Being a plus sized woman and dressing stylishly is an incredibly hard task. I don’t even consider myself to be particularly well dressed but I try. I have trouble with accessorizing, especially since my skin breaks out when it’s touched by anything that isn’t gold, silver, or platinum. I get baffled when trying to put an outfit together and figuring out what tops work well with which bottoms. My uniform tends to be a dress, leggings and a cardigan. But even for plus size women who put together show-stopping outfits, it’s a struggle. That’s why when I was scrolling through Twitter a while back and saw plus size fashion guru Gabi Fresh’s tweets about the difficulties of dressing well while plus sized, I wanted to scream her truth from the rooftops.
In particular, Gabi addressed the difficulty of trying to put together a fabulous outfit at the last minute. As a style icon, she’s expected to show up at events wearing brand new outfits rather than repeating or re-styling something she’s worn before. But since she’s plus sized, finding something fabulous at the last minute can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
As I read through Gabi’s tweets, I found myself nodding at the familiarity of what she was writing, as well as the responses from other plus size female celebrities. Danielle Brooks (best known a Taystee on Orange Is The New Black) lamented trying to get the most out of her little black dresses by pairing them with different designer accessories. Amber Riley (known for her role as Mercedes on Glee) talked about how her skinny friends don’t understand why she prefers not to go shopping with them. “They don’t get that for me it’s a spectator sport!”
These tweets resonated so strongly with me because they reflected what I’ve come to think of as the unspoken rules about shopping while plus size. So I wanted to take some time to share what I’ve discovered over the years.
- There is no such thing as getting an outfit at the last second. When it comes to outfits for partying, clubbing, or spending a night out on the town, we need to hold onto our best clothes because we can’t just run out to H&M and grab a sparkly dress for under $50. There’s an off chance that we might find what we need at one of the few plus size stores in town but chances are the price will make you cry and it won’t really match your own personal style.
- The smaller you are, the more options you have. This is kind of a given but even though plus size is considered to be an all-encompassing label, it’s not. If you’re a size 16, chances are you can still run into the Gap and find something that fits. Once you get beyond that size, your options start dwindling. It’s why some of my plus size friends can throw together an outfit at Value Village while others shop strictly online. For anyone who doesn’t believe me, just go to the Modcloth website and refine the clothing by size. See what happens when you choose 1X, then 2X, 3X and so on. As the size goes up, your options go down.
- There’s a magical trifecta in plus size shopping and it happens when you find something that a) comes in your size b) matches your style and c) isn’t prohibitively expensive. Even shopping at plus size stores isn’t a guarantee for the trifecta. I recently found myself looking for leggings at one of my favourite stores and couldn’t find anything in my size (everything left was either too big or too small). When you do manage to find an outfit that hits all three of these standards, grab it and run! (after paying for it, of course.)
- Some things simply aren’t made in our size. People assume that having plus size clothing means we can pretty much find something in our size but that’s not always the case. From padded biker shorts to fleece lined tights, when it comes to specialty items, a lot of the time they might not be available at all.
- This is the most important thing of all – your straight size friends probably don’t get it. Whether it’s dragging you along on shopping trips and ignoring the fact that you can’t fit into the clothes at those stores (or even worse, absurdly insisting that you might fit into something the mall) or inviting you to themed parties where “everyone has to dress up!” a lot of the time people who don’t fall under the purview of plus size aren’t aware of what it means to dress a plus size body. I too have wandered idly around the accessories section while well-meaning friends spend hours in the fitting rooms. I’ve had to hide my annoyance when someone tells me that if I need new leggings I can “just pick some up from Joe Fresh.” It’s not their fault that they don’t get it (or in some cases choose not to) but it can get exhausting.
I understand that a lot of what I’m saying here isn’t always limited to plus sizes. I’m sure we’ve all struggled to put together an outfit for an 80s throwback party.
But whatever sartorial conundrum you’re facing, just imagine that your options have now shrunk by 90%. That’s what being plus size is like. As most of these pieces end, I have to lament the state of plus size fashion and the fact that even though our options are growing, they’re still a drop in the bucket compared to the selection for straight sizes. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to show up at that 80s party with a side ponytail styled with a neon scrunchie and not much else.