Plus Size Style 101, USA Female Edition
October 22, 2013 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me reinvent my style! I need fashion inspiration. I need shops that will outfit plus size me without breaking the bank. Difficulty level: tall, too! Bonus question: calf boots for big feet and fat calves.

I am a plus size tall woman who lives in jeans and t-shirts on the weekends, and nicer t-shirts over black knit pants during the work week. Over the summer, I met a plus size woman who looked fabulous wearing dresses over black leggings, and she pointed me at Old Navy's online store, and I *finally* ordered stuff - 3 knee length dresses, 2 pairs of black leggings, and even a short denim skirt. Wore dresses over leggings twice in the past few days, got many compliments, and felt really pretty.

So, having stepped way outside my usual clothing comfort zone, I'm looking to continue. I shied away from short skirts and dresses for years because of my poochy tummy, my large thighs and my really large booty. No more! I am working on getting healthier, with smaller as a side effect, but I've decided that feeling really good about how I look RIGHT NOW is the best way to encourage myself to be healthy. Positive self image, yay!

Me: mid 40s, in USA, acts/dresses/looks younger, geeky, not afraid of standing out, loves bohemian/funky looks, no color off limits, dark hair in pixie cut. Assume I'm probably too big for the places that end at size 24. I'm also about 5'11", and longer in the torso than the leg. I guess I'm a pear? My bra band measurement is about 6" smaller than my waist size, which is about 10" smaller than my hips.

What I'm looking for:

  • Your favorite fatshionista blogs - I don't know ANY, so give me even the popular ones that "everyone" has heard of
  • Where to shop! Obviously I know Old Navy. I've been big for a while now, so I'm familiar with Lane Bryant, Avenue, Woman Within, Roamans, Jessica London. I'm looking for plus size places off the beaten path and unexpected places with extended sizing. Oh, and ideally not crazy expensive, please. I love the look of (for instance) Blue Fish Clothing, but can't afford $100+ on a single piece of clothing.
  • Where the heck do I find shapewear to go under all these new clothes? I've worn Spanx a couple times, but they don't really fit me that great.
  • Specific clothing - short dresses (knee length, a little lower), tights/leggings (already know about We Love Colors), crop tops for layering, BIG AND TALL WOMAN'S TOPS!!! (at least 30" long, preferably longer)
  • BONUS QUESTION: I wear a women's size 13 (men's 11/Euro 44). My calves are about 20" around. I want cute black boots that come to just below the knee to wear with these new leggings. Zappos has been no help. Yes, I've searched in the men's section too. I'm fine with unisex looking men's boots, and I don't really need a heel. Under $200 probably impossible, but preferable. I also wouldn't mind pointers towards cute shoes in general that would fit me. Drag queen shops with some sedate choices would be lovely. :)

    TL;DR - Funky fat female finds fashion, feels fulfilled. Share plus size shops and fashion blogs.

  • posted by booksherpa to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
    I am soooo not really very fashionable, but a friend of mine of similar bent seems to be fond of eShakti. Who does have cool stuff, but not pants, and I am not a dress-wearer, so I haven't ordered from them personally. They are not cheap-cheap but they seem to have some good sales.
    posted by Sequence at 4:29 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Omg, you're me! Right down to the shoe size!

    Typing on my phone so can't contribute much now. I'm surprises Zappos doesn't have the boot you want--are you looking for something super tall? Other possible sites to try: Barefoot Tess, Nordstrom, CloudWalkers, Torrid, maybe Ulla Popken?

    More to come--also reading with interest...
    posted by Sublimity at 4:30 PM on October 22, 2013

    Re: blogs - my curvy friend loves Gabifresh.
    posted by Salamander at 4:31 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

    For tights and other leg-coverings, the plus-size collection at Sock Dreams is fantastic. The staff actually tests stuff out, so they can report exactly how well the various tights, thigh highs, etc., handle larger legs.
    posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

    I asked this question about wide-calf boots last year and got lots of good advice. I actually wound up with a pair of riding-style boots from Lane Bryant that I like a lot.

    Wide Widths is also a good place to look - higher prices than you probably want, but they have a huge selection of wide-calf boots.

    For low-cost basics, Target is decent. I like Merona's jersey dresses for layering over tights and boots. Their cardigans are good, too.

    Kohl's is surprisingly good, too! Can be kinda frumpy, but you can happen upon cute dresses and tops as well. FYI, the sizing tends to run large.

