The Best Workwear for Plus Sizes

Sejour Micro Houndstooth Suit JacketWe’ve talked about where to shop for workwear if you’re petite and if you’re a tall professional in recent weeks, so I thought we’d continue the series today with a look at the best plus-size workwear. I’m going to sort it into three categories: regular plus sizes (generally 14W-24W), petite plus sizes, and regular sizes 16 and 18, which tend to be incredibly difficult to find.  We’ve discussed plus-size workwear before, of course — in 2008 and 2011, and in 2011 guest poster Kathryn Rubino wrote about her must-have list for the perfect plus-sized blazer — but we haven’t talked about this in a while.  Readers who shop plus sizes — which are your favorite shops for workwear?  How about suiting?  Size 16s and 18s — and petite pluses — which shops am I missing on the list?   (Pictured: Sejour Micro Houndstooth Suit Jacket, available at Nordstrom in sizes 14W-22W for $148.)

Regular Plus Sizes

Recommended by readers last time:

Additional stores (which may or may not have been selling plus-sized clothing when we last talked about this — these are in no particular order):

UPDATE: A few stores mentioned by readers below:

Petite Plus Sizes

Sizes 16-18

Psst: interested in more plus-size content from Corporette? Sign up for the CorporettePlus newsletter, here.

Comments

  1. networking noob :

    Hello hive! I’m hoping for your input in terms of networking. Over the weekend I attended a conference which turned out to be more of a roundtable, which gave me the opportunity to have some pretty in depth discussions with other participants. I was by far the youngest and the least experienced and so am hugely grateful for this opportunity . Unfortunately I don’t yet have any business cards and so when the time came to exchange details, I just accepted theirs. Should I send a quick email with my details, saying how nice it was to meet ..etc…or should I only contact them when/if I have something relevant to discuss? Not sure what the protocol is in these instances.TIA!

    • Definitely the former … better to connect right away with your info. After several months have gone by, it ends up feels too late and too awkward to send something (at least to me).

    • PurplePenguins :

      Reach out to them now! Shoot them an email saying it was great to connect. As for business cards- I’m in the “you can’t afford NOT to have them” camp. I get a lot of business from networking by handing out my cards. Can you print your own at Staples? Even a simple box of black and white cards are around $20-30 depending on quantity.

      • thanks for the responses! i’ll send an email today. Unfortunately, I was only in an intern type of position this year (though I will be in a permanent position next year) and in an organisation that has quite a strict policy about who/how you represent them so I won’t be getting any until next year

  2. I’m a solidly (ha!) plus-sized individual and my favorite brands have become:
    Jones NY (dresses, pants)
    Talbots (especially the clearance outlet, where clothing that doesn’t cut it in their regular stores, catalog or outlets goes on super markdown — I’ve gotten $5 pairs of dress pants there!)
    Land’s End (runs large for me — love love love their dresses)
    Macy’s
    JCPenney
    Target — for casual wear / trendy pieces — they also have a great selection up to size 18 for “regular” sizes

    I’m actually in the market for tops — I don’t do button ups and have the best luck with v-necks. If it’s under $30, the better (what can I say, I’m cheap).

  3. Nordstrom’s and Macy’s are my go tos. I had very good luck last year with wool sweaters from Lands End to wear under suits, which I am still getting compliments on. I want to like Talbots, but I feel their clothes look matronly on me. JC Penneys on occassion for a basic skirt or tops to mix things up, but those items don’t usually last long.

    Recently I heard of Gwynnie Bee (like Netflix, but for plus size clothes) and I’m debating signing up. They dry clean their clothes, but still not sure about that. On the plus side (pun intended), it may work if you are losing weight and dont want to spend tons of money at each size.

    Difficult to find for me: Work shoes that have a low, sturdy heel and don’t look matronly. V-neck shells with sleeves.

  4. I’m a fluctuating 14-18 and I NEED to try things on before I buy them, so I like browsing online and then shopping in person. Which is more difficult in Canada… I live in Ottawa, the capital city, home to tens of thousands of government workers, and we’re getting our first Nordstrom in 2015.

