Every woman has experienced changes in her body at some point. Whether it’s hormonal, stress-related, or a change in lifestyle, we’ve all been there. It’s part of life, and, yet, it can be such a gigantic mindf*ck. I’ve never been a small person, but I was always really active and swam competitively up through college. I could walk into almost any store (except Abercrombie- hence why I still harbor ill feelings towards them) and find clothing that worked for me. That all changed when I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor at 19, and it was like an alien had invaded my body. I gained a ton of weight in a really short amount of time, and it had repercussions on my body image for years. I plan to write a more in-depth post about this later, but I bring it up here because I legitimately had no idea how to dress my body anymore. I remember laying awake at night because I honestly didn’t know what I was going to wear to class the next morning. It was a rough time, and I wish I’d had more resources to help.
I’m in a more positive place with my body right now, and I tend to know exactly where I can go to find things I love. For reference, I’m usually a 10-12 in jeans and 14-16/large-xlarge in tops and dresses. (Thanks boobs!) It’s sometimes a tricky place to be because it’s considered average, but it completely depends on how a store does their sizing. For years, I’ve floated between that weird space of regular and plus-size, and it can be really frustrating. A lot of big brands, including Loft and J. Crew, have recently extended their size ranges to make them accessible to more women. However, it can still be tricky for those of us who fall smack-dab in the middle.
I tend to shop at familiar brands and stores (like those mentioned above), but I did my best to break down my shopping strategies by listing what types of items I look for in each store. So, if you find yourself in that weird sizing limbo, here are my favorite stores and tricks-
Loft- I don’t think anyone is surprised that I listed Loft first. I’m a die-hard Loft fan because they strike the perfect balance of classic and trendy, and their sales can’t be missed. I tend to go to Loft for almost anything as most items go up to size 20/xx-large. They also recently launched Loft Plus online, and it’s coming to stores soon. My absolute favorite Loft item is their denim. I carry my weight in my stomach, but I have zero butt and hips to speak of. I find that Loft’s “modern skinny” style works perfectly on me. In addition to offering a wide range of sizes, it’s also refreshing that most of them are carried in-store. Which brings me to…
J. Crew/J. Crew Factory– I love me some good J. Crew preppiness, but I do find it annoying that they only go up to a size 14 in store. (They recently expanded it from size 12.) There are so many times that I find myself between the size 14 and 16 dress, and I end up just going home and ordering it online. J. Crew’s sizing can vary widely between items so it’s always helpful to try on items in person. I kind of dabble in, well, every department, but I find their coats to be generous in sizing which is nice when you’re looking to layer sweaters.
Nordstrom– Nordstrom has pretty much everything, including an ever-expanding plus size department (Encore). However, I’ve found that there are a few brands in each department that I can rely on every time. I’m a huge fan of Halogen, Trouve, Pleione, Vince Camuto, and BP. The sizing tends to be consistent, and I don’t feel like the larger sizes are hidden away in the back. However, I’d say proceed with caution with designer brands and other brands in Nordstrom’s BP department. There have been times where I’ve barely gotten my head through a sweater before thinking “Yeah, this is a bad idea.” Overall, I’d say Nordstrom’s BP department can be hit or miss. I have pieces I love from Suburban Riot and the BP label, but others make me feel like I’m trying to wear children’s clothing.
Old Navy– This is the place for trendy, bargain pieces in an amazingly wide range of sizes. Forget the trendy online boutiques- I say make Old Navy your one stop shop and avoid spending a fortune on postage. I love Old Navy’s skinny and legging jeans, and about the half the t-shirts in my wardrobe are from here. I tend to buy the XLs, but that’s partly because I need my clothing fairly loose.
Anthropologie– A few years ago, Anthropologie was kind of off limits for me. I just didn’t fit into very much, and it all seemed to be made for size 6 and under. Fortunately, this seems to have changed in recent years, and I find that I can wear a lot of the brands. Meadow Rue, Eri and Ali, and Sundays in Brooklyn are three of my favorites. Unfortunately, the Maeve brand runs small and rarely fits me.
Proceed with caution- stores that can be hit or miss:
Madewell– I think Madewell is a little like Anthropologie where sizing used to run small, but it seems to have changed a bit. First off, they seem to offer more sizes as nearly everything goes up to an x-large and a 14 now. There are also a lot of loose, drapey pieces that can make pieces more comfortable even if you’re a larger size. I also love their big, cozy sweaters that can work even if you aren’t the true size on the label.
Online Retailers (especially the discount ones)- I haven’t tried a lot of the online bargain retailers, but past experiences make me less likely to jump in. I tend to find that online specialty brands run a little small and offer fewer sizes due to the cost of production. However, I could be wrong here so if you’re really passionate about Shein or Lulu’s let me know!
Boutiques– I try to support small businesses every chance I get, but boutiques can be really tricky when you’re between sizes. They usually offer limited sizing, and the sizes they do offer tend to run small for whatever reason. (Again, I’m guessing the cost of production.) If you’re in a cute boutique, then, by all means, shop away! However, I tend to stick to accessory shopping in these stores. I just don’t love going into this intimate little boutique with an attentive salesgirl and being like “Uhh… nothing fits.” I’ll work on this, but, for right now, I’d say proceed with caution when boutique shopping.
As I promised earlier, my list is primarily familiar stores and predictable styles (at least if you follow my instagram). However, I hope some of these tricks may help you! Dressing any body type obviously has it’s own challenges, and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at shopping for us in-between ladies. Leave me a blog comment or Instagram DM if you’re looking for more advice or offering some of your own!
Jacket, Blouse, and Jeans- Loft
Blouse and Skirt- J. Crew
Tee- Old Navy / Denim shorts- J. Crew