Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.
Pure Collection Ltd.
Net-a-porter UK

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Poll: Can you dress well at any size?

This week's poll asks whether it is possible to dress stylishly, with chic and elegance at any size?

Some would argue that true style comes from within, others would say that the range of clothing offered by the fashion industry is so limited as to restrict larger women's freedom to dress well. Notice, I say larger women, since size 0 women are well-catered for.

I will be returning to this subject at greater length, but for now, just go vote, on the right.

And go and look at the Manolo for the Big Girl


Unknown said...

In addition to the clothes being available, the knowledge has to be there, too, which isn't trivial. Some lucky people are born with an innate sense of style, but some of us have to work at it.

Consider that the "fashion mags" offer such stunning advice to larger women like "Wear empire-waisted dresses! Wear wraps!" This works for some, but not for others. I spent years wondering how the heck I was supposed to dress, since all the "flattering" clothes looked wretched on me.

Sites like Manolo for the Big Girl and the education it offers are a godsend.

Susan B said...

I've known quite a few larger women with great style. Especially now with the ever-increasing availability of plus sizes, IMO women of every size can look smashing.

Also agree with what jamie said about learning what works and what doesn't. Not all plus-sized women are built the same.

Anonymous said...

It's possible to dress with style at any size - particularly with the growing range of plus-size options becoming available at more reasonable prices - so long as you take the time and effort to find out what truly flatters and showcases you.

Ignore every bit of size-based advice you find in fashion magazines. As others have already said, they assume that all people of a particular height or weight range are built the same way. They also tend to assume our personalities have little impact on what looks good on us. Believe it or not, I feel it absolutely does.

Part of looking good is feeling good about yourself. If something hits you in all the right places but makes you feel wrong in some way, it's not going to flatter you.

You need to understand your shape, your coloring, and your personality. It takes a keen eye, no matter what your size, and a strong sense of self.

The great thing is that as you build confidence in your clothing choices and find the outfits that make you feel strong and joyful, that strength and joy bleeds into other aspects of your life.

And in my not so humble opinion, there is nothing sexier or more glorious on this earth than a strong, joyful woman who knows precisely who she is.

Jane said...

I firmly believe the basis of being stylish is liking and accepting your body, a hard thing to do, when we live in a culture that reveres the pipecleaner with spacehoppers for breasts figure.

Most of the advice given for larger women (I heard size 10 being described as 'curvy' the other day!!! btw) is about hiding and covering up. Why the hell should you?

It's all down to confidence. I don't want to wear a uniform - I want to look like me. But my mum was right about always buying good shoes.

Anonymous said...

Is that Beth Ditto? She's rock babe. Yes, I believe that a woman can dress well at any size, after all a big woman is still a woman! :?)

Thomas said...

First, love the picture of The Gossip - it shows that attitude plays a huge role in style.

Having read more than my fair share of women's magazines, I can safely say that no one is treated more poorly by the media than plus-size women. And as such, almost no attention is paid to the way they dress, except efforts to "cover-up."

Anonymous said...

I would say that style comes not just from availability of choice but a whole range of other factors, including resources and personal interest. I'm not talking here just about money - it's about having the time and energy to invest in cultivating a sense of style, whether it be through exhaustive vintage shopping, trawling through shops looking for that perfect cut and colour or wasting hours tromping around shoe stores testing out different heel heights and strap thicknesses. And of course to get through all of that you need to actually give a crap - and many women, across the entire size spectrum, don't. They have other places they'd rather direct their mental energies, or it just isn't one of their passions. I find myself in that camp sometimes; when you just feel like feel like it's all a ridiculous, meaningless artifice (often these reflections come at the end of a fruitless four-hour shopping trip). I guess what I'm trying to say is that a dearth of choice doesn't immediately condemn one to dagginess, and that an entire universe of fashion in your size can't help if you don't have any interest in looking fabulous. I mean there are plenty of badly-dressed skinny minnies who seem to have tumbleweeds rolling around where their sense of style should be located (um, hello, Rachel Zoe? Bai frickin' Ling?).

