Fashion for Big Women

Yes, today I’m talking about me and the ladies that are sized like me–more than size 16, more than size 20, more than size 26, and on up. To most high-style designers, we do not exist; we are not mentioned much, if at all, and our particular style needs are not always taken into account. Even Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” fame acknowledges that this is a huge problem when he says “Fashion seems to end at a size 12!”

Now, I will say that I’ve been lucky to come across Lane Bryant, Avenue, and other plus-size stores, as well as stores like Cato’s that carry both misses and women’s sizes (read: “normal-sized” women’s clothing and “big” women’s clothing). But I’ve also shopped in many places where either the fashion offerings are very slim (or don’t exist), or the offerings are so outside the realm of what I would wear that I can’t fathom buying it.

It seems that many big-box designers (or even some higher-fashion designers) have strange preconceptions about what plus-size women want in clothing. This blog post seeks to rectify this.

Not all big women like huge gaudy prints or horrible mixes of colors.

It never fails. The lovely, floaty-fabric skirt with the beautiful stitching and structuring just HAS to be coated with pink and green flowers. And that amazing tunic-style shirt that would hit just right on my hips? It apparently only comes in a nauseating blend of blue, brown, and orange.


OK, fashion designers, please listen: if I wanted to wear Mawmaw’s tablecloth, I WOULD. I could probably even find one that’s actually–*GASP*–a SOLID COLOR, too. The prints and color combinations that are marketed to big women do not look good on ANYBODY. Just because we’re big does not mean we have no fashion sense!

We don’t all like wearing dresses and shirts that look like tents.

News flash: Clothes that resemble shapeless camping gear make big women look EVEN BIGGER.


I am so tired of seeing “big women’s” dresses, skirts, and shirts that have absolutely no shape to them. They just hang on my body, usually clinging to all the wrong curves (like my protruding tummy and where my underwear cuts into my hip fat), leaving out my smaller waist entirely. I look like just a big fat column wearing these, and that is definitely not true to my body shape. My hourglass may be bigger than some, but it’s still an hourglass! Help me show it off!

We don’t all like belly shirts.

Some designers might remember to cut the shirt with a bit more tailoring, but they’ll invariably forget to lengthen the hemlines of said shirt. Big women often have larger breasts and protruding tummies, which makes it necessary to have longer shirts–otherwise we get peeks of tummy and peeks of back (or butt crack) all day.

As a long-waisted big woman, it’s almost impossible for me to find a normally-cut shirt that doesn’t show off my non-toned midriff. It’s very annoying, when I know that all they’d have to do is make a normal shirt just a little longer!

See? I know it’s possible, because here’s an example of a longer shirt that actually LOOKS good!

Big women can wear larger sizes of “normal” fashion and LOOK GOOD!

I have seen dresses and skirts and shirts that would look absolutely gorgeous on me–IF they made it in my size! The A-line skirt, the tailored, fitted dress (that actually hugs your waist rather than hiding it)…these styles are often seen in itty-bitty-size stores, but almost never in plus-size stores.

Now THIS is what I’m talking about. But you won’t find these styles in most big-box stores’ plus-size sections…

For instance, slightly-belled or straight pant legs help balance the look of heavier thighs; I’ve actually tried this look and it makes my thighs look normal-sized. So you’d think plus-size stores would be full of straight or slightly-belled styles, right? WRONG; so many plus-size jeans or pants are tapered-leg (read: “skinny fit”), as seen below:


Tapered-leg jeans/pants only make a big woman’s ankles look small and her butt look incredibly wide by comparison. WHY is this fashion style marketed to big women again? Compare to the wider-legged look I favor, both for comfort and style, below:


See how the straighter leg balances out bigger hips and thighs? Suddenly, you don’t look like a mutant anymore, and the jeans are actually tons more comfortable!

Can we have fitted pants without elastic/drawstring waists? Please?

For those who do not have protruding tummies or large hips, elastic-waist pants are probably not even on your fashion radar. Unfortunately, for big women, these are probably the only pants you can find for yourself. Yeah, sure, they hug your waist and all, but they also generally cling unflatteringly to one’s buttocks and hip fat. Elastic waists generally mean that the pants are overall going to be too tight. (And don’t get me started on drawstrings… ugh, ugh, UGH. Great way to make me feel even fatter, plus add an ugly dangling pair of fabric strips to the front of my pants.)

Makers of these pants also don’t seem to think about the comfort factor. Elastic is ITCHY, and it comes into contact with delicate belly skin all day! Not a good combination. When I wear elastic pants, I’m usually excusing myself to the restroom every hour or so to scratch my belly like mad. Not to mention that I usually get a lovely “accordion” pattern etched into my skin after wearing elastic waist pants. (It takes that pattern several hours to go away completely after having worn elastic-waist pants all day. Trust me.)

I know it is possible to make larger pants without elastic waists. Just take a larger cut of fabric and style it the same way as you style the smaller pairs of non-elastic pants! (Many thanks to Lane Bryant for generally not including any elastic waists in their pants–that’s basically where I buy my pants these days. They aren’t paying me to say that, either.) But at most other places? Forget it. It’s all elastic or go home.


Big women are not aliens, nor are we impossible to design for. In fact, we are just a sub-set of women’s fashion in general. We may have slightly different needs, such as longer shirts, wider-legged pants, and A-line skirts, but we are still women, we still want to look good, and doggone it, we DESERVE to look good. The time of hiding us away in small elastic tents is OVER!

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