The Perfect Plus-Size Blazer

The perfect fit for a plus-size blazer can be elusive, so I’m thrilled to introduce today’s guest poster, Kathryn Rubino.  In addition to being a plus-sized overachieving chick, I’m proud to count her among my most fashionable friends. (Pictured below: Sejour “Broken Plaid” Jacket (Plus)icon, available at Nordstrom for $128.) – Kat

Sejour "Broken Plaid" Jacket (Plus)iconThe search for the perfect blazer is age old, and for those of us on the plus-size side the issue can be compounded. (This writer has clothes between sizes 16 and 22 in her closet, though, at the moment, I’m lucky enough to be on the lower end of my personal spectrum.) So what’s a girl to do? Tailoring is a great way to turn an unflattering, boxy jacket into a noteworthy wardrobe staple. Below are some tips to get the best fit out of your blazer.

- Darts are your friends! Darts are tapered tucks that can be sewn into your jacket to adjust the fit, and are particularly useful if you are going up a size to get better coverage up top if your body still nips in at the waist.

- The shoulder is key. One of the most difficult alterations (read: expensive) is changing the shoulder seam, so make sure that a jacket hits you on the shoulder–not on your arm. You may not consciously realize it, but a proper shoulder makes a jacket look polished and professional.

- Be comfortable. If you find the jacket ill-fitting or tight in places this fact will come through in the hundred little gestures and faces you make throughout the day. I often have the tailor remove the lining on the arms of my blazers so it doesn’t feel as constricting and my range of motion isn’t limited. You can also slit the seams of the lining yourself if the primary problem with a blazer is tightness in the arms.

- Sleeve perfection. The proper length of a full-sleeved jacket can be vexing, but I’ve found somewhere between the top of your hand and where your thumb bone starts to look the most “right”. Any longer than that can make the blazer look sloppy and gets in the way.
- Mind your buttons. It may be true that a good blazer is like a good friend, but nothing says “this jacket has seen both sides of one too many crash diets” than missing or frayed buttons. Get your buttons replaced and/or reinforced. It is fairly inexpensive (and is an easy enough skill to learn for those DIYers) and most importantly, it keeps you looking like the well put together, overachieving woman you are!

One final note, when you find the perfect blazer there is a tendency to use it . . . a lot. That’s completely understandable but it is truly terrible when the center back seam (or any seam) of a blazer has stitches that are pulling (when they look further apart then they should be). This comes from wear and tear, and sometimes, ill fit. If you see this on your blazer, call it. Retire the piece, mourn its loss and start the search for a new one. As a bigger girl you don’t want your clothes to look like they may give out on you at any second, particularly in a professional setting.

Readers — of all sizes! — what have you found are the best tips for getting a blazer to fit properly?  What do you most frequently ask your tailor to do?

(L-2)

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Comments

  1. Anon for This. :

    THANK YOU!! FINALLY a post for us bigger women! YAY!

    I would love to find out where plus sized ladies find their suits…

    • GildaLily :

      I am a size 16, with generous boobs and a belly. I really like Macy’s selection of plus Calvin Klein suits. I also have had luck with Jones New York and Talbots women’s sizes.

    • Taco Lover :

      I’m a usually a size 14P but have ranged between a 12 and 18 during my professional life; a large chest puts me in a size 16 in most blazers. I have the best luck at Macy’s (I like Tahari ASL). Talbot’s is also good, and Filene’s near me usually has a decent selection of plus size suits. In a lower price range, I also like JC Penney’s East 5th line.

    • Accountress :

      Talbots, sometimes. Tahari Women, sometimes. Calvin Klein, sometimes. AK Anne Klein, sometimes.

      Pretty much, sometimes a designer will have some a good suit. Nordstrom and Bloomingdales are better, Macy’s less so.

    • FriedGreenTomatillos :

      First, thank you to Corporette for featuring plus size! I look at most of the clothes posted here, but rarely find any of them in greater than size 14.