    I’ve had great luck with Reitmans (their style has definitely gotten younger over the past 10 years – but I’ve also gotten older) for pants and fashion tops, and Cleo for dresses. I love love love Cleo for dresses, and they frequently have sales.

    I always thought of Ricki’s as the cheap younger sister of Cleo (they are the same company), but I went in to exchange something for a family member recently and walked out with a pretty nice winter coat for myself at 40% off! I might give it a second look.

    Can anyone explain to me the madness behind 14 and 14W being totally different sizes?

    • Lady Tetra :

      I too fluctuate between 14 and 18, and the differences between “plus” and “straight” cuts is so maddening! In some brands, the 16 regular is too tight but the 14W is too big. It’s ridiculous.

      My go-tos have been Ann Taylor LOFT, Target and Land’s End. I’m still not happy with the suit selection I’ve found at the low/medium price point.

    • Do either of you guys have Addition-Elle? I shopped there in Montreal and liked what I bought so much — and it held up well, for the most part.

      • I pop into AdditionElle once in a while but I’ve never been that impressed with their prices – it all seems like generally the same quality as Reitmans, but more expensive (and they’re all part of the same company, along with RW&Co/Thyme Maternity/Smart Set) .

        Maybe if I buy something and it holds up as well as you say, I’ll change my tune!

    • Yeah I’m 14/16, too. Basically all of my wardrobe is J Crew, the Gap, Boden, Anthropologie, and Nordstrom. Luckily, I work in a super casual office, so these stores all fit the bill for my personal and professional life, but even they get frustrating when things aren’t carried in sizes larger than 12 (cough cough J Crew…)

    • OttLobbyist :

      Have you tried Melanie Lyne? I was shocked on Saturday to go in and find they had a generous selection of 14 and 16. One of the few stores in Bayshore that actually had classic suits…but that’s a whole other post…

      I am 14-14W-16 depending on the store and garment, and swear by Reitmans, Cleo, Sears, Land’s End (totally worth the shipping/duty).

    • I’m in Toronto, but I’ve had great luck at The Bay for simple dresses and blazers in the 12-16 range. I now buy most of my dresses there, and they also carry Lord & Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, NYDJ, and other brands in a wider range of sizes. I buy a lot of my fancy wear there but I’m from Ottawa originally so I know that The Bay’s there are pretty weak. Road trip to Toronto!

      I’ve also had good luck at Laura (plus & petites) for work appropriate skirts and blouses; they need tailoring but last a good while. Ditto Melanie Lyne.

  5. My go to on this side of the pond is Evans with some new look thrown in for good measure.

  6. Anyone have advise on companies that make pretty dress-up plus sized dresses (been going to a lot of weddings lately)? I’m in my late 20s, prob size 14 on top & 18 on bottom (have always had a hard time finding dresses) and all the dresses online look like they are made for old ladies. Also, I’m 5’1, so ya, there’s that too…

    • Lady Tetra :

      ModCloth has some nice (and younger-reading) party dresses in plus sizes. Their sizing is pretty inconsistent so you might have to order a few and see what fits.

      • I have found 1 awesome dress there & I love their stuff, but a lot of their dresses are gathered at the waist & flare out a lot at the bottom which makes me look really matronly because I’m so short. :(
        Was actually eyeing 2 to order right & now & try out.

    • Have you tried kiyonna.com? I’ve never tried their stuff, but there are some lovely dresses on their website.

    • Anonymous :

      I haven’t seen them in person but Tadashi Shoji has had positive reports here. Try Nordstrom for the brand. Also check out the blog “the Curvy Fashionista dot com” (no spaces.)

    • Try Ureshii (ureshii dot org)–they are a custom mail-order shop in Canada, but their turn-around time is pretty quick, and they are pretty accurate. Their clothing is mostly more casual jersey fabrics, but the quality is good, and many of the dresses are party-appropriate (if not super fancy). If you are a very different size on top from on bottom (I am), custom sizing is wonderful.

