The Joys of Plus Size Shopping for Women
I read last week’s article, 15 Reasons Plus-Size Shopping Sucks, with flabbergasted amusement. The article let off some well needed steam I thought — and I used to feel that way too — but it doesn’t have to be a pain and a chore to buy a nice outfit in a decent average size — which nowadays seems to be a plus size. Part of the frustration, as I see it, is seeing great looks in sizes that just aren’t going to fit your body type. Not that you necessarily need to go the route of watching endless bits of What Not to Wear, but perhaps taking stock in yourself in a full length mirror naked might help.
I’ve done that quite a few times. My weight goes up and down with my thyroid but for the most part I know where I hover (around a size 16-18). I’d even venture to say it’s harder for me to walk into your average mall and find clothes that look nice than most women due to the dreaded curves. Fat girl clothes seem to think that all big girls are broad shouldered, barrel chested, and pear shaped at the bottom with stilts for legs. I call it the eggs on stilts look.
But that’s not me. I have small shoulders, a small neck, the dreaded 38 DDD, tiny waist and giant hips and not a lot of length in the leg. Where does this freak of a girl find clothing? Everywhere but the mall and it is fun. But that might be the problem right there — walking into the local mall. In our DIY culture of now, when has a mall offered anything but the same old, same old? In going to the mall you are giving up on anything unique and original anyhow. So, stop the mall and chain store business and get realistic.
I don’t even think I own an outfit that doesn’t look good. I follow the adage that if you’re going to be big you HAVE to be beautiful. How do I manage it? I got realistic with my body type.
The hour glass figure with breasts to match
Dresses will always look better than anything else on you. Never wear pants. They weren’t meant for you. Wear at your own peril. Don’t wear belts or cap sleeves or bulky sweaters and for heaven’s sake don’t show up in shorts. Don’t even look at these items in stores. Even if you do find your size those things are always going to look tacky and you’ll always look like a caked sausage.
Once you realize that 1920s fashions and spaghetti straps are never going to work for you, you will begin to live again and enjoy shopping because you will no longer waste your time with expensive mistakes. Find what works for you. Find a celebrity that has your body type. What does she wear?
Find your time period
Seems like designers liked my body type from the 1930s until the mid 1960s. That’s 30+ years of fashion ideas that work well on this figure. This spring I went to one of my favorite shopping sites, Etsy, and typed in XL and 1X and 2X (some designers on here have 16 as a 2X) along with the word vintage and then again without it. I scored five beautiful dresses that each look amazing on me. I highly recommend Shristi Studio for nice, inexpensive spring/summer dresses. She uses vintage patterns with new fabric in large sizes. As soon as the first dress arrived and fit like it was made for me, I ordered two more just like it in different fabrics, same cut. That’s smart shopping. Each was under $30 bucks and perfect. From Rocket Betty I bought a great rockabilly dress that I get mega compliments on every time I wear it. From Pretty Cool Clothes I bought an unusual looking dress that fit my shape well.
One place that I check out every month for cool ads for big girl clothes is the back of Bust Magazine. Two of my favorites I’ve found cool on are The Mode Merr (who can custom make if so desired) and Daddy O’s. Not only are there many small time designers out there making great clothes in large sizes but purchasing from one of these designers means you are supporting small businesses who are making their products here in the USA. The items I’ve bought from these stores never fail to get compliments. So most of those sites above aren’t selling necessarily to the frugally inclined but my Scotch grandmother always taught me that a few good pieces in your wardrobe go a long way.
I balance this out with strategic thrift store shopping. Did you know lots of times clothes wind up in discount outlets and thrift stores not because they were unwanted, ugly, or ridiculous, but because they were badly sized? I just bought a size 10 designer skirt for 3 bucks that should have been sized a 14 or 16. Don’t go by the size on the tag; hold it up to yourself instead. Surprise yourself too. I bought a great sweater for 2 dollars the other day that looked like a bunch of fabric on the hanger that was loose and low cut. But the fabric was such that it clung nicely where it should and not where it shouldn’t. A girlfriend of mine showed me a dress she found discounted $60 bucks in the store simply because it didn’t look like anything on the rack. The body made the dress and often does. When I lived in San Francisco I used to go to this great vintage store that catered to drag queens. Well, I surmised, men tend to need bigger sizes when they dress up as women and low and behold I hit the jackpot befriending a few fashion divas and asking their secret shopping places.
If you aren’t willing to pay for the uniqueness and the styles are just a little to wild for ya, why not shop at Target? Hands down, Target always has cheap clothes with big sizes. They seem to go up to a XXXL. They also over size in the first place. A target shirt marked “L” is usually really an XL anywhere else. Some of my best workout clothes are always from Target. Know the local market of your chain store. I lived in a tiny woman’s neighborhood in San Francisco. I never went to the Ross, Gap, or TJ Max in my area where it would be futile. Those chains catered to their local population of size 1, 2, and 0. This sounds crass of course, but heck, go to a fatter neighborhood. Those same stores that carry XXXS in a skinny neighborhood in the city will carry XXXL in the suburbs.
I freely admit to loving clothes. I see them as performance art just as much as I see them as necessary covering. Even if I found a designer who made a pencil skirt in my size I know that it won’t look good. The waist will feel like there’s miles of extra fabric and the hips will be too tight. Why go through the torture? It should and can be fun to plus size shop. The designers are out there!