2008 Spring Line: Alloy

One thing I can say for Alloy: it doesn’t segregate. The plus-sized goodies may only be found among the regular-sized goodies, although through the grace of filtering, you can at least find out which of those standardized cuts come in plus.

What I find a little nonplussing about Alloy is the clear expectation that all teen girls come in an hourglass shape and no other.  The largest measurements allowed for are 50 42 52 for their size 25. It puzzles me: yes, there are teen girls with a chest size that large, but when it comes to proportions, it seems like the designers are playing to some personal fantasy about how girls should look rather than the reality. Honestly, it’s lazy designing.

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I will note that at least Alloy actually attempts to serve the plus-size teen market, which really is the most neglected of all the plus markets. And perhaps, despite my dislike of their body template, they are being realistic: from what I recall of my time in teen world, it mattered more that I had the “right” clothing and less that that clothing looked good on me. Given that bullying and status jockeying has only gotten worse since I left school, perhaps Alloy is simply delivering an honest service even though it is overtly manipulative.

This does raise the debate about whether juniors sizes sized larger really serves the plus market, but mostly, I’m a little appalled by the “one shape fits all” approach.  Alloy is one of the stores that takes the media-fed self-image of teens and reinforces it; once the teens and tweens are done devouring those magazines filled with women who have sold themselves off as “clothes hangers” (and how is this not inhumane and unacceptable?) they go looking for clothing to communicate how they want the world to see them, right down to unrealistic chest sizing for girls under 21.

There’s a lot of cute stuff through Alloy, but the hourglass only look doesn’t even work on a thin-sized market, let alone plus offerings.

2008 Zaftique

It’s hard for me to cover ALL the plus size shops out there. Some don’t have mailing lists, which is the main way I keep up on them. Others don’t even have websites, and I shop mainly online.

I neglect Zaftique a bit much, and I’m worried now that my neglect of them, bottomed out at the end of the alphabet as they are, is one of the reasons I’m seeing fewer genuinely plus-sized models wearing their clothing these days. I think it’s a shame for two reasons:

1. They’re ignoring their target market.

2. Their target market I believe has unfairly labeled them clothing for “older” women. While this wanders into the grey area of age-appropriateness versus body confidence multiplied by how much plastic surgery you can afford… it’s just not reasonable. Blair could be fairly called clothing for the elderly. Zaftique doesn’t really deserve that label.

Along with an updated and much more usable website than what they’ve had previous years, Zaftique is offering some of the more fresh/quirky designs I’m seeing among mass producers – and they never, ever, took the dress away from us like some other plus size clothiers.

But, because they deserve the attention for being a little more imaginative, here’s my favorite three picks from their site:

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I like the pink dress for its asymmetric cut, and also because I’m really feeling pinks with red lately. The pants I like for a great cut – my only complaint is that they’re made with polyester, and a natural fiber would be much better because then I could wear them in my bellydance class. The last dress, labeled “Pretty Petals” is just…pretty. I like the figure flattering line on the pleating, the sleeves, the print – even the white. It’s a daring variation, and perfect for an Easter/Passover/Ostara/Hey, spring!  dress.

Love the new website, Zaftique. Can we get some more plus sized models, too? And about those pants… I might have a lead on some bamboo fibers for you…

2008 Avenue.com Spring Line

Fashion really hasn’t changed much between 2007 and 2008, which is probably good for the majority of us who don’t have the $1000/per season budget that the fashion industry likes to convince us we should have.  So while Avenue.com doesn’t – and wouldn’t- have anything too groundbreaking, it’s got the familiar basics for those of us with a slightly more conservative bent in our personal style.

The one item I see that’s a standout as “somewhat” different is a return of the Bermuda short:

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Shorts, to me, are somewhat of a plus-sized controversy. I used to wear them, when I was younger, cuter, yes, thinner – and before I developed chronic hives. After a summer where my legs had perpetual bloody scratch marks, I drifted away from wearing all leg-baring clothing from skirts to shorts and have only recently drifted back. However, I’ve kept capris and shorts off my list, because on women with larger bellies like mine, I think they’re almost universally unflattering (I can’t help but rock back and forth and pretend I’m a weeble wobble in them.) I might consider gauchos, but an elementary school incident wherein I was traumatized by pink culottes has also ruled those out.