    • You might have luck in eShakti as well. They have “straight” sizing, but you can also put in your custom measurements in case you’re especially endowed in one area. I have a friend who swears by them for her needs because she’s on the plus-petite side.

  7. MissDisplaced :

    Petite plus size (extremely difficult to find 14wp, 16wp and 18wp).
    In addition to those on the list, I’ve found suiting/work wear items at the following places.

    Travel Smith
    Chadwicks of Boston
    Spiegel
    Boscovs
    Coldwater Creek
    Burlington Coat Factory (sometimes you get lucky)

  8. lucy stone :

    Plus petite in dresses and skirts and jackets, “regular” plus in pants. I buy 90% of my work clothes from Talbots. I’ve also had luck with Lands’ End and Boden. We’re TTC and I have no idea what I’ll do for maternity clothes. :(

  9. AttiredAttorney :

    Are there tech issues today? Corporette stopped showing up on my feedly account. I can’t imagine there are only 18 comments on this issue.

  10. I’m so happy to see this topic come up again! And personally I would love to see a regular feature on plus size suits and blazers.

    As a size 22/24 (top) and 26/28 (bottom) litigator — as in, in court every single day — I’ve had to get pretty creative with my suiting and business attire.

    My big secret is Navabi. It’s a German store, it’s online, it ships to the US. The clothes tend to be more casual but I’ve found tons of court-appropriate dresses, pants and tops. It’s similar in pricing to Nordstrom.

    Another good option is Eliza Parker — very limited range but professional.

    For business pants and skirts I favor J.Jill, igigi, Kiyonna and occasionally Lane Bryant. I always double check to make sure that pants are lined and that there is at least some wool or other natural fiber involved in the material — there is so much freaking polyester in plus size clothes.

    Tahari (Nordstrom, Saks) tends to be generously cut so that comprises most of my suits.

    Layfayette 148, Eileen Fisher, Talbots and Ralph Lauren are mainstays for blazers and dresses and I will always, always pay for a high quality item (seriously, because if the only pants you can find to fit you are from Lane Bryant, your blazer better be stunning).

    I like Nordstrom’s house brand, Sejour, in their Encore section for blazers and tops that are professional but maybe not quite as formal as Talbots et al.

    Modcloth, Simply Be and Asos Curve all have younger-plus options that I love for casual wear and I’ve actually found a few simple dresses and fun tops that are court-appropriate.

    I learned in my first year of law practice not to spend my money on cheap clothes. No Ashley Stewart, no Jessica London, no One Stop Plus (although that’s awesome for workout clothes), no Roamans, no Ulla Pop-whatever her stupid name is.

  11. AttiredAttorney :

    Are there host/tech issues going on today? This site has stopped showing up in my feed ly account, and I find it hard to believe there are only 18 comments on this post…

  12. Size 20/22, and a little on the tall size (34″ inseam). I used to love Talbots, but the quality and fit are all over the place. My mainstays these days are Nordstrom (the Sejour brand), Saks (love Tahari, Lafayette 148), the Lafayette 148 website. For a brief, shining moment in time, Brooks Brothers did plus sizes, and I bought 4 suits, which are still favorites. The closest I’ve found to consistent great fit and quality is Lafayette 148. The only problem is they can get a little interesting on the details, which makes for beautiful pieces, but not necessarily timeless pieces. I’m new to the Tahari brand but just got a suit on sale from Saks that fits perfectly. That hasn’t happened since the Talbots glory days 5-10 years ago. The pants are even long enough. So much of shopping for suits is just frustrating. Pendleton in particular makes me stabby. The plus pants have an inseam of 30″, and it’s nearly impossible to put a blazer and matching bottoms together. In one fabric, they offer the blazer but no bottoms. In another, a skirt but not the blazer. Why?

  13. I have the same problem w/ Talbots that I see mentioned above: their clothes look matronly /dowdy on me. Can someone describe what is going on when that happens? Is it looking shorter/too wide for how tall I am? Thanks.

