Why Shopping for Plus-Size Clothes Can Be So Discouraging

One day last week I set out to spend some decent money and shop my way through the mall in an effort to revitalize my shabby wardrobe. I knew that finding plus-size clothing to my taste was going to be difficult, but I felt determined.

I was mentally armed with the checklist of “rules” Stacy London and Clinton Kelly often give their makeover candidates on TLC’s What Not To Wear (a favorite show of ours).

  • dress for your size. don’t get discouraged about your weight, find things that flatter you in whatever shape you’re in.
  • for jeans: dark wash, straight leg
  • buy structured shirts/jackets; look for items that accentuate the smallest part of your body (typically just under your ribcage)
  • don’t be afraid of color/print

There are more, but these were my key motivators, and even though I don’t think they’d ever choose me for the show, I trust their rules and style advice.

So off I went, eager to use up every minute of the five hours my son was in preschool.

And use them up I did…with only one pair of jeans to show for my efforts at the end of the day.

Seems that whether I’m shopping Walmart or Lane Bryant, designers today are just NOT doing plus-size women any favors with the styles that ring the racks.

I’m not just talking about prints, either. {Why do so many designers think plus-size women love nautical, safari, or large floral themes?!}

So many of the basic cuts of today’s trends are simply NOT FLATTERING to plus-size women.


Banded-bottom Tops:

banded bottom tops{Lane Bryant}

Who thought it would be a good idea to cinch a plus-size shirt at the bottom, just under the belly? It rounds out and accentuates the stomach and makes it look like the top is now a pouch for the pooch!

Flowy Poncho Tops:

dress parn poncho top{Dress Barn}

These tops aren’t much better, substituting an attempt at structure for what now looks like a tent. I just don’t see this as a flattering look (nevermind the print…gah!).

Open, Un-structured, Bulky Cardigans:

kohls open cardigan{Kohl’s}

While these look cozy and some are kinda cute, I hate that they keep putting so much bulk up front. Don’t need any help there, thank you!

I had similar bad luck with jeans. Do you know they are STILL making light wash, tapered-leg jeans? Why? Whyyyyyy? And, honestly, I’m not sure the flare or boot-cut are much better. Dark wash, straight leg jeans were much tougher to find, and when I did, too many of the pockets were buttoned or bedazzled. Do I need any more attention being drawn to my booty? NO!

The only thing I managed to find on my Grand Plus-Size Shopping Adventure was a pair of jeans from the Lane Bryant sister store Catherine’s.

catherines right fit red jeans


These are more or less the pants I bought. Catherine’s (and Lane Bryant, and Fashion Bug) carries the “Right Fit” line of denim jeans, which they claim has “three ultimate fits for three distinct body types.” I am apparently of the “moderately curvy” body type, or “RED” by way of Right Fit jeans (there is also Yellow and Blue for the other two shapes).

The jeans started out alright, but I have noticed with much sadness that they lose their shape during the day. They become baggy and droopy. I can easily slip them off with nary an unbotton or unzip at the end of the day. I’m wondering if it’s the 1% spandex in them, but no matter the cause, it’s discouraging.

I’ve been given a host of other store suggestions for shopping plus-size. And while I will probably take my time in getting out and looking through them, I’m just as discouraged by an element outside of style: the PRICES. I cannot at this point justify spending $80 on a blouse.

I feel like I will solve this riddle yet. There has to be a way for me to find flattering, classic, stylish pieces in plus size, and even better if they don’t cost me a small fortune. I’ll keep you updated on my adventures!


  • Kristin Duncan

    I agree, 100%.  I have 7 tops in different colors but the same basic style because I like it and it fits well.  I buy them because they work for me.  I have 5 pairs of jeans in the same wash because they wear well and they fit nicely.  A good 50% of my wardrobe that isn’t yoga pants and tank tops consists of those 2 styles.

    Cato used to be a reliable source of clothes for me, but I prefer a longer shirt than they’re making now.

    Fashion Bug used to be more affordable when they were having buy 1, get 1 for a $1, but I haven’t seen that promotion in a while.

    JC Penney was always my go to store for nice clothes, but it’s hard to find something that fits AND is age appropriate.  I’m in my 30s, not my 70s.

    My sympathies, you has them.

  • Lori

    I feel your pain. Try adding the fact that I have to find tall plus size and that compounds the problem. I can find them, but they are cost prohibitive.

  • Rhonda

    You said exactly what I feel! Over the past few years it has been hard to find anything decent that doesn’t cost a fortune. And I don’t think I own a single print because a) I don’t sail b) I’m not going on a safari and c) I have bad allergies. The one place that I did find something I absolutely love is Maurice, and their prices cover many size pocket books. Keep us updated on your adventures!

  • Ageckstein6

    I FEEL YOUR PAIN!  I am constantly feeling like I am shopping in my 74 year old mothers section!  BLEH!  I have had the most success at Macy’s…although I always do the clearance at the end of the season there!  Jeans….I found a pair…think I can find another pair….NO!  I am so tired of trying to find a good pair!

  • I am convinced the clothing manufacturers DO NOT want our money. They don’t design or make clothes for us which I find INSANE because we have money to spend. 

  • Sad to hear that you didn’t find what you were looking for! Do you have an Ashley Stewart? I like them. They are for size 12 and up. 
    That banded shirt at the top is horrible. I don’t have a pooch so much as I do hips so the band would sit at my widest part, which needs no accentuating thank you very much! 
    Yea, and the whole thing with pockets on the jeans bugs me too. I have a nice pair of Lee jeans that I believe I bought at Walmart in the plus size department. They are straight legged and have a bit of spandex and hold me in fairly nicely. I also splurged back when I was corporately employed, on a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (about $100) They have Lift and Tuck technology which I really like. Since I won’t be paying $100 for another pair of jeans anytime soon, I was glad to find the Lee jeans at Walmart. 
    Maybe we should start a design and clothing company, lol!
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  • Anonymous

    Sooooo frustrating. I discovered a new plus sized line I like called Kiyonna but you’re right…expensive. I can also vouch for Not Your Daughter’s Jeans…again, a little pricey. *sigh* Keep at it girl…sometimes finding the right things really does take determination and effort. But I believe it’s so worth it. 

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I thought I was the only one who saw the irony in the banded bottom shirts. I DO NOT need people asking me when the baby is due, thank you very much. Such a good post. Let me know if you find any great places.

    I also argue as a DD that I would like some pretty bras. if you can work some magic there, a lot of women would be super grateful!