The Plus Size Woman’s Ultimate Style Guide
(This article was originally written by me, and appeared on Refinery29. You can read the original here.)
We know how tough shopping can be when you’re plus-size. Some stores think that just because you’re bigger, you’re shaped like a box and want to spend your life frumping around in a big black sack. Thankfully, more and more companies are wising up, so — good news — there’s been an increase of plus-size-specific stores (both brick & mortar and online) and an expansion of sizes within existing brands (like GAP, ModCloth, etc.).
But now that there are even more options for full figure fashion than ever before, plus-size women are finding themselves with a new challenge: how to wear those styles that they never even had the option of before! But before you get flustered, take a moment and heed our body-positive style advice. Soon enough, you might even find yourself in a crop top!
Make A Point To Show Off Your Best Assets
Everyone has a part of their body they like to show off. If you worship your waist, bring in the focus by cinching your middle with a beautiful belt. If you love your legs, show them off with patterned or colorful shorts and skirts. Adore your arms? Stick with sleeveless shirts that let them take focus.
Head Online To Expand Your Range
While many “straight-size” brands keep their stock below a size 14 in stores, their size range can be more expansive online. Gap offers up to a size 20, Old Navy goes up to size 30, and department stores like Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Macy’s offer up to a size 24W online. Also, U.K.-based stores like ASOS Curve, Evans, and Dorothy Perkins offer shipping perks if you spend above a certain amount of money, so you don’t have to deal with pesky international charges.
Build Your Foundation The Smart Way
If you want to let it all hang out, that’s your prerogative, but if you’re looking for a smooth silhouette, you should invest in the right shapewear. From high-waist thigh trimmers to stomach-slimming tank tops, there’s a plethora of plus-size shapewear styles available both online and in store.
Additionally, more than 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, and the more of a fuller figure or fuller bust you have, the more obvious it is when you’re stuffed in the wrong size. Take a trip to a specialty bra store or to the lingerie department of a major department store and get a proper bra fitting. Can’t make it into a store? Websites like Bare Necessities can help fit you over the phone (and their bras go up to a 56 band & N cup)!
We also have to talk about Chub Rub. It isn’t fun; it can ruin summer outfits, and if your thighs touch — regardless of your size — you’ve had to deal with this problem especially in hot weather. Whether you’d prefer to slip on some lightweight SPANX, pull on an anti-chafing thigh band, or use an anti-chafe gel, there’s no reason you have to suffer.
Doesn’t Fit Quite Right? Tailor It So It Does
So, you find a hot dress that fits your hips but is too baggy in the waist…get thee to a tailor, ASAP! It’s challenging to find a perfect fit, but a tailor can make an off-the-rack item look custom-made for your curves (which is also a great tip to making a dirt-cheap item look expensive).
Don’t Be Scurred, It’s Only Patterns!
With more trendy styles in stores than ever before, there is no excuse to hide your curves in another black wrap dress. Embrace colors and patterns — yes, you can wear stripes (in any direction), polka dots, floral and more! Loud prints can bring emphasis to the area you wear them, so pay attention to where you’re wearing your prints. If you’ve got a great ass, there’s nothing sexier than a high-waisted printed pencil skirt. If you want to direct attention to your décolletage, try out a printed blouse or tank.
Find Inspiration From Other Plus-Size Pros
The internet is filled with amazing plus-size bloggers (ahem, like yours truly) who not only have amazing personal style but are more likely to resemble your body type than the average plus-size model. Whether you’re a size 14 or a size 30, apple-shaped or hourglass, ultra-girly or super-edgy, there’s a style blog that can speak to you! Find a blog that speaks to you and mine them for visual inspiration (don’t forget to check out the comments suggestions for even more info!).
Dare To Wear…Everything!
Forget all those antiquated rules that say only specific body types can wear certain types of clothing; from crop tops and jumpsuits to bikinis and body-con dresses, plus-size women can pull off any trend! It’s all about finding the right size, cut and style that fits and flatters your curves. Again, plus-size bloggers can help you with specific styling dilemmas, but there’s really nothing like just trying things on. In order to rock the ish out of a certain trend, you need to give yourself the opportunity to try it out first.
London Times Loves: Style Writer Extraordinaire, Liz Black
(This interview originally ran on the London Times blog, you can view that article here.)
As a contributor to many of LT’s daily reads and the author of her own blog, P.S. It’s Fashion, Liz Black is nothing short of a style expert here in NYC. She’s also a pioneer for plus size fashion, and never seems to shy away from telling it like it is. If you don’t already know her, you need to. Read up!
First off, where are you from and how did you get into fashion and blogging?
