Today's fashion options for plus-sized women are better than ever before, but the choices are often bewildering. It's hard to know how to build a wardrobe from the ground up, especially with all those insipid articles out there telling you how simple it is. Worse, most wardrobe guides cater to skinny women who can shop anywhere.
Let's be honest. When you're a plus sized woman, making sure that you've always got something to wear that looks good on you is hard work. But it's not impossible, and this guide offers some help.
Stick with cotton. Nylon may feel sexy, but when you're stuck in the car with the edge digging into your private parts, you'll wish you felt breathable, stretchable, cotton. Beside, cotton panties are no longer granny-panties thanks to the pretty patterns, colors, and designs now available. And they'll keep you cool, dry, and confident.
You'll want at least ten pair of panties if you do laundry often, double that number if you do laundry less than once a week. Make sure one of your panties is a nude color with no designs or patterns on it, to wear under white.
You'll need at least five bras. One for exercise, two for daily support, and two for super-support, the kind that lifts, separates, locks, and loads. (The reason you'll want a separate exercise bra is because the perspiration, bouncing, and exertion you subject your bra to, will ruin a foundation garment not designed for a workout.)
For your daily bras, choose one in black and one in nude. Unless you're actually wearing white, a peek of white bra strap will look tacky. And if you are wearing white, a nude bra will not show under your garments as easily.
For your super-support bras, black and nude are fine options, but feel free to experiment with color. If you wear a lot of orange and red, go ahead and get a red bra. If the strap happens to peek out when you're bending over, it will look sexy rather than careless.
Even if you do not work outside the home, you'll want at least one well-tailored suit. It can be a pants suit or a skirt suit. If you can find a suit that fits you beautifully and has both a slacks and skirt option, snap it up with both options, even if it's pricey.
An elegantly tailored black suit has the kind of fashion flexibility that's hard to beat. You can wear it to work, you can wear it to evening occasions, and you can wear it to funerals. About the only place you can not wear it is to a wedding, and even there the rules are starting to change.
If you can only afford one suit, and you're sick of black, try navy or charcoal gray.
If you work outside the home and can afford more than one, you may want to splurge on a second suit in a more fashion-forward color, like burgundy, which often works as a pseudo-neutral.
If you primarily wear pants, you should own at least five pairs – one for every day of the work week.
- Two pairs of black pants. They can do double duty for you – one for the work week, and the other for weekend evening occasions.
- One pair of gray slacks. Gray can be paired with almost any color; it's one of the most versatile neutrals you can have in your wardrobe.
- One navy pair of slacks. Navy will give you a crisp and polished look at work, and can be paired with white accessories for a summery brunch on the weekends.
- One good pair of jeans. Denim can be dressed up for work on casual Fridays, and they're great to wear on weekends when going out to lunch with friends.
If you primarily wear skirts to work, you can get by with only three pairs of pants. Choose one pair of dressy black slacks, one pair of gray, and a good pair of jeans.
Darker colors on the bottom are usually the most flattering for plus sized women, but if you are shaped in such a way that your bottom half is much smaller than your top half, consider replacing the navy with a pair of white or camel colored slacks.
Pinstripes and tweed are great, but do not buy pants with floral, paisley, polka dot, or plaid patterns on them; they will look dated and clownish. They will also be difficult to match.
And avoid tapered pants – they almost never look good on plus sized women. Look for a straight leg, or even a wide legged design.
If you prefer skirts, to slacks for work, you'll want to own at least five – one for every day of the work week.
- One basic black skirt. A classic black skirt never goes out of style and has endless utility.
- One gray, navy or brown skirt. A skirt in a neutral other than black will soften your appearance and allow for better mixing and matching in your closet. A brown skirt can be particularly handy because it can be paired with crisp white when it's warm out and harvest colors during the colder months.
- One skirt in khaki or white. Again, darker colors generally look better on the bottom, but when it comes to skirts, the color of your legs are already going to show at the hem, so it's easier to experiment with lighter colors.
- Two patterned skirts. Choose beautiful prints that tie together other colors already in your wardrobe. If you own a number of blue blouses, for example, try to find a print that incorporates that blue as well as a third color that you can mix and match.
Consider an a-line design which flatters almost every body type and skims away from the body to create an hourglass figure. Also, make sure to bring your skirt to the tailor to make sure that it's not too long or too short for your frame.
Tops are where the plus sized woman will have the most fun, and the most options. You'll want ten to fifteen tops in your closet, depending on the season, but at a minimum, you'll need five.
- One sexy black top. This shirt should look like you're ready to go to the club when you put it over jeans, sleek and mod when you wear it with black pants, and dressy when you wear it with your black skirt. This means that you're going to have to match blacks. Bring your black pants and skirt with you to the store to make sure that the black top is in the right family before you buy. This shirt should be a vee neck, which flatters most plus-sized women.
- One white blouse. Every woman needs one, even if we are all terrified of wearing it for fear of staining it. If need be, keep a stain stick in your purse and pre-treat every spot before you throw it in the laundry. Or even better, buy one of those new stain preventers, like Voila Fabric Protector.
- One flattering tee in a bright color. If this color matches one of your patterned skirts, so much the better. Choose something that goes well with your skin tone. Saturated jewel-toned colors are usually best, but experiment and see what looks best.
- One comfortable striped blouse. Vertical stripes or diagonal stripes only. Make sure it has a little stretch in it, and you're comfortable wearing it all day. Experiment to see if it bunches up at the shoulder if you are carrying a handbag. Buy it in a color that will go with all your neutral bottoms.
- One flattering stretching top in a solid. This top should be somewhere between a blouse and a tee. No buttons. Something easy to throw on. Something easy to dress up with accessories. Perhaps a stretchy surplus top that looks great over jeans and all your neutral bottoms.
Shorts, Socks & Casual Ware
Maybe you spend most of your days at home, or maybe you need things to wear during the summer months or just to go to the store. Pick a uniform. Whatever is most comfortable to you. Sometimes shorts and a tee shirt is your thing. Sometimes a casual skirt and a top. Maybe you like capris pants best.
Whatever your uniform for daily and casual ware is, find a pair of bottoms and tops that look great together and then buy duplicates, either in the same or different colors.
Keep these in a separate part of your closet so that you can throw them on without thinking, mixing and matching easily.
As for socks, buy all the same kind. It will save you time in sorting the laundry and pairing them up. Get socks with some stretch in them, and a little padding. White is probably best. But keep a pair of dark trouser socks on hand if you wear slacks a lot. And for the love of all that's sacred, ditch the pantyhose. You do not need them. And if you ever do, you can buy them at the convenient store at the last minute.
Finally, a Word About Fabrics
Stretchy, breathable, lightweight clothes that do not need to be dry-cleaned are your friend. Plus sized women have special challenges when it comes to sitting down in clothes and being comfortable. In today's world of new fabrics, you do not have to itch or have your clothes dig into your skin.
I'm not talking about slinky fabrics or citiknits, although wrinkle free outfits are always popular. I'm talking about the new blends of rayon, spandex, cotton and lycra that are making a splash in the fashion world.
As just one example, The Avenue has come out with a new line of Denim Lite jeans which not only hold their shape well, but are as comfortable to wear as sweatpants. Really. You could nap in them!
You do not want to go overboard with clingy fabrics that show every bulge and roll. But if the fabric will not stretch when you sit down, or cross your arms, or sling your purse over your shoulder, seriously reconsiderer.
So that's it. Follow these guidelines and you're well on your way to owning a wardrobe that flatters you, and from ever having that feeling that your closet is full, but you have nothing to wear!