I love clothes, but it took me a long time to find my place in the world of fashion. And by saying “fashion,” I don’t mean designer labels and catwalks. Fashion, to me, is wearing clothes that represent who I am. It is clothing that makes me feel confident, comfortable, pretty, or whatever it is I need to feel that day. What makes this complicated is that I don’t have the body for fashion. I, like most women, can’t easily slip into anything I find on the rack. Figuring out what works for my body, my workplace, my lifestyle and my comfort was difficult. I am certainly not any kind of fashion icon, but I have been able to piece together a wardrobe that works for me and, by the comments I often get from other women, is appealing to others, too.
First – some information about me:
My body type and size have been all over the chart, and recently it seems to be stuck at its plumpest. I can go between the upper end of standard sizes and the lower end of plus sizes depending on the cut and quality of the clothing, so in the examples I provide below, I’ve included some items from each range of sizes. I am a working Mom, and my workplace has a business dress code. I am a manager in a medical facility where most of the physicians and administration wear suits or blazers. I do my best to dress within the culture of my workplace, but with the ability to easily transition to community events or school activities with the kids after work. I am also at an age (almost 40) where comfort is prioritized over style, but where style does not have to be sacrificed for comfort. I have no patience for painful shoes, but I do try to find attractive shoes that are also comfortable. Basically, I won’t wear stilettos, but I also am not yet wearing sweatpants in public!
Color and bold accessories are important to me. Wearing color and patterns is often seen as a fashion no-no for overweight women, but it isn’t a problem, and you do not have to resort to wearing all black. It doesn’t slim you down that much anyway. My body type doesn’t stop me from wearing stripes, bold prints and neon colors.
I do a lot of my shopping online. Yes, I buy things online without being able to try them on. It used to be scary, but most stores now allow you to return items back to the store, even if they don’t typically stock that size. My favorite places to shop are: Old Navy, J.C. Penney and Target. I also occasionally visit ModCloth and eShakti online, but the prices are higher than I like to typically spend, so a dress from those sites is a treat!
My rules for an outfit:
- Dress or patterned blouse + pants
- Cardigan or blazer
- Color coordinating jewelry (statement necklace + tiny earrings or big earrings + tiny necklace)
- Tights (winter)
- Black, navy or nude wedges or various colors of ballet flats
Now that I understand what works for my body, I am so much more likely to choose a dress over pants. I am short (5’2″) and have an hourglass-ish shape, which means that pants are almost always a) too long and b) the thighs/hips fit, but the waist is too big. However, in A-line dresses I can mask my shape and draw less attention to my large lower half. Plus, I just feel prettier and more feminine in dresses, which I like.
Old Navy is my go-to place for inexpensive dresses. They consistently have colorful, well-fitted options in both regular women’s sizes and plus size. I own cardigans in pretty much every color they offer, so I almost never have trouble matching one to any dress I buy.
JC Penney has great dresses, but I sometimes have a hard time finding what I am looking for in my local store. I like to scope out items via their website and then hunt them down in the store. Their options in regular sizes are more varied, but the plus size dress stock is fairly good, too. JCP is my go-to for blazers. I have mustard yellow, hot pink, bright blue, neon yellow and (soon!) neon orange blazers, which I can match with just about every dress or blouse/pants combo.
eShakti is a website where you can buy customizable dresses for either your clothing size or by providing your measurements. The dresses are made overseas, but I have had no problems with the quality of the pieces I’ve ordered. They have an amazing selection of A-line/retro-style dresses and their size selection is huge. I couldn’t resist buying the yellow bicycle dress pictured below recently! Modcloth has a similar dress stock to eShakti, but their size selections are much more limited. You can get dresses all the way up to 4x, but their selection is limited in plus size. Also, many of their dresses are made by UK designers, which further limit the size availability. I really love the blue striped/floral dress below and think it would be adorable with a white blazer or cardigan!
Pinterest is a great place for finding outfit ideas. I have many outfits pinned to my fashion board. The availability of plus size outfit examples isn’t plentiful, but I have pinned many photos of thin women wearing outfits that I have been able to work out for my own body type, such as the white dress/pale yellow cardigan and teal statement necklace outfit below.
For a very long time I avoided wearing dresses in the summer because of a very familiar problem that we curvy ladies experience, but no one enjoys talking about: chafing. This phenomenon has also lovingly been called “chub rub.” The truth is, when your skin rubs together around any part of your body, the friction causes irritation. Add sweat to that irritation and you’re going have a seriously uncomfortable day. But I wasn’t ready to accept a life without summer dresses, especially when maxi dresses began rising in popularity a couple of years ago! So what is the solution? There are a few and I’ve found some to work better than others:
- Anti-perspirant: Yep, just rub a little Degree Clinical Protection on either side of your thighs where they touch while you walk. This was my first go-to for exploring options to help with chafing issues and I still sometimes use it when I am out of other options, but it isn’t at the top of my list. First of all, you have to be careful about which scent you choose. I mistakenly bought one stick that smelled like baby powder and I ended up smelling like a nursery all day. I also had the misfortune of buying a stick that was not clear-gel deodorant and consequently leave behind a nice chalk-white streak on my work chair whenever I’d get up. Not good.
- Anti-chafe balm: My husband is an ultra-marathoner and I am very familiar with Body Glide as a product thanks to his many, many races over the years. Recently these products have been produced for the sole reason of preventing female thigh chafing and they’re packaged to appeal to a women’s senses. They’re really no different than the exact product marathoners have been using for ages and they do exactly what they promise. I just would rather not rub anything on these delicate parts of my skin, so I am inclined to go with Option 3 when I can.
- Slip shorts: A couple years ago I discovered seamless, light fabric, slip shorts at Kohl’s. I was very familiar with shaping undergarments and while they do cover my thighs and prevent chafing, they also tend to bulk up all of my fatty regions into one big blob and frankly, they’re not comfortable. These slip shorts aren’t really slimming or shaping, but they work wonders under a dress to reduce chafing. I have bought them in an array of colors, but find myself sticking to the more neutral colors when I wear white and light colored dresses. I also highly recommend them for biking in a dress, but that’s another post for another day!