I’m from New Jersey (I currently live in Bloomfield). I always had a love of fashion (I wrote Betsey Johnson a letter when I was 10, saying I wanted to work in fashion some day because of her), and once I was out of college I began a style blog. I created it mostly so that I would have writing samples to provide if I was ever asked for any; and I’m so glad I had them readily available when I was asked to intern at an online magazine. I went from intern to fashion editor in less than a month because of those clips, and I’ve been networking my way through the industry ever since!
My current blog, P.S. It’s Fashion, is only about a year & a half old, and I was encouraged to start a style blog because my fashion industry PR contacts had never seen a stylish larger woman before! The majority of my work between the first blog I created ages ago and my current blog has been focused on other style websites and magazines, such as the Huffington Post, City Magazine, Luckymag.com and Refinery29.
Tell us how you landed the Refinery 29 contributor gig.
I actually reached out to them to see if they were in need of a plus-size contributor and they were very receptive. I pitched a few article ideas and sent them some links to articles I’ve written (I also contribute to the Huffington Post and City Magazine, as well as my own plus-size style blog, of course), and they offered me the freelance contributor position.
I think this is an important lesson… sometimes, if you want something in life you need to put yourself out there and go get it. You can’t sit back and wait for opportunities to fall in your lap!
What are your favorite blogs/websites to visit for style inspiration?
Well, Refinery29, obviously. I also like DailyCandy, Stylecaster, Fashionista, ASOS (they have a great digital style magazine!), Luckymag, Glamour, Instyle, Marie Claire, etc. I do support a lot of other plus-size bloggers, and I love to see what they’re doing, but I actually take most of my style inspiration from straight-size websites/blogs and translate it into plus-size friendly outfits! I feel like if a smaller woman can pull it off, so can I!
Speaking of plus size style, it has really moved to the forefront of the fashion world over the past few years – why do you think that is?
The majority of the women in this country are a size 14 or above, and I think companies are finally beginning to realize how profitable that market is!
What progress do you think the industry still has to make with plus size fashion? What can brands do to better to cater to a wider range of women?
The smartest thing ANY brand can do is to make the exact same designs they have for straight-size women into plus sizes! We want those same trendy, edgy, fun, funky designs that smaller women wear, just give them to us in our size! To me it seems so obvious, but many retailers feel that plus-size women just won’t spend the money on quality or on something trendy.
Also, many existing plus-size brands need to step up their style game as well. We don’t want to wear only black wrap dresses and sack-like muumuus… Watch the trends coming off the runway, see what other straight-size lines are making, and get your designers to make those types of clothes before you lose the market to a new line!
Do you have a favorite London Times dress right now?
What are you most looking forward to wearing this spring and summer?
I love maxi skirts & dresses, and the warmer months are the perfect time to break them out!
Also, I love bright, vibrant colors & prints… this is the time to throw off all the black and embrace the dynamic shades of summer!
Be sure to keep up with Liz on twitter @TheLizBlack
Dress: London Times
Shoes: Boutique 9
Necklace: Lane Bryant
Blazer: Lane Bryant
I’m sure a lot of you may have seen this fabulous galaxy bikini that was designed by GabiFresh for swimsuitsforall, but I had to post this again because… I’m going to be on a segment about it tomorrow at 8:20 am on Good Morning America!!
I’ve obviously posted pictures of myself in a bikini on my blog, but oy, I’m going to be on national TV for the whole world to see! Once upon a time, I never would have been willing to even wear a two-piece, let alone allow myself to be filmed in one for TV…. so for all of you who feel self-conscious (regardless of your size), keep working at it; you can learn to love your body too!
Please tune in tomorrow & you can see the entire segment!
(Sorry for the grainy photos, they were taken on my husband’s iPhone!)
The Other F Word: Why Are We Still Uncomfortable With The Word “Fat”?
This article was originally written for and appeared on Refinery29. You can view and comment on the original here: http://www.refinery29.com/fat-fashion
When I wrote about Gabi Gregg’s capsule collection for swimsuitsforall just a couple weeks ago, I honestly was not expecting the level of ire that came with using the term “Fatkini,” a term coined by Gregg herself.
You see, I’m fat. You can call me plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, or full-figured, and they’re all accurate descriptions of my body shape. And so is fat. That word once had a huge negative connotation behind it to me, and I’ve shed tears over being called “fat,” so I can understand the anguish that can come with such a tiny word. But I have embraced my body, my weight, my size. I’m active and I eat a plant-based diet; I know I’m healthy, and no amount of pounds is going to tell me otherwise. This is my body, and I accept it as such. So, I no longer view “fat” as an insult — to me, it’s become more of a descriptor word (like skinny, tall, short), and nothing more. But not everyone views “fat” the same way.