    Oh, and not plus-size-oriented, but never underestimate the power of a nice/funky scarf to "make" an outfit. I learned a lot about tying scarves from this Nordstrom video.
    posted by lunasol at 4:46 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

    I also love eShakti. They run lots of sales and offers, and the quality has been really fantastic in recent years. You can also customize both size and features (sleeves, neckline, length) for about $7. I actually have a referral coupon link for $30 off your first order.

    I also love:
    Lucie Lu
    ASOS Curve (they tend to run big. Their US 24 fit me in most styles at 26/28.
    posted by kimdog at 4:50 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

    One Stop Plus is my goto. Their sizes go up pretty high, so I bet you'd do fine there. In person, I like Catherine's. I know they have them in Cleveland and (10+ years ago) had them in Austin. They also have a website.
    posted by kathrynm at 4:52 PM on October 22, 2013

    Not sure if you are aware of it, or just buy clothes there but Lane Bryant does good boots for wider calves and feet. They aren't usually real leather but I have been very happy with the quality of boots I have bought from them and have easily manged 2 winters in a pair that are still in very nice condition. They don't always have them in stock but you can check out the website and get them delivered to your nearest store so you don't have to pay shipping and easy return if they don't fit.

    I like pretty much all these bloggers even if I don't copy all their styles.

    For cute fun cheap clothes Forever 21 has a plus size section in their online store, which I like to hit up.

    As a plus size lady I have real trouble getting spanx and the like to fit as they roll up on me and drive me crazy, I found avoiding anything with legs helped me, but you might have to try different styles to find ones that work for you. I highly recommend getting some good bras if nothing else and make sure to get a fitting, honestly if you can find a department store with an older lady bra fitter that's seen it all you will get the best sizing and style info you can get.

    If you can save up using a department store shopper to work with you can be a fun way to get some new ideas of things to wear and you don't have to spend a lot of money just be truthful about your budget.

    Stores I've liked include pretty much all the ones others have mentioned I also like kiyonna but it's not a super cheap store, the quality is good though and the cuts pretty flattering.
    posted by wwax at 4:55 PM on October 22, 2013

    I mainly get sucked into the tv shopping channels when they're got kitchen gadgets on, but I've noticed that their clothing sizes usually go up to 3X (and if anything, their sizing runs a little big.) They are not always the most stylish options, but I've found a thing or two that I've been happy with.

    posted by Room 641-A at 4:58 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

    I should say that they are not always the hippest options. I'm sure most people would consider it more stylish than my own wardrobe.
    posted by Room 641-A at 5:03 PM on October 22, 2013

    I recently received a catalog showing several styles of wide-calf boots. The company is Simply Be -- I've haven't bought anything from them yet, so I can't vouch for them.
    posted by wryly at 5:15 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

    Reddit's Female Fashion Advice (esp. the weekly "should I buy" and "fit check" threads) -- it skews to the young/college crowd, but there's a lot of good information about how to tell if something fits, what can/cannot be altered, and how to choose value pieces over single-use items;

    side note: Get a properly fitting bra by visiting Reddit's A Bra That Fits (think you're wearing the right size? measure your underbust snugly, if your bra band is larger than the inches of your underbust, you're 99.999999% not in the right size);

    For the shoes, here's a pair that might work (19" circ. on size 7.5); you can also see if there's a cobbler/shoe repairperson in your town - they can either stretch the calves of leather boots, or insert an elastic panel.
    posted by melissasaurus at 5:16 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

    Check out Igigi for stylish dresses and separates (mostly dresses) that you can wear to work. They run a bit pricier, but their clothes are both gorgeous and super comfortable. There's nothing I can actually complain about with them.

    Torrid skews really youthful, but I can usually find 1-2 nice tops there any given time I shop - best luck with blazers, big drapey cardigan sweaters, tops to layer with, and occasionally really nice skirts.
    posted by subject_verb_remainder at 5:27 PM on October 22, 2013

    A couple of things I'd recommend:

    Join Pinterest and search 'fatshion' and 'plus-size' and start following some of the pinboards that come up. There's a fair number of people doing interesting pinboards of plus-size fashion there.

