Or I Could Just Tie a Sash Around a Hefty Bag and Call It a Day
April 1, 2014 10:15 AM   Subscribe

The focus should be on the bride, NOT on the taffeta-covered hobo skulking around the cheese trays: please, PLEASE help me (a non-fancy-dressing lady) dress myself for the four weddings I'll be attending this year. (Sequins shaped like) snowflakes inside!

After years of miraculously dodging weddings, I'm somehow attending four of 'em this year (one spring, one summer, two fall). In addition to Pottery Barn gift cards, I'd ALSO like to give these couples the gift of "not showing up looking like a freaking bag lady". However, there are a few complications:

- I'm In Physical Flux: I'm 5'8" and a U.S. size 14/16. I'm shaped like a really fast hourglass. HOWEVER, after adopting healthier eating habits, I'm steadily paring down. I'd like to stay positive and assume I'll stick with it and continue losing 4 - 8 lbs. a month.

- If My Rack Were a Deer, It'd Be a 12-Pointer: I'm a 36F.

- My Legs MUST Remain Covered (Lest They Melt Nearby Nazis' Faces Off): they're awful. Big ol' beefy calves, super-sexy cankles, corpse-white skin.

- And For That Matter, So Must My Upper Arms: sleeveless garments make me uncomfortable. Strapless garments make OTHER people uncomfortable (because they're forced to watch a large, awkward woman frantically wrestle her boobs into position every few minutes).

- I'm Neither Femmey Nor Fashionable: my usual style could be described as "Manic Pixie Dream Frump" (quirky/casual/modest, with lots of chunky shoes, blacks/greys, Fugazi t-shirts, bright sweaters, etc).

Cost isn't a huge concern; I'm willing to shell out for a lovely, well-made, flattering garment... I just have no idea what or where that garment may be. HELP ME, stylish people!
posted by julthumbscrew to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about something like Rent the Runway? All sorts of options perfect for wedding attendance!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You don't say the fanciness level of these events, but I would try something like the Gemma Wrap Dress from Banana republic. It also comes in a variety of prints and stuff if you poke around the site.

Put a camisole and tights on underneath for coverage. It's 3/4 sleeve and below-knee length so it's got good coverage by itself too. It's a true wrap, so there's a degree of adjustable-ness for weight changes.

It's not, however, the fanicest thing in the world, so if these are formal affairs, it probably wouldn't suffice. That said, I think sleeved wrap dresses are a good place to look in general.
posted by brainmouse at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Confirming that your questions is more about "what actual garment should I wear" as opposed to "where do I obtain said garment", yes?

That said - pantsuits are acceptable for weddings. That actually may not be a bad idea, to get one fairly nice jacket-and-pants set, and then you just switch out the camisole/t-shirt/thing you wear under the jacket from one wedding to the next.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

How about a long, dressy caftan? Example.
posted by Orinda at 10:24 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I'm mainly interested in WHAT I should wear - although specific recommendations for WHERE I should look are welcome, too. Thanks!
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:28 AM on April 1, 2014

If you are losing an average of 6 lbs. a month, whatever fits you in May will not fit in October. That's 30 lbs. difference! Maybe focus on getting one cheaper outfit for the spring and summer weddings, and then a totally new outfit for the fall ones.
posted by Houstonian at 10:30 AM on April 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you interested in the tailored-menswear / DapperQ look at all, or would you prefer to keep your presentation more traditionally feminine? And do you know the formality level of the events in question? (If you don't, there are a couple ways of figuring it out from the invitation and the time of the event, assuming those getting married are doing things in the traditional way.)
posted by KathrynT at 10:30 AM on April 1, 2014

Hello, I'm shaped like you, but larger.

I'm thinking that Pallazo Pants, would be an excellent foundation for a special occasion wardrobe.

This long-sleeved Pin Tucked blouse has a tuxedo-feel to it. It comes in pretty colors.

Or, get a nice tank, and wear this sequined sweater over it.

Go now to department stores and haunt the clearance rack in the Womens/Misses departments. You should find the remanants of New Years formals. Sequined tops, Long billowy jackets and long sequined or chiffon skirts, they will be marked down to nearly free.

But you can't go wrong with a vaguely tuxedo look, starting with palazzo pants. These separates can be worn in different combinations for different events, and you can update them for the season.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Super classy caftan. The advantage of this style is that it can accommodate a lot of flux in body shape / size, unlike a tailored suit or dress. Depending on the cut of the garment, you may be able to add a belt if you want to show your hourglass shape.
posted by Orinda at 10:36 AM on April 1, 2014

Response by poster: To answer KathrynT: I'm aiming for the more traditionally feminine stuff (although the DapperQ style is divine, I don't think I'd pull it off well).
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:43 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: Based on your "I want to be covered, I'm not ultra-femme, I'm OK being a little quirky" comments, would you consider a sort of..."sexy (or fitted, anyway) menswear" look? I'm thinking something dapper with pinstripe pants and a vest/waistcoat which perfectly fits your curves, white or black shirt underneath, especially dapper hat and maybe other accessories. Formal, bit unexpected but not completely out of the way, can be very attractive and even feminine in a highlight-your-features way. Separates help with the disproportionate chest issue and the size-is-changing issue.

