The plus-size fashion myth has been all about shape – not any longer. And this is good news for crossdressers and transgender women, most of whom fall into the plus-size category. For as long as there’s been plus-size women’s clothing, there’s been a plus-size stigma attached to it. Retailers hide the clothes, sizes 14 and up, in the basements of their stores, far away from the rest of womenswear. The tops, pants, and dresses are big and boxy, typically concealing a woman’s shape. The message isn’t only about hiding your curves. It also says, as the actress Melissa McCarthy told fashion site Refinery29, “You’re not really worthy.”. Kind of a double whammy for us in the TG community who are not slim goddesses.
Spurred by online retailers, social media, and celebrities like McCarthy, larger sizes are gaining acceptance and visibility. Established companies from Target to teen chain Charlotte Russe introduced plus-size collections this year. The momentum, says Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst with research firm NPD Group, will pick up next year. “Some retailers are going to make a big deal of plus size in 2016,” he says.
Some already have like plus-size retailer Lane Bryant who has introduced several new fashion lines in this year alone. Sales at Lane Bryant stores and online rose 3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. The brand attributes the growth to new ads tackling stereotypes in the fashion industry. One video, featured on Lane Bryant’s social media pages, shows plus-size models in their underwear striking sexy poses and saying, “No one’s ignoring us anymore,” as #PlusIsEqual flashes on the screen.
65% The share of U.S. female shoppers buying plus sizes
McCarthy has been a force pulling the $19.9 billion market for plus-size clothing in the U.S. into the mainstream. After several designers refused to make her a dress for the 2012 Academy Awards, she created her own line, Melissa McCarthy Seven7. Introduced in August, the clothing comes in sizes 4 to 28 and sells on Home Shopping Network. Nordstrom and Macy’s stock the plus sizes of her line.
Rebel Wilson also has been outspoken about a fashion industry that hasn’t always catered to her shape. In November the actress added her name to a line of clothes from Torrid, a women’s and teen plus-size chain with stores across the U.S.
That growing visibility isn’t only in stores. Bloggers and news sites such as Refinery29 are covering larger-size clothing along with other fashion trends. “Look at social media, look at movies, TV, music,” says the designer Rachel Roy, who’s preparing a “curvy” collection that will go on sale early next year. “The difference is that people are starting to actually pay attention to it, talk about it, and act on it now.”
Exploding fashion myths for plus size women is long overdue. For years, full-figured women have lived with the same rules, avoiding many of the styles they really want to wear. They are fearful that something will make them look larger, broader or heavier. Too often, plus size women dress much as our mothers and grandmothers did, choosing black over bright colors, long skirts over short ones, and spending day after day at home in shapeless housedresses. It’s a new season, ladies, and time to explode these myths! Styles that transgender women have long desired and worn are now becoming trendy and mainstream.
Myth 1: Wearing black makes you look thinner
While black is a slenderizing color, it is not the only choice for plus women. Black slacks and pants can pair with brilliant blouses and sweaters for amazingly flattering looks. Black jeans, jeggings and leggings can be worn with a spectrum of plaids, paisleys, prints and patterns by women of all sizes. Black dresses are an integral part of nearly every woman’s wardrobe and are flattering to all sizes. Wearing black is fine, but limiting yourself to black is discouraging. It takes the fun out of shopping and the style out of your wardrobe. Remember, black does not necessarily make you look thinner. Look for paneled tops and dresses and those with side ruching to create the illusion of slimness. Monochrome is fine, but should never be the only choice. Lane Bryant has a nice selection of colorful apparel specially designed for full-figured women currently on sale.
Myth 2: Plus size women should never wear horizontal stripes
In case you haven’t looked lately, horizontal stripes are everywhere. They’re showing up in dresses, blouses, sweaters and ponchos. Stripes are big on the fashion scene and horizontal, vertical and diagonal striped are almost equally popular. By not wearing horizontal stripes, plus women are denying themselves some of the newest looks, coziest winter styles and most vibrant chevron patterns. Try pairing a horizontal stripe top with slim black leggings for a versatile fall look you’ll love.
Myth 3: Scarves make plus size women look larger
For too long, many women have avoided scarves, believing that they would make them look wider, heavier and larger. The simple answer is not true, not true and not true. Scarves are an important part of every woman’s wardrobe and can add new style to almost any tee, knit top or sweater. Infinity or loop scarves are easy to wear and fall in a flattering cowl-like drape that is flattering to women of all sizes and body types. If you want to wear a long scarf, try leaving one side long and throwing the other over your shoulder for a slimmer look. Scarves don’t have to be expensive; choose a few you like from Stein Mart’s discounted selection.
Myth 4: Plus-size women should avoid wearing belts
For too long, this has been taken as fact, but it is simply not true. Women of every size can wear belts with jeans, slacks, skirts and dresses. Narrow belts have made a huge comeback this fall and are being worn in never-before-tried ways. Instead of using the belt loops on your jeans, try leaving your shirt loose and fastening a narrow belt over it at the natural waist. For a fashion forward look, belt an open front cardigan loosely at the waist. Be sure your belt is not too tight; a tight belt is not flattering on any size woman. Wide belts can be very hard to wear and may not be the best choice for plus women. Fullbeauty.com has a great selection of belts with some on sale and many under $20. Be sure and read Nadine’s article on the Benefits of Belts
Myth 5: Heavy women should never wear short skirts
While midi length skirts have captured the fashion spotlight this fall, short skirts are still popular and can be worn well by women of all shapes and sizes. With cooler temperatures, opaque tights pair well with short skirts and protect you from embarrassing moments while bending, stretching or sitting. Make sure your skirts are not too short or too tight, since these are unflattering to all women. For a flattering fall look, pair an above-the-knee skirt with black tights and tall black riding boots with stacked heels. You’ll be on-trend and project an illusion of height. Carol Wright has both really nice skirts up to size 5X starting at less than $10. Word of warning: Most of the plus-size stores are showing hem lengths this year at just around the knee. I would suggest an a-line skirt if you want to go short.
Myth 6: Plus size women should never wear stilettos or high heels
This probably began a long time ago when heavy women had to choose sensible shoes. Stilettos, platform heels and high heeled pumps are purely a matter of choice and can be worn by women of all sizes. There are only two cautions: if you feel the least bit unsteady on high heels, choose a lower heel for comfort and safety. Very high heels can make a large woman look disproportionate by standing on thin, tiny points. This can be avoided by choosing new high wedge boots and stacked-heel styles. Classic 3 ¼” heels remain the best choice for all women want heels they can walk, work and live in. Check out pumps and wide-calf boots currently on sale at Kohl’s.
With these myths exploded, enjoy the new fall and winter styles and consider making a few changes to your wardrobe to bring it up to date and into current style. Clothing is like painting a picture; it should project your inner beauty and your unique style and taste. The 40 Plus style blog recently interviewed Alison from Wardrobe Oxygen on her stylish thoughts. Read what one plus-size blogger says about “putting it together”
Today’s plus-size customer is different and demanding that retailers pay attention. And she’s doing a lot of shopping on the Internet. “The biggest opportunity is online,” where retailers can and do carry more merchandise, says Kathy Bradley-Riley, senior vice president for merchandising at retail and fashion advisory firm Doneger Group.“There’s certainly a market that’s just waking up, and instead of telling people to lose weight, the message is love yourself the way you are.”
The same can be said for each of us.
Finally, let’s take a look at some of the plus-size trends for the coming year from Aleisha