Learning to build a plus-size wardrobe doesn’t have to be awful.
So, you gained some weight because of the global pandemic (me too!), because you stopped doing fad diets (congrats!), or just because bodies change (no biggie!). Your measurements have changed, and your clothing doesn’t fit you anymore. Worse, you can’t shop at the same stores you used to because they don’t carry inclusive sizing, or you just don’t feel comfortable. That’s okay! Your body’s growth doesn’t have to ring the death knell for your personal style.
I made the shift from straight-size to plus-size in college. I’d always been on the higher end of exclusive sizing before that, so I was no stranger to discomfort in shopping situations. (“Sorry, we don’t carry that in your size, but we are having a BOGO sale on earrings!”) But when most of my favorite brands stopped fitting my body, I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start. It seemed to me like the only clothing I could find in my size was cheaply produced and a) intended for thin bodies with no consideration of how fat can distribute on a larger body or b) business casual.
Entering the world of plus-size fashion doesn’t have to be like that. Yeah, it’s kind of scary and none of the sizing makes sense — but that’s no different from all other women’s fashion! So here are my top five tips for crafting a totally awesome plus-size wardrobe that fits both your body and your taste:
1. Stick with what you love.
Just because your body is bigger doesn’t mean you have to start wearing muumuus. (Oversized is very in, right now, though, and oh, so comfy!) If you loved wearing muumuus when your body was smaller, you can keep doing that! If you loved a-line dresses on your thin body, keep loving them on your fat body! Fashion is always evolving, so don’t paint yourself into a corner, but definitely forget about all of those teen magazines that told you big girls have to dress drab. It’s your body. You get to put what you want on it.
Making a new wardrobe is costly. Unless you’re loaded, (which, props) it can be a big financial strain to find quality items you love. Thrifting can ease that financial burden, especially if you set up an account at your favorite local consignment store.
Those cute clothes that don’t fit anymore? Do not keep them! I mean it. They’ll waste space and do nothing but make you feel bad about not being able to wear them. Sell them through your consignment store account, and the credit will be directly applied so you can put your old clothes to work getting you new clothes. You can also sell on apps like Depop or Poshmark, or even Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
My personal closet is about 15% thrifted, because that’s what works for me. If you’re dedicated, and you live in an area with a ton of curvy fashionistas who refresh their wardrobe every season, you could probably have a closet that’s closer to 80% thrifted. Alas, I’m not in that boat. If you are, tell me what city it is so I can move.
3. Shop online selections.
I know. Shopping online as a big girl is awful. I still shudder to remember the travesty of my sophomore year homecoming dress. (Pro-tip: if it’s strapless and you’re between sizes, size down, not up!) But it’s okay, don’t panic! I have some steps that will make this a lot easier.
Remember those stores you love that don’t carry your size? More often than not, their online selection is way bigger. First, find a brick-and-mortar shop near you. Then, go to the store and try on the closest size to your own they carry. I recommend bringing a support-person for this step. I know, it can be difficult to try on clothes that are too small, but you wouldn’t have to do that if brands would do the right thing and increase their in-store size range. Direct your discomfort and anger at them, not yourself. (The corporation, not the retail-workers. Please don’t ever be mean to service-workers.)
Once you’ve done that, take stock of how these clothes fit your body now. Which parts are loose? Which parts are tight? Which parts are just right? Once you have an understanding of how they fit, you’ll be able to figure out which size will fit you best, even if you can’t try it on. Online shopping is way easier when you make a customized fit chart with this method.
If that process isn’t possible for you, you can totally find stores that have size quizzes rather than charts. They work way more accurately than size charts, and my personal favorite is ASOS. You can also do a similar process based on your old clothing. Word of warning, though, don’t base your conclusions on how your clothes used to fit your body, because a whole bunch of things could have changed.
4. If you can, avoid fast fashion.
Ethical and environmental concerns aside, fast fashion is cheap. If it’s what you can afford, or if you find something you love, go for it! I’m not going to tell on you, and I definitely have a fair share of fast fashion in my own closet. But when I say it’s cheap, I don’t mean just monetarily. The thing about bigger bodies is that they put more strain on clothing. I’m lucky if I can get a pair of jeans to last more than six months with my chub rub. Fast fashion is notorious for breaking down, for not lasting more than a few seasons. Unfortunately, this issue is only exacerbated with increased size. It’s just not going to last you long, and you’ll end up paying more in the long run to keep replacing your items.
5. Look into custom-made clothing.
Etsy is probably my favorite place to shop. When I first starting shopping plus-size, I had few issues finding clothes that would fit my body, but a lot of issues finding clothes that would fit my style. I love bright colors and jewel tones and basically a whole lot of things everyone and their mother seems to think plus-size people shouldn’t wear. So in a not so shocking turn of events, it was difficult for me find clothing I really loved at plus-size stores or in plus-size lines. When I discovered bespoke shops on Etsy, it was a gamechanger for me. Suddenly, a world of fashion I thought closed off to me was again accessible. Custom-made clothing to my measurements completely revamped my closet, and I especially recommend it for petite plus-size women. It can be expensive, but a lot of shops will run excellent sales semi-regularly. I check in on my favorite shops every few weeks to see what’s on sale!
Really, it’s a win-win. You get high-quality clothing that fits you perfectly like some European monarch from the 1800s, and you support a small business!
You can build a wardrobe you love as a plus-size person.
I’m not going to say plus-size shopping is easy. It’s not. Fatphobia is very real, and it affects the fashion industry a lot. But it doesn’t have to be awful, and it certainly doesn’t have to be ugly! Everyone deserves to wear clothing that fits them physically and stylistically. That doesn’t change once you step over the line from size 12 to size 14. It doesn’t change ever. Unless you’re a war criminal or something. Half the battle in building your new plus-size wardrobe might just be building up your confidence again and learning to love your bigger body as much as you loved your smaller body. Finding clothes that don’t restrict you and make you uncomfortable is a part of that, and I wish you the best of luck in doing so.
Hope these tips help. Stay fat and fabulous, babes.