The plus-size fashion industry raked in more than $16.2 billion in revenue, and if you wear plus-size clothes, you know the cost of fashion all too well. Unfortunately, plus-size fashion is often priced at a premium, making it difficult to stay within your personal budget. According to the CDC, the average American woman has a waist circumference of 37.5 inches and a dress size of 14, which is typically considered plus size. It’s clear that more and more of the population is demanding that plus-size fashion be offered to the masses at a decent price.
Of course, while we wait for the world of haute couture to catch up with real life, you still might have to get creative with your budget if you wear plus sizes. There’s any number of excuses for higher prices, including exclusive brands and premium fabrics. Luckily, if you know where to look, you won’t have to pay a premium price for the perfect fit.
Plus-Size Fashion on a Budget
Whether you’re a size 12 or a 22, finding clothes that fit your body and your budget shouldn’t be too difficult. Knowing which stores are likeliest to carry your size and how to find the best sale prices can help you get the most out of every shopping dollar.
1. Shop Online
If you’re frustrated by the lack of selection and sizing in brick-and-mortar stores, check inventory online. Because online retailers have the ability to pull inventory from a number of warehouses, you’ll be able to score a wider selection of sizes by checking store websites instead. Just make sure to always check a retailer’s sizing chart before you buy to make sure you get the perfect fit. I keep a list of retailers and my current size in a notebook so I always know which size to purchase from each.
Here are several stores that carry an expanded plus-size line online:
Each of these stores has a large online selection of plus-size clothes and routinely offer sales and coupon codes to drive down costs even further. Remember to always check shipping and return policies before ordering so there are no surprises, and so you can return an item for little or no cost if it doesn’t fit well.
2. Check Discount Stores
One great resource for lower-cost plus-size clothing is discount stores, such as T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory. These stores purchase overstocked or out-of-seasons goods from department and brand-name stores, and then sell them at a steep discount. And furthermore, these discount stores often have more selection in terms of plus-size fashion on the cheap.
If you’re totally in love with the way one particular brand of clothing makes you look and feel, but you’re not as enamored with the price, check out discount stores. You may need to do a little digging, but the prices are well worth it. Just keep in mind that some discount stores, like Burlington Coat Factory and T.J.Maxx, offer a limited selection online, so it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for deals.
3. Be Loyal
Often, staying loyal to one brand or retailer is a recipe for overspending, especially if it causes you to miss great deals elsewhere. But there are times when loyalty can pay off in shopping.
Loyalty cards and points programs are ideal if you like to shop at one particular store. Retailers such as Maurices, Torrid, and Lane Bryant all offer some sort of loyalty perks in the form of points redeemable for cash, coupons, and special members-only discounts. Those incentives can really add up, offering huge savings on the stores you’d be shopping at anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask about incentives and loyalty cards during the checkout process.
If a retailer you frequent offers a store credit card, you may want to consider it as an option when becoming a cardholder means points and special discounts at a store where you’re a frequent shopper. Of course, whether you should open a store card hinges on a number of factors, such as your current credit score, how a credit inquiry and opening a new card could affect your credit, and how well you’re able to manage spending with a credit card. Remember that it’s only a “good deal” if you have the capacity to pay your bill each and every month before your purchases accrue interest.
4. Build on Basics
This is a good tip for anyone looking to build a wardrobe on a budget: Always start with basics. When your closet is founded on well-made staple pieces that will never go out of style, you’ll get more mileage out of everything you buy.
Not sure where to start? Make sure you have these basic pieces and go from there:
- A pair of straight-leg jeans in a dark wash, which are the most universally flattering cut.
- A pencil or straight-cut skirt.
- Some work-appropriate blouses. Be mindful when purchasing button-ups, since they can gape or pull if you’re busty.
- A jacket that fits great. Classic trenches and blazers look amazing on a curvy figure.
- A classic pair of black pumps.
- A pair of boots (Bandolino, Clarks, Franco Sarto, and Sam Edelman all carry stylish boots in wider widths).
Once you have your basics, you can easily change up your style based on the season with colorful scarves, statement jewelry, and fun add-on pieces like bright shoes or trendy jackets. While better basics might mean more of an upfront investment, they’ll stretch your wardrobe and give you pieces that you always feel amazing wearing.