On preview, I see KathrynT has beat me to this suggestion!

Your description of your personal style makes me think of the Pyramid Collection. Lots of offbeat-looking stuff, many romantic drapey sleeves and long skirts. Good stuff if you're feeling a bit more femme-y than dapper.

In the fall: boots! Warm, keep your legs covered, currently very fashionable. Allow you to wear interesting socks underneath.
In the summer: a nice-looking shrug, if you find something that works in every other way?
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:44 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are all 4 weddings of approximate dressy levels yes? And, how to put this delicately... Are you loosing boob weight or butt weight?

If butt weight, go for a dress. Mod-Cloth is great for the manic pixie frump, lots of size advice, lots of cute stuff in the 1X/2X size range. A "fit and flare" dress looks great on hourglass shapes.

This is the outfit I bought for a wedding next month, and it is not a black-tie, more country afternoon wedding. Mustard Colored Cardigan, and a Black and White polkadot dress, which I plan to wear with black tights, but it hits me just below the knee, and probably some kind of black or yellow flats. (homie don't do heels). Accessories: hipster glasses, black nail polish. A brooch or hair thingie might work too, or might be too much, haven't decided yet.

If boob weight, you're going to be in more trouble, and might need to tailor your dress or pad your current dress back out with bras.
posted by fontophilic at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: It would be helpful if you could let us know the fanciness level of these weddings, and also if you need to attend any wedding extras like rehearsal dinners or what have you.

It sounds like you would benefit from some separates. (By separates I mean a blouse and skirt combo, as opposed to a dress.) That will help you with issues of fluctuating size and also provides more flexibility in terms of formality (and you can probably get away with double duty, like spring and fall can be the same top with a different skirt, etc.)

To make separates more formal, wear:
- A longer skirt
- A single color scheme for the outfit with one or two pops of a different color in the accessories
- A beaded or metal-accented belt (this will help adjust things for different weights, too)
- Understated but nice jewelry (simple pearls, a gem (fake!) pendant on a chain, a bracelet that doesn't jangle)
- A cardigan (or maybe bolero) that doesn't have big buttons or look chunky
- Fancier shoes, sadly boots are not formal, but you can wear them to a wedding that says "cocktail". Just not "black tie".

The pantsuit and wrap dress suggestions above are also very good.

Not sure of your style preferences but I know from having the big rack, wanting coverage, and the dreaded Year Of So Many Damn Weddings so I like:

Soft Surroundings
And the old standby (for when nobody else appears to have a plain black cardigan, or that simple belt that isn't plastic, or that top with something interesting that isn't made of polyester, why why why) Nordstrom.

(Seriously, if you decide to just throw up your hands in defeat and are willing to drop a big chunk of money on a formal capsule wardrobe that will serve you over many years of occasions, go to Nordstrom, look forlorn, explain your EXACT needs and wishes to the sympathetic sales person, and they will sit you down and bring clothes to you, get things tailored, help you build outfits, provide good advice, and be surprisingly understanding about expense. It's kind of scary at first but you might like it best.)
posted by Mizu at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

The empress' pantsuit idea is a really good one for your shape and preferences - long drapey lines can look so good on tall ladies like you. The thing that will be important is tailoring - make sure that the pants fit comfortably around the waist - not to tight to cut in, and not too bulky to add width. The top should nip in at the waist in smooth lines - show off that hourglass! It's hard to find stuff that will fit both a large chest and small waist well, so the trick is to find something that is big enough to fit comfortably over the bust and hips, and then have the waist taken in. This on a large-busted lady will be a bit sacklike, but this would look great. Glam it up with a sparkly necklace and you're golden.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:51 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: If your budget will extend to $400-$600, I have never known a woman who didn't look like a million bucks in Tadashi Shoji. And if you find a dress that you love but that doesn't meet your "arm coverage" specifications, you can always pair it with a shawl or smart little bolero jacket.
posted by KathrynT at 10:56 AM on April 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help so far, guys/gals - you're amazing!

To answer the question that several of you asked: on a scale of 1 - 10 (with "1" being "getting married in Juicy Sweatpants" and "10" being "Kate Middleton's nuptials"), most of these weddings will be a 4 or 5... definitely an EVENT, but not black-tie or anything. Also, I'm just a guest (I won't have to attend any pre-/post-wedding events).

