Plus-Sized Workwear and Suiting

plus size workwearIt’s been such a long time in general since we talked about plus-sized workwear, that I thought an open thread would be great. (Pictured: Tahari Woman ‘Ruby’ Collarless Jacket (Plus), available at Nordstrom for $198.)

Update 2015: Please sign up for our new Plus-Size Workwear newsletter if you’re interested in more plus-size content from Corporette!

The places that I know of include:

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But these are the obvious places! What brands are your favorites, particularly for suits?  Are there online boutiques that you guys like? Any Etsy sellers? Any bespoke places? (Have I missed any obvious places?) Plus-sized readers, please chime in…


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  1. Pendleton, Pendleton, Pendleton! their clothing is the best quality I’ve seen in my price range and fits well. note: I am a borderline 16/18 pear and sometimes have to switch between misses and plus depending on the cut of the slacks. And while the look is more than appropriate for my workplace in academe, it’s a quirky enough line in this part of the country that I don’t look like everyone else, which is important to me. A 100% Talbot’s wardrobe is a little pricy and a little too professional for me in my current position, though I expect to look to them more in the next few years. But for now, we’re going to a wedding in Portland this fall and I intend to leave my poor husband to hang out with the groom while the bride and I go strip Pendleton’s home outlet dry.

    I haven’t bought anything aside from jeans from Lane Bryant in ages–I agree with everything said above. I’ve had buttons fall off in the car on the way home from the mall, and seams split on loose pants in the second or third wearing. The only reason I do the jeans is that I’m hard on them and their medium “right fit” hip/waist ratio fits me perfectly.

    • I still buy their basic black pants. My office is business dress, but I can usually get away with wearing black pants and a blazer instead of a suit. Their medium/red right fit pants fit me perfectly too. It’s the only place I’ve found plus size pants that are cut to fit, and not with an elastic waist that bags out from there. They aren’t the best quality, but I can usually find a sale and get them for less than 30 bucks, so I don’t mind. Plus I’ve been changing sizes, and they’re easy to replace.

    • Also – how do Pendleton suits fit? I tried on a few at Dillard’s, but it’s been a while, and I remember them seeming frumpy and boxy on me. I’m petite and more of an apple shape. Maybe I just got unlucky with the ones I tried…

      • I’m apple-y (though not petite). I would say Pendleton’s is a bit more conservatively cut, so they can err on the side of boxiness. I find Pendleton’s pencil skirts are some of the very few that I can wear (usually pencil skirts just emphasize the wideness in my midsection – I don’t think Pendleton escapes that entirely, but they’re better, and at least the skirts don’t cut me in half). I do think the jackets can be a bit boxy, but if you look in the catalog, I think there’s quite a lot of variety in the jacket cuts – I usually shop their sales so have been limited in what I’ve been able to try. I suspect they’re more likely only to have their “classics” at a department store.

        I find that I cannot wear their pants AT ALL. Their skirts in 18 fit me great, but I have a hard time even buttoning their size 18 pants (and I have no idea what’s up with that! in part, the rise seems really short). I haven’t tried their pants in women’s sizes yet, so they might be better, but as someone mentioned, there are fewer matching options for the women’s sizes.

  2. Thank you for this thread – I appreciate the suggestions! Encore at Nordstrom has been my favorite so far, especially the Halogen suits. Some of the styles look younger but still good quality.

  3. I recently discovered – you have to search a bit, but they occasionally have some pretty nice suiting separates, as well as a lot of cute floral tops or traditional blouses to go underneath. Their clearance section is unbelievably cheap – ordered some fun casual clothes from them and was pleased with the fit.

  4. Do all Nordstroms have an Encore department? I’m ashamed to say that I walked through a Nordstrom, couldn’t find the plus size clothes, was too embarrassed to ask/afraid that they didn’t have any, and haven’t ever looked in store again. Did I just miss them?

    • How frustrating, RR! I typically see the Encore section next to the children’s department or intimates, not in the same area as the other women’s clothing. I hope that helps you.

