sized women feel beautiful
FAIRFIELD — Three years ago, Maria Schwartz discovered there was a reason behind her weight gain and abnormal menstrual cycle.
At the time, her cousin, who had identical symptoms, was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder in which a woman’s hormones are unbalanced.
The condition is named after the fact that women can grow cysts on their ovaries. It can also cause issues with insulin and lead to diabetes. Roughly one in 10 women suffer from the disorder.
“It’s hard to get rid of the weight because your insulin isn’t processing properly,” Schwartz said.
Her cousin’s diagnosis led Schwartz, then 20 years old, to visit her own doctor, where she received the same diagnosis.
A plus-sized girl all her life, Schwartz said she was glad to finally have an answer to her symptoms. But the knowledge did not mean that she felt any more in control of her body.
Since the diagnosis, Schwartz has gained about 50 pounds. And as she gained weight it became more difficult to find clothes that not only fit, but made her feel beautiful.
“Plus-sized clothes are expensive and everything is so old looking,” Schwartz said. “I was like, ‘I’m young. I don’t want to look old’.”
After working a year for Nordstrom following her graduation from Johnson & Wales University, Schwartz decided to do something to help other plus-sized women looking for clothes that fit and made them feel good about themselves.
Recently, she opened a plus-sized consignment shop, Curvaceous Closet, at 141 Kings Highway East.
“The startup costs were definitely low with consignment because you don’t have to buy the merchandise,” Schwartz noted.
The Fairfield resident, a Fairfield Ludlowe High School graduate, decided to open her shop near the Fairfield and Bridgeport border, and a short drive from exit 24 on Interstate 95, so that it could be accessible to as many women as possible.
From business suits to party dresses and even a wedding dress, Schwartz said she tries to have variety in her offerings. She also sells handbags and shoes.
“I’m looking for trendy items — things that are in good condition,” she said. “I want whoever is plus-sized to come. If you’re 60 or if you’re 16 I want you to come here and feel comfortable.”
At first, the small shop was lucky to see a customer on some days. But as the word has spread, the shop has seen an increase in visits. And Schwartz is already thinking bigger.
“My ultimate dream is to have my own plus-sized line,” she said. “I want to make plus-sized people feel beautiful.”
First Selectman Michael Tetreau said Schwartz has a good business model because she has differentiated her shop by serving a niche market that doesn't have a lot of online competition. “I think it fills a need in our town,” he said of the business.
Curvaceous Closet is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.