As a plus-sized gal, we’re sure you’ve experienced your share of frustrations shopping both online and in person. While online is great — you can peruse the aisles without interruption, take your sweet time before making any purchases and daydream about all your future outfit possibilities in peace — there are always a few drawbacks. First, and most importantly, how will you know if something is going to fit or if the fabric is sturdy and structured enough to hold up for the long term? What if you like a pattern, but aren’t sure if you can pull it off?
To us, beauty means finding the right clothes for you — clothes you can feel comfortable wearing, with flattering silhouettes and that perfect shade that highlights your eyes or skin tone like nothing else out there. At My Sister’s Closet, we’re of the mindset that fashion should be all-inclusive and that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
For that reason, we’ve put together some tips on how to online shop for curvy women to help alleviate some of the stresses that come with shopping without the opportunity to try something on in person. When we’re done here, you’ll be wondering why you’ve cursed online shopping instead of embracing it straight out of the gate.
Know Your Exact Measurements
If you only remember one thing from this guide to online shopping for plus-size women, it’s this: While sizes change, dimensions miraculously remain uniform. Before you dive in, measure yourself — the usual suspects, hips, bust, waist and inseam, as well as the dimensions of some of your favorite pieces. If you’ve got a favorite dress, shirt, or whatever else, take its measurements down!
Here are some quick measurement tips:
To measure your bust, wrap the measuring tape around the fullest part of your chest.
The waist can be a little bit confusing, as pants and skirts all have a different rise. As a standard, measure your waist right around where your belly button is for the clearest representation.
For hips, measure at the fullest part. Stand in front of a mirror to make sure you’re measuring the correct areas.
Once you have your dimensions in order, the world is your oyster. Figure out a baseline of what will fit comfortably, and from there, you can kind of deviate. Add a couple inches if you want a flowy dress or a boxier top, and a stretchy piece may allow you to size down if body con is more your thing.
Another note on measurements: If you really, really want to ensure a great fit every time, enlist the help of a professional tailor. This will dramatically reduce the risk of getting anything wrong from slightly-off hip widths to mistaken inseams and more. They may be able to provide some of their own fashion tips and tricks for plus-size shopping, too.
Sizing Charts Are Your Best Friend
Armed with the right measurements, the size chart will be the best thing that ever happened to you. Most online shops provide a chart for guidance. If you’re shopping on a site with multiple brands, like My Sister’s Closet, it may serve you well to look up the size chart for the maker of the item you’re checking out before you click “buy.”
Every manufacturer has a different idea of what medium, large or extra-large looks like, so just keep that in mind. It’s about those inches, not those pesky number sizes.
Understand Your Shape
We’re all familiar with the fruit comparison chart: pears, apples, bananas and more. Often plus-size women are told plus-size is its own body type, but that’s really not true. Plus-size generally just refers to any size over a size 14 or 16 (depending on the brand), regardless of shape. Here’s a quick look at how the age-old body shape guide works, and how to dress for your shape, no matter what your size:
- Hourglass – Characterized by a full bust and hips, the hourglass shape is narrowest at the waist. Because this shape is kind of the idealized version of the old Hollywood glamour girl, you can’t go wrong with a tailored fit-and-flare dress that adds some structure to your frame, while emphasizing your enviable curves.
However, if you’re more of a modern gal, or just want to deviate from the throwback vibe, try a peplum top, which will emphasize your shape with its flared waistline. For the bolder gals among us, hourglass shapes can wear a body con dress. Just look for something with a structured fabric — a stretchy, yet textured fabric works perfect on larger frames.
- Pear – The pear has fuller hips and thighs paired with a smaller bust and shoulders. Jeans can be a challenge for pears, but keep measurement in mind when shopping. Look for a pant that sits higher on the waist, drawing attention toward a smaller upper half, as well as something with a bit more wiggle room in the upper thighs.
While you may opt to emphasize the upper half of your body, a boxy, looser fit top may prove to be just as flattering as a fitted one. Looser tops balance out a larger bottom half. And of course, you can’t mention the pear shape without giving a shout out to A-line skirts and dresses. Anything labeled ‘skater” is always flattering as well as a classic vintage silhouette.
- Apple – The figure shape best identified as holding the most weight in the middle, with slimmer legs and arms, most apples feel most comfortable when they find a top or dress that doesn’t cling to the mid-section.
