Dressing well when you've gained weight

Two of my favourite writers, Cybill of Sorting It Out, and Anjela (who comments here) report a weight gain and are wondering how to dress. So I am posting today with affection, because I've been there.

I could digress about the emotional consequences of gaining 30 or more pounds but will save that for later, and address the specific question of Anjela's: "What to wear?"

A 30 lb. gain means few of your existing clothes fit, and they mock you every time you see them. Move them to the back of your closet or to another room.
All right! Now, the key task is looking fabulous today.

My GF Missi visited me in a terible funk. "I've gained 40 lbs", she said, "My butt is the size of Cleveland." She just needed clothes that fit to reclaim her lush beauty.

Here's where to find clothes with body-skimming, not swamping, lines

1. Take a favorite pair of basic pants or skirt to a tailor and have them copied.
d your pencil skirt? Just get a bigger one and show off your legs. Your goal: four to six key pieces that fit. Choose fabrics with a bit of stretch.
2. Check out the "Flax" line of linen clothes (www.flaxdesigns.com) for pants or skirts (tops are a bit 'craftsy-mumsy'); fit is on the large side (they also have a plus line).

I'd pick the Ankle Pant or Slim Slacks (shown as sketch) and Style Skirt for Anjela, nothing boxy. Online vendors like
2 on Crescent sell Flax, and there's also always a lot on eBay. Everything is washable, wears well, and is less pricey than Eileen Fisher.

3. Wintersilks makes a silk crinkle skirt in good colours and various sizes (including Women's) that provides graceful, flattering drape and is washable- just twist and stow. Skirt comes in lower calf length; if too long for your height or taste, shorten to the knee. On sale now for $35, and in teak, shown, there's your neutral base.

But thinking of the pop of colour Anjela likes, I'd love to see her in Talbot's orange embroidered cropped pants, $89. Talbot's do not sentence larger sizes to drabs & darks, and offer good tops, too.

4. Get some tees and blouses that fit, but avoid big shirts and baggy tops, which only emphasize that you are larger. Deeper V-neck tees or scoop necklines elongate the torso.

The tunic is a good option but if not too big and or so long it covers your seat. Shown: Talbot's Woman cotton voile tunic, on sale (Clearance section of site) for $45. See where it ends? Doesn't look tenty, just light and easy.

For fe
minine tees and crisp blouses, check Land's End; I'd wear this vibrant seagrass paisley shirt (available in regular or plus sizes) with white capris. And undo that second button!

Rather than bustin' out of your beloved white shirts, wear them open over a light, close-fitting tank. Silk/modal/spandex tank on sale from Wintersilks, $24.

5. Get one great dress that lifts your spirits and shows off your bust.

The verde green
Igigi Origami dress (in the Limited Collection section of the site), $92, caught my eye.

Special occasion

Peggy Lutz' slither fabric pieces are never boxy; she also carries "wrappings", beautiful coats and kimonos like the bronze silk stroller shown. Will ship internationally.
Anna Scholz, a former model, makes sexy clothes in fine fabrics. Shown, cotton jacquard 60's dress.

They currently ship to EU countries and the UK. Shipping worldwide (including
the USA) is not offered as a standard service but "may be possible if you have your own account with any international couriers."

And I'll mention Dress by Design again, because they create classic, graceful styles in up to size 24 (shown, "Eve" sheath) and offer a remarkable service.

After you choose your design and features on their site, they will ship you a muslin (if you wish) before cutting. They offer many fabric choices, or send your own. They will even pay for one alteration after delivery, if needed. Will ship internationally.

Slim budget?

Consignments and renos

Resale boutiques often have larger sized clothing in nea
rly new condition as women cast off their larger sized items the instant they lose weight, thinking they will never gain a pound again.

Clothing renos so often look unpolished and sad. But I once had the the top of a dress that was too tight in the bust removed, and the dress became a full skirt.

What are friends for?

You may have a friend who is the size you now are, and has more clothes than she wants. Most of us have a few mistakes or unwanted duplicates in the closet. Ask her if there's anything she's willing to send to a new home. I assembled a box for a friend, and never missed a thing.
(Shown, Anna Scholz metallic linen safari dress.)

6. Stay out of plus departments in department stores (except maybe Saks' Salon Z), which are their own kind of hell, full of inferior fabrics.

You might strike it lucky with a Calvin Klein or Liz Claiborne piece, but the choices are dispiriting.

