Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hems for Her's Guide to Personal Style and Plus-Size Shopping

Over the weekend I received the sweetest email from a reader. She was writing about her mom's struggle with shopping for plus size clothes, and she said in part:" I know she hates that she is heavy.  She hates shopping because of it ...  For her, shopping is not fun it is instead a dreaded task, a punishment even. She feels that going shopping is like going out and confirming that everything you believe about the way you look is not only true but it's worse.  She hates it. "

In addition to K's mom's confidence issues, money is also an issue, and ANYONE who shops plus-size knows how expensive it is find stylish clothes. I intended to respond to the email, but then realized that many of you might benefit from a "primer' for plus-size shopping.  

Step One: Understanding 
Your Body Shape

While I absolutely believe that women do not have to follow set rules as far as clothing goes (rock cropped tops and mini skirts you you want! No judgement here!), many women want to wear things that flatter their curves, disguise their perceived problem areas and make them feel confident and beautiful. To that end, it's important to understand your body shape. By recognizing a basic shape, you can learn to wear flattering styles and ways to show off the parts of your body you really love! I borrowed this infographic from Shape Stylist because it's way better than anything I could make on my own, and it's perfect for any woman. 

Shape Stylist Infographic

Created by IGIGI by Yuliya Raquel

Step Two: Identifying Your Personal Style

I think personal style is something that constantly evolves- with age, occupation, season, life changes, whatever, so I can understand that style can be hard to pin down. I am a teacher and usually were a dress or skirt to work, so I have very few pairs of pants. If you worked somewhere that required you to protect or cover your legs, then you would have fewer dresses and skirts. That doesn't make me better than you or more fashionable than you, that's just the difference in our personal style. Here are a few other tips.

1. Find a muse- Ask yourself whose style you like, an inspiration for your own style. It doesn't have to be a celebrity- they are often over the top with their fashion choices, so that may not always be practical. You can pick a friend who's always put together or your boss or a random woman you see in the grocery store. What elements of their wardrobe appeal to you?

2. Shop your closet- Take inventory of what you already own. Finding your personal style doesn't mean throwing away everything you own (Rest in Peace- What Not to Wear), but instead use what you've got and add to it. Look at the things you wear most often and ask yourself: Does this make me feel great or am I hiding in it? Is it torn, stained, stretched out? Many of the pieces you own and are already comfortable wearing can be staples of your wardrobe. But get rid of anything that doesn't make you feel good about yourself.

3. Take baby steps- Like I said above, you don't have to throw out all of your clothes. By adding just a few pieces you can make your wardrobe more versatile without breaking the bank. Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen gives fabulous advice for creating what she calls capsule wardrobes- pieces that can by mixed and matched for nearly unlimited outfit choices. I would also recommend Audrey at Putting Me Together for her Wardrobe From Scratch series for helping you pick wardrobe basics and colors and other essentials.

Step Three: Shop Till You Drop

I am constantly frustrated by the lack of fashionable options in size 12+ that are easily accessible to the general public. Plus size women are usually relegated to a small back corner of the store and the options are often limited and ridiculous. If you don't believe me, check out this Tumblr. Why do clothing manufacturers default to unflattering cuts and prints. Like K mentioned above, it sometimes feels like we are being punished for being fat. "Sorry, chunky monkey! You can wear that print in a tank top. Here's a empire waist top with a drawstring and batwing sleeves! Way more appropriate for you." That being said, all hope is not lost. More and more retailers are realizing the value and importance of plus size shoppers and they are beefing up their options.

I know some women hate it, but I LOVE shopping online. No lines, no unflattering dressing rooms, no hunting down your size. The downside to online shopping is sometimes things don't fit, but most returns are free, so it's not the end of the world. My favorite places to shop are:
Old Navy- Great selection in standard and plus sizes (also maternity! Not just for pregnant women anymore!). They also have great promotions and huge sale selections. Great for basics.
Gap-I love Gap jeans. Very true to size and perfect rise for avoiding the dreaded "muffin top"
ASOS Curve- UK-based company with very trendy, high quality clothes. Some things are crazy expensive, but most are reasonably priced- wait for sales or Google promo codes
Dorothy Perkins- Another clothing company from overseas. Free shipping to America for purchases over $75. Huge, awesome dress selection and great sales.
Simply Be- This is an exclusively plus-size website with tons of great, hard-to-find brands and awesome sales.
Land's End- They always have a great sale and plus sizes AND PETITE plus sizes.
Kiyonna- Be still my heart! Kiyonna specializes in beautiful plus-size dresses, but they also sell skirts, tops, pants, and swimsuits. The quality is phenomenal and everything is made in America!
Eshakti- Customizable clothing up to size 36W. Beautiful dresses and quick shipping.
Dress Barn- I know! I was a little incredulous myself, but they have a lot of cute pieces in plus sizes.
JCPenney's- In the past year, JCP has really upped their game and they've got a great plus size selection
Finally, for women who want to to try out different plus size brands without committing to them, Gwynnie Bee is the perfect option. I realize that the company is a sponsor, but truly, these women are passionate about the plus size community. Their mission is to make every woman feel and look beautiful. You can try Gwynnie Bee out for one month for free and see which brands and styles you like the most.

