Part of the challenge of plus sized shopping is that there are only a few stores that actually allow you to try things on in person before purchase. Most plus sized shopping is now usually done online through various retailers, which can make things a bit harder unless you’re fully prepared. But with nearly 70% of adults shopping online regularly, it’s obvious that online shopping is now the preferred method of purchase for many. This makes it all the more important to ensure your shopping “trip” is as successful as possible to avoid wasting time and energy on ill-fitting clothes, shipping returns, and other fees.
Here are four tips to make your plus size shopping experience as stress-free as possible:
Listen to the store associates
When I was an assistant manager for a major women’s and plus size retail chain I was always honest with my clients. I never lied to them to make a sale, honestly! Amazingly, even though I never lied to them about how the clothes fit, they still kept coming back for more. That’s because, get this, the clothes that they DID end up buying actually fit and looked good on them, and made them happy to wear!
It took me a while to learn how to balance the proper amount of tact and honesty when delivering constructive criticism. However, with my sewing and tailoring experience I learned to be specific in pointing out what wasn’t quite working on an outfit. I was also able to suggest a few ways that they could get our inexpensive tops, skirts, dresses, and suits to look tailor-made. Often times a simple $5-10 alteration to an item that wasn’t fitting perfectly could include a bust pin tuck here or a hem or altered waistband there.
Seek out advice often from sales associates who know their products and watch women try on clothes all day: duly consider the feedback you’re getting. By visiting these stores and working with the sales associates you’ll soon learn what styles and drapes work best on your body type. Aim to hook up with the friendliest most honest associate there and ask for her sincere advice. If she tells you that everything looks great no matter what - she’s probably lying. If she keeps suggesting other items and styles that might be more flattering, give them a try! You can also ask for a second opinion from another associate. Even other women in the store are usually kind enough to give their free advice and honest opinions.
Visit more than one store
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you’re putting together outfits, it’s unlikely that all your clothes will come from one place. Accentuate your dresses with perfect matching accessories from different retail outlets to maximize on your perfect fit and find the best pieces for the best prices.
If you are lucky enough to have a mall with a Torrid, Catherines, Dressbarn, or Lane Bryant in your town, you may be able to make a day of it. Be sure to stay fed and hydrated and you may want to bring along a friend or family member for moral support. Additional in-store shopping tips include hitting up the sale rack first, only paying in cash to help you stick to your budget, and visiting Monday – Thursday to avoid the crowds and ensure more help and attention from sales staff.
Of course, take all advice and opinions with a grain of salt as well. If you feel like you look rockin’ hot and fabulous, but the salesperson is telling you otherwise, remember that at the end of the day you’re the one who’ll have to wear the clothes - in public - so make sure you feel happy, confident, and comfortable first and foremost.
Take accurate measurements
Before setting out to try and buy clothes from either an online or brick and mortar store, be sure to measure yourself well so you have a good idea where you stand on their sizing charts. The gals over at the Curvy Sewing Collective - have a measurement tutorial that outlines all of the measurements you’ll want to have on hand if you want to get clothes that actually fit you well. You can use these measurements to compare what you need against online size charts. They’ll help you ask better questions from Etsy sellers and other online retailers. You can also reference these measurements when working with a tailor to have articles altered in key areas for a custom fit.
There are over 20 measurements to ensure a perfect fit, but at the very least you’ll want to know your bust, waist, and hips. Also, make sure you measure yourself both standing and sitting, there’s some spread down there when you take a load off your feet so make sure that whatever size you buy can accommodate you as you change positions. A pair of comfy pants aren’t much good if you can’t actually sit down in them.
Enlist the help of a good friend, partner, or tailor for the initial notes, and be sure to keep the measurements written down somewhere safe. Recheck them every three to six months or so, or if you notice any change in how your clothes are fitting over time. For teens and younger women especially your body will continue to shift and change rapidly so be sure to recheck the numbers often to avoid unwelcome surprises while shopping.
Read (and leave) reviews
When shopping online be sure to read the reviews and adjust your purchase accordingly. If multiple women are saying that a specific shirt runs small, or if dozens of ladies mention that a certain dress puckered across the bust and they wish they had ordered the next larger size, pay heed. Regardless of whether your measurements fit what the company says you should order, listen to your fellow plus size femmes and read the reviews.
Also, that goes both ways – make sure you are also leaving detailed reviews whenever possible, as well. This helps others make informed decisions on whether an article is best suited to their body type. When leaving a review, try to include as much detail as possible, mention what size you purchased and what your measurements are so that other women can compare their body size and shape to yours. Mention also the specific places on say a dress or pair of pants where it was too loose or too tight, even after ordering according to the measurements stated on the site. This will help many women make informed purchasing decisions and avoid the cost and hassle of returns.
If you follow these tips and pay the kindness forward, offering honest reviews and advice when needed to your fellow plus size women, you’re all sure to have less hassle and more clothes we love that fit you well. Happy shopping!