To answer fontophilic's question: I'm losing mainly butt/stomach/thigh weight. Even when I'm fairly skinny, the boobs remain somewhat unwieldy.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:56 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: Oh, OK. Let's see, in addition to the Pyramid collection, and I think someone already mentioned ModCloth.

Shabby Apple swings modest and classic (no idea about quality or sizes, just often see their designs highlighted around the internet).

I've heard great things about the quality and customer service at Trashy Diva, if you want to go a little retro and highlight that hourglass figure of yours! (I've only bought shoes online from there, but they were great about that, though I found shipping a little expensive.) Also, boleros! Coat dresses!

Pepperberry (UK-based) makes dresses and things specifically for the large-of-bust (party dresses here).

I've seen good things about Bettie Page (Hourglassy is a good busty guide in general) but their website looks down at the moment?
posted by spelunkingplato at 11:00 AM on April 1, 2014

Are you comfortable in dresses generally? The wrap dress recommended above is a good concept. It defines the waist and 3/4 length sleeve has become my very good friend (I'm your same dimensions but more pear shaped). Also, something with a medium-big print is going to camouflage any bulging you may be worried about. And maybe you hate the idea, but I actually feel more confident when wearing "shapeware" under a dress for a dress-up occasion. I like something that goes from under the boobs, over the belly and hips and ends bike shorts-esque on the bottom. I just like the feeling of being all held together and having smooth lines under the clothes.

If you'd rather not do tights, you can find similar wrap-concept dresses with maxi or floor length skirts. Some examples: 1, 2, 3, 4

Here's a slightly different idea for a maxi dress which I like. Reminds me of Adele.

Will the climate/temperatures vary substantially through these four weddings or are they somewhere mild year-round?
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:04 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maxi-dress! Goes almost to the floor, no shaving or hose required. I have one from Kiyonna (like this one) and one from Igigi (love all of these, those florals are fantastic).
posted by Lyn Never at 11:07 AM on April 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Consider a Salwar Kameez. You can get one that's not super colorful but with a bit of beading on the bodice. I wore one to my friend's wedding when I was a size 16 and 8 months pregnant and it was a bajillion degrees outside.

I think if you go with subdued colors it'll just look like clothes rather than a "costume."
posted by vespabelle at 11:12 AM on April 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

"sleeved sheath dress" + boots
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:32 AM on April 1, 2014

2nding mizu's recommendation of Nordstrom. I'd just add that, for an even more mind-boggling level of service, consider an appointment with a Nordstrom Personal Stylist. These are ladies who know every department, how sizes run, and whose sole goals are to make you look good, and sell you a lot of clothes/accessories.
To combat the second, go in with a firm budget, and do not waver (unless, of course there's an awesome "investment piece" that really speaks to you).
I did this after some significant weight gain, and I no longer knew how to dress myself. My first appointment was long (5 hours), and my stylist just kept bringing arm loads of clothes. The first hour was spent figuring pout what I liked that also looked good on me, then it was just fun.
The stylist appointment does not cost extra. If you do this, get a Nordstrom account, because, depending on spen, you get free alterations, and Nordstrom Notes to spend on other goodies.
Best part was, after my appointment, I shopped far more confidently at thrift shops and the like.
Btw, except dot the boo age, we are similar body types - I feel you pain when it comes to cankles and legs in general...
posted by dbmcd at 11:50 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who lost a lot of weight in the last year (around the rate you are thinking), I would heartily second the suggestion for a wrap dress. They are so, so versatile and you can wear them while you are at different sizes, so they are a good bang for your buck while not having to waste too much time shopping for new dresses every couple of months.

For full coverage on the legs, I just saw a suggestion a week or two ago by none other than Tim Gunn who said you can go with tuxedo pants, and then a blousy/dressy top (sorry I can't remember what the link was). If you're still losing weight, find a good tailor who can take the pants in for you as need be. $15-20 for good tailoring is still cheaper than having to buy a new pair of pants x 4.
posted by vignettist at 12:52 PM on April 1, 2014

"sleeved sheath dress" + boots

I was also thinking sheath dress. if you go for short sleeves, then you can vary jackets over it depending on the weather. It can also take a lot of accessories if you want them, but look nice plain if you don't.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:52 PM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: My suggestion would be the Diana Maxi from Ureshii Design. They do everything made-to-measure, ship within ten days, and they're really good at what they do. The dress is available in a bajillion colors of supersoft bamboo/modal jersey knit, goes to the floor, and it has a nice blousy short-sleeved bodice that can accommodate a rack of any size. It'd be perfect for the spring and summer weddings!
posted by Vervain at 2:48 PM on April 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm very unfussy. I'd go with everything in jersey (t-shirt) fabric. It is very forgiving and boob-friendly. Drape-neck or cowl-neck is a great style for big boobs, as is wrap. I have this shirt from Target in various colors and it is basically a T-shirt that makes you look dressed up. I'd pair it with a jersey skirt -- Target and Old Navy have ones in various colors and fun patterns. To avoid chub rub I wear leggings underneath -- the cheapest thinnest ones I can find, and I cut them right off at the knee so they don't show -- knits don't unravel so you don't have to hem or anything.