    • I would guess that the Encore (plus size) departments vary in size and quality depending on the indivudual Nordstrom. I know the one near me is very small and has a limited selection – a random assortment of casual items and formal wear, with very little that is appropriate for my business casual office and occasional client visits requiring traditional suiting. I stick to their website, where I have decent luck – and just buy shoes in the bricks-and-mortar store.

    • I’m sorry to hear you were embarassed. I usually will ask “do you have any clothes in my size?”. It’s a matter of fact question– does your store carry my size? Not something to feel embarassed or apologize about at all. I definitely have days where I feel like nothing fits and get frustrated about it, but I love fashion and am not letting my size stop me from enjoying what I wear. Today, I am the size I am. Maybe I’ll lose weight in the future, but today I am a size 20W and everyone else will just have to deal with it.

  5. Re Talbots & plus-sizes: last night I got a mailer from them saying that they redesigned the Talbots Woman & Woman Petite websites, plus a 20% first purchase and free shipping thru March 19. So check your mailboxes!

    (No, I don’t work for Talbots — but I’d be scr*wed if they closed!)

    • Jealous! I haven’t received the mailer – but I have been on the re-designed website and already sent a note to their customer service to give them my kudos. They now feature actual plus size models sporting the Talbot’s Woman clothes, so you can get a better sense of how a particular style might look on you, no matter what your size/shape.

      I’m sure I’m wildly naive on this, but I really hope this earns them major props and new business and that other retailers take note. I love Talbot’s, but would really appreciate having more shopping options. Sigh.

      • Soigne1908 :

        IMO, it would require a sea change for certain retailers to take note. What has always floored me about clothing/fashion is that it’s an industry that seems to run counter to market forces. If the majority of women are size 12 and up, and quite a few of these women are middle class or above with disposable income, would it not make sense to have more options?

  6. Boden goes up to 16/18 in many items. They don’t typically have full suits, but I love them for fun tops, dresses and jackets.

  7. I get my suits from Jessica London. They’re inexpensive and they look nice!

  8. PSA: Macy’s doesn’t have a ton plus sized of suits in the store, but has a lot of suits on their website. Some are even on sale, including these ones: (Not wild about the matching cami, but love the jacket and skirt)

  9. I have good luck finding clothes and hate to hear plus sized women struggling with this issue.

    Target has great basic black pants (mossimo brand) that are lined, wear nicely and are usually about $20. I like Lane Bryant for pants as well. I have a Pendleton outlet near me that sometimes has good deals on jackets and skirts.

    Online, check out the sale pages at Saks, Bloomingdales and Dillards. Nordstrom also has suits all the time, and I can usually find something I like. Dress Barn has cheaper-quality clothes but also has a Jones New York line that is very nice. Talbots and Jones New York are also great. JC Penny, HSN, QVC– all have plus sized businesswear. Zaftique is good for dressses and other casual wear, and for jackets. Ebay has good deals sometimes.

    I stay away from Old Navy because I found their clothes to be oddly sized- the shirts were too short and not comfortable. Hopefully they have improved. Plus sized clothes need to be cut differently than smaller sizes, and too many retailers just make the clothes bigger versions of the rest of the line, which doesn’t work.

    Lands End– I could cry. They used to have a great selection of suit seperates that were nicely priced and fit very well. They stopped carrying most of them and I didn’t know it or I would have stocked up before they stopped carrying them.

    Macy’s– good sales, but I don’t shop there unless the store has the plus-sized section in a normal place, and it is clean and organized. Many, many Macy’s stores have the plus sized section in the basement behind the housewears, or in some other hidden place, and many times the section is in shambles, with no one staffing that area. I feel this is disrespectful and I won’t give them my money if they can’t place and maintain the plus size section properly.

    • I agree – I used to love to shop at Macy’s Woman dept in san francisco, but now that I’m on the east coast, their plus sized departments are a total mess and I feel completely disrespected there.