      I am a size 18-20, depending on brand (I’ve been, through my career, as small as a 12 and as large as a 22) and recently purchased two beautiful washable wool suits, pants and skirt for each, from Jones New York. A quick trip to the alterations lady at my husband’s favorite clothing store, and I looked great, with sleeves shortened, waist nipped and hem raised to just below knee. The suits are great!

      Also, on blazers, I’ve found that a good fitting by a tailor makes a world of difference. Most plus sized clothing is too boxy–a nip and tuck at the waist, and making sure the shoulders fit, makes all the difference.

      I have recently purchased several wardrobe books, and can recommend Lucky’s Shopping Guide, which has recommendations for everyone, including us plus sized Corporettes. I am now going through my closet and shedding the clothes that are not perfect for me and altering what can be perfect. If I can get organized, I’ll volunteer to write book reviews on the wardrobe books I’ve read this year, totaling about 20 thus far. The effort has paid off–now every item in my closet is perfect for me, which makes getting dressed every day a pleasure. Previously, I looked into the packed closet and thought, “I have nothing to wear.”

    • I go mostly with Ann Taylor (I range anywhere from a 14 to an 18) for suits, but have also had luck with Talbot’s and Jones New York. I also bought black pants and a blazer from Lane Bryant years ago that is my “in a pinch” suit when everything else is at the cleaners. Now that I’m in a more business casual environment, the LB blazer is great to have on the back of my door to throw on when a client visits, etc.

  2. No blazer advice to offer, but great to see this new perspective added to corporette.

  3. attiredattorney :

    Something to include on the next survey: what size does the average reader wear?

    • I feel like it’s impossible to answer that question in a multiple choice format —sizing is so different across brands and over time (even without weight loss/gain). Maybe we should ask what size we were in 1990, when the Julia Roberts character in Pretty Woman said she was a size 6. That’s my sometimes-size now; back then it would have been a 14 to Julia’s 6, I’m sure.

      • attiredattorney :

        Yes, but it might help Corporette to know if readers would appreciate posts on tall, petite, plus, etc sizes.

      • Industry standards aside, I would be curious to learn what most Corporette readers consider to be plus sizes – and if there is any correlation between the responses and the size of the respondent.

  4. what about those of us on the last frontier of fashion – plus petite? Talbots has the best selection but it’s still limited.

    • please educate a fellow corporette – what exactly qualifies as plus petite?

    • Taco Lover :

      I don’t know how far up Tahari ASL goes, but I have two of their suits in a 16P and they’re great. If you’re looking in a lower price range, JC Penney’s East 5th line is also a good choice.

  5. West Coast Fan :

    Yes, FINALLY some helpful information for plus sizes. While it’s occasionally nice to fantasize about looking fab in that Banana Republic A-line skirt/suit, it’s great that you’ve acknowledged not all legal superstars operate as a size 12 or under. I hope you’ll add more.

  6. Ah! Thank you so much for the hint on slitting sleeve linings. That is my big downfall.

    I cannot buy to fit my shoulders without having WAY too little fabric to go around my bust. Is buying to fit the shoulders ever possible for plus-size women? Maybe my shoulders are just very narrow. In any case, I pay for this expensive alteration and then have the seamstresses cluck about how adapting the shoulder is only going to make the sleeves tighter on me. Which is true. Glad to see there’s a two-part work around.

  7. anon_louisville :

    I often read that I am supposed to buy a jacket to fit in the shoulders, but I am not sure what to do because I am a 16 on my shoulders but a 20 on my hips. If I buy a jacket to fit my shoulders, it will always pull off-grain across my hips. Suggestions?

    • Kathryn Fenner :

      Cropped or fly-away/trapeze jackets–cropped because they stop above your wider measurement, and trapeze/flyaway jackets, when you can find them, because they are wider at the bottom.

      Eileen Fisher sometimes has styles that will work for the extremely pear-shaped. Also Chico’s (yes, they have plain, solid suiting sometimes!)

    • dress fanatic :

      I’m a 14/16 on bottom and a 10/12 on top. I have this same problem, so I buy suits that are sold in separates. Yes, it costs more but FWIW that’s my solution.