    Join Zulily. It's one of those 'we send you an email every day of discount stuff that you can order and get 6 weeks later' but they have at least some plus-size stuff (including a *lot* of shapewear) and sometimes have Kiyonna and other plus-size designers at steep, steep discounts. You have to sort through a lot of kids stuff and a bunch of straight sizes to get to the plus-size stuff unfortunately, but it's worth it for the discounts.
    posted by jacquilynne at 5:29 PM on October 22, 2013

    I am your age and similarly inclined (except I'm more classic in looks, but my hair is purple) but sizewise on the borderline between regular and plus sizes. I've been buying my lingerie at Her Room and been very happy with them. They also have a plus-size shop that might suit your needs. It's not cheap, but they seem to have sales pretty regularly.
    posted by immlass at 5:30 PM on October 22, 2013

    You might check out Re/Dress (full disclosure: my friend owns it).
    posted by box at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2013

    Fatshionista: Hems for Her

    I found her through her guest posts on Putting Me Together, whose author is pretty tiny but you should still check out her guidelines for building a remixable wardrobe and wardrobe from scratch series because they are fantastic.

    And I agree with her here:
    And if you haven't heard of Go Chic or Go Home it's a community of women who are interested in personal style but are completely down-to-earth. There's tons and tons and tons of inspiration, kinda like Pinterest, but completely all women with cute but sensible style. Wanna search "business" looks, "date night" looks, outfits by season, etc? Go Chic or Go Home is probably one of your best resources for categorized and down-to-earth inspiration.
    It's a really friendly community and there are plus size women there too that you could follow and compare notes with.
    posted by heatherann at 6:15 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

    You could try a free month at Gwynnie Bee, which is like netflix for plus-sized women's clothes. This will let you experiment with different styles, and also test the ways that different brands size their clothes.
    posted by amarynth at 6:27 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Blue Fish Clothing seems to be an example of lagenlook, a European bohemian layered look. Joe Browns is a British line that has many lagenlookish pieces that are available on amazon--they're generously sized, but I'm not sure how they are for plus size. Seconding asos (they have quite a few lagenlook pieces). Ebay and etsy are probably the best places for lagenlook basics, at all price points.

    This company is outside of your price range (and mine!) but is awesome for inspiration.
    posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Kiyonna. Lovely plus clothing. Real people send in photos of themselves wearing the clothing and their size so you can really see how it will look IRL.

    I am plus sized and 6'1 (size 13 shoe, maybe we should start a club) and I can tell you that plus tall is really really hard to find. Sometimes things pop up on Lands End. I have found that Old Navy stuff runs pretty long. Dry nothing in the dryer. Torrid carries Extra Tall and Tall jeans which is amazing. They are a great plus size store too.

    As for boots you can search on Zappos for size 13 with 19" calves. Have you ordered and found they didn't fit? The natural give in leather may fit you.
    posted by saradarlin at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2013

    I saved up for wide-calf boots from Duo and they were worth every penny. They have many styles under $300, but none under $200. But I say again: worth. every. penny.
    posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:23 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

    For shopping, a fairly large portion of my wardrobe comes from SWAK Designs. I've never bought any of their bottoms, but I love their dresses, leggings, and wrap cardigans. IGIGI and Kiyonna are amazing quality but expensive, so I often try out their wares on Gwynnie Bee, as amarynth mentioned. For special occasion dresses or styles you'd like to try out but don't want to fuss with returning, they're aces.

    Quick link dump for fatshionista blogs:
    posted by timetoevolve at 7:57 PM on October 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

    Check out for affordable clothes and plus sized boots-- super cute stuff- good online sale section and not too expensive- finding this store changed the way I dressed- sizes are often on the large size
    posted by outdoorslady at 8:07 PM on October 22, 2013

    I always recommend Duo Boots. (That link will take directly to the list of boots they recommend for tall women.) They are not cheap, but I think they are worth it - after years of trying on every pair of boots in the mall, getting a beautiful well made pair from Duo made me want to cry with relief. (n my experience (i have these), they run big in sizing, so if you normally buy a 13, buy a 12 from them - which is, coincidentally, the largest size they carry.
    posted by Kololo at 8:23 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

    For a budget boot option: right now Payless has the Dexflex Ryder boot (in-store they were 49.99). Not leather, or especially fancy, but they fit my 19.5" calves and are extremely comfortable, even at my job which involves standing/walking for long stretches on hard tile.

