Making over an ignorant introverted type
December 26, 2011 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Help me find plus-sized interesting women's clothing, particularly tunics and short dresses, in the UK / online, given specific requirements.

After my last question about being called out in the street for my appearance, and more recently my seven year-old cousin saying that my "personal style is dark boring clothes", I'm trying to make myself over for 2012.

I am overweight, about 165 cm tall, female. I usually wear a UK size 22 which is American size 20 I think. I have never been interested in the clothes I wear and usually wear jeans with a t-shirt and loose jumper. I wear only long-sleeved tops because of old scars on my arms (sleeves need to be full-length, not three-quarter). I don't like necklines less than a couple of inches below my neck, but no polo necks. I have bad posture, if that makes any difference. I'm 39. At work in particular my clothes are noticeably out of place, and have been commented on, though this hasn't worried me especially as it's been a trade-off for feeling at ease in what I wear.

I'd like to start wearing long tunics or short dresses with leggings or tights, or with trousers if I need to retreat to my comfort zone. I wore this tunic from Jo Brown / SimplyBe on Christmas Day, and felt ok in it, but the brown colour is pretty dull - I thought about dyeing it but too much stitching to make this feasible. I like the look of this tunic also from Joe Brown, but it only goes up to 18. I'm wondering about this tunic from M and Co. In other people's clothes I like a bit of difference, slight eccentricity, possibly a touch of idealised old-fashionedness, so I guess this is probably what I would want for me.

I can alter clothes if necessary and I can wear long-sleeved t-shirts under lower-cut or short-sleeved tops if the latter are loose enough.

I am trying to lose weight (particularly through health month) but theorise that I might find this easier if I felt better about how I look in terms of clothes.

So, specific questions -

1. Any recommendations for shops or items? I've Googled fairly extensively on and off - it's hard to search for long sleeves of course. I'm happier shopping online, but am reluctant to use American online shops as I've been caught with custom charges before. Of course I might be able to find specific American items on eBay UK.

2. Is there a name for this sort of style?

3. Is there anything I can read about trying to develop knowledge about what suits me, given my introverted, academic type of personality and lack of interest in a lot of fashion (eg I don't think I'll ever be interested in make-up or shoes)?

4. If you have consciously changed your "personal style," how has it worked for you? Are there pitfalls I'm not considering?

I have looked at relevant Ask MF questions and found these the most useful: one, two, three. I know about "What Not to Wear" and Gok Wan.
posted by toenail to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Try Dorothy Perkins for short dresses you can layer over things.
posted by houseofdanie at 11:28 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might also like some items from the ASOS Curve line, though not all. I'm having trouble linking to the UK version of the site (ASOS is a UK company), but they have several pieces that seem to fit your requirements, if not exactly your aesthetic.
posted by houseofdanie at 11:38 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Get some accessories to add to your dark boring clothes! They are probably perfect for setting off an elaborate wonderful necklace or brooch or scarf. Small people can't pull off the look that well, but you can go all-out with the beads or vintage or whatever you want. Plus, black works with any color (including brown), so have fun and don't worry -- just find things that you love.

You can start with Etsy -- it's even possible to look for sellers in your area.
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on December 26, 2011

I'm American, but back when I wore girlie clothes, I got a bunch of stuff from Evans via Ebay and actually really liked their woven cotton tunics. here is what they have in a size 22. I like their florals; I feel like you could easily buy a couple of intermediate outfits that would be, like, attractive woven tunic in a floral or a chambray; big scarf in a woven cotton; leggings in a nice deep color.

Like maybe: three tunics in related colors in a floral, a muted pattern and a chambray; leggings in aubergine, chocolate and charcoal; scarves in a grey check, a stripe and a floral and two big cardigan jackets in maybe a grey and a navy?

I actually have dramatically changed my personal style (although from Nothing Much to dapperly butch, so that doesn't necessarily help). I used to be about your size, am now maybe 2 sizes smalle via exercise and mostly-veganism but will never be thin, have a big frame with wide shoulders and used to wear big dark clothes all the time. They were nice enough - nice details, nice fabrics, not actually shapeless - but not very interesting.

It was really fashion tumblrs that did it for me - just looking at them a lot over time.