      • Anon to Answer :

        I am the same size. Where do you buy most of your suits? Lately I have had decent luck with Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers.

        • dress fanatic :

          I wear a lot of Elie Tahari and dabble in Brooks Brothers. I find Elie Tahari’s pants are cut very well for my shape.

    • Taco Lover :

      Can you wear a higher-cut jacket that stops above your hips? A swing jacket would also be a good option – I love swing jackets.

    • anon in nyc :

      You have to look for shorter jackets. After many tears, I discovered that I do best in jackets that are nipped at the waist and short on the hip. Longer jackets are always too tight in the hips or too big in the shoulders.

      Talbots does this really well — you can often find multiple cuts of jackets and multiple cuts of bottoms all in the same fabric, which makes it easier. They also make clothes in a million versions of the same size — e.g., 18W, 18 standard, 18 Women Petite. Play around with all of your options.

      I’ve also found that women-petite sizes work for jackets for me. They are cut shorter, and eliminate the hip problem. I’m 5’9, and never thought I’d work in a petite anything, but this for some reason works for me.

    • anon_louisville :

      Thanks Everyone! What great tips. I would never have thought to look at petites.
      On a related note, I did find some great fitting jackets yesterday at Dillards with the Alex Marie line. The quality is comparable to Jones New York rather than Brooks Brother. But the fit was fantastic for my body shape, and there were several different suits to choose from which is usually not the case with plus size lines.
      The sales clerk helping me said that Alex Marie is a proprietary line for Dillards named after Dillard’s two daughters: Alexandra and Marie.

  8. I like this post, even though I’m not plus sized. I think the tips it includes can help people of all sizes.

    On another note, I interviewed with a big firm about four months ago. It took that long to receive an offer. When I finally received the phone call with the offer, they said they would be sending me a written offer letter by the end of the week. Several weeks later, I have turned down their offer and still not received the letter. I don’t think I would have gone to this firm anyway, but I find it irritating that it took so long to get back to me and then took way longer than promised to send a letter (if one ever comes now that I’ve turned them down). My question is whether I should tell the partner who primarily recruited me that the lengthy delay influenced my decision and that I still haven’t received the letter. For all I know, the letter was being taken care of by recruiting and he doesn’t realize they haven’t sent it yet. It seems like he would want to know that. I’ve already declined them, so the only reason to tell them is for their own benefit. Thoughts? And if I should say something, any suggestions on the wording of an email?

    Thanks so much!

    • I absolutely would let the partner know. It is something that may impact future candidates as well and it’s something that the partner may be able to take care of with a simple discussion with recruiting. There is really no excuse for why you had to wait for eternity for a confirmation letter, unless the firm was dragging its feet purposefully (in which case an email to the partner is going to serve no purpose because the partner will know the firm was dragging its feet). I can’t imagine though why a firm would extend an offer then sit on a letter.
      On a side note, in the email I would make it clear that at this point a letter would NOT result in you accepting the job… that you simply want to notify them of the situation so other candidates in the future are not impacted in the same way you were.

    • Taco Lover :

      I would want to know this if I was in the partner’s shoes, and it reflects well on you to follow up personally with the person who recruited you.

    • Do tell them. As a partner involved in recruiting I would want to know. Make it polite, kind of an FYI at the end of a letter thanking them for recruiting you and taking the time to interview you, and letting them know you took another job. Don’t make it accusatory, because it has really good odds of being forwarded to the recruiting coordinator, and recruiters have a network. So just a super polite “maybe it got lost in the mail, but I never did get the offer letter” type note.

    • Why would they send a letter now after you’ve turned them down anyway? And why wouldn’t you bring it to the attention of the recruiter, or the partner earlier that you hadn’t received the hard copy letter? (That could have been an easy mistake and fix – maybe it was sent but addressed incorrectly?) In declining, why didn’t you mention that the delays influenced your decision to decline?

  9. Chicago Corporettes: Any experience with Vive La Femme in Bucktown (which specializes in sizes 12-24)? My sister is going to visit and I’d love to go shopping with her, but don’t want to make the trip from the south side unless it will be worth it.