    Avenue's shapewear seems to hold up pretty well. I wear the thigh-slimmer type of short under clingy dresses and it helps avoid additional wear on my stockings. Also, a vest-style corselette like this worn over the bra but tucked under the short (to avoid roll-up) makes the most of a generous figure- not the comfiest thing in the world, but hello curves.
    posted by notquitemaryann at 8:30 PM on October 22, 2013

    Congrats on your newly-discovered appreciation of your body!

    I came to recommend Nordstrom for shoes in unusual sizes.
    posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:57 PM on October 22, 2013

    I don't think the blog Wardrobe Oxygen has been mentioned yet. I've followed her for years and really like her commonsense advice, not only on fashion, but underthings and what sort you need and "capsule wardrobes" that address specific issues readers have asked about. She is on the small end of plus size, but has curvy legs and I know she has done at least one or two posts on wide calf boot vendors, so check her archives.
    posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:22 PM on October 22, 2013

    I just bought some boots from Simply Be and have been stopped in stores by plus-size women asking me where I got them. And I live in Denver, boot capital of the world. You can measure your calf and order based on that. Plus, there's some elastic built in to give you some room. I usually wear danskos, and the boots are not as comfortable, but I think if I got some inserts they would be divine.
    posted by fyrebelley at 9:26 PM on October 22, 2013

    Although not specifically a plus size blog, Already Pretty is one I have been reading for years, and was particularly helpful to me when I started to rethink my look. Sal is an excellent writer with incredible style, and she offers great advice and tips for women of all sizes.

    I've also watched just about every episode of "What Not To Wear" because I think Stacey & Clinton have dressed some spectacular larger ladies on that show, and they are right on when it comes to teaching women how to shop for themselves for style and fit.

    I have had good luck at Kohl's for a range of sizes, particularly for cute wrap dresses that look amazing over leggings. ModCloth is also a favorite though you need to pay attention to the sizing details before you buy.

    So excited for you! I went through my own reinvention a few years ago and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. Have fun!
    posted by deliciae at 10:17 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Just as a note, I went through these and eShataki is awesome! Uou can customize length, sleeve length (maybe you don't like your arms), and list your height, which must be used to sew your dress. Plus, pockets in every dress, which you can opt out of for free!
    posted by fyrebelley at 10:29 PM on October 22, 2013

    Stéphanie Zwicky is great at accessorizing simple pieces, and has some beautiful clothes. She's been on TV here (France).

    Maria Rinaldi, a plus size fashion house, has been promoting their #WomenAreBack campaign recently, with Stéphanie and 11 other bloggers:

    - Marie Denee – USA:
    - Edith Dohmen – NL:
    - Shila Kreuzer – CH:
    - Roberta Scagnolari – Italy:
    - Tanesha Aswathi- USA:
    - Ditte Vallo – Denmark:
    - Iris Tinunin – Italy:
    - Katya Zharkova (a top model) – Russia:
    - Melike Çarpatan – Turkey: Dolabimi Seviyorum which actually sells clothes Çarpatan finds (article in English)
    - Georgina Horne – UK:
    - Gabi Gregg – USA:
    posted by fraula at 2:09 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I've decided that feeling really good about how I look RIGHT NOW is the best way to encourage myself to be healthy. Positive self image, yay!

    Good for you! I completely agree with this sentiment. My general state of mind has gotten so much better since I decided to take a similar approach to my body. I'm a pear like you, but not tall.

    This is a great thread. I can't wait to check out some of these suggestions. My own contribution is Evans (US site). They used to be a little frumpy and I never used to shop from them but they have gotten a lot better. You still need to do a bit of digging though, as some of their stuff remains frumpy.

    They design clothes for particular shapes and they have a special pear section with coats and jeans designed specifically for smallish waists and larger hips. They currently have a skater dress available in various colours which fits your dress requirement, I have it in red and a purple/teal pattern and it falls really nicely and looks way prettier worn than it does on the site - it's gotten me a lot of compliments. I am 5'5 and it hits me at the knee so it would be shorter than that on you.

    Evans is not cheap, but they've always got items on sale. I also find that their clothes are of good quality and tend to last quite well.

