The other day, I was doing some research for The Big List of Plus Size Shopping, the E addition, when I ran across yet another article on how plus size women aren’t interested in fashion. Who are these people? And just how many plus-size women do they know?
Put me in a bunch of burlap bags and I’ll be just as happy as I can be – said no plus-size woman ever! (Grr)
While I was checking links and looking at the new clothing at the sites, I noticed that I was drawn to mixed prints. That got me to thinking about making a list of do’s and don’ts for tips that I’ve picked up here and there. After some thought, this is what I put together as my top 12 dos and don’ts.
DO – mix prints
A great tip that I learned along the way is to be sure that there is at least one color in common when mixing things up. My first print mix didn’t turn out so hot. (Seriously, I mixed a plaid shirt with a pair of loud print leggings, put a basic black dress over that mess and wore it to church. It was very bad.)
DO – pay attention to undergarments (all of it – bras, panties, shapewear, stockings, and cami tops)
This is a lesson I have struggled with teaching my girls. Now that they are on their own, they have a tendency to try to save money by buying cheap basics and bras. Even before I started learning that I love fashion, I knew that you needed a good bra. They can all fit into the sizes they sell at VS. As a result this ends up being the place we shop for birthdays and Christmas. It’s not that easy for plus-size me, so I have to make sure that I’m getting good quality. I’ve mentioned The Lingerie Addict Blog before, but it’s worth mentioning again as this is the best blog I’ve found for all things lingerie. Definitely check them out!
At 50, things need a little repackaging, so I usually use cami tops and shapewear to smooth everything out. I really think a foundation consisting of a great bra, shapewear and a nice cami puts everything in the right place and completes an outfit. The majority of my shapewear is Spanx, though I do have a really good pair of long-leg shapewear that I bought at Dressbarn (it’s every bit as good as the Spanx). I also own short-leg shapewear that I bought from Kohl’s, which isn’t quite as good and it will roll. My best tip is to try on shapewear to see how it fits you and decide what works best. In my experience the cheaper ones roll and don’t play nice. With proper care, the more expensive pieces last a really long time. For the long haul, the better value is in the better pieces.
As for nice undies, well, I just think having on a pair of frilly panties makes my day go smoother.
DON’T – wear clothing that is too small or too baggy
In one store that I went to, I overheard the saleslady giving tips to a customer. She said, “Don’t wear things that cut off your circulation and feel so uncomfortable that you can’t bend. By the same token, don’t get all comfortable in clothing that looks like you’re wearing a tent. Baggy on skinny girls looks chic. On big girls, it just looks like a tent.” I remember it so well because I was wearing an oversized top that I bought at Lane Bryant. This particular top reminds me of a painter’s smock and I like to wear it when I’m running errands. I immediately knew that I was guilty of the latter. Fitted clothing has been outside my comfort zone for a long time, but I’m trying to learn that it’s more flattering than, well, the tent.
DO – wear white
For the longest time, I thought that there were really only two colors that I could wear – black and teal. My Home Ec teacher in high school called these “universal colors” and told me that “they even look good on big girls.” For whatever reason, I “owned” that bit of advice for a long time. Even now, if there is a teal garment in the store, you can bet I’m going to check it out. I’m less likely to buy it now, but it seems for years that I tended toward black and teal. Not anymore. More recently, I’ve learned that it isn’t so much about the color as it is about picking the garment that flatters your curves.
DO – wear belts
This is another bit of advice that is difficult for me. It used to be that belts, even those that came with the garments I bought, didn’t fit quite right. Thankfully, that’s changed. Not long ago, I picked up a couple at Torrid that I’ve been experimenting with. Since I am short-waisted, belts are actually helpful in helping me define my waist a little more. The saleslady told me that a rule of thumb is to match the belt to the top which will also give me a longer torso line.
DON’T – forget that changing a piece here and there can give you a whole new look
For years, I bought clothes to go together, sort of like garanimals for adults. The whole ensemble would hang in the closet together with a little baggy attached for the exact accessories that went with the outfit. Possibly, this has been the hardest habit to break, and also the most fun. (This is also how I ended up with the plaid shirt/print leggings fiasco). The best part about undoing this old habit has been learning how to put things together that I normally wouldn’t have tried. Yes, I ended up with some really bad ideas, but every now and then, I’m really pleased with how it stretches my wardrobe.
DO – wear the dresses
I hated dresses. Every time there would be some sort of fancy occasion, I’d drag myself to the store and try on a bunch with the same outcome – all of them made me look frumpy. Last year, needing something for an upcoming wedding, I ventured into Dressbarn. The floral dresses were beautiful and I was drawn to them. The saleslady came over to talk to me. I told her that while I loved the prints, it was highly doubtful that I would buy any of them as I never had any luck with dresses because of my short waist.
She picked up two of them and said, “Honey, come with me.” I followed her to the dressing room and began trying on the first dress. By the time I had it on, she was knocking at the door and said, “I found a few more.” She helped me zip up the dress in front of the three panel mirror and I stood there stunned. For the first time in my adult life, a dress fit me. My saleslady explained to me that Dressbarn had A-line and Fit-and-Flare dresses that were designed with people like me in mind. I walked out of there that day with four dresses. Four dresses may seem like a lot, until I tell you that those were the first four dresses I’ve owned since I was in college. And that wedding…it was the first time that I had to make a decision about which dress I wanted to wear. Dressbarn didn’t just give me the opportunity to buy a dress from them that day. They gave me back the ability to feel feminine and girly. Definitely wear the dress!
DO – rock skinny jeans
In the 80’s, designer jeans were all the rage. Jordache. Gloria Vanderbilt. Bobbie Brooks. Suddenly, jeans went from elephant-eared. flare-legged, boot-cut, or straight-cut to hugging your ankles. Briefly, I owned a pair of Jordache and then quickly couldn’t fit into them anymore. After that, I pretty much gave up on skinny jeans. Last fall, I needed a new pair of jeans and I wanted something different. I was at Old Navy and noticed that they had a pair of Rockstar jeans in my size. I tried them on and really liked them.
DO – try booties and shooties
The first pair of booties that I owned, I never wore. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, I could just never figure out how to wear them. That’s all changed. There’s a wide array of both booties and shooties out there and tons of ways to wear them!
DO – invest in outer layers (even in the summer)
This bit of advice is a throwback to my college years. I went through a phase where I wore vest with everything. After the phase ended, I never bought cardigans, scarves or wraps. Now, I love discovering new ways to wear things so an outfit looks totally different. One of my favorite bloggers is a pro at this. If you need a little inspiration, check her out at The Plus Size Blog.
DON’T – get discouraged if only a larger size is available
I actually learned this tip a few weekends ago. The Dane needed a new suit for a business trip, so we went to our local Dillard’s (A Ralph Lauren suit I wanted him to get was on sale). The Dane is tall, so he has problems trying to find a suit with the sleeves long enough for his arms. He tried on his regular size (which definitely didn’t work in a designer suit). The salesman noticed us and came over to help. He suggested that The Dane try on a suit that was a couple of sizes bigger, sure enough the sleeves fit. But the shoulders were a little too wide. The salesman said, “I wouldn’t worry about that, our tailor can fix that for you.” Suddenly, a light went on in my head. Wow, that designer dress I saw in a couple of sizes too big that was on massive sale, I could have gotten it and had it tailored. It was my “I could’ve had a V8 moment.”
DO – have fun!
Now that we have some options, I say we show them just how sexy we can be!