Take a look into plus size boutiques, which I think more women should do, even if they are not very big. A plus size 12 top may fit a woman with a broad back and fuller bust way better than a misses' 14, even if her
hips carry no extra weight.

If passing through these doors bothers you (I know women who would rather be seen leaving a crack house than a plus boutique), have a nice restorative martini first.

Go ethnic

My GF Vicky took me with her to an Indian boutique where she bought three salwar kameez; the ensemble (long tunic, loose pants and a stole) in vivid striped linens and embroidered cotton looked cool and cost about $50 each.

She also bought a $40 navy and white embroidered kaftan. Not full like Cybill's dreaded muumuu, this just skimmed the body. She will wear these pieces for relaxing at home and hosting summer parties.
You could also just buy the kameez (the tunic top), and wear with your pants or skirt.

Stores that carry Indian, Moroccan, and African clothes often have larger sizes (but Chinese stores do not); call and ask before you go. If you live in a city with an Indian or Pakistani neighbourhood, you can get the ensemble or kameez made to order in any size from a South Asian tailor or dressmaker.

Ethnic clothes are carried by internet vendors, too; check out web sites like
Designer Salwar Kameez. Look for cotton or linen (there is a sea of scary poly out there); I like ikat or woodblock prints in cotton. eBay also offers many ethnic items.

Search eBay for specialty sizes from designers
Work your eBay search engine to set up e-mails for "1X" (or other size) listings; many plus-size designers are dedicated to creating fresh, stylish larger sizes (and remember for many lines that is a US 12, and in Europe, a US 10!). They sell through their eBay stores. Citron Santa Monica make arty, Asian inspired larger sizes, and pieces (new and resale) are often listed on eBay.

7. Indulge in a new piece of jewelry.
Missi was the original Pearl Girl; she ignited my love for the gem 25 years ago. So I wasn't surprised when she chose a large ring of mabé pearl set in gold, $200 on sale. You don't have to break the bank; you might find a jumble-sale silver bangle or an art fair glass pendant. Wear it as an amulet to remind you that you are loved, you are you.

Earrings draw the eye to your face; the brilliant green of these malachite dangle earrings make my mouth water, and no calories! Generous 18 x 24mm pear cut stones set in 14k, on sale at Ross Simons, $150, reduced from $250.


Frugal Scholar said…
This may well be your masterpiece. Even though I find Chico's overpriced for the quality (very low, imho), their stuff is very forgiving around the middle.
~Tessa~Scoffs said…
Thank you for this post. This post helped me to feel better just by reading it!
s. said…
What a wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you for sharing so many fantastic sources: how generous of you! Would you like a tag-along-shadow the next time your're out and about, shopping in Toronto? : )
As ALWAYS ... . an excellent post.

As a former "skinny girl" who's now struggling to stay at a size 12-14, I've been considering the ethnic approach. I'm warming to the Indian tunics and hoping not to make the leap directly to the Burka!

Thanks for the links, so I can start my online shopping ... . Jjjjj
I just had to come back to share this:

Actress/ Director Penny Marshall was asked about her biggest regret in life. She replied " That there was no such thing as a size 0 , when I was one!"
Anjela's Day said…
Thanks Duchesse,
I just invested in 'knickers' today- pushing aside my lovely delicate undies to the back of my drawer. "Don't worry my pets, I will be back for you one day"I said. Still not bad. Super cheap. Fit amazingly well! white & baby blue and pink and brown. I wasn't going to wear the brown but it looks great and very slimming. I am down to one bra now with an extender in the others. I refuse to wear the big mama ones.
They come by the half dozen(the panties) at Costco!! Me, who used to shop Neimans now relegated to Costco. No offence but I manage to look quite slim there lol
Thanks so much for all the great ideas Duchesse. This is your masterpiece. Because you are so apt in your selections. And as you said you've been there. Really a bit disheartening as I bite into a frozen Kit Kat and a cuppa tea. 30 pounds is 3 sizes (if I am correct in that)
Missi and I should compare notes. And I take full responsibility for my eating choices.Though my health problem disallows for me to exercise due to no balance.(hence the weight gain) I think, I know I compensate through those indulgences but wanted to thank you for your enormous work in compiling the posting. I truly appreciate it. And it just lifted a weight from me to be able to see how there are some lovely things to choose from once one gets one's head around the label sizes.Maybe there are no overweight people- just clothes that no longer fit. LOL Meaning when I put on a proper size it doesn't look that bad at all. So many thanks......Appreciated and made my day. I ordered the next size up in the pencil skirt. Will let you know results!! I just might try the orange capris now.
Deja Pseu said…
Great ideas, Duchesse, especially the Indian tunics! Last year when my weight was up a bit, I had great luck with silk and light wool jersey pieces, which skim but don't cling. Being short, it's a bit tougher to carry off some of the more dramatic pieces. A good friend of mine also does well with those flax items, as well as Eskandar and Pggy Lutz.
Duchesse said…
Frugal; Thanks; have been in Chico's but the prints are to garish for me. They would be a good resource to check.
s.: Sure!

judith: LOL! I don't think I was born a 0!