    EDIT! The UK site has product reviews which the US site appears not to. I'd encourage you to read the reviews.
    posted by Ziggy500 at 2:39 AM on October 23, 2013

    My calves are about the same width as yours, and I have 2 pairs of calf boots - this pair from Bennetts Boots (Australia) and a pair from Yours Clothing (UK). The second pair were much cheaper but not nearly as good quality. I've also admired from afar the wide calf boots at Paradise Fashions - they can even add extra leather to make the boots fit properly if they're still too narrow!
    posted by Cheese Monster at 4:32 AM on October 23, 2013

    You might check out Pyramid Collection, which like the other clothing catalogs/online stores in the Potpourri family (also Northstyle and Serengeti, both of which trend a little "older") carries most of their clothing in sizes up to 3X. Some of their stuff is really twee/costume wear, but other things are certainly wearable on an everyday basis if you like flowy, boho type styles.
    posted by drlith at 5:06 AM on October 23, 2013

    N'thing eShakti, the blog Hems for Her. You might also look at Naturalizer for wide calf boots - I found a great pair there last year. Eddie Bauer goes up to 3X in *most* items. Sahalie has some plus size things now, too.
    posted by sarajane at 5:20 AM on October 23, 2013

    I can't believe no one has said FootSmart yet. I have several pair of boots from them that are extra wide in the calf and the foot.
    posted by domo at 6:09 AM on October 23, 2013

    For the boots, get thee to Zappos (or, their clearance site) and look for the brand David Tate. I have several pairs of their boots and they all fit my unusually large calves. In fact, one pair I got (made out of a stretchy microfiber type material) are actually a little loose and fall down on me after a while!

    Here's a link!
    posted by Groovymomma at 6:13 AM on October 23, 2013

    My friend and fellow Mefite Medea42 (Di) has a blog called Fat Chic. I've done some guest blogging over there, so check it out!

    Lane Bryant on line has wide calf boots, but my calves are enormous, so boots are out for me (boo!)
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:43 AM on October 23, 2013

    Modcloth has a decent plus size selection.

    As for boots, if you're willing to spend some money, see if there are any shops or shoemakers nearby you that do custom work. This might be wildly out of your price range, but I have a pair of boots from here, which were custom made for my sizable calves.

    Also eshakti is great!
    posted by inertia at 8:57 AM on October 23, 2013

    I recently re-vamped my wardrobe. I'm plus-sized, about a 22W or 2x. I was really surprised by how much better department store plus-size clothing has become, especially Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom. My local Norstrom has an awesome plus-size section, but Lord & Taylor is better online. I just checked and they both carry 26W/28W and 3X sizes. Macy's also has a decent selection, but is of lessor quality in my opinion. For me online is better than in person at Macy's.

    A few other places I've recently bought nice plus-sized stuff from that haven't already been mentioned:
    6pm -- has an awesome search function
    Lands End -- for basics, all sizes run large
    CJ Banks -- some frumpy stuff, but some cute gems

    Also, once you find a brand you like and know your size in it, you can look for stuff on eBay. I've discovered I really like Karen Kane's jersey dresses, but they are expensive on her site and at department stores. I can find them brand new, never worn with tags, on eBay for 1/3-1/2 the price of a department store. This works best at the ends of seasons -- when the department stores are getting rid of the previous season's stuff, but the weather hasn't changed yet so you can still make use of that stuff, often for a long while! My favorite eBay clothing vendor is BHFO. They are very professional.
    posted by OrangeDisk at 11:41 AM on October 23, 2013

    Response by poster: I really appreciate all the clothing and boot and blog links to check out! I didn't realize there were so many wide calf boot choices out there, even for my size 13 feet. I haven't had time to do more than a cursory visit to many of these, but it all looks pretty awesome. More please!

    Also, learning the word "lagenlook" may be my favorite piece of info from this thread. That is SO ME!
    posted by booksherpa at 11:42 AM on October 23, 2013

    Here's a lagenlook treasure trove: - it's UK based, but does ship worldwide. They also have a definition of Lagenlook page.. Plus size to UK 28 (I haven't figured out what that translates to in US sizes, yet).
    posted by sarajane at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Seconding orangedisk's suggestion to find designers you like and keep an eye on them on eBay. JJill goes up to 4x, which I think is like 26/28, Coldwater Creek and Eileen Fisher and Absolutely Misook go up to 3x (24), Talbots goes up to 24. They may or may not be to your taste but it's easy and cheap to peruse eBay.

    Ulla Popken might have some things that float your boat. I was in Berlin last winter and learned that the German line of clothing under the same name is far cooler. Go to rather than I confess I have no idea if they ship or how much it costs. The shoes on the German site go to 44 too as I recall. also has lots of European labels that aren't seen much in the US.
    posted by Sublimity at 3:59 PM on October 23, 2013

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