  10. Great post! I’m not a plus size, but a) I’m glad we have advice for a range of sizes on this site, and b) the information about sleeve length, fitting for a shoulder, etc. is helpful for all sizes.

    Minor whine/threadjack: I’m starting my 2L year, and while last year I commiserated with my classmates, I secretly thought my 1L year was not hard and didn’t really get why everybody was spending so much time studying. I got great grades, rarely studied past 5 p.m., had plenty of time for recreational reading and outside activities, etc. Everything worked out well for me last year. This week, however, the karma has kicked in and I am discovering I STINK at law review. This stuff is killing me, and I’m only halfway through my second assignment. I’m considering dropping classes to make more time, because my pace is seriously glacial. It’s humble pie time, and I’d like to officially apologize to everybody who had a hard 1L year and had to listen to obnoxious people like me.

    • Law school’s definitely tough, but I always got the impression that the major whiners/complainers enjoyed whining and complaining. I also observed people try to engage in a “my life is worse than yours” contest, wherein one fellow classmate told us that she hadn’t turned off the light in her bedroom or folded down her covers in four days.

      Some people are just silly. After awhile, I started to avoid the people who were most vocal about all the work they were doing because it doesn’t help anyone.

      Good luck with the law review stuff, though. It’ll get easier with time.

      • I did a PhD program, and everything Emma says was true in that environment as well. I think in any professional endeavor, there are folks who simply do the work and are glad to be there, and others who have to make a great spectacle of how hard they work OR how easy they find it. I think the best policy, for your colleague/friend relationships and your own mental health, is not to be showy at all.

      • LadyEnginerd :

        We used to call that “my life is worse than yours” contest Misery Poker. ie. “I’ll see your final exam and raise you a paper due tomorrow I haven’t started yet.” If you play enough times, you realize that the people who are whining are the ones who don’t plan ahead, or who want to appear to work hard, but who are actually super inefficient.

        Good luck with the law review, OP. Not a lawyer, so no actual advice, but I’m sure that you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll be cranking through your assignments in (almost) no time.

    • Law review gets easier as you learn the ropes. Don’t drop classes! You will get the hang of it.

      You also may be spending more time analyzing the issues with the law review submissions then (than?) they really require… I found that some people put as much effort into a law review submission as they would their own work–which is nice, but not needed. Double check to make sure you aren’t over-analyzing the author or the citation. Do an efficient cite-check and substantive check and move to the next piece. Good luck!

    • FWIW, it does not matter how well you do at law review. Now that you have the accolade on your resume, just enjoy it. I say this having been one of those go-getters who worked hard at law review and got a top leadership position … really not worth it unless you want to be Law Review president. Do the minimal amount of work necessary and focus on your grades; that’s what really matters. The people I know who got the best jobs after law school were (a) the president, and (b) the people who barely did anything and continued focusing on awesome grades.

  11. anon in nyc :

    Also, if anyone has suggestions for good tailors in New York City, I would be really grateful. My dry cleaner just isn’t cutting it. I work in the garment district, so you’d think they’d be a dime a dozen!

    • anon in manhattan :

      I went to the last place listed, “Silhouettes,” etc., a long time ago, when it was called “Rosette Couturiere.” It was expensive, $100 to alter a suit almost 20 years ago, but they did a beautiful job.

      http://www.manhattanusersguide.com/article.php?id=817

      “Madame Paulette” on the East Side is supposed to be the best dry cleaner in the city. Museums send their collections there.

      You could also try Googling NY Mag. At one point the Sartorialist was going to list some NY tailors.

    • I adore chris french cleaners on 4th avenue and have been going there very loyally for 2 years. they are very pricey in my opinion-but i think most other manhattan tailors are at about the same price range and their work is flawless. they also deliver, so if it’s out of the way, it’s only out of the way in one direction!