Anjela: Undies are a whole other world and absolutely have to fit. Bra extended... but is not cup too small as well? Forget the number on the label! Big hugs!

Pseu: I pretty much live in jersey (wool, silk, even some poly); drape is everything when you are tall and wear a large misses size. I didn't mention Eskandar for a reason: it is $$$, and a very specific look, which you either love or hate, like Eileen Fisher.
sallymandy said…
Duchesse: it's so generous of you to spend the time to put all this together. I've gained about 20 lbs in the last two years--some of my clothes still fit, others don't, and it just seems like stuff has shifted around on my body!

That olive green dress is just gorgeous.

Alternatives to Eileen Fisher are always welcome.

p.s. thank you for your comment to my guest blogger, who was mighty happy to get them the day she posted.
The green earrings (which would play up my eyes) are what I like the most. I like the green dress as well. Nice greens are often hard to find in the shops.

I'm miserable about menopausal weight gain; so hard to lose though I have lost some doing cycling laps around a big park (off to do that now) in addition to my utilitarian cycling, and mostly eating the beautiful vegetables from Jean-Talon market (and trying to play down the richer treats).

It is hard when one is on the short side; I can't wear a lot of overly dramatic stuff either. I'm not terribly big, probably about the same dress size as Duchesse, but not nice when one is on the short side. I used to love boutique Kaliyana www.kaliyana.com - but nowadays they seem to be making clothes that only suit taller women. They were sort of clothes for once-hippie types who had grown up, women in the media and arts etc. Not cheap, but great sales. I've been meaning to write to their designer to plead with her to make some clothes for women who aren't very tall and able to wear such dramatic garments! I find their clothes rather too weird now, at least for me.

Anjela, this has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with weight loss, but it is very important for health reasons for you to find some kind of exercise you can do despite your balance problems. I did research at a care home where there were people generations older than us with a host of health problems, and the physical therapist, a kind and gentle young man, got all of them moving somehow.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: I was just in the Kaliyana shop in Ottawa, and there is one here. Only thing I liked was a very sheer sweater by Crea that was breathtaking, but at over $400, with limited wear (very sheer) I passed. Otherwise the things tend to wear one, too weird. Maybe a pair of pants.

My choices did cater to Anjela's height, but for a shorter woman I would still advise many of the same things, as the principle- skim, don't hide the body- still apply.

sallymandy: Thanks for pointing out that even those who don't gain can experience a 'redistribution'.

PS My verficiation word is "Codesses", which I guess is a stunning woman from Newfoundland. That's a Canadian joke, which I can't resist on Canada Day!
dana said…
And that's such a hassle, when you've found a style you like, then it no longer works on your bigger body. Sigh. Thanks for the tips on incorporating different styles that flatter larger sizes.
Imogen Lamport said…
Some great options here.

Just remember, just because you've put on weight doesn't mean that you have turned into an O shape - many women still need clothes that are tailored to their shape and not boxy (which will make you look even bigger).
CompassRose said…
Oh, Kaliyana. So much "my style," so very unflattering to my body. I was just in there in Ottawa too - I swear that was where I saw the "poetic pants" which were my favourite item, and yet they don't seem to be on the site. Oh, well. 300 bones is too much to pay for pants, however poetic down the sides, which have an elastic waist and are made of the same heavy cotton as Magic Mountain uses for a third the price.

I really recommend the Flax Designs clothes. I have three pieces I bought used in the States, and they are really well made, comfortable, and beautiful linen fabric. And they do fit very generously. (Looking at their website, I find the fall/winter lines much more interesting than the spring/summer.)
Anonymous said…
Duchesse, you are my BBFF (best blogging friend forever). Thank-you so much for writing this inspiring and clever post and for your excellent comment on my post on this. I would write more but I am a little overwhelmed by how kind it is of you to go out of your way to put this post together. It does seem to be a universal subject too doesn't it?
Duchesse said…
cybill: Thanks ever so!
Treatment Shop said…
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