      I’ve bought a number of items at Coldwater Creek in the last few years…

  10. One more post because I feel so strongly about the issue of plus-sized clothing. Many brands, especially designers, don’t want to do plus sized clothing, and I am perfectly fine with that. I don’t think men’s stores should have to carry women’s clothes or shoe stores should carry groceries, so I have no reason to think all women’s stores should carry my size. Plus size clothing is hard to do well. You can’t just make a bigger version of your clothes—it has to be a different proportion. A size 2 dress can fit almost every size 2 out there. It doesn’t matter where she carries her fat because she has so little of it. A size 22W dress isn’t going to fit every size 22W woman—some carry weight in their busts, some their hips, etc. I think that’s what people don’t understand or think about—that smaller sizes may sell better because a higher percentage of women that size can wear the dress off the rack. Same with pregnancy clothes—they are generally shapeless because they are trying to fit every single pregnant size 6 out there, trying to cover all the bases, not trying to fit the tall size six with the long torso who is carrying her baby high.

    The problem with this from a business sense is that you have to make lots of different options in each size. Like Lane Bryant, who makes jeans based on body shape. It’s harder for small companies to do that, and harder for designers who aren’t plus-size to understand the difficulty of finding something in your size that fits your body. Plus size clothing sizes aren’t very useful because of the vast differences in women’s bodies, and the fact that those differences are magnified the larger we are.

    In my experience, my body is hard on clothes. My breasts are heavy, they bounce, they need a good bra and spaghetti straps just don’t work for that. Seams have to be well done, and forget most satin fabric because of this—thread doesn’t like to hold seams in satin. My thighs rub when I walk and pants need to have strong seams and good fabric. The clothes have to cover more and deal with more than it would if I were smaller—you can’t carry 10 pounds of sugar in a 5 pound sack. So if a designer puts out poorly made clothes, they shouldn’t be surprised that no one wants to wear them.
    And if they hide the plus size only online, or in the basement, or on unlabeled racks, don’t blame the customer for not buying it.

    I am this size today. I’ll be damned if I apologize for it. What happens in the future is in the future. Maybe I just gained weight or lost it or am trying hard to lose it or not trying at all. It doesn’t matter, because I have to deal with myself today. At this size. And, guess what, so does everybody else. Because thinking or saying rude things about me isn’t going to change the size I am today.

    • While I agree with most of what you said, the reality is that smaller women also vary greatly in proportions. My sister is a size six with wide shoulders an exaggerated hourglass shape, while my size six cousin is flat as a board, has narrow shoulders, and a short waist. While they are nominally the same size, there is zero chance that the same outfit will look flattering on both.

      • Adipositive :

        The proportions might vary, but they vary less than those in fat women.

  11. As a plus-size (sz 24) litigator, my work wardrobe is pretty much exclusively Tahari (from Nordstrom and, whenever possible, Nordstrom Rack) and Talbot’s. Those are the only brands I’ve been able to find that are relentlessly professional, well-tailored, and conservative. I find the quality wanting from both Calvin and Anne Klein and the Macy’s/Kohls/Penney’s brands. Jones New York is hit and miss for me, but I often find myself stalling on purchases from JNY because it strikes me as so unfair that their plus size suiting is terribly plain and basic while their straight size suiting is contemporary and relatively fashionable. At least Tahari and Talbot’s have some style.

    On web-only retailers like Kiyonna and Igigi, I have been very disappointed in the quality. Igigi especially seems dedicated to poly-rayon blends which just look cheap. I have one basic black Kiyonna skirt suit which is serviceable, but still a little cheap-looking. Certainly not appropriate for trial.

    Lane Bryant, as many have said above, is not really appropriate for a conservative office. Some pieces here and there might work but finding a good suit from Lane Bryant would be difficult. The clothes are trendy, throwaway fashion.

    Stay far away from Jessica London/One Stop Plus. The quality is appallingly bad.

    I haven’t purchased a suit from J.Jill’s new suiting line but I looked at the jackets in store and I was impressed with the fabric quality on the straight size suits. If the plus size suits turn out to be as nice, I will be delighted to have another option in plus size suiting. In general I find J.Jill’s quality good, if their designs are a tad basic.

