Editor's note: Below you'll find another blog post from Poplin contributor and plus size fashion guru, Jordan Richardson. Love her and you will, too. Enjoy!
Today’s topic is one that really shook my world.
When I first encountered this information on Gabifresh.com, I was stunned. This gorgeous plus size woman who was probably a size 18-20 was wearing a size L shirt from H&M. I couldn’t believe it. The top fit her perfectly and her post talked about how she had stopped looking at sizes and started looking at what she liked, and what would fit. Mind Blown!
With this information in hand I marched myself to the nearest mall and did a dry run. I would not look at sizes and instead use my new found knowledge about what to look for while I scoured Forever 21. I had never bought anything more than a pair of sunglasses and some necklaces from their before.
An hour and a half later after lots of trying on and some seriously stretched fabric I walked out with three pieces of clothing; a tasseled watercolor kimono, a gorgeous open weave sweater, and a lovely swingy lace tank. I was floored! Not only were they cute and affordable but they fit. Not “oh I can wear this with Spanx” or “maybe with those high waist jeans,” but real I’m going to wear this with everything in my closet kind of fit. And they were all a size Large. I am definitely not a traditional size large, I run about three sizes bigger than that. But today I am going to offer some advice that will be undeniably useful to the Midi and Plus size shopper.
My Tips for Shopping in Straight Size Stores
(sizes XS-XL or 0-14 approximately)
1. First off, it is totally doable.
Trust me. It may take a little more work, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it does not take much more time than just regular ole’ shopping. So here are some things to look for:
2. Look for pieces that are cut wide.
Anything that looks a little looser, or boxy on that mannequin it going to be a better bet. Swing shapes are also promising since they basically cut a giant circle and then attach straps or sleeves to it; this gives lots of wiggle room and is great for twirling! This is something I look for especially with dresses.
3. Feel for stretch.
Jersey materials are magic; they drape beautifully and give a lot of room for ease. This is also a good thing if you’re busty and need a bit more room up top. Also if that beautiful skirt has a stretch waist band or is out of a stretch fabric like scuba knit, knits, jersey, cotton/spandex blend, etc… there is a good chance that it may just fit around the smallest part of your waist.
4. You want open weaves.
Sweaters in particular are going to be more forgiving if done in a more open weave, they usually stretch a bit and a lot are often cut on the generous side to achieve a baggier or oversized look.
5. Try the Half Way Trick.
Now here is a great little cheat, a little trick I picked up while shopping for theatrical productions. It’s the halfway trick. If you take a garment, stretch or no stretch, and match the side seams to either side of you, it should ideally go half way around you. This means that it is likely going to fit you. Now if you are working a super stretchy fabric so that those side seams meet you on either side, chances are it’s going to be a really tight fit. If that’s what you are going for, solid, grab it and move on. However if like me you have a tummy that pops out and you want some extra room, I do this little test and make sure there is a bit more room for movement. T-shirts especially, I want to not be pulling on that stretch to much.
6. Try things on.
This is the part that most people get hung up on. But, it really is the most important step to learn. Try things on, all that you can get in your hands, cart, and bag! Try it on because truthfully, it will help you weed out what works and what doesn’t. Yes, it can be a painful process to start, especially if you’re not big on shopping in the first place. But what I want you to remember and say when you look in that mirror and the shirt won’t cover your bra is: “It’s not me, it’s the clothes”. Say it over and over until you believe and understand it. It is never you, NEVER, it is the clothes. Throw it out and try again. You are wonderful and beautiful the way you are, and you know what, maybe those ten shirts didn’t work. But that one beautiful silk chemise you grabbed because it fit all the guidelines in your head and was the perfect color…when that fits, you slide it on and then, you will see just how beautiful and worthy you are of the effort.
7. Rinse and Repeat.
Do not shy away from stores you love the aesthetic of, heck march right in and try on every piece if you want. I do that with J-Crew as often as possible. Yes, there will be stores where it’s not possible to find anything, sometimes their aesthetic is never over sized or generously cut. But it is always worth a try.
Years later, I can’t image living without some of the straight size pieces that I’ve picked up throughout the years: My favorite cropped Free People sweater, a beautiful woolen wrap Free People cardigan, the dress from H&M that is a size Medium that has gone to interviews, and my forever favorite weekend piece of a beautiful fine knit orange sweater from J-Crew.
It’s possible. Look for pieces that pass the half way test, that stretch, that are cut wide or are blousy, and open weaves.
Give it a try! What places will you stop by first?
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