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?

14 Replies to “Where Do Fat Girls Shop?”

  1. For those of us who struggle with tall and big, Land’s End and L.L. Bean have classic pants and nice ‘t’s and blazers in Tall, Women’s and, most precious of all, in 20T. (women’s sizes assume a shorter than average woman, a fact that has helped my self discipline a great deal!) I know that’s not your style, PB, but it’s there for others.

  2. Peacebang, I am a little dismayed by your dismissal of JJill, I buy lots of stuff from them (almost always on sale) and always get compliments. I don’t think anyone thinks of me as crunchy or granola. Always liberal though. 😉 They have some lovely linen shirts and jackets, some nice skirts. A few “precious” things I ignore, but doesn’t every catalog have its shortcomings?

    I also like Junonia for workout clothing, their regular clothing leaves a lot to be desired though. I agree with Christine Robinson that Land’s End and LLBean have some good choices too. I recently bought some LE active wear tees and microfiber undies that help keep me cool in the summer meltdown!

  3. I do buy a few things from Lane Bryant but not many, most are cheaply made.
    I used to get all my tee shirts from Eddie Bauer but they changed the fabric a couple of years ago and they are much to heavy for Oklahoma summers.
    I did get a couple from Old Navy that are ok but sure not the quality of EB.
    I have found a couple of nice dresses at the Cold Water Creek website.

  4. I forgot about Land’s End and LL. Bean! I get yoga pants from Bean, but not much else. I always *mean* to go back for basics but since I can’t try anything on and I’m notoriously hard to fit, I try to buy in stores where I can check out the fit first.
    Junonia is EXPENSIVE! I buy their bathing suits but their clothes are cut far too generously to work for me.
    I’m going to stand by my distance from J. Jill for now, SC, because I must be firm on this. I will take another look but I think their unstructured flaxy thing is becoming too much a kind of uniform for liberal clergy gals, and anytime that happens PeaceBang must stand against it. Especially when it’s a head-to-toe J. Jill look with no make-up and a bla hair-do. Where’s the touch of pizzazz PeaceBang gives her heart and soul to encourage?

  5. Oh, Peacebang, I love you. I not only want you to do my makeover, I want you to be my minister. And that despite the fact that I never wear heels, makeup or skirts, and I already have a perfectly fabulous minister (and am on my way to being one myself, we hope).

  6. OK, so maybe not head-to-toe JJill all the time. And yes, great hair (one of my big indulgences) and makeup are always a requirement for a public figure, especially one who hopes to be a window to the Holy One. Our gentle disagreement notwithstanding PB, I think you are doing a marvelous service to ministers everywhere, and the throngs who have to look at them. 🙂

  7. If you ever visit CC and your other assort pals in Washington DC, I’d be happy to take you to the Tysons LL Bean store.

    You’ll hate our Lane Bryant, though. It’s not one of the good ones.


  8. Ladies, listen to PeaceBang about JJill. She is SO right about the unstructured, frumpy Earth Mama looks sold there.

    Another option for tall and big is Eddie Bauer which in the past couple of years began offering less boxy styles and several cuts of pants and jeans. Also check out Nordstrom’s online–they have a few tall selections, mostly pants and skirts.

    Ralph Lauren is a good choice, too, because he puts a lot of cuffs on pants which equals about 6 inches of additonal hem–and you can usually go down a size in the Ralph Lauren Woman line.

    PeaceBang, may I admiringly say how much you rock?

  9. You’ve got to let your readers in on svobodastyle.com! It’s not cheap, but everything is stylish and it fits.

  10. Thought not a minister, rather a corporate attorney I thought I would chime in on this topic because plus size shopping is difficult for everyone.

    I find Jones New York Woman has pretty good suiting basics. I generally stay away from the new this season trendy pieces, but they offer a wide range of trouser and skirt styles. I know one can find it in most department stores here in the midwest and they have outlet stores in some of the outlet malls. I have Jones suits that are a least ten years old that still look great.

    Nordstroms also has a line of suiting basics called Caslon that I like for individual pieces. Nordstroms also offers Foxcroft blouses that come is whatever the trendy colors are for the season. They have a big sale coming up in mid-July that should offer some great bargains.

    I am also a fan of the Land’s End.

  11. At the risk of giving away the location of my secret stash of fabulous clothing in sizes from 2 to 3X, look at http://www.eileenfisher.com (then go pick up last season’s overstocks on ebay). Everything Eileen Fisher makes is hand washable, mostly natural fibers, simple, elegant and timeless. Added bonus: the pieces mostly work together elegantly.

    Actually, never mind. Don’t look there, and for heaven’s sake, DON’T go hunting down items on ebay. Because they’re mine. All mine.

  12. PB…..
    We’ll have to have drinks one night during GA and we can comiserate together. Plus I’ll tell you a couple of places that you’ve missed.

  13. On the Left Coast, there is a fabulous shop called “In Full Swing.” The owner is too fabulous and Heather, who works there, is also amazing and wonderful! They sell a lot of FLAX and it lasts FOREVER! Plus other great stuff. I am told that a few doors down from IFS is a former Piedmont shoppe now moved onto College Ave that has great clothes for those of us over the top and bottom! I take the most gorgeous fabric I can find and wrap a long sarong and I am great to go out and stay out! In Panama I also LIVE in Ngobe dresses–if you look them up on line, (probably Ngobe women or Ngobe-Bugle women) and see them–with sleeves and sleeveless, ALL YA’LL will want one. Our friend has been making them for me in silk, the lightest weight tropical wool (coolest for the tropics), and linen and blends of cotton, silk, linen, ramie. My church alb is palest pink dotted Swiss with Swiss voile colors. These dresses are about 35.00 and I can get you one in two to five weeks. The ususal fabric here is a poly-cotton “poplin” but I just cannot go that route in this heat and during the ‘Pause! Och!….If you’re looking for gorgeous fabric, let me know. There’s a shoppe in Panama City that has stuff I’ve not seen outside of NYC since I was about 15 (I’m 53 now). Unbeeleevable stuff. We even have a woman here who makes clergy blouses for breast-feeding moms; they “work” by pleats and when the wee one is weaned, you can sew up the pleats and wear them forever! Ngobe dresses can also be constructed for breast-feeding. And the purses that the Ngobe women make are beginning to morph into baby-carriers that are cool–temperature wise and way-of-being. These are cottage industries for a depressed town with 60% unemployment so please don’t steal the ideas. We have women wanting women clergy all over the world to get pregnant and breastfeed!

  14. Hello All:

    I am searching for clergy blouses in a size 28W. I have looked everywhere and cannot find them. Does anyone have suggestions where I can find them?

    Minister Shellie in West Virginia

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