As far as dresses go, look for something that has a straight-line cut like a sheath dress or something with a 60’s mod vibe. Shorter lengths draw attention to slimmer legs, while also adding length to the body. For pants, a slim trouser works best with the apple shape. Pair with an oversized top for maximum comfort in style.
- Ruler – Proving that plus-size and curvy aren’t exactly synonymous, the ruler can be defined as having little distinction between hips, bust, waist and thighs, straight up and down so to speak. A shift dress is great for rulers, as it adds a bit more dimension to the figure. Okay, that may not sound so appealing, but hear us out. The extra texture creates a sense of curve. Top it off with a statement necklace, and you’re golden. Again with the boxy tops, a loose fitting blouse or top is flattering on a more angular shape. Pair with slim trousers for added drama.
Or, try adding some volume on the bottom. Boyfriend jeans or loose trousers look amazing on the ruler-straight figure. It’s easy to pull this off because you won’t need to worry about all the curves getting in the way.
- Carrot – Wider shoulders and slim hips define the carrot shape. Look for shapes that add some volume to a smaller bottom half in order to create a sense of balance. We’re talking full skirts, pants with pleated details or going boyfriend-style with your jeans.
Or, do the opposite — play up shoulders with tops featuring some cool embellishments, beads embroidery, or an interesting cut — let your imagination go wild. If you go the shoulder-emphasis route, we do recommend keeping it simple everywhere else. Go monochromatic or mix neutrals, just think slim lines and solids.
Let’s Be Real
Building on the whole idea of knowing your measurements and your body type, be honest with yourself. It doesn’t really matter what the label says or how many inches your waist is. Knowledge is power here. The bottom line is accepting the reality of your dimensions will help you find better clothes — ones that are more flattering and, most importantly, make you feel good. There’s nothing that eats away at the self-esteem more than an ill-fitting outfit.
Some people, of all sizes mind you, are in denial of their size or shape, but let’s face it. If you’re an apple, not owning your waist size will only hurt your prospects of finding clothes you truly love — and that are flattering. You don’t have to broadcast your measurements to anyone but yourself, either.
Don’t Completely Disregard the Straight Sizes
Across the board, we all know that sizing is one thing we can never count on. You might be a size 16 in one brand, and 14 in another, and yet you own a size 18 dress that fits and flatters like nothing else.
While it may seem easier to just look at the plus-size options, you may be missing out on some great, flattering finds if you just stick to familiar territory. There are a lot of great items sold as oversized for smaller bodies. Think cardigans, tunics, billowy tops — all these items can fit a range of shapes and sizes comfortably, opening up a world of shopping possibilities.
If you’re buying online, figuring out what size pants to buy is a much easier prospect when you know you’re looking for something that fits your waist size, rather than playing a guessing game based on the size you’ve historically worn. It’s also worth noting the range of sizes that will fit your frame, are probably much more varied than you had previously thought.
For example, things stretch — maybe you’ll find a straight-size large top with a lot of give really works for you, or you go up a couple sizes because you’re really into that oversized cardigan look. For what it’s worth, shopping becomes a whole lot more fun when you think creatively.
Have Fun and Be Confident
As a plus-size woman, sometimes the message you get is to cover yourself up in tent clothing and forego the quest for fashionable clothes. Forget this. Baggy, ill-fitting clothes don’t do you any favors, and you’re still the same size underneath it all. Clothes are supposed to make you feel good, and you should always keep that in mind while shopping.
Try entering the online store with an open mind. Take advantage of the idea that no one is watching, and you can take all the time you need.
Granted, you should probably like clothes — and shopping — to some extent, but we’ll safely assume you do. Trust us, if you have patience, you will prevail. Just like when you go to the mall, half-heartedly try on a few things and leave empty handed, shopping online can yield similar results if you’re not careful. Read reviews, immerse yourself in information and browse all the facets of the Internet with ease and an open mind. The perfect wardrobe was never built in a day, after all.
Plus, unlike going to the mall, you can watch TV or get some work done while you browse, not to mention you’re not subject to stock outs or limited sizing issues the mall tends to have. The modern gal is quite the multi-tasker.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions
Any good guide to online shopping for curvy women will include this tip: If you have questions about the way something fits, a return policy or anything else, most online sellers are more than happy to help. They want to get everything right the first time so you’ll be a happy customer, since — as we all know — a happy customer generally turns out to be a returning customer.