Buttercup's Frocks is one of my favorite personal blogs (it also has a lot of blogroll). It's by a woman in her early fifties who is plus-sized and....gee, I don't know, she's always been an art school/arts community person, she's obviously very smart and she has exceedingly characteristic taste. Nothing at all like mine, but I do like to see her ideas. Also, she sometimes posts amazingly cool photos from when she was a Bright Young Thing in the early eighties.

When I changed my style...well, I had always cared about clothes, sort of. But I have always preferred, like you, to have a uniform. Basically, I have a lot of the same kind of thing in different but related colors, and my "same kind of thing" is idiosyncratic enough that it looks fashiony and not just "I threw this on". Also, all my clothes are machine-washable and don't need much ironing, because I know I won't deal well with anything else. I have a bunch of pants in greys, blues and blacks - tight ones for winter since I wear more bulky shirts then and looser ones to roll at the ankle in summer. I have a bunch of button front shirts in muted but unusual colors and patterns; I wear them buttoned up with a collar pin. I have a bunch of scarves. And I have a bunch of cardigans in dark colors - deep blue, several greys, muted black. And that's all I wear. I have gauged ears and wear the same plugs/earrings all the time because I like jewelry but hate thinking about it. Locals seem to think I dress well, but basically it's just very simple stuff. I constantly keep an eye out for new used shirts and dotted items of one kind or another.
posted by Frowner at 12:38 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, my take-away was supposed to be "it's easy to switch from black/dark brown to muted colors like grey-blue, charcoal, aubergine. And you can wear a grey and deep blue outfit which you point up with a white-and-blue scarf, and it looks much more put together (IME) than an all black outfit with a light-colored accessory".
posted by Frowner at 12:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

It has been tough, in my experience as a fat lady, to figure out if I want to buy something because it fits, or because I like it. So I have tried really hard lately to FIRST find things I like and THEN see if they're in my size. I know it's tempting to wear all giant sweaters and jeans/leggings, but throwing on a skirt instead of trousers, or a dress instead of a tunic, can make a HUGE difference. I used to be a strictly jeans-and-tees kind of girl until I got a new job in an office. Now I'm kind of known for being fashionable, but it's because of my new rule! I don't know if they ship to UK but eShakti is AMAZING and they do custom sizing. So you really can find something you like, and then see it actually comes in your size, which is a great feeling. I also love Old Navy, Torrid, and Avenue--sorry if none of them ship to you, but maybe you can check them out and then try to find something similar near you? Good luck!! It can sound kind of shallow and weird, but I find that dressing well really does do wonders for how I feel about myself. Being excited to get dressed is a really good motivator every morning!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:45 PM on December 26, 2011

I'm a size 20 US and very recently developed what I call my "winter uniform". I bought a bunch of different colored skirts and knee-length dresses from Lands End and Old Navy, wear a cardigan over the dress, leggings, boots, and scarves. It's definitely comfortable and much more stylish than jeans and sweaters, and as someone above mentioned, dressing nicely and feeling good about what you're wearing goes a long way. Lands End is hit or miss with their dresses, but I particularly like the dresses with the "Ponte" fabric. The drapeneck Ponte dress is my favorite, and they often have huge sales of 40% off where you can buy a whole bunch of stuff for not much money. The leggings I wear are from or Old Navy - I go for leggings over tights because tights just aren't comfortable to me at all, whereas leggings are very comfy. I wear boots or Danskos most of the time, and usually just wear a thin sock of the same color with the tights, or wear something with a patterned foot for a little flair. You can wear a solid colored dress in a boring color like gray, brown, or black and just rely on brighter colored sweaters and scarves to pull it together. Good luck.
posted by Sal and Richard at 1:05 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest paying a visit to Fashionworld; their plus size clothes are pretty good for the money.
posted by DuchessProzac at 1:26 PM on December 26, 2011

Joe Browns @ Fashionworld goes up to 32 according to my wife. Less certain, try Holy Clothing.
posted by Leon at 3:09 PM on December 26, 2011

4. If you have consciously changed your "personal style," how has it worked for you? Are there pitfalls I'm not considering?