    • Kellygirl :

      Talbots blazers are designed for shorter waisted women, in my experience. I love it, because long blazers make me feel like Working Girl, but if you have a longer torso I could see their jackets looking too boxy.

    • PurplePenguins :

      I think their work clothes look matronly, but try their jeans. I found my holy grail jeans at Talbots in a size 20. I’m usually between a 20-22 with a large butt and smaller waist. These jeans don’t gap at the waist. They come up high enough to prevent muffin top, and they’re a dark wash with quality thicker fabric that won’t stretch out after a few washes and look saggy after wearing them all day. They also are a flattering bootcut to lengthen my legs.

  14. PurplePenguin :

    Great suggestions! I have luck at:
    Lands End (love their dresses and sweaters, and I got an amazing knee length down coat that’s perfect for New England and doesn’t make me look like a giant marshmallow)
    LL Bean for more casual (I’ve gotten jeans and pants for less than $15 on clearance! I also got a pair of boot cut jeggings- yes, such an item exists. They are 5 pocket jeans with a zipper, but they’re a stretchy material like leggings. Best/most comfortable purchase I’ve ever made!)
    Macy’s for suiting (but pieces generally are sold as a set, not separates)
    Dress Barn Women for suiting (pieces sold separately, they have a Jones Studio version of Jones NY)
    Jones New York (at the Premium Outlet nearby, suiting pieces sold separately)
    Dillard’s (when I lived in the South- some clothes were matronly. It was hit or miss.)
    Nordstroms (they have plus size tights!)

    • PurplePenguins :

      Also, I’ve had great luck at Ross and Burlington Coat Factory. I’ve found Tahari suits; most recently, I got a 3 piece Tahari suit (jacket, pants, and top) for $42 at Burlington! I have much better luck there than TJ Maxx or Marshalls, which never seem to have any professional plus size clothes.

      • Agreed on the Burlington Coat Factory! They often have a very nice suit collection in plus sizes (I’ve seen Calvin Klein, Tahari and Jones NY there).
        I don’t have as much luck with the petite plus… but sometimes I do get lucky.

        I’ve had much better luck there than at Ross/TJX/Marshalls, which get picked over quickly.

  15. PurplePenguins :

    What about wide calf BOOTS? I have such a hard time finding any. I have a pair of stretchy ones from Avenue, but they aren’t dressy enough to wear with a suit. I’d love to invest in a quality pair of leather boots. My calves are even too big for typical wide calf boots in a department store, and I also have regular width feet. I’ve noticed that most wide calf boots are also wide width, which doesn’t work for me.

  16. Thanks so much for posting this – I’ve been loosing my mind trying to find size 16s.

    For the budget shopper, I had excellent luck at Burlington Coat Factory. They have both designer brands and department store brands and are very reasonably priced.

  17. The commercially-available pieces I’ve ended up wearing the most turned out to be mostly from Jones NY. And I’m still mourning the wonderful Marie in Nordstrom SF encore who’d find the stuff that looked great on me. I’m roughly 16-18, right in the wrong spot like millions of American women :-).

    But mercifully I sew, that’s what saves my bacon every time. I’d like to encourage y’all to give your local dressmaker a try. Your first suit might cost more, as you’d need to start with a fitting-from-scratch. But later copies or variations will be a pittance compared to what you’d pay to import otherwise wonderful German clothes, and the quality will be vastly superior to anything you could buy in 21st century RTW, no matter what the price. In my experience, a change in color means nobody will detect the same pattern, and they’ll even hotly deny it if you point it out. Do as Gertrude Stein did and support a budding young designer, you’ll get exactly what you want at very decent prices, while training a young generation as to what women really need.

    As an aside, it takes me about an hour and a half, all told (except for fabric shopping, which is too fun to count as work) to make perfect work-worthy wool pants. Faster than you can do the laundry. The best clothes are simple, so a very little amount of sewing training goes a very long way. Just saying :-).

  18. Being a plus size working girl, I buy my clothes online from casual plus. They had a great range of plus size dresses. Going to a store and finding nothing that fits me, make me depressed thus I opt for online stores as they have more brands and styles at great prices.

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