By Alexandra Prim
“I actually really like to shop at Target. I think they have affordable, cute clothing. And I shop at Forever 21 a lot, especially for jewelry, which I really love. I wear leggings from We Love Colors and I’m pretty obsessed with them. I really like Boo Hoo. They’ve literally always got sales going, which is pretty cool. In terms of my style, I like to be comfortable. It’s what makes me feel like I look the best. I like mostly swing dresses, leggings, tall boots … I wear a lot of black. Black and stripes. Honestly, you open my closet and it’s just the same thing over and over again in alternating patterns, which I’m totally fine with! If you’re comfortable and feel good in something, you’re going to wear it all the time–it’s going to make you look great and feel great.”
Katharine Sloss Hartman
Occupation: Case Manager at a Boston area drop-in center for homeless and at-risk youth
“I would say my style is eclectic. I try to be professional since I’m working full time, now, and … a little girly! It’s funny because, when I first entered the workforce, I thought, ‘I can’t wear skirts or dresses or little novelty sweaters with a little button-down underneath anymore because no one will take me seriously.’ And then I started doing it and feeling more natural at work. I try to wear things that go from day to night. Eloquii is a great resource. I wish they had a brick-and-mortar store. [They have] a lot of styles from professional to more party. And H&M has a pretty decent plus size section. You can maybe find some of their other pieces in larger sizes, too. Not always. I would also say, Ann Taylor, surprisingly. I can’t believe I’m saying that! I’m kind of sad that I can’t go to as many local, small boutiques but that’s okay; they have terrible return policies, usually, anyway, haha. I look for a younger vibe. I say I try to dress professional but I’m not trying to be, like, basic. I try to have fun. I love bows, I love patterns. I love something with a surprise to it.”
Occupation: Copywriter in the Boston area
“My sense of style is pretty classic. Plain bottom, plain top, with a splash of color. I really like the monochromatic colors black, white, and gray. I feel good in those colors. For dresses, I wear an A-line … it’s pretty classic. For accessories, I really like earrings. I don’t do a lot of shoes because I have wide feet and shoes are uncomfortable for me. I buy wide shoes. But I’m really a big earring person. I think they can make an outfit. I actually don’t do a ton of shopping online. When I have, it’s always been either, this is way too big or way too small. Nothing fits me right, so I prefer to go to the actual store. For pants, the only place I go is the Gap. Their jeans are the only ones that are, like, big enough in the butt, big enough in the thighs. I like the Loft, The Limited … Believe it or not, L.L. Bean actually has some cute dresses. One of my favorite dresses is from there! My [strategy] is that I find things that I know are going to look good on me. And I’d rather get a bigger size and know that’s gonna fit than a smaller size that’s not gonna fit.”
Occupation: Speech Language Pathologist in the Boston area
THE MODERN PLUS SIZE SHOPPER
Women whose bodies don’t fit into straight sizes (zero through 10 or 12), often have a hard time finding places to shop in person. While many stores are now beginning to carry larger sizes in their brick-and-mortar locations, there are still far more options in plus size clothing available online.
This is a common lament for plus size women – it’s difficult to mainly shop online. Not being able to try on clothing before purchasing often leads to time-consuming exchanges or returns through the mail and a lack of customer satisfaction when it comes to clothing quality.
The average U.S. woman now weighs 166.2 pounds according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that plus size women (by the fashion industry’s sizing standards) shoppers now constitute 68 percent of the female population. That’s 106.76 out of 157 million women.
And yet, the industry is still slow to evolve.
MAKING PLUS SIZE STRIDES
Amanda Koker, a 25-year-old Boston-based fashion designer, decided to take the matter of available plus size fashion into her own capable hands.
“I have been plus size my entire life. As far back as I can remember, I have always worn a double digit,” said Koker. “I never felt satisfied. I have a punk rock side and that’s how I like to dress, but there really aren’t any options on the market – especially when it comes to outerwear. So I decided I would solve my own problems.”
This is when she launched her online plus size brand, ASK Fashion.
Anne Tranquilli-Bausher is an education consultant who purports to have experienced a major self-esteem boost after discovering a source of flattering and comfortably sized fashion (she shops often at Gwynnie Bee, which is an online subscription service that allows for renting or purchasing of clothes sized 10 through 32).
“Honestly, before, I didn’t care what I wore and it showed,” said Tranquilli-Bausher. “Since I’ve been buying and wearing stuff I really like, I find that I compliment others more. And that makes me feel happier.”
Koker, a Boston area native, chose the Massachusetts capital as home for her brand because “Boston is an up-and-coming fashion scene.” All of her clothing is manufactured in Massachusetts and she even hosted a runway show during the 2015 Boston Fashion Week. She sells her clothing both online and through pop-up shops around the Boston area.
MORE OPTIONS COMING
In the near future, Koker – whose designs have a decidedly punk edge to them with black swaths of fabric and skulls galore – plans on expanding her line of dresses to include jackets.
“My size does not dictate my taste, and the same goes for other plus size women,” said Koker by way of explaining that the small amount of major plus size designers currently on the market don’t necessarily cater to every plus size consumer.
Tranquilli-Bausher agreed. She said that thanks to discovering new, plus-geared fashion options, she’s 37 years old and “the largest I’ve ever been. [But] I think I probably have a better body image now than I ever have.”
She added, “I believe the industry has taken great strides forward, but there is still a long way to go. There are many more small brands, like myself, starting to show up in the plus size arena, and I think it’s great. The more competition the better.”