Shopping for plus-size clothing used to be a fairly grim errand. Growing up, I remember going to Lane Bryant — the one and only option — and looking around at the structured blazers and suit-dresses thinking, “Can I wear a blazer to Heather’s swim party?” Unless you were an adult woman with an office job, there just wasn’t much out there…
Thankfully, the market has broadened since then (as has Lane Bryant’s collection, I might add). While the options are still extremely limited compared to the straight-size market, shopping for plus pieces has become a lot more doable — fun, even! Recently, a number of popular labels have made strides toward more inclusive sizing, and more outlets are beginning to stock their plus items in-store. Slowly, things are moving in the right direction, and hopefully will continue to do so. Designers and retailers are waking up to the fact that there’s a billion-dollar market of shoppers out there — and we like cute stuff, too!
Here are a few of my go-to brands, as well as some exciting new additions. I’d love to hear where you’re shopping, too.
While Lane Bryant might have been a little too Working Girl in the 90s, I have to give it up for their brand revamp. Today’s Lane Bryant remains one of the most accessible plus-size labels, but has a much wider range of styles (how great are these pants?! And this tie-dye top?!), and often collaborates on capsule collections with designers and plus-size influencers. While there are many more brands to choose from these days, I still find myself regularly returning to good old Lane Bryant. It’s just a lot more fun now.
If you’re a plus shopper, this is a name you probably know well, and for good reason. ELOQUII is one of the few places you can always find a fresh collection of on-trend pieces, solid workwear, and GREAT designer collabs (Jason Wu, Stone Fox Bride, Cosabella). Whenever I have a speaking gig or a fancy event, ELOQUII is my go-to. Eighty-five percent of my “nice” clothes are ELOQUII, though I’m also a huge fan of their elevated tees and work tops, as well — and this bodysuit is a wardrobe workhorse. This brand is super engaged with its customer, and the team is constantly updating based on shopper feedback, which is probably why they have some of the best size and fit options available. In addition to the standard 12-32 sizes, and plus-size petites, they recently added Viola sizing, which is cut for people whose hips are 1-2 sizes larger than bust. Because not all plus shoppers (ahem) have plus-size busts!
APlus by Anthropologie
I’ve always loved the bright, boho Anthro vibe but until now I’ve only been able to shop the accessories. I was SO excited to see they’d finally unrolled a fairly extensive line of plus items, which have that same look (OMG, this jumpsuit) — and even more excited to see they plan to stock them in “select stores.” How many and where remain to be seen (if you’ve spotted APlus out in the wild, let me know!), but that’s a huge step in the right direction.
Speaking of, let’s hear it for LOFT, which not only has a growing plus-size line (I’m particularly fond of their flutter-sleeve tops), but is one of the very few retailers that stock these sizes in-store! Accessibility is a huge, largely unaddressed issue in plus-size fashion, and LOFT has set an important precedent in taking this step. It’s one that not only makes their items more available to plus shoppers, but also counters the tacit message that those shoppers face on a daily basis: You are niche, not normal, and you shouldn’t be shopping out here in public like the rest of us. We’re used to that, and so walking into a store that treats us like regular customers is a big deal. I remember looking around in shock the first time I saw a size 16/18 on the rack, thinking it was some kind of mistake. When it hit me that it wasn’t, I grabbed that blouse and three others. And a sweater.
Um, did everyone know that Madewell now sells 40% of their stock in extended sizes? Because I only just found out and am deeply irked at all the soft tees and denim I haven’t been buying since the brand announced this change last year. Extended-size options range from 16-24, and jeans (not all, but some) go up to 37. These sizes are only available online — but if you’re part of their loyalty program, you can try on plus-size samples of the jeans in-store before ordering. I also appreciate that Madewell usually features the items worn on two different models in two different sizes.
Last spring, Reformation dipped a toe into the plus-size market with a size-inclusive capsule collection, along with what might be my favorite press-release ever: “Sorry it took us so long.” The sustainable fashion brand owned up to the disservice it had done in serving such a limited pool of shoppers, and shortly after launching the (wildly successful) collection, they brought back it back, in more sizes and styles, and made it permanent. You know why? Because serving plus shoppers isn’t just about inclusivity. It’s a REALLY good business move! Take note, everyone else! Until then, you can find me doing my best Joan Holloway in this number.