  12. Valleygirl :

    Nice to see representation for the plus sized – but I have to say that jacket is a very… boxy/matronly example of a plus sized blazer and something I would never wear (I wear an 18/20, am 5’10 and have broad shoulders and am 28).

    A blazer like the ones pictured in my links below that’s single button/darts in towards the waist is waaay more flattering. The one Kat pictured comes in at the top of the neck, emphasizing a round shape in the mid section that I doubt would look great on anyone. I also think it’s key for plus size suiting to balance out the width of your shoulders to your waist, then have a straight line down the leg (which can mean wide leg pants) and have things cut in towards the waist either due to the line of the blazer (nipping in or with a V from the neck down) or by a belt or both.

    For brands, I’m a big (ha ha pun for plus size stuff ;) ) Calvin Klein fan. Of the things I’ve tried on, CK always feels the most modern looking.

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=582013&CategoryID=34832#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D52

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=566908&CategoryID=34832#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D52

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=362325&CategoryID=55442#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D27

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=559797&CategoryID=40424#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D78

  13. If any corporettes out there sew I recommend the Burda plus size patterns. They tend to do some crazy wacky things with the straight sizes but the plus size clothing is always so beautiful and professional! I always find myself wishing I knew how to size a sewing pattern down because the clothes are always classic and beautiful in the plus size section!

    Also as a non plus sized girl I’m happy to see this new perspective added to the community here. I have plus size professional women in my family and it’s nice to see an article I can send to them!

    • Marie-Christine :

      Extremely easy with Burda to size things up or down. Start by calculating which size you should be at which point (by measuring and looking at their tables, NOT paying attention to number sizes, especially as US ones are at least 2 smaller than US patterns). You just observe how much difference there’s between sizes at each point of the pattern, and draw your own size from that, using a French curve if you need help with drawing smoothly. I’ve sized up or down as much as 8 sizes and had no trouble at all, go for it!

  14. This is good advice. I’ve cut sleeve linings in a number of my blazers, and it works like a charm.

    In my experience as a tall 14-16, I look awful in anything “plus size”. My proportions are the same as those of a straight-size woman, but the actual measurments are just a little bigger. I don’t need all of the extra room in the arms, or the waist, or the hips that plus sizes usually add on. It took me a long time looking for clothes that really fit to realize that most stores have a great selection of extended straight sizes online.

    For example, about half of the dresses at Banana Republic will fit me in-store (I can usually fine a size 14), but half of the time, I need to go online and order the 16. Same goes for J.Crew (they carry 14s and 16s online), Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft (both carry sizes up to 18), and Talbots (straight sizes up to 20). The down side is that you can’t try everything on before buying, but if you’re willing to ship things back or order two sizes and return one, you may save yourself a lot of trouble and headache.

    • Me too! I am a little larger (18), but I find that a regular size 18 fits much better than a plus size 16 or 18 – it’s all in the cut. I suppose my solution is to lose weight, but that’s easier said than done. I love that some of my go-to stores (AT & Talbots) have 18′s, but I wish they’d carry them in-store. I haven’t been this size long enough to figure out exactly what fits, so it’s such a risk to order online (especially with great final sale deals). Still, online shopping has been a life-saver.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        Ann Taylor has size 18s online? I had no idea. I’ve been a size 20 for awhile but recently have been getting size 18s in tops. I fit in Gap’s size 20s so maybe I’m not that far from fitting in AT’s size 18s. I’m going to have to check that out!

      • I’m the opposite – a plus size 12/14 fits me much better than a straight 16; I think it’s about the bust dimensions. Frustrating.

      • attiredattorney :

        Ann Taylor Outlets/Factory stores carry 18s and XXL sizes, and the two locations near Atlanta always have a great selection. If you sign up for the factory store email list, they’ll alert you when the whole store is 50%, and that’s when I go and stock up on complete suits for less than $60.

    • Taco Lover :

      I HATE stores that have one or two sizes they only carry online. What’s the point? I could get it if there were five or six sizes, but with only one additional size, why not just include it in stores? Drives me insane.

      • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

        When I called Ann Taylor’s customer service line to place an order because the website was acting wonky, I was told that they were discontinuing anything above a size 14 in my closest store (Cherry Creek in Denver) because there was not enough demand for the sizes. I told the representative that if they carried more than 2 pieces of each size 16 and 18, I might actually go into the store and purchase something.

        • How can they possibly know how much demand there is? In DC, they also seem to sell out of my size (14) immediately so they probably only have one or two pieces in a 14. I am sure I’m not the only size 14 out here who browses in a store, then orders from the website where they actually carry my size.

      • Geezerette :

        SO on board with this comment! WHY won’t Talbots and others carry the 18s and 20s in their stores?? The plus sizes fit me in pants, but plus size tops and jackets swim on me. And many only carry up to 14s in their “regular” stores.

  15. Legally Brunette :

    Great post. Not plus size, but I’m really happy that Corporette is branching out and discussing clothing options for women of all sizes. I also echo that it would be great to have posts from non-lawyers (even though I’m a lawyer myself, I like hearing about what professional women in other industries are going through).

    I mentioned this earlier today, but thought I would link again to this blog since this woman is plus size and flat out gorgeous. I think she’s my new fashion role model. A lot of the stuff she wears would not be work appropriate at my office, but I just love love love the way she puts herself together and makes the most of what she has.

    http://girlwithcurves.tumblr.com/

    • anon in manhattan :

      I have no problem with hearing from women in other fields, but lawyers are different in that many of them have to dress formally, at least some of the time. So often on other fashion sites I see outfits and hairstyles that are ridiculous.

    • Wow, that girl really is gorgeous. I have several friends who are beautiful, put together, and often way more stylish than me. One of my girlfriends does such a gorgeous make-up job, and she’s always got the CUTEST shoes. I’ve taken her shopping before just to let her style me and help me break out of my ruts! My mom is also super stylish, and she knows how to buy clothes that are flattering for her body. She’s also great about pairing colors and prints, and her outfits usually provide a lot of visual interest.

    • Le Corbeau :

      Very pretty woman. Her weight in time may cause health problems. I know it’s not a popular view, but it’s well supported.

      • It must be rough for you, going through life as an ignorant b—h.

        • whatever you think of Le Corbeau’s comment, there are better ways to express your own opinion, OK?

          and yes, she’s very pretty – reading her background, what an interesting ethnic mix.

      • Accountress :

        How interesting! I must have missed the post in her blog that mentioned inviting others to discuss her health (which cannot be judged by appearance). How nice of you to offer up an opinion based on nothing but your eyesight, having never seen her medical records to know her true health level.

    • I’m drooling over that curly hair!

  16. anon in manhattan :

    I would think that a “perfect” blazer would be worth having copied.

    • anon in manhattan :

      Yes, I know it would be costly. But compared to the cost of searching for a replacement, perhaps in vain … If you’ve found something that works, stick with it.

  17. Wondering :

    My mom is a size 12/14 and one of the most beautiful woman I know (both on the inside and the outside). She really knows how to put herself together and always looks so chic and pretty. People regularly stop her on the street to compliment her and her outfit. I’m a size 4 (used to be a size 0) and seeing my mom as a kid, I always aspired to have her body type because she was/is so pretty. I have a very healthy body image in large part because of my mom. I never felt the need to be skinny or to lose weight. If anything, I always wanted to be a little bigger!

    I really, really wish more magazines featured plus size models. It’s so refreshing to see some body diversity.

  18. I have freakishly short arms. I always have to have sleeves taken in. Sadly, I did not start having my clothes altered until after I had my son. Then I started buying from Brooks Brothers where they did the alterations. It is amazing how much nicer clothes look that actually fit. Had I realized this earlier in my career I would have bought less but better quality (and some place that does tailoring),

  19. Sydney Bristow :

    I recently bought a new skirt suit and had the sleeves shortened on the jacket. It made all the difference in the world.

    Thanks for the plus size attention Kat!

  20. how do you cut the sleeve lining? i’m not plus sized but i do often find jackets constricting in the arms – this would be very helpful if it works

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