Allie also has a great post on plus size retailers here, so be sure to check it out for other options!

Step Four: Confidence

I know, I know... I talk about confidence a lot, but it is seriously the most important thing to add to your wardrobe. Here are some of my favorite posts about loving yourself and accepting yourself:


Katie Frost said...

Great guide! Although my body is not like any of those shapes from above... I still think it's very helpful. I especially like #4, because as someone who society thinks should apologize for my size and shirk away from confidence, I need the reminder to be confident.

Katie Frost said...

Awesome post, Katie! I'll need to share this with my mom as well! She is a beautiful plus sized woman who dresses herself very well, but I would love to show her what else is out there besides JCPenney and Lane Bryant! :)

Katie Frost said...

Great post Katie! Since I've lost weight, I've had trouble finding pants that fit (the dreaded inbetween size. ugh) and still can't fit properly into most standard-size dresses. I always hesitate to buy online but when it's someone like Old Navy I know I won't have a problem! Though I'd like to ask you, since you have started blogging, I know you've had "hate" mail, I recently received an email that basically shamed me for losing weight and not being true the plus size audience I supposedly catered to. Have you run into this problem? Would you address it on your blog?

Katie Frost said...

I'm hourglass-ish...and I have a #1 pet peeve with curvy-girl clothes that I feel like occurs 9 times out of 10. Unbalanced proportions!!! I anticipate that I'll have to go up a size for the "girls"...but sometimes I have to go up 3 or 4 sizes because the clothes don't increase proportionally! And by that time the rest of the shirt/dress/whatever is ginormous! Frackin ridiculous. It's like they just increase one area at a time...."hey, we'll just make the middle of this shirt bigger....her boobs are probably tiny and not at all in proportion". Good plan retailers...good plan.

Katie Frost said...

I am an admiring lurker and just had to comment -- so LOVE this advice, oh, and the body shape guide is wonderful...usually there's fruit involved and frankly I hate being compared to fruit, lol.

Anyway, I just blogged about body issues and clothes shopping myself if you would like to check it out (

Your outfits always inspire me and I think you are cute as a button :)

Katie Frost said...

Other retailers (besides the obvious Lane Bryant & Avenue)...Target! Target has some great plus-size stuff online (it does tend to run a little small, especially the Xhilaration and Pure Energy lines), and you can usually find things on mega-clearance. Last summer I bought four dresses and STILL had to throw in a mascara or something for free shipping (at $50). They give you exactly zero crap about returning things, and you can take them back to the store. Old Navy tends to run big in plus sizes. Eshakti -- wait for a coupon code and realize that their customer service can be sketchy when you have a problem (like that your dress NEVER SHOWS UP and it takes them SIX WEEKS to respond to your emails about it in a satisfactory fashion). Also, Catherine's. Their clothes tend to be more "mature" - which might be fine, depending on how old the original e-mailer's mom is - but they also tend to have good foundation garments (way more band sizes than LB does) and less-expensive shapewear and pajamas.

Katie Frost said...

Great post Katie! I believe that no matter what size you are that confidence is key. If you don't have any confidence even if you look great in an outfit you won't "feel" it. You'll look in the mirror and only see the negative.

Hope you're enjoying your summer! =)

Katie Frost said...

Wonderful post, Katie! So glad you're writing about this. :)

Katie Frost said...

Thank you! Following some of your links (and then the links THEY brought me to) I came across which had a very helpful "Curve Connection" feature that showcases REAL women wearing the dresses (it will even tell you the size of the model if that helps you get a better idea of what it would look like on YOU). They also have a quiz (that follows the body shape types you posted above--it may have originated there for all I know) but that is helpful since it allows you to shop by SHAPE! Very helpful if you feel like you are floundering (even if you don't actually purchase from there I think it may still be a great resource). Again thank you for your insight!

Katie Frost said...

Awesome post! Im glad you stressed staying true to yourself. If a body con dress is not your speed then ITS OKAY. Im tired of plus size women feeling they have to be "fashion forward" or "trendy" to feel and look good. Fashion is an expression of YOU not someone else. Thanks for this timely post!

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