So perhaps (maybe I'm being blindly optimistic here) the big girl in the trackies and stretched-out t-shirt hasn't been locked out of mainstream fashion - maybe she never sought entry in the first place?

P.S. Much love for the Ditto pic. I've always thought that one of the downsides of The Gossip's increased profile is that she's now easy fodder for all the fat-hating trolls that make up the online gossip press. I'm sure she doesn't give a rat's arse but it saddens me that any kind of positive influence she might provide for body-conscious young women is being so drowned out by the 'ew, she's such a beastLOLoneone' comments. What's being left by the wayside is that she's a snappy dresser and absolutely fearless, admirable qualities in a woman of any size.

Kai Jones said...

As for learning, and knowing your shape etc., I'm 46, fat, wear double-wide shoes, and still don't know what would look good on me. For one thing, my body shape has changed in the last year or so: I used to be a (very large) hourglass, now I'm more of a column with a tummy in front--even though my weight hasn't changed.

I think this comes easier for some people than others. I'd gladly take a class or go for a lesson if I could find someone to teach me and I could afford it.

Overpriced Designer Man Bag said...

I think one must learn how to dress appropriately for the body type; dressing well comes after that acquired skill.

Anonymous said...

Are there more plus size clothing out there for women? Yes. For women who are over 5'5". Women who, except for their measurements around, would be wearing what are referred to as "missy" sizes. In other words. Tall people.
If you are shorter than 5'5", you do not wear a Missy size, unless you have a live-in tailor on tap. Otherwise, you wear "Petite" sizes, which theoretically are made for women who are under 64 inches in height. If you look at the actual size charts with measurements, the actual clothing measurements/measurements of the bodies that the manufacturers purport to fit are all over the place. There are very few US size 16P, for example. "Women's Petite Plus" is an even more exotic animal. And, we will not even go to the discussion of 1x, 2x, 3x etc. for Petites.
Short women, like every other woman, come in all sorts of configurations: short-waisted, long-waisted, and no waisted. I, for example, have arms that even in Petite sizing, are two inches too short. I just come from a family with short arms. Then, of course, there is the issue of leg proportion - and there are just as many Petite victims of "low knee symdrome" (that is, the bone in the top half of the leg is proportionately longer than the bone in the lower half) as there are among tall women.
The major problem for petite women is that manufacturers by and large do not start with a fit model who is between 5" and 5'5" - they are starting with their standard missy fit model and shortening the waist length a couple of inches and shortening the pants rise a little bit. Does. Not. Work.

Anonymous said...

It's very difficult for anyone outside the "normal" sizes to find stylish clothes. Some seem to have the knack for it - others don't... I would be one of the others. I happen to be 5'9" and wear (for the most part) size 12. I consider myself to be "normal" and in fairly good shape, but in a Hollywood world I would be fat. I am also nearing 50.

Walking through the local malls my dilemma is - I'm too tall for regular sizes, too short for tall sizes, and too old for most styles. There are some pants offered in a 34 inch inseam - but not many. Most woven shirts are a no-go as the sleeves are at least half an inch too short.

So, I spend much of my time in blue jeans and t-shirt type shirts with 3/4 sleeves.

It's also disheartening to see styles for 20 somethings that would simply look silly on me at my age. (the thought of wearing "baby doll tops makes me cringe!) Then there are the granny clothes that seem to be the only alternative. I'm glad I work at home because frankly, I have no idea what I would do in an office setting - the thought petrifies me.

So, I'd have to say that there are people out there with a sense of style who can make the most of what is available to them - they always look well turned out. Then there are people like me - we would love to look like that, but haven't the faintest idea how to go about it with the choices offered at the local mall.

Now, I need to go poking about on the rest of your blog, as I just found it.

Paula Berman said...

Depends how you define possible. Is it physically possible for women of any size to look great in their clothes? Hell, yeah. Is it possible for those of us shorter/thinner/taller/fatter/differently proportioned than the manufacturer's ideal to find those flattering clothes? Probably, but it's not easy.