The most vocal of our readers jumped to the attack, or the defense, on Refinery29’s Facebook page. With comments running the gamut from, “That is the most horrible thing you could have said,” to, “My fat ass will look fabulous in one of those bikinis,” it was clear that “fat” can bring up some heavy feelings.
While the body-acceptance movement has encouraged us to embrace the word fat, the feelings within the plus-size community are still mixed. There are those who accept the word at face value, like blogger Gabi Gregg and Cult of California designer, Jen Wilder. “I learned about women reclaiming the word eight years ago and haven’t looked back since — it changed my life,” Gregg explained. “Realizing that I could be simultaneously happy, beautiful, AND fat was definitely a turning point in my life. I still strive for health, but I realize that my health is between me and my doctors, not strangers on the Internet or on the street, and it isn’t determined by a specific size.” Cult of California designer Jen Wilder shares Gregg’s sentiments. “It’s true I am FAT. I cannot deny that. But I am NOT any of the things you are really calling me, which are stupid, lazy, slow, outcast, etc. It’s not the word; it’s what they MEAN when they say it!”
But not everyone is eager to start calling themselves fat. “The word ‘fat’ has negative connotations, and is never used to compliment. I prefer being called curvy, full-figured, or plus-sized,” explained plus-size model Katherine Roll. “Plus means ‘in addition to’ and therefore, simply defines my size as additional sexiness added to the straight-sized woman!” Aimee Cheshire, founder and CEO of Madison Plus Select, can see both sides of the spectrum. “I personally do not use the word ‘fat,’ not on MadisonPlusSelect.com or in my personal life. I have too many sad memories associated with the word. I do appreciate that the plus-size blogger community wants to reclaim the word back, and more power to them. While I understand why, and I truly love what they are doing, it just won’t find a place in my vocabulary. I have too many other battles to fight.”
In a society where we’re striving for body acceptance, is supporting “fat” a step in the right direction? Whether you’re embracing the word, appalled by its usage, view it just as a descriptor, or feel altogether something else about it, we want to know. What does fat mean to you?
Photo: Courtesy of Lydia Hudgens
Why Is There Such A Weighty Debate About Plus-Size Mannequins?
This article originally was published on Refinery29. You can read (and comment) on the original here: http://www.refinery29.com/2013/03/44975/plus-size-fashion-industry-growth-mannequins
As you may have already seen, a photo of two mannequins from Swedish department store Åhléns has been circling the Interwebs. While two plastic women typically aren’t the catalyst for a surge of body-image discussions, these mannequins struck a chord across the globe due to their size — approximately a size 10 and 12.
With comments ranging from accusations of promoting obesity to sheer delight over seeing a “normal” sized mannequin in a non-plus-size-specific store (and a few trolls thrown in for good measure), it truly brings up an issue that no one seems to be discussing. Why is this such a big deal?
Don’t get it twisted; we’re all in favor of having mannequins (and models) of every size, in both department stores and on the runways, but the fact that the installation of larger mannequins in a “regular” store is so controversial seems ridiculous. Why hasn’t this happened sooner? Why aren’t more stores commonly using mannequins of varying sizes to showcase their products?
With more than one-third of U.S. adults classified as obese, according to the CDC, and the average American woman wearing a size 14 or larger, it is no surprise that, according to Business Insider, those labeled as “plus-size” account for approximately 67% of the apparel-purchasing population, bringing in a retail revenue of nearly $16 billion. Therefore, it could be financially foolish to not display mannequins of larger sizes, even within non-specialty stores.
Plus-size sales are poised to jump 5.2% annually in the next five years, while overall apparel sales will only climb a modest 2.7%, according to research firm IbisWorld. The category is expected to hit $9.7 billion by 2017, up from an estimated $7.5 billion this year and $6.6 billion in 2009. “The issues that plus-size women face in store translate into the biggest opportunity for brands and retailers to grow their businesses today,” stated Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, Inc. “There are so many consumers who wear at least one item that is plus size, and yet the market is dramatically underserved.”
With the average non-specialty clothing store offering up to at least a size 14 (some, like Old Navy, carry up to a size 18 in store) and the growth of plus-size consumers, it makes fiscal sense to provide mannequins that reflect the size of their increasing customer base. By displaying larger mannequins, not only could women see how the clothes would potentially fit their shape, they would also feel more body confident thanks to the increase of plus-size representation within the fashion industry, and therefore, be apt to purchase more.
