A decade ago, as a 21-year old entering adulthood, high-street labels like Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Zara were popular among university students my age. I remember looking at my girlfriends, always in envy, as they easily scoured stores and boutiques for clothes. I was a size UK16/18 then, and most L/XL options still didn’t fit me right.
But as I wanted to wear the brands that I loved and not miss out when I went shopping with friends, so I still bought those pieces and accepted it when I had to tug at the hem-line of skirts as they constantly rode up, try and stretch out my tops because they would be a tad too fitted around my bust or waistline. Plus-size options back then were not trendy enough, and looked too mature, or were just too expensive so I grew to accept that clothes won’t ever fit me right just as long as I got to wear the brands that I fancied.
Fast forward to 2016. The amount of options worldwide for plus-sized clothing are so much greater now compared to how it was back then, but there are still many annoying challenges to overcome when shopping for plus-sized clothing, both online and offline, especially for a woman living in Asia.
Being plus-sized in Asia
Why aren’t there more plus-sized options here? Well, perhaps the notion that Asians are smaller in build (true for a majority of the population) have kept plus-sized labels from opening on our shores, thinking that the size of the plus-sized shopper market here is too small. The truth is, there are plenty of plus-sized ladies here screaming inside for more options in the malls and department stores, hoping that one day someone will hear us. Lane Bryant, I’m looking at you.
When people ask me where I shop, I always share that I do 90% of my shopping exclusively online. Why? It may seem that Singapore is an amazing place to shop, but there still only a handful of brands that can cater to this curvier demographic. Search online and the options are aplenty.
So because I don’t want to exclusively wear Dorothy Perkins or Marks & Spencer here, I look to the Internet and to my favourite stores to satiate my shopping needs. There are so many online plus-sized retailers that don’t discount style just because the shoppers are bigger. There are tonnes of options for current, trendy and highly fashionable plus-sized clothes, undergarments and shoes for those who dare to venture out onto the web.
4 things to look out for when shopping for plus-sized clothes
1. Not all plus-sized bodies are built the same
Just like straight-sized women, who have petite, short, regular, long or tall options, there are also plus-sized women who are petite, tall, have a larger top than bottom, larger bottom than top, and the list goes on.
Even with plus-sized clothes that are listed as my size, I still find it hard to shop for even basic things like jeans. Jeans that fit my waist are too tight for my thighs, and jeans that fit my thighs are loose on the hips. Not all plus-sized bodies are hourglass-shaped like curvy models, and this means that while I can generally fit most plus-sized hauls that I get, there’ll be a couple of pieces that require a visit to my local tailor so that she can help make it fit better.
Don’t accept that the clothes will just not fit you right. Find a local tailor to help you with hemming, tightening and more.
2. Take note of the silhouette
As mentioned, it’s really important for plus-sized girls to understand their bodies. Are you heavier on top, or at the bottom? Having an intimate understanding of what your body is really like will give you a better idea of what looks will enhance your vivacious curves, and what looks will make you look even larger than you are.
If you’re larger on top, pairing a fitted top with a relaxed bottom would even your silhouette out, and balance out your figure. When you’re larger on the bottom, contrary to popular belief, a pair of slim-cut bottoms in a comfortable stretch fabric paired with a relaxed top would be much more flattering than a loose-cut bottom — which would actually make you seem larger. Don’t shy away from fitted styles because when done right, they can accentuate your figure. Skinny jeans are not just for skinny people!
3. Look out for the design and style
While some of us may want to dress like Rihanna or Gigi Hadid, plus-sized ladies need to remember that what looks great on another body type, may not look great on us, and vice versa! That fitted low-cut v-neck top would be so much more flattering on someone with more meat on her bones, than someone who was slimmer and shaped more athletically.
Whether you’re regular size, petite or plus sized, dressing in styles that suit your body type is key.
4. Understand the size and fit
Don’t feel afraid to go up a size if you need to. Wearing something that’s in the wrong size can make you look bigger than you really are, and are just plain uncomfortable. When you’re constantly conscious about whether your clothing fits you right, you won’t feel confident or comfortable.
Best fashion labels for plus-sized ladies
I shop at regular size labels too like Danish label Carmakoma which carries both regular and plus sizes, Marks & Spencer, Cos and SocietyA labels like ti:baeg from Korea and PH5 from New York. These labels offer lots of oversized or stretch styles that can fit bigger girls.
Clothes from these brands are well-made and use quality fabrics that really bring out the silhouette of the clothes. Their product descriptions are also very informative, so I’m able to easily decide on what size or fit I should purchase.
Working in fashion and managing SocietyA’s online store and physical stores has given me a greater insight into knowing what I’m like as a shopper. Whenever I find that an online store has a unique and highly helpful trait about their pages, navigation and all-round user experience, I’ll always try and adapt it to the SocietyA online store.
Lily Hamid’s shopping tips
1. Size matters
When shopping online, always refer to the size chart. If you can, have a measuring tape on hand. Your size at one store may be slightly different at another, so to ensure that you’re always buying the size that’s right for you, do refer to the measurements in the size chart.
2. Invest in what's underneath
Whatever your size, it’s always good to invest in good-fitting undergarments and shape-wear. I can’t stress how important it is to wear undergarments in the right size. Wearing bras that are too small will give you backache and sag your boobs, and cause shoulder pain from tight straps and unwanted back bulge. Wearing bras that are too big, on the other hand, won’t give your girls the right support that they need.
Shapewear has gone past granny-looking girdles to sleek, sexy garments that help you look your best in an outfit. Shapewear can help smoothen out bulges and love handles, lift your derrière and slim out your hips and thighs whether you’re a size 8 or size 18.
Before making a purchase on a website, always subscribe to their mailing list! Most sites offer a discount for your purchase with them, and aside from getting news from the site and on their new arrivals or key pieces, you’ll also get discount codes for savings, free shipping and birthday-month specials. Being able to shop online with exclusive discounts always sweetens your shopping experience.
4. Go digital
Some of your favourite brands may have larger sizes online! Cos carries up to size EU 40/42 in-store here, but up to EU 44 online. Marks & Spencer goes to UK 20 in stores here, but up to UK24 for most styles and UK 28 for selected styles online. Lots of international brand sizes vary in scale in different countries but with the e-stores servicing customers worldwide, you’ll find most of their range of styles and sizes in their online store. Don’t be disheartened if some sites don’t ship to Singapore or if you can’t use your Singapore-registered credit card on American sites. With VPOST by Singpost and PayPal at our fingertips, international shipping and payment is now so much easier and safer.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more #BigGirlBlogs from Lily Hamid!
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