How To Shop Straight-Size Stores If You're Plus

Photo: Courtesy of Lydia Hudgens.
What if you went shopping and didn't have to think exclusively about the size listed on the clothing you desired? Just because you regularly wear a size 18 doesn't mean you can't on occasion pop into Zara and find a top or sweater that fits you as well as any plus-size option. Fortunately, plus-size options have increased exponentially in recent years, so I'm definitely not dissing the shops geared towards us larger ladies. But, if I limited myself to only those stores, I wouldn't have about a third of my wardrobe.
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I'm not an on-the-cusp girl — you know, a size 12 or 14 who just barely sizes out of straight-size clothing stores. I am a 5'10" size 22/24 who owns pieces in everything from a size small up. It can be done — you just have to have the right shopping tools.
If you want to push the fashion limits, you've got to have a few tricks up your sleeve. After all, getting dressed beyond a size 12 can take some ingenuity! This is not to say that you should wear ill-fitting clothing or attempt to squeeze into something that's too small. You don't want pulling, and seams should not look like they are hanging on for dear life. The thing is, once you understand that cut, proportion, and shape are all much more likely than size alone to determine whether an item of clothing will fit you — well, you're on your way to straight-size shopping for your plus-size figure.
Before you venture out, it's important to consider a few things: First, you must realize that many things just will not fit. I look at it like vintage shopping — hit or miss. Sometimes, you win big and find amazing pieces; sometimes, you don't. It's all okay! The point is to step outside of your comfort zone and give yourself a chance to potentially discover something that you love in a store you wouldn't normally shop in.
Next, you've got to know your measurements. This is especially important if you're going to attempt to order something online. Knowing your measurements will give you some insight into how a garment might fight you. You also want to have a working knowledge of different fabrics. Things that have at bit of stretch — like this bonded curve wrap skirt from Topshop — are going to be a lot easier to make work than woven pieces.
Some of my favorite items to shop for are oversized: Knits, blouses, or coats that are generously cut are great. Also, one-size-fits-all pieces like capes (I love this one from Zara) and ponchos are really on-trend this season. And, they work incredibly well on plus sizes.
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An item that might surprise you? Skirts. Of course, body-con styles with stretch work — but so do skirts with volume. I always look for options with an elastic waist, like the one pictured above from Ports 1961. The top I'm wearing is an ASOS crop top — in a size that is not my usual. This similar top is so incredibly chic. Another option that I love is wearing straight size dresses as tops. If something isn't cut long enough for me but still looks great, I rework it. Layering is one of my favorite ways of wearing various pieces in my closet.
Shopping straight sizes isn't an exact science. It's a lot of trial and error. But, when you find that magical thing you love — and you aren't deterred by the fact that it isn't your "regular" size — well then, it was worth the search.