5. Invest in a Great Bra
If you don’t have the right foundation, none of your clothes will look right. You’ll always score a better fit in your clothes if you’re wearing the right bra. A bra that actually fits should offer support, but data collected by Wacoal America found that up to 80% of American women are wearing the wrong bra size.
Surprised? Consider all of the changes your breasts have experienced. From pregnancy to postpartum, hormonal changes, and weight gain, you’ve probably been wearing the same bra size for years despite the fact that you may have changed shape and size several times over. Go and get properly fitted – I recommend using Nordstrom’s complimentary bra fitting services – and you may be surprised to see how much better all of your clothes look with the right foundation garments in place.
6. Try Outlet Malls
Outlet malls often have a great selection of plus-size clothes for several reasons. First, they carry clothes that have gone out of season or went unsold in regular retail stores. If you wear an unusual size, it might mean scoring big when clothes make their way from regular clearance racks to outlet store shelves. The second reason is that outlet malls give you access to brands and designers that you might not be able to normally afford, so you can stock up on stuff you love for a tiny price.
Of course, outlet malls are pretty irregular by nature, so you might find that some of your trips are hit or miss. The best time to shop at outlets is often on holidays that occur at the end of the season. Memorial Day, for instance, is a great time to stock up on outerwear. Then, head to the outlets again on Labor Day for great prices on summer clothes for next year.
7. Layer Up With Tights
I love tights – they act as a cheap bridge piece to make the most of your wardrobe. A colorful pair adds a bit of personality to an otherwise basic dress, and a textured pair worn with a skirt can help add another warm layer against winter air. The best thing about tights is that they are super cheap – don’t pay more than $10 to $20 for a pair.
To be honest, from a fashion perspective, there’s not much difference between discount tights and designer tights. Designer tights are just as prone to runs and tears as the cheaper versions, so it’s much better to purchase bargain tights and get rid of them when they’re worn out or snagged.
8. Mix Up Your Accessories
Accessories are what really add personality to your wardrobe, and they’re cheap and super easy to find if you know where to look.
If you’re plus-sized, you’ve probably noticed that some accessories accentuate your body better than others. Long and lean accessories, such as light scarves, long necklaces, and drop earrings, usually look better than chunky, short necklaces, bulky scarves, and studs. Stock up on the accessories that make you feel your best at trendy stores like Charming Charlie, Forever 21, and H&M. There, you can find huge selections for cheap prices.
When seasons and trends change, change out your accessories – it’s a cheap way to always look chic and fashion-forward, no matter your shopping budget.
9. Find a Tailor
This might be the ultimate piece of shopping advice if you wear plus sizes: Remember that, no matter what size you wear, a general fit model was used to create the pattern in each size. And, unless you were that fit model, clothes will fit your curves differently.
Gaping, pulling, and bunching are all pretty common, whether you’re plus size or not. That’s why finding a tailor should be a priority if you want clothes to fit your body perfectly. Choosing clothes that fit the widest parts of your body and then having them tailored back to fit the smaller parts is the easiest (and cheapest) way to make sure you look like a million bucks, even if you didn’t have much to spend.
Having your clothes professionally tailored might sound pricey, but compared to purchasing designer clothes in premium fabrics, it’s surprisingly affordable. Here are some examples of tailoring tasks and their prices:
- Shortening jacket sleeves: $25 to $28
- Taking in a professional dress: $45
- Fitting a dress shirt: $20
- Hemming pants, a skirt, or a dress: $10 to $15
- Taking in jacket seam: $45 to $50
Make nice with a tailor in your town, and you’ll be able to make just about any piece of clothing look like it was made just for you. Suit jackets, suit pants, tailored blouses, and professional dresses are your best bets for tailoring, since they’re the clothes that are required to look the most polished.
When you’re a plus-sized woman, shopping can be frustrating in two ways: Finding clothes that fit your shape, and finding clothes that fit your budget. Getting creative with your resources means you get more selection, better prices, and, ultimately, a better wardrobe. Don’t shy away from pursuing a bargain, and you’ll be rewarded with a wardrobe that you love.
What are your best shopping tips for plus sizes?