If we were to compare all the fashion options out there for women as a huge, vast ocean, the options for plus size would be the size kiddie pool, with the options for professional plus size clothing for women about the size of a thimble. For those who need to shop in the plus size department for their career looks, it can get terribly frustrating and downright depressing, not to mention wrong considering the average woman in American wears a size 16.
Coming from a fashion design background, I have a slightly better understanding than most as to why designers haven’t ventured into this cash-cow of a market. Plus size is a specialization that requires retooling and refitting of how garment are fit and sized. You can’t just grade patterns up from Missy and call it plus. Therefore, should a company decide to start selling plus size, there is a lot of up front expense. However, in terms of it being a sound investment, doing this would clearly be a good one. Yet, a stigma still remains around plus size and I do believe this is why some designers have chosen not to not go into this market.
So while the options continue to be paltry in professional plus size clothing, there are some places to shape at all price points. Take a look below at some of my preferred brands.
Professional Plus Size Picks
Sejour, exclusively from Nordstrom
- Marine Plus Size Jacket 2. Long Open Front Trench Coat 3. Ponte V-Neck Ponte Sheath Dress 4. ‘Jetsetter’ Ottoman Knit Jacket 5. ‘Ela’ Suit Skirt 6. Crepe Georgette Cinched Waist Shirtdress 7. Wide Leg Crop Pants 8. Straight Leg Ankle Pants 9.‘Ela’ Stretch Curvy Fit Wide Leg Suit Pants
If you are a Nordstrom shopper, you are probably familiar with their Sejour plus size line which they launched several years ago. As Nordstrom stated when they released the line: “Sejour is designed to meet the needs of the modern customer while still offering the core styles that our customers love. Sizes will run from 14W- 24W, and 1X-3X, priced from $28 to $200.” Smart move by Nordstrom, and perusing the line, which includes some casual and professional plus size options, they managed to design classic pieces with a modern edge that won’t make this customer feel left out.
- The Perfect Long-Sleeve Popover 2. Luxe Italian Double-Weave Shawl-Collar Jacket-Newport Collection 3. Luxe Italian Double-Weave Subtle-Bootcut Trouser-Newport Collection 4. Luxe Italian Double-Weave Sheath Dress-Newport Collection 5. Raining Dots Ponte Sheath Dress 6. City Jersey Shirtdress 7. Charming Cardigan-Mixed-Dot, Polished Crepe Shirt Dress 8. Ponte Pencil Skirt-Floral Art Deco Print 9. Ruched Bateau Tee 10. Crossover V-Neck Shell
Think what you want about Talbots (be it good or bad), but this company has quality as one of its top priorities. I know this because I used to work for them as a designer and the quality control department would drive us crazy with their standards when we would try to get fabrics and trims approved. I wouldn’t call Talbots clothing the pinnacle of trend, but for good quality basics, peppered with some realistic and up to date date addressing of what’s current, they are worth checking out.
- Plus Long Scoop Neck Tank 2. Zip Front Sweater Jacket 3. Jojo A-Line Dress 4. Roselyn Jacket 5. Boat Neck Dress 6. Pleated Straight Leg Pants 7. Amalie Belted Dress 8. Crop Stanton Pants 9. Cropped Rivington Stretch-Wool Pants 10. Reversible Darby Graphic Stripe Jacket
If you are looking to lay down a bit more money on your professional plus size wardrobe, Lafayette 148 is definitely a brand shop. The look is much more modern and edgier than Talbots and I like them for both their classic cuts, particularly their pants, their prints and their fabrications. What I like about their plus size line is it is often a close match to their missy line. As odd as it sounds, this doesn’t always happen. Instead, designers will translate their missy styles into plus by adding elastic in the wrong places, eliminating details and creating what look like saggy sacks. Lafayette maintains its sharp, tailored integrity up through their plus size pieces.
- V-Neck Pleat Front Tunic 2. Buckle A-line Skirt 3. Drape Front Tunic 4. Kady Fit Double-Weave Pant 5. Kady Fit Double-Weave Pant Terra Cotta 6. Kady Fit Double-Weave Pant- white 7. Refined Denim Military Blazer 8. Quinn Blazer- Emerald 9. Textured Blazer 10. Quinn Blazer- Lemon Shine 11. Printed Midi Skirt 12. Neoprene Pencil Skirt 13. Studio Cropped Pleated Pant
I would hardly call Eloquii the perfect place to shop for plus size professional clothing, however, what I do like is that they can be a good resource for adding a few on-trend pieces that you can wear to update the workhorses in your closet. You can look to them for a pair of pants in a non-classic color, buy a fun colorful blazer or printed skirt to give your outfits a pop. Definitely not a place to shop if you work in an ultra-conservative environment, but fun for those who can take some chances with their work wardrobes without breaking the bank.
Nic + Zoe
- City Retreat Surplice Top 2. Stripped Away Cardigan 3. Fiore Twirl Dress 4. ‘Wonder Stretch’ Straight Leg Pants 5. Perfect Side Zip Ankle Pants 6. ‘Perfect Layer’ Tank 7. Four-Way Convertible Cardigan
I don’t consider Nic + Zoe exclusively a professional line. However, I do like many of their classic pieces for business casual or dress down Friday that can also be worn on the weekends. I also think their line appeals to those who like a little novelty in their wardrobes as they seasonally come out with some interesting prints and knits. If you are looking for some fun staples or some interesting updated punches of trend, this is definitely a line to peruse. Their Perfect Tank, Wonderstretch pants and Four Way Cardigan continues to be favorites with many of my clients.
- Orlo V-Neck Jersey Midi Dress 2. Cima Textured Stripe Jacket 3. Cigno Exposed Seam Blazer 4. Metallic Mixed Media Sheath Dress 5. Riva Straight Pants 6. Romeo Straight Pants 7. Rete Skinny Pants
Marina Rinaldi is not for those on a budget. Part of the Max Mara empire, this brand is a luxury label for the plus size woman. Yes, it’s hard to believe that an Italian label would be catering to this customer, but, apparently, not every woman in Italy wears a size 4. With this line you get the same high standards in fabrication, fit, craftsmanship and detail that you get from the 35 other lines that Max Mara Group manufactures. Even if Marina Rinaldi isn’t a collection you can wear exclusively, you can look to this line when you are in need of buying a piece or two as an investment.
Lastly, I also want to mention my friend’s boutique in Brooklyn, Lee Lee’s Valise, that designs and sells clothing exclusively for the plus size customer. While their stock isn’t as robust as many other retailers, they have a few classic pieces, like their pencil skirts and cardigans, in stock at all times. Also, if you are seeking out more of a plus size subscription based clothing service, be sure to read our Fab Find from last week about Dia & Co.
I hope this helps you on your search for some well fitting, professional plus size pieces for your work wardrobes. If you have any other labels or stores you recommend please share them in the comments!