Time to suit up!
November 8, 2010 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Any advice for shopping for plus sized women's suits? Bonus points for affordability.

I'm getting ready for internship interviews and need to find a suit. The last one I had (grad school interviews) left me feeling awkward and like I was playing dress-up. I'm more comfortable with professional dress but never go the suit route (usually black pants and a blouse, no jacket).

I'm size 18/20 for pants, XL or XXL for tops. I'm planning on getting them fitted at a tailor in hopes that they will be more comfortable that way. Its not likely I'll be wearing it much beyond interviews, so I'd like to save money but don't want to look like I am wearing a cheap suit. Ideally I'd like to get two full outfits in the event that my luggage gets lost while traveling or something catastrophic happens to one.

I'm in Mid-Michigan and was planning on heading to the Novi mall to shop as it has a larger selection than anything in my area. Macy's, Lord and Taylor, JCPenny, etc are there.

What stores or brand should I shop? How can I tell the quality of the suit? What stores am I likely to find things in my size and what cuts are more flattering for plus-sized women? Any other advice to give a newbie to the suit world?
posted by gilsonal to Shopping (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The best plus-size women's suits that I've found that are at all within reason are Jones New York. Macy's carries them, and they are regularly somewhat discounted and fully in stock at Jones New York outlets if there's one near you. If there's a sale or any on the clearance race at Macy's, that's helpful. The fit depends on WHERE your curves are, how tall you are, etc.--I am tall and have a waist and broad shoulders, and I despise the boxy little cropped jackets that Lane Bryant pushes (not to mention their terrible fabrics and utter lack of durability). But it depends on you. Try on several, and wear the height of shoes that you plan to be wearing to see how the pants will fit (if you're getting a pantsuit) or where the hem's going to fit, and wear the same bra or other undergarments.

Macy's has another brand that's not as nice as JNY but will do if there aren't any JNY suits on sale. I can't remember what it is, but it's about half the price and will probably be obvious.

In my part of the country, different Macy's have different ranges of plus-size selections. One in the next city over seems to specialize--their basement is a plus-size wonderland, whereas the one near me has next to nothing. So you might ask if you don't find what you want.
posted by wintersweet at 8:40 PM on November 8, 2010

(Also, good luck!)
posted by wintersweet at 8:40 PM on November 8, 2010

Lane Bryant has decent suits for plus-sized women. They are sold as separates, so if you need pants in one size and a blazer/jacket in another and a shirt in yet a third, it's not a problem. I've been wearing the same Lane Bryant suit for going on three years now, and it's holding up really nicely. (I wear it an average of once a month, probably; maybe a little more.) Their suits, in my experience, are machine washable, although I usually just spritz with some water and throw it in the dryer for a while to perk it up instead of washing it every single time.

Since their clothes are specifically designed for plus-sized women, the suits there tend to fit better and be more flattering. They're also pretty affordable; you can probably get pants, jacket, and shirt for under $150.
posted by shamash at 8:42 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lane Bryant's suits fit poorly, are cheaply made, and overpriced. Macy's is your best bet. Jones New York or Anne Klein if you can afford it, AGB, INC or Style & Co if you can't.

And it looks like they've got suits sale right now.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:55 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

At your size you're in the lucky inbetween - Macy's and Lord & Taylor have straight sizes to 18 and plus starting at 14W, so don't assume you have to be in one department or another - grab pieces from both to try on. Both stores, both departments, have Jones New York and Calvin Kline which are high quality (and high price)... luckily, unless you're talking straight linen or heavy wool, suiting is generally a year round proposition and both stores (and departments) will carry the same separates on sale so you very well might find deeply discounted pieces that fit well without tailoring.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:07 PM on November 8, 2010

If you go to Macy's, check out suits made by Tahari. Also not cheap (~$100-200 non-sale price for top & bottom), but they are also of good quality and pretty classic cuts that will last. While you may not get daily wear out of it if you're in a less formal environment, it's never a bad thing to have a good dark suit in your closet.
posted by smirkette at 9:16 PM on November 8, 2010

I'm an 18/20 and have a fair amount of success getting dress clothes from Nordstrom and Macy's, and occasionally Bloomingdale's. Be aware that not all locations of these stores carry plus sizes, though, so it might be a good idea to call ahead before trekking to the mall.

Lane Bryant might be worth a try, too. Don't count on finding all your suit bits there, but every once in awhile you can luck out and find something that fits you beautifully, and they're good for plus-sized dress shirts that won't burst at the buttons if you're especially busty.