I've been struggling with something similar the last few years, after realizing that I only ever wore shorts/jeans, tshirts, and hoodies. I went through 2 steps to change my style. First of all, I gave myself a rather generous budget and went shopping, only for clothes that fit me and the new style that I was looking for. This gave me a pretty sturdy foundation of new, stylish clothes. I also got rid of 90% of the clothes in my closet- if it did not fit me perfectly, and didn't fall into the categories of workout/grubby clothes, pajamas, or extremely sentimental, it was gone. This cut my wardrobe down severely, which meant that I had less clothes to choose from and actually helped me a lot, because there were a limited number of options for each day, making me become more creative with my clothing. The second step was to reorganize my budget to give myself a bit more of a shopping budget each month, and I went out once a month and bought a few more things that fit in with my new style. This kept it fresh and new for me, and now I've found that I really *want* to look less grubby every day. No pitfalls whatsoever, and I am so much happier with the way I look.

A couple of tips that really helped me: Buy clothing that fits you now, not clothing that is too small that you can lose weight into. If you lose the weight, awesome, and luckily you can continue to wear tunics/dresses and leggings by belting them without losing the look you're looking for. Take someone else shopping with you after explaining the style you're looking for- even if it isn't their style. They should still be able to tell what does and doesn't look good on you, and they should be pretty ruthless with their opinions. Having some kind of style board will really help you, too- I cut out pictures from magazines and printed pictures I found on pinterest and tumblr of styles I like. This will help you for both shopping and dressing. Finally, make sure the clothes you buy all work together. Buy full outfits, if possible.
posted by kro at 7:54 PM on December 26, 2011

This might be a bit obvious, but have you tried Evans? I buy almost all my clothes from their online store—they do free returns, so you can buy a bunch of stuff to try on at home and just send back whatever you don't like. There are a few things in their current range that might suit your requirements.

Bonus tips for shopping at Evans:

1) I always check this site for vouchers (discounts, free delivery etc) before purchasing;
2) I always shop at Evans via Quidco, a UK cashback site that gives me a 5% cashback (it used to be 10%) and alerts me to any vouchers I didn't spot elsewhere; and
3) It's worth checking (a near duplicate shopfront for Evans owned by the same parent company, Arcadia)—sometimes you'll find the same items listed there at the same price, but offers free delivery in addition to returns.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:56 PM on December 26, 2011

Personally I really like the Flax generous line and Blue Fish - both are online, kind of pricey but really good value (hung to dry they last me years and years).

I like to layer my clothes and these two lines work really well together for just that.

A lot of the pieces can be found on ebay.
posted by saffronwoman at 9:22 AM on December 27, 2011

I realise I am late to this thread but if you're still looking a few thoughts. I am similar size to you and I always disliked Evans and never had much luck shopping there. Their cuts and proportions rarely seemed to work for me. I basically only ever buy accessories there. I have successfully bought things from Simply be but again I find that if you are one size on top and the next one up on your bottom half a lot of their styles did not work. The trouble with a lot of tunics is that they generally need to be long enough to go around your hips and if they fit there they generally are too big for my boobs and the arms are too long and the shoulders too wide...for me. The quality is also sometimes questionable. Liking their jeans and their underwear though.

Do not disregard the online shops of regular retailers like Marks & Spencer and also Next. Whilst they do not necessarily have size 22 on the shop floor a lot of their styles go up to a size 22 online. Both also have specific plus size ranges. And they both have excellent search functions allowing you to filter by size, sleeve length etc so instead of 200 unsuitable results you have 16 to your requirements to scan. And they have good returns policies.

Another option are supermarkets - they normally have plus size options so have a look in your local superstores. In particular I have frequently bought knitwear, vest top type things, socks and also accessories, as well as sleepwear.

Finally, if you are willing to wear vest tops for example to make low cut tops work for you have a look over at Their styles are on the feminine and slightly glamorous side of things as far as plus sizes go but don't be put off by that. You should be able to find things that meet your requirements and will make you feel lovely when you wear them. For example a classic wrap dress with a vest top underneath could easily be worn over trousers if you like. They are quite expensive in the UK but two of the brands they sell, Kiyonna and also Igigi, ship internationally from their US websites and their customer service is very good. And they do have good sales on all the US public holidays, which more or less balances shipping and customs charges if you shop during a sale.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:07 AM on June 16, 2012

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