Where Do Fat Girls Shop?

I can only speak for the East Coast, but here’s a run-down.

A Fat Religious Fashionista Annoted Guide To Shopping!!

Lane Bryant: The mecca for chunky goddesses. It depends on the season, but I usually have luck with basic pants and some fun pieces. Sometimes I walk in and go, “Oh, I see that this season is all about 6’2″ prostitutes.” Because otherwise why would there be so much fabric! and sequins! All with no bazoom coverage to speak of and nary a respectable fabric to be seen. Great source for pantyhose, and their Cacique line of lingerie is pretty good in the bra department. Their jewelry and bags are garbage.

Avenue: Kind of crappy, kind of ghetto, but some fun pieces. Nothing is very well-made and it won’t last long, but not a bad place to pick up some basics, although you’ll have to dig past the icky, sproingy pants (you can’t fool me into showing up at the office in sweatpants, dammit! No matter how you style them!) and the extremely flammable, cheap poly blazers. I always go to Avenue with high expectations and leave with a pair of pantyhose and a headache. I think it’s from breathing the polyester fumes.

Ashley Stewart: Don’t have one anywhere around me but I seem to recall finding some cool items there in NYC. My mother and I were the only white women in the store and found the designs to have a lot more verve than the usual plus-sized offerings. Their colors and patterns are great for women of color.

Ulla Popken: Again, I don’t have one around me, but there was one in the King of Prussia Mall near where I lived in Pennsylvania. They also have a catalog. These clothes are scaled for Scandinavian giantesses. There is no other explanation for their ginormous apparel. Also, they put things like umbrellas on their camp shirts. I shudder just to think of it. Aside from that, if you’re very tall and hefty in good proportion you might look great in some of their dresses, which always dragged all over the floor on me and had armholes down to my waist. I did get a great pair of palazzo pants from them once, which I had to have hemmed for yards but which were terrific and very well made. They have loads of dresses.

Macy’s Woman’s Department: Carries some great lines like INC., and I get all my work-out wear by Style & Co. there. Good for professional and semi-dressy clothes but casual wear tends to run along the boring, sporty Liz Claiborne line (boxy, striped, generally very unflattering, over-sized pieces) or the overly-casual Panama Joe type stuff — and thank you very much but I won’t be decorating my body with palm tree motifs any time soon.

Filene’s Fat Girls Section (Or Whatever They Call It):
If the Filene’s is in the city, it usually yields some treasures. If in the ‘burbs, stay away ’cause it’s going to be mostly about heinous, shapeless polyester “career wear” (for what career, I’d like to ask? Even bank tellers wouldn’t touch that stuff, and it’s not like they’re encouraged to have lots of fashion flair) and weird shapeless glittery or faux-boho (“fauxho”) polyester tunics that will cause you to break into hives on New Year’s Eve.
That said, I have managed to miraculously find some adorable skirts there in the past — really different, fun skirts — and the occasional really fashionable jacket or sweater. So it’s worth a poke around.

Old Navy: Cute looks that last about ten minutes, or until after the first wash. I get their t-shirts every year to wear under things and recycle them, as they inevitably fade and stain like crazy. That’s okay, because they’re like $9 each. Old Navy is good for solid, fit plus-sized gals. Their armholes and sleeves are cut very small and their pants don’t have floppy thighs. They are obviously designing for a younger, unblobby crowd. They also have the best color selection for t-shirts of anyone, again because they’re geared to a younger crowd.

Talbot’s Women:
Over-priced but well-made, classic-verging-on-boring pieces. You may find a nicely cut jacket and it’s a good source for excellent, fitted t-shirts but not a wide variety of colors (usually gaggy pastels). Worth checking for nice trousers and blazers. I always want to take their lime green little preppy display shoes and throw them across the room, as they remind me of the days of preppy mania in New Canaan, CT. If you can’t stomach preppy, don’t even go into this store.

Kohl’s: Yuck. I only cruise through Kohl’s when I’m desperate and have tried everywhere else.

J. Jill: I think the era of J. Jill is over. I think a J. Jill outfit says “crunchy granola liberal” too immediately for me to really embrace it for clergywomen.
Same goes for Chico’s. These unstructured, hempen items are becoming a kind of cliche for clergy gals, and I just don’t think they’re offering anything really beautiful or exciting lately. I think J. Jill is just a bit precious for me to wholeheartedly recommend, and Chico’s jewelry buyer seems a bit stuck in 1995.

Silhouettes Catalog: Put that catalog down and back away from it very slowly. I don’t want you to go into a suicidal depression just looking through it.

Fashion Bug Plus and Dress Barn Woman:
Really, you’d be better off just learning to sew yourself. In all seriousness, better you should invest in one pair of beautiful trousers, one perfectly fitted black skirt, one blazer and two elegant white blouses for the next ten years (you can upgrade accessories as needed) than spend your money on this garbage. Stay away. Stay far away. The buttons fall off when you look at them.