Swimsuits For All
This isn’t just my go-to swim retailer — it’s my only swimwear retailer. Swimsuits For All carries everything from classic one-pieces for doing laps to designer collaborations for taking great Instagram shots. I’m one of those people who will spend eight hours in the water if you let me, so I have a bunch of suits. And I haven’t even shopped the new Gabifresh collection yet.
No joke, I’ve worn these jeans two to three days a week since the day I got them over a year ago. And FYI, I’ve always been a dress gal, and almost never wore pants of the non-legging variety. Part of that was personal style, but the other part was the fact that it’s really hard to find good-quality, comfortable plus-size pants. Then I tried these on, and it was like, “Oh, I’m a jeans person now? Cool.” American Eagle has somehow managed to make a super soft but totally durable, beautifully washed line of denim that feels like a jegging-jean hybrid: All of the comfort and none of the pilling or crappy thin fabric that loses shape after one wear. HUGE bonus: They come in short, regular and long — and since most plus-size pants are cut about a foot too long for average-height women, these are the first pair I haven’t had to hem! My only gripe, and it’s a biggie, is that they only go up to size 20. But the Aerie/American Eagle family has been more responsive than most brands in terms of size-inclusivity, so let’s keep nudging them on this.
One curious problem with plus-size clothing is that a lot of it skews very young and very, um, spangly: Random glitter details, ruffles for no reason, a pencil skirt that seemed perfectly chic until you turned it around and saw the word “diva” embroidered on the butt. WHY? Universal Standard is the antidote to all that. It is minimalist, high-quality, and decidedly grown-up. I love their comfy, elegant dresses, and they have some of the best workwear around. But personally, their activewear is my favorite line. It’s durable and cute, and the fabric is the perfect weight for a sweaty workout (or Netflixing on my couch).
Weirdly, the hardest stuff to find in plus sizes are plain old basics. I freak out whenever I find a simple, black A-line skirt, or T-shirt that actually hits at the waist (instead of mid-thigh). Ori, a brand new plus-size label, is solving a lot of those problems. Their “Perfect Tee” truly is the PERFECT TEE. It is soft but not flimsy, loose but not shapeless, and the colors! THE COLORS! Cerulean blue, slate blue-grey, and simple white — the kind of colors you can kinda pair with anything. I am a huge fan.
Modcloth offers the opposite of basics, and for that, I love it just as much. If you’re into fun, bright, feminine or slightly retro clothing, Modcloth really is a one-stop shop. They also have a SUPER cute range of wedding styles, including bridal, bridesmaid and wedding-guest dresses. (I got married almost two years ago, and I still sometimes browse their wedding dresses just for fun.) I have a Christmastime wedding coming up this year, and I already bought this dress to wear to it. Perfect, right? Modcloth also recently opened a handful of FitShops around the U.S., where you can try on samples before ordering — and some of their items are now available at select Nordstrom locations.
If you don’t yet know Premme, you probably know its founders, Nicolette Mason and Gabi Gregg (aka, Gabifresh). They’re two beloved icons of the plus-size fashion world, and it shows. The collections are utterly chic (I’m currently obsessed with this elegant, iridescent skirt), and clearly designed specifically for plus bodies (rather than straight-size pieces simply made bigger, with no sense of proportion). Premme also consistently incorporates a diverse range of body sizes, shapes, genders, etc. into their imagery. This brand reflects the inclusive ethos of its founders, which makes it even more of a joy to wear.
Size 2XS-15X, and beyond
SmartGlamour is a truly unique entity in the fashion world. It is a one-woman shop run by designer Mallorie Dunn, who produces each item to order (using ethically sourced materials, purchased locally), so that shoppers have the option of getting a piece tailored to their exact measurements. She’ll also customize items to accommodate things like disability or modesty preferences. And somehow, she does all this while keeping her prices affordable! If you don’t want a customized piece, you can also buy any piece in 2XS-15X (and in a wide variety of colors, which I love). The Sylvia Cowl Back Tee is my all-time favorite summer dress-up top, and has kept me miraculously cool and un-rumpled through many an August dinner party. I never go on vacation without it.
I got my first pair of Dear Kate undies about four years ago, and I have never looked back. This is truly the most comfortable, cute and long-lasting underwear line I’ve found. Plus, they’re period panties! Honestly, I wasn’t even looking for that feature when I got them; I just wanted high-quality plus-size undies, and these delivered. I’m also a huge fan of their activewear, and without fail, every time I wear these galaxy gym pants, someone asks me where I got them (FYI, they’re on sale!).
Now, do tell! What are some of your favorite plus-size and size-inclusive brands?
(Top photo by Reformation.)