Shopping with curves

The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches and wears a size 12 on the top, and 14 on the bottom. The result is a growing retail industry catering to plus-size women. Shopping for

The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches and wears a size 12 on the top, and 14 on the bottom. The result is a growing retail industry catering to plus-size women. Shopping for plus sizes can be awkward for young women. Department stores have a “women’s” section, which sounds like clothes your mother or grandmother would wear. It doesn’t help that most people who shop in the women’s section are the same age as your mother or grandmother. You may have to go to a mall farther away to find stores that carry trendy plus-size clothes or stores that specifically carry plus sizes. Or you may not to be able to buy an outfit at one particular store because you are a plus size in either the top or bottom, not both.

Many stores charge more for plus-size items than for the same items in regular sizes. Consequently plus-size women spend nearly 80 percent more on clothing than other women according to Cheryl McCants, vice president of marketing for Ashley Stewart. The term “plus size” can be embarrassing or insulting to some. But just keep thinking about the statistics of the average American woman and follow these guidelines to help you look your personal best.

Wear fitted clothes. Avoid styles that are too baggy and too tight. Some plus-size women mistakenly wear baggy clothes to hide their size, but they make them appear larger. Tight clothes draw attention to the wrong places. Fitted clothes should be comfortable; loose enough to move around in yet tight enough to prevent them from looking like a muumuu.

Remember that style is not a size. Do not buy an item of clothing simply because it is your size, and you can’t find anything else. It is not your fault if the shirt you love comes in pink, blue, brown and black shirts for sizes 0-11 and plain, boring white for larger sizes. Shop at a store with a decent selection of clothing that is your size.

Avoid shirts, sweaters, jackets and coats that stop directly at your waist. Such clothing should stop at the hips, midway between your butt and belly button. Outerwear should stop anywhere between the hips and the knee. Coats longer than knee length also make you appear shorter. Peacoats, a perfect winter accessory, are flattering on all figures.

Choose a top by its cut, as well as its style. Crew necks, the standard shirt cut, and V-necks highlight your figure. Boatneck shirts should be worn with care, as the wide top opening makes the chest and stomach appear wider as well.

Solid colors slim the figure, especially black. Diagonal stripes are more flattering than horizontal and vertical stripes, which make you appear wider and shorter respectively. This season many knitted scarves and wraps have diagonal stripes, great for days when it’s too warm for a peacoat. (See the accompanying article on shawls.)

Unfortunately, shoes are not always a girl’s best friend. Flats, chunky heels, boots that end at the ankle and detailed, decorative sandals make the leg appear thicker. Thin heels and steep pumps are stylish way to make your legs look thinner and longer. In Style magazine said a “V-neck elongates, a belted waist creates an hourglass look, and an A-line skirt disguises fuller hips.”

There are several places to buy plus-size clothing in Philadelphia. Lane Bryant, the most popular plus-size retailer, is located at the Gallery at Ninth and Market streets. The store carries everything from casual to career to activewear in sizes 14 to 28. It also offers plus-size clothing in petite sizes. Similar to Lane Bryant is Ashley Stewart, also at the Gallery, which focuses on sizes 14 to 26.

Fashion Bug carries all sizes including plus and is located at Front Street and Olney Avenue. Clothes range from sizes 14 to 32, all in petite, short and tall. They have a wide variety of tops, including special occasion pieces and separates. “Priced Just Right” items, the Bug’s equivalent of a clearance section, are good finds that are sometimes under $10.

The Avenue is a national retailer, specializing in fashionable clothing in sizes 14 to 32. Like many stores, not all styles come in all sizes. Both Lane Bryant and The Avenue carry full-figured lingerie, focusing on bust sizes 38 to 46 and 40 to 48. Prices are fairly similar at all four stores, ranging from $20 to $30 on most items, with coats priced noticeably higher.

Besides specialty stores, department and general retail stores also carry plus sizes. Macy’s at the King of Prussia Mall has a wide selection of plus sizes 14 to 24 in brands such as Baby Phat, J.Lo and Nine West. Kohl’s, located at 8500 Henry Ave., has sizes 16 to 24. The selection is average, focusing more on tops than bottoms.

Old Navy in the Gallery has sizes 14-26. The styles are not always the same as regular ones, since the clothes are designed for fuller figures, yet they have a nice selection of cute clothes in several colors. Ross at Seventh and Market streets is a discount department store that has sizes 14 to 24. They have name brands, although not necessarily the latest styles. However, the cheap prices make it worth the trip.

Style is for everybody. Women with curves: don’t settle for clothes that just fit. Strive for style.

Stephanie Young can be reached at

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