I'm not a fashion or suit expert by any means, but I do see a lot of people suited up for interviews, and the most common egregious suiting errors I see are: suit pieces that don't match in color, suit jackets that are way too large, suit jackets that are way too short, and people who are painfully, obviously uncomfortable in their suits.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:13 AM on November 9, 2010

If you have one near you, I've gotten some lovely clothes at Catherine's. They seem to be related to Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug in some way...
posted by kathrynm at 3:54 AM on November 9, 2010

Best answer: If you can find a Talbots with the plus-size women's line as well as the misses line, I encourage that. Their misses go up to 20, but you might find that the women's line fits better. If you are large, but not busty, you'll be better off with the misses line for jackets, IME. All suits are sold as separates. I highly recommend the "seasonless wool" separates. In Michigan in the winter you will not be too cold if you wear a long-sleeved top. My mixed-size Talbots suit in that fabric served me well in August, and I got the job!
posted by jgirl at 3:57 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Following up on jgirl, if you can find a Talbots Clearance outlet, you may be score some amazing specials. Finding both parts of a suit is a feat of luck but if you have a nice pair of black pants, you can pair just about any jacket with them. A big seasonal markdown starts tomorrow (Wed 11/10). When I was in a larger size in misses, I would often buy a size down in womens (i.e. a 14W instead of a 16).
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:51 AM on November 9, 2010

Stacey and Clinton say buy the best you can afford, fit the largest part of your body, and have tailored what doesn't fit. They recommend two-button jackets that button higher for larger women. I'd say make sure it fits in the bust, or in my case, the belly is my worst area. So the jacket must button over my tummy, or it doesn't fit.

A good suit will make you feel great. A good suit should make you feel smart, confident and ready for anything.

A good suit is a great investment--don't get something that is too trendy. Something classic will last you for years, and can be worn in all sorts of ways (with different pants, skirts, tops, and accessories).

A good jacket hides a multitude of sins, and makes me feel professional.
posted by Savannah at 5:50 AM on November 9, 2010

Nthing... Talbots' and Macy's, and I've always had my best suit shopping luck at Lord & Taylor. Also agreeing that Lane Bryant suits are generally teh suck.
posted by kimdog at 6:08 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had some really lovely suits from Lane Bryant that fit well and were very nice quality without looking too mature or too trendy. Classic but stylish.
It can depend on the specific Lane Bryant store though. They vary their merchandise by the store quite a lot, and some stores have a better selection of suit separates than other stores, which might have a bigger selection of trendy casual clothes. I'm sure it depends on the demographics of the area.
posted by aabbbiee at 6:48 AM on November 9, 2010

Also on the Talbot's and Macy's bandwagons. Talbot's does give me price shock at first, but the clothes are worth it. Good quality, good fabrics, well made, well fitting, and longlasting.
posted by Miko at 7:58 AM on November 9, 2010

Best answer: Lord & Taylor! They often have sales, and that's where I've found the nicest dresses and suits in large sizes. I thought Lord & Taylor was too fancy for me, but I've had great luck and good service there. I don't shop there for every day, but suits and dresses... well -

My best friend practically eloped, and I needed a maid of honor dress fast - tried everywhere else in several (SE Michigan!) malls, but they all seemed to think large women only wear horizontal stripes and animal prints. UGH. Lord & Taylor had the perfect dress. Then when my brother got married I told my mom that story, but she insisted on trying everywhere else first - and then finally found two great dresses at Lord & Taylor.

My last interview round I headed First to Lord & Taylor, found a suit that fit without tailoring, and got the job.
posted by ldthomps at 8:44 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My lawyer friend gets all her suits (14-16) at Nordstrom Rack (for under $100, IIRC).
posted by momus_window at 12:56 PM on November 9, 2010

Do not overlook a quality consignment shop. It may take deep searching on the racks but you can find really nice suits. They'll probably be 'last season' but that will just make you look like you wear suits all the time instead of buying an "interview suit".
Just examine each item carefully for stains or tears (even the best shop can't minutely examine every piece) and try every piece on - especially if its a designer you don't normally wear.

*You can occasionally hit the jackpot -- there was a woman in my area who either replaced or downsized 10-15 outfits every season. I loved her clothes (the local shop used a code for each seller so it got so I could spot her stuff) She was exactly my size and had my coloring but had a much bigger clothing budget than I did. When I stopped seeing her stuff in the shop, I always wondered what happened to her.
posted by jaimystery at 7:15 PM on November 10, 2010

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