However, on less pear-like body types, it might just work. And truly, there are many cuts and lengths to shorts before we have to call them something else. So, who here wears shorts, and how do you wear them? What makes them work as a foundation for an outfit?

plus size sartorialist

You Wanted It, so Here I Am

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There will be better images of me coming from better cameras than my cell phone, soon, I promise. So, for those of you who actually read every single piece in a fashion layout: hat is a fedora from Torrid, the necklace is a sterling silver and freshwater pearl by Dancing Jems, the dress is a kimono dress from Old Navy, the belt was sold with a pair of Zana Di jeans I bought at Fashion Bug, and the purse is a Campbell’s soup clutch by thelovelyteaspoon. Not viewable in the shot: boots by Payless, and hose by Lane Bryant. Makeup is a combination of Aveda and a defunct mineral makeup supplier on Etsy.

In this picture, I happen to be wearing contacts. You’ll probably see a lot more of me wearing contacts than you will in my glasses, just because I’m in bellydance class and water aerobics so it’s just easier to have them in all the time.

This outfit was a slow, unintentional build. I put on the dress and hose, and I realized the loose sweater I wanted to wear over it was just frumpy, and wearing it by itself just looked sloppy. So I added the belt.  From the belt I felt I needed a bit more, so I added the boots. The boots necessitated adding the hat. Voila’. Look complete. Although being a woman in a hat just gets you followed these days, jeebus!

The backdrop is 3rd Avenue in Minneapolis. I am standing in a window at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, a favorite playdate location of mine. The photographer is my friend Joel, who is quite decorative in and of himself:

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He is in the stone zen garden installment hidden away within the museum. The combination of us wandering the museum together caused us to be tailed quite closely by the security guards – apparently we look like the type to either hock loogies from the rotunda or at least likely to sit on the furniture.

Bargain Hunting for Plus Sizes

The Marshall Logo
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I think it’s pretty well-known that I’m not a bargain hunter. My reasoning is that bargain hunters all too often wind up overspending, going completely counter to their bargain-seeking intentions. Instead I usually go for the whole budget-model, or the “save forever and pray” method where I hope for a little windfall here and there and that the style I adore and am obsessed with will still be around when I finally have the money to pay for it in full.

That said, even I have occasions that come up where I must find special clothing, and I must find it now. When that happens, I gather all my bargain hunting skills and dive in.

Here are a few things I do when I need bargains now:

I check online for clearance sales. You can get a long list of clearance items and sections on Fat Chic Clothing Search..

I’m on the mailing list for all my favorite clothing stores; I archive them in gmail.

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 25: Early morning bargain...
NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 25: Early morning bargain hunters walk down Broadway with their purchases on ‘Black Friday’ on November 25, 2011 in New York City. Marking the start of the holiday shopping season, ‘Black Friday’ is one of American retailers’ busiest days of the year. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

If I think they have an item I want, I do a search in my gmail to see if they’ve sent a recent and relevant online discount offer.

I head out to Marshall’s, because they consistently have really nice stuff at a steep discount.

I keep a little red notebook on me at all times, and I’ve written down the locations of thrift and consignment stores in my area that offer plus sizes. I check those places out if my online searches fail me.

Almost every popular plus size store has a clearance section; I still find great scores in Lane Bryant and Target clearance sections.

If in doubt, I seek a little help at the Budget Fashionista.

While I’m more “budget” than “bargain” sometimes you’ve got to, so go forth unto the battle!

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Etsy Plus Find: Soleil Rouge

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Remember those Sweet Valley High novels that many of us read in high school? Along with the little-miss-perfect blonde twins, there was the character Robin, who became a reformed fattie. I recall with some amusement now that way Francine Pascal’s hired gun of the week would write about her wardrobe: “all that fit her were wrap skirts and wrap dresses.” The horror implied in that she was so fat she had to wear something that…that…wrapped.

Perhaps wrap dresses were different in the 80s; I honestly don’t remember much from that time besides legwarmers. But the current wrap look, like what soleilrouge offers here,  is very flattering, especially for those of us with more variable figured around the waist and hips. This is another piece that goes in the bohemian category, all ready for some tights and cuteness!

It's not about trying to look thin