The great thing about this silhouette is that it's so basic it is practically invisible.You can put a fun patterned scarf over it and the scarf says "hello world, I am dressed up." Also, you can drape the scarf over your upper arms if you don't want to display them to the world.

A necklace and some dressy looking sandals and you are good to go. All my examples are from Target to show how cheap and easy this look is to pull off. I've worn variations on this to many, many events.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm envisioning a crisp white silk taffeta blouse--maybe a wrap style to show off your hourglass, with a black or jewel tone skirt or palazzo pants. You could wear a nice statement necklace to dress it up. Google Carolina Herrera. Both her designs and her personal style are what I'm thinking of.
posted by apricot at 4:38 PM on April 1, 2014

Slightly left field suggestion, but you could try op shops (thrift shops). Particularly the large ones often have a huge rack of dresses for all shapes and sizes.

Even if you don't have any luck in the dresses, they are very useful when losing weight, as things don't cost too much, and you can try on a wide range of sizes and brands.
posted by kjs4 at 5:30 PM on April 1, 2014

Option 1: Maxi dress.


Option 2:
Beautiful, light colored, lightweight slacks. White/cream, oatmeal, coffee, tan. Not khakis. Nice dress pants. The kind that would be part of a pantsuit. Nude or brown heels to dress them up and extend the leg.

Lovely silk sleeveless top. Some beading or a cowl neck. Some call this a "shell." Whatever color suits you best - a pastel, a jewel tone, a relative neutral.


A pretty wrap/shawl or cardigan on top, in a similar color to the shell or in cream.

Look at Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Nordstrom.

Fancy jewelry, little dainty clutch.
posted by amaire at 5:31 PM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would suggest something like this wrap maxi from Igigi. It's got sleeves, it'll cover your legs, and because it's a wrap, it'll adjust a bit to changes in size. Igigi also tends to accommodate bust sizes better than straight size designers will tend to. A bold print like that can be styled up or down depending on the wedding so it won't look too formal or too casual.

The other thing that will increase your flexibility in picking dresses is something like a bolero/shrug that you can wear over your arms. It'll work with a lot of strappy dresses to provide the sleeves it can be hard to find on a maxi dress.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:35 PM on April 1, 2014

I was also coming in to suggest Ureshii. I own a lot of stuff from them--it's good quality and they fit really well to the measurements you send. Turn around time is always quicker than anticipated and they are very responsive to customization requests.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:33 PM on April 1, 2014

i agree with the maxi-dress suggestions, but also i agree with those who say to go to nordstroms and just have someone who knows the whole store bring you clothes. it sounds like it's over the top to do this but you will save hours and hours and hours of aimless wandering through the store, wondering if things will fit and should you try them and oh just forget it, let's try another day.

ALSO i hope you get to give a speech at one of these weddings because seriously, you are heeelarious!
posted by andreapandrea at 8:12 PM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd look for a long-sleeve maxi dress with a wide v-neck (the slit skirt on this is a bit daring, but the neckline is right). Don't underestimate the effects of showing just a bit of skin. If that v-neck droops too low for your tastes take it to a tailor. Actually, no matter what you buy take it to a tailor to get it altered.

I'd also do a serious assessment of your lingerie situation to get the most out of your puppies. Consider longline bras and bustiers - not for sexiness purposes, but to properly scaffold and support dem thangs.

Consider a low wedge heel like this. Having just a bit of a heel can make all the difference, and wedges are infinitely easier to walk in than heel-heels.

Do you wear lipstick at all? If so treat yourself a really expensive red one. It'll help you channel your inner femme so you'll feel amazing in whatever you wear - whether it be a floaty kaftan (also, uhm, yes? that would be amazing?) or a flowy maxi dress that makes the most of your lady treasures.
posted by nerdfish at 2:51 AM on April 2, 2014

My favorite red lipstick is Lipstick Queen's "Sinner" in Scarlet Red. Stays for hours, and is completely fragrance-free.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:59 AM on April 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind Mefites, for the abundance of suggestions! I'm currently looking into something from Igigi or Ureshii.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:32 AM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: Hi, everyone - just an update. I wound up buying this delectable dress at Lane Bryant and topping it with a crocheted wrap from Target. With sales, I spent less than $100 and looked absolutely delightful at Wedding #1 this weekend (and I believe I'll be able to recycle the ensemble for my other weddings!). Thanks SO much to everyone for your wonderful advice.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2014

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