Overall, the fashion industry needs to accept that the majority of their customers are larger than their current mannequins, and that it’s about time they feel represented and included, instead of demonized for their size. Because the truth is larger mannequins aren’t promoting obesity; they’re reflecting reality.
Spring into Style!
When the temperature reminds me of spring and I just can’t bare to wear any more black, I search my closet for the girliest sundress I own. And while I don’t have any baby pink, bow-y, and frilly dresses, I think a thin white sundress covered in multicolored butterflies is pretty damn girly.
I topped off the dress with a thin cropped cardigan for a little warmth and added coverage. The straw tote helps complete the “spring” vibe, and the nude platform pump is not only leg-lengthening, it also allows the dress to shine without competing with the overall tone of the outfit.
While I’m positive I’d burst into flames if I walked into a church, I imagine this outfit would be perfect for a Sunday church service or Easter mass. Happy Easter (or whatever you do/don’t celebrate) everyone!
Dress: Old Navy
Shoes: Betsey Johnson
Oh the weather outside is frightful… but this outfit is so delightful…
And comfy. And cozy. And warm.
I will admit that the majority of my outfits are not based in comfy-ness or coziness, but due to the nippy weather I threw all of my outfit guidelines out the window and snuggled up in the biggest, brightest and softest sweater I own.
The distressed torrid stiletto skinny jeans are a recent gift, and they fit into the dressed down/but not dressed down feeling I was going for. Their rips are expertly placed, and they hit at a slightly sexy ankle length. (Remember when a woman’s ankle was considered scandalous? Me either, but I’ve heard such stories…).
I threw on a knit cap to help keep out the chill (I’ve always heard you lose the most heat from your head, but that might just be an old wives tale), and I grabbed my trusty Remi & Emmy snakeskin print hobo bag. This bag is fantastic; not only does the neutral shade go with everything, it’s deceptively large and has been immensely helpful during fashion week.
And I’m mesmerized by my glittery Dolce Vita bow flats; they remind me of a modern version of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. I wonder if I click them together three times if they’ll transport me to a wonderful place filled with warm weather.
Sweater: Forever21 (Size XL)
Jeans: Stiletto Skinny by Torrid (Size 20)
Flats: Dolce Vita (Size 9)
Bag: Remi & Emmy
Bracelets: Electric Picks
Meet 6 Superstar Models, The Faces Of Plus-Size Fashion
(This article was originally written by me and published on Refinery29.)
Say the word “supermodel” and one immediately thinks of women like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Iman, etc. But with the broadening body- acceptance movement and the increase of full-figure fashion, the general public is being exposed to supermodels of a different size.
They may have been dubbed “plus-size” models (seriously, we should just call them models!) but these beautiful women prove that they can hold their own among the under-size-4 set. Whether they’re starring in banned commercials or strutting down haute couture runways, these are some of the hottest size 14+ supermodels in the biz.
Tara Lynn — Tara Lynn radiates sex appeal, regardless of if she’s swathed in a black tankini for H&M’s plus-size line or dressed only in stilettos and red lipstick in V magazine and Vogue Italia.
Photo: Courtesy of Tara Lynn/Marcin Tyszka
Fluvia Lacerda — Dubbed the “plus-size Gisele Bündchen,” Lacerda is one of the most delicious Brazilian exports since cane sugar. Besides modeling for Torrid and Monif C., she has also recently collaborated with La Mafê on a plus-size collection called De onde eu vim (Where I come from).
Photo: Courtesy of Fluvia Lacerda
Ashley Graham — Who ever thought curves could create such a scandal? Plus-size women everywhere found out just how controversial their curves could be with the banning of Ashley Graham’s Lane Bryant lingerie commercial. You can view the commercial here.
Photo: Via Ford Models
Tess Munster — Whoever said models have to be toweringly tall and beanpole thin? Standing 5’4” and wearing above a size 20, Munster has utilized her unique beauty to destroy stereotypes with her modeling career.
Photo: Courtesy of Tess Munster
Candice Huffine — After ignoring the suggestion to lose weight at age 14, Candice Huffine went on to model for a multitude of well-known brands and magazines, from Bare Necessities and Torrid to Vogue Italia and V magazine.
Photo: Via Ford Models
Velvet D’Amour — Whether a press ploy, a response to the strict negativity against super-skinny models, or just his love of the female form, Jean Paul Gaultier sent model Velvet D’Amour down his spring ‘07 runway in skimpy lingerie. While still modeling, D’Amour has also stepped behind the lens, as well as launched the magazine Vol-Up-2.
Photo: Courtesy of Velevet D’Amour