Recently, I had to buy a very specific type of dress, because I was going to be doing an on-camera interview. The brief came through: must be a solid colour, no prints, no black, white or green, and preferably a jewel colour. Oh, and it probably shouldn’t show my ample bust too much (OK, that wasn’t in the brief, but was more common sense).
Usually, I’d try to whip something up in my sewing room but I only had 48 hours notice, so off to the shops it was.
Initially, I was stunned by the realization that I hadn’t been RTW shopping in aaaages and was super excited by all these pretty things – and they’re already made! How luxurious!
But then it all came flooding back. I didn’t really fit in the dresses at all. And despite the fact I kept on repeating to myself “it’s the dresses that don’t fit you, not you that doesn’t fit the dresses!” it was incredibly hard to not feel disheartened. It was a huge reminder that clothes shopping was probably one of the main reasons for my previously poor body image – constantly being reminded that you’re “bigger than normal” is tough to take. I was once in an Armani store while my Mum was shopping and the assistant asked me why I wasn’t trying on things; when I asked him if they had anything in a US size 14 he just laughed and walked off.
The crazy thing is that I’m really not that far off the American average, and yet it was over 4 hours before I found a dress that didn’t highlight every bump. I eventually found a candidate from St. John – in a US size 16, which I had to remind myself not to freak out about – and while it did look great, you can see from my face that I wasn’t a happy camper with the entire experience.
What did all this prove? How incredibly glad I am that I started sewing! To not have to traipse around stores any more is such a joy! And that making things that fit me perfectly without my clothing size being pushed in my face is enormously satisfying.
So all that being said, I do still buy some RTW (Ready to Wear – i.e. what you buy in the stores!) items, and I thought I’d share some of my favourite online stores, that have broad size ranges, and ship to your house so you don’t have to stand in a changing room under fluorescent lighting… (who invented that idea?!) As it happens, all of these are British (my roots are showing!) but they all ship to the US for reasonable prices (and sometimes free):
- Boden do lovely dresses, which are good both for sewing inspiration and for just buying when they’re on sale. They are cut for hourglass/busty figures and go up to a US size 18/ UK size 22. I adore their skinny jeans as well! (close fitting legs and roomy waists – great for apple shapes). Top tip: they have semi-annual warehouse clearance sales in Boston (and I think Pennsylvania) where you can pick everything up for a total bargain
- Bravissimo is my favourite lingerie retailer – beautiful and fun bras in cup sizes up to L, and innovative things like strappy summer tops that have integral bras up to a G – so no peeking out! They also do great bikinis, tankinis and swimsuits. No more matronly white sports bras for me!
- Duo Boots do boots in calf sizes up to 49cm (19 inches), so you can get gorgeous and reasonably priced boots which will fit you perfectly.
What RTW pieces do you buy rather than sew? And do you have any great retailers for curvy ladies? Let me know!
*These are all my personal recommendations, and there are no affiliate links or sponsorship here!