Target: Target is a hit-or-miss. A lot of times their Plus section is just full of boring, weird, cheap stuff but then you’ll hit the jackpot. Always worth a swing-through if you’re there buying garbage bags or whatever. Their shoes are so fun!

Syms: PeaceBang’s little secret. Like Loehmann’s (CT gals and guys, you know Loehmann’s, right?), you have to take your chances at this enormous discount designer warehouse, but when you hit it big, you hit it big. All of my great, oldest “name brand” pieces (a favorite Ann Klein blazer, a Liz Claiborne blazer with a tie-waist and wonderful pockets, an Evan Picone Petite blazer in a classic grey with a tie waist and gorgeous buttons, a wool Calvin Klein skirt) came from Syms and were marked down at least 70% off retail. I love that place. I go about once or twice a year and sometimes it’s strike-out, but sometimes it’s just the place to find that perfect black cashmere-soft sweater at a fraction of the retail value.

What did I miss?

And Mrs. Philocrites, would you like to do a guest column on Where Petite Religious Fashionistas Shop?

On Caftans and Muumuus

Here is the most elegant and beautiful Isabella Rossellini, ya’ll, who has gotten quite voluptuous in her dotage. Look at her. She’s all beaming and round-faced because she’s not really modeling any more and she’s eating butter and drinking Merseault in places like Gstaad and Biarritz. She’s Isabella Rossellini. She doesn’t care if she’s got avoirdupois. She is eternally gorgeous.

Isabella

There’s a lot that works here: the big smile, the classic red lips, the colorful beads, the creative, flowing garb.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more that doesn’t work here:
the hideous color of the caftan (she can sort of get away with it but I doubt you can, and I certainly can’t), the hacked-at hair with no movement and no shine or discernible style to it, the sneakers (ack! sneakers!?). And it’s too bad she’s dragging around that white bedspread; she looks like a first-grader heading to her first sleepover.

The caftan, ideal for hiding a multitude of sins, should ideally be about mid-thigh, and she should have beautifully flowing pants on underneath, and maybe a boot with a heel. Unless she’s been on a flight all day, in which case the dressed up sneakers might be temporarily forgiveable.

I understand that the caftan is a traditional Indian garment, or at least I think it is. And I respect that. However, she still looks like she’s swimming in it and it’s just not flattering.

The way to redeem this look would be to do something with the hair (like grow it to balance out the chipmunk cheeks), cut about half the caftan off, put on a more appropriate shoe, and stay away from mustard yellow.

She’d still do a lot better if she wore a fitted jacket or tunic and created the funky ethnic look she seems to be after with lots and lots of beads and a turban. She could absolutely tear it up in a turban.

If you want to see a really cute caftan look, check out Gwen Stefani at nine months pregnant (and I’m referring to the far left photo in particular):

cute caftan

Thanks to Go Fug Yourself for the photo.

Ponchos: A Fleeting Moment of Bad Taste

I have mixed feelings about ponchos. On one hand, they allow women of size to feel drapey and glamorous in an unstructured, won’t-cling-to-chub manner.

On the other hand, they’re shapeless and heinous and their fifteen minutes of fame is well over. I saw some at a big church event in town tonight and honey, can you hear me say “AMEN?”

PeaceBang has one beautiful silk poncho that she wears in the summer with bootcut jeans and *very* high sandals and since her arms are free she feels not as shapeless as she otherwise would have been. She slathers on silvery make-up and wears big hair and big earrings, but she’s still not sure if she can get one more season out of the thing. Plus, this poncho comes dangerously close to the batik muu-muu that she has promised a close chum she will never wear, never, ever ever, and especially not while riding around a convention center on an Extremely Fat Person scooter at GA.*

Please, ladies and gentlemen, no
ponchos
sarapes
“wraps”
or
ambiguous crocheted “things”
unless they’re timeless, well-made pieces (think British woman walking on the heath in her woolen shawl) or you’re tall and striking enough a character to make a statement with it. If you can work the big wrap, sweetheart, work it! By all means. But it takes effort and strategy; these things don’t just succeed on their own.

P.S. Crocheted items are almost always ugly, shapeless and inevitably cheap looking, no matter how much they cost. They are not, contrary to what the lady at Dress Barn told you, “feminine and springy.” They are very fashionable this year. Caveat emptor.

* Please don’t get your collective dander up about the Fat Person Scooters. I know full well that some people with disabilities use them to get around. I also know from first-hand knowledge that in some cases the user of the scooter’s only disability is obesity. And as a Woman of Considerable Girth, it is my personal goal never to require motorized transportation for reasons of fatness only. Time may conspire to deprive us of the ability to walk at a brisk pace no matter what we do– but one of the ways we may keep our ability to walk at a brisk pace is to walk at a brisk pace!
PeaceBang is making it one of her life goals to not have to ride a scooter around GA. She has nothing against those who do, except when they yell “beep beep” and run conferees down on the way to the Service of the Living Tradition.