How to Determine the Fit of a Garment
Okay. Here’s where things get a little dicey. Even the best online shoppers encounter some challenges when it comes to figuring out how something is supposed to fit. Here are some tips to keep in mind for different clothing elements:
- Pants – Most pants will say whether they’re slim fit, boyfriend or anything in between. Great. However, you’ll want to account for any curves where thighs and hips are concerned. A size chart will help you determine the hips, waist and inseam. If you have a favorite pair of pants, measure those and compare to the chart online.
- Tops and blouses – Boxy tops will fit a range of sizes, while a fitted button-up shirt will need to match your measurements to a tee. For tee-shirts or looser tops without darts or structural elements, you’ll have an easier time. Consider if the fabric will shrink and how loose you tend to wear your shirts.
- Dresses – With dresses, you’ll first want to look at the shape. If the item has darts or a distinct silhouette, it’s probably meant to be fitted and meant for specific dimensions. Look at the fabric. If it seems stiff, you’ll want to really make sure you get a clear picture of what the dimensions are in key areas like the bust, hips and shoulders. A softer dress with a less defined shape will be much more forgiving.
- Jackets – Jackets may be one of the hardest things to look for online, or in person for that matter. Jackets may be the main case for getting the input from a tailor. Consider material, shape and quality, as well as your dimensions.
With a blazer or structured piece, for instance, you’ll want to make sure the dimensions are as close to your own as possible. You may need to get this altered once it arrives. With bomber jackets or casual outerwear, the fit is a little more forgiving. Look for pieces that provide enough room for you, plus an extra layer or so. Size up if you want something with a boyfriend fit.
- Sweaters – Probably one of the more forgiving pieces of clothing out there, cardigans and pullovers alike generally fit a broad range of sizes. When making a decision, look at whether or not the sweater is sold as an oversized piece, and compare its measurements to an existing garment. Finer knit sweaters tend to stretch out more, so you’ll want to be more careful with the delicate options. Chunkier knits are more forgiving.
Keep an Ongoing List of What Brands Work for You
After a bit of trial and error, you’ll start to get a sense of what brands work for your particular shape and size, and which ones fall short. Keep a list going. You’ll want to remember what your favorite brands are next time you’re looking for the perfect special occasion outfit or a new pair of trousers for the office. Our favorite brands often become staples we wear time and time again, making it easy to shop for the basics any time we need something new.
Plus, maintaining some level of organization will help you keep track of the size you wear in each brand. Once you’ve made a few purchases, this stuff will become second nature, and you’ll be ordering all kinds of items that fit straight out of the box. Shopping made easy!
Ready, Set, Experiment!
With the right set of tools under your belt, you may find you have the confidence to experiment a little more than you have in the past. When it’s hard to find clothes or you’re not sure what flatters you, it can be tempting to try to slip into the background by wearing all black, gray or navy — if you’re feeling adventurous. We know that if you’re confident you’re getting a great fit, you’ll be more inclined to try out a number of options, such as:
- Patterns – Don’t be afraid to play with prints! A larger frame can handle a big print — think large polka dots, plaids or watercolor prints. However, don’t write off dainty floral prints or smaller polka dots. Sometimes a small pattern can prove to be a slimming asset to any outfit.
- Color – We’ve all been told wearing all black is the key to creating sophisticated, slim lines. However, the key to a slimming outfit lies more in the structure of the clothes, rather than the color. Look for structured pieces with a solid construction. Details like vertical piping keep the eye moving up and down, versus horizontally. As far as color itself, think in terms of what flatters your skin tone and your hair color.
- Accessorize – Maybe you’re not ready for a closet-wide color explosion, or perhaps you’re more of a classic gal who likes black, white and tans. That’s great! In this case, add some texture by layering scarves, statement necklaces or a few extra bangles to the mix. If you’re wearing a straight-cut dress, throw a belt on and create some curves. Have fun!
Ready to Shop?
Alright, we hope you’re empowered to get out there and shop! Armed with the right tools, the plus-size shopping experience doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It’s time to take charge of your wardrobe and pick the right pieces for you. Whether that’s a new dress in your favorite shade of red or a patterned pair of trousers that can go from day to night with the addition of some sassy heels, we’ve got something for you.
At My Sister’s Closet, we believe fashion should be both accessible and affordable, and shopping should be a positive experience. We have a wide variety of options at the ready for all sizes from the smalls and mediums to the extra-large and plus-sized gals out there.
So, grab a nice cup of tea and settle down next to the computer. It’s time for that well-deserved virtual shopping spree.