    • Thomas Pink has (UK) plus sizes in a lot of their pieces, but the prices for dresses etc are hair-raising (although the quality of the stuff is excellent).

      • Thank you for the Thomas Pink recommendation, those suits look absolutely gorgeous.

  12. Thanks for the Talbots rec’s ladies! I’m a size 16-18 and have never really spent time on their website. Went on their yesterday after all the good comments and was amazed that they have so much cute stuff. Excited to buy a cute dress for a weekend away with my DH and for law school graduation!

  13. Try the Dialogue line at QVC. Also, HSN has nice dresses. Great thing about both is that you can order on-line & can send back anything, no questions asked, within 30 days.

    ShopNBC also carries clothing but I’ve never purchased any clothing from them.

  14. I know some have mentioned having issues with CK, but for those of us in the Northeast (not in NYC), Boscov’s has been carrying nearly the entire plus-sized CK line (including separates) for much less than Macy’s. Just recently I was able to pick up two of the dresses for 39 each. Some of my local Macys have serious problems carrying plus sized suits, so I have to wing it.

    • I just found out about Calvin Klein plus sizes at Boscovs this Xmas when I was visiting my parents in New Jersey. I went home with 2 suits and 4 dresses for <$400!

      I'm also in the dreaded 16-18 no-woman's-land and have found CK and Lauren to be my best bets for professional wear.

  15. I work in a science/government setting and find a mix of Coldwater Creek tops and Talbots skirts, jackets, pants works for me. For everybody who’s saying no Lane Bryant – that’s fine, but you may find a blouse or the odd knit shirt to add to your more formal appearing suit looks if you’re in a less formal environment. I also like tee shirts from Eddie Bauer for durability and for having available for going out in the field with our scientists.

  16. I’ve been dourly scouring the stores for appropriate warm-weather plus-sized attire. I’m in a creative field, but would like professional attire that’s a skosh more than business casual to wear to summer writer’s conferences.

    I’m also apple-shaped and feel I look better (and I feel more confident) in more tailored attire. Not so easy to find for summery temps.

    A good ten years ago, I’d read a quote from Ellen Barkin about how she’d told her then-husband (Gabriel Byrne, come to think of it), that if he ever saw her in a Talbots to drag her off because she’d likely lost her mind. :) Except, I don’t think she’s never been, as Alexander McCall Smith’s fictional African PI Precious Ramotswe character puts it, “traditionally built.” :)

    Anyway, thanks for the Corporette Plus round-up.

  17. I didn’t see anyone mention it but I was surprised to see that SEARS (yeah that old store) carries a full line of seasonless suit separates in MANY sizes and cuts and all the trousers are in Short, Average, or Tall. They even have a woman’s petite (like 16WP, 18WP, etc.) The quality/fabric is pretty good and the prices even better.

    I’ve come to love them for everyday office wear.

  18. Eloquii is a new line by The Limited. They have great suiting.

  19. Brooks Brothers (probably unbeknownst to most) was doing plus sizes until the end of 2011 and was my first choice, then RalphLauren, Talbots, Nordstrom, Lord&Taylor, and others listed in this post. It’s clearly becoming more and more of a challenge for plus sizing.

  20. I also am in that 16-18W range and I am a pear shape and large busted so in bottoms I am a 16W to 18 and tops can be from a 14W/XL or 1X depending on the clothes. I have a 16 jones wear shirt that fits me tight so size totally varies by designer. I recently bough a charter club suit from macys in 16WP and the pants fit me perfect in size and length the jacket will have to be taken in. The suit is sold as separates so I may try the 14W jacket and see how that fits. Sleeves need to be taken in about an inch and the sides some on the 16W. I am only 5’1″ so finding pants from a suit that fits properly with a heeled shoe without having to have it hemmed is a miracle for me. It is my first time trying charter club but the suit was a very good price and looks great. The 16W blazer is doable with some minor tailoring. At least I dont have to get the trouser tailored. I am still trying to figure out what brands and sizes work for me. I was able to get some great sweaters from cold water creek in a XL misses size that fit perfect.