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The Evolution of Plus Size Fashion

The Evolution of Plus Size Fashion

by Nicole Phillips

While arguably all women experience lulls in their personal style and have trouble finding the perfect piece, if you’re a plus sized woman above 35 years old, you have first-hand experience of the fashion desert that was once the world of plus size fashion.

I mention being in your mid-30s, because younger plus sized shoppers today have access to so many incredible options, I still remember (and am still often traumatized by) the unsuccessful searches for an outfit to wear on an interview, first date, homecoming and even my own wedding.

Thankfully, the past several years has been a necessary catch up for plus size fashion. Fit and aesthetic have finally evolved beyond strictly curvy pin up or conversely, dowdy and basic. Previously, if a garment aimed to be “stylish” it ignored the fit or vice versa. Case in point: a circa 2008 style of bubble-banded dresses festooned with a conversational skull print. The dress barely fit over your bottom, so you were forced to wear them with leggings. The alternative here was a shapeless empire waist, spandex-poly maxi dress with subliminal prints. The options were bleak and beyond the actual clothing, the message being sent by an entire industry was that thought, and attention were not being placed into plus size fashion. 

A decade later I can honestly say that I love where we are right now with plus size fashion. While of course, there is always room for improvement, the industry has evolved to truly consider varying body shapes and sizes so that more women can participate in fashion in a meaningful way.

Recently, 11 Honoré was included in a Harper's Bazaar article titled, 14 Plus-Size Brands Making the Best Fashion Right Now. It really resonated with me in a way that goes beyond being proud of a brand that I am so honored to be a part of. As a woman who has spent her career in plus size fashion and has watched from the inside and outside, the huge shift this space and community has made, it’s impressive to look back and see how far we’ve come. There are pieces now available to me and others that 15 years ago would have been non-existent. I no longer have to spend hours, days, weeks, Googling a particular style of dress to see if perhaps, one brand has made it in my size. I just know now that I have a plethora of places to cater to my style and finally, my body.

Here are a few pieces that I am excited to wear this season and that the 23-year-old version of me wished she had been able to find on her fashion quest over a decade ago:

Iconic designer finds

Until 11 Honoré existed, I had a hard time finding anything designer. Sure, a few collaborations and capsule collections would pop up, but to have a site that I can now go to regularly and get excited about new designers launching, is a game changer. Plus, none of these pieces have been watered down. They are the same styles as the designer’s main collection.

Cool and on-trend silhouettes

I mentioned before that there has always been a lack of variety in the plus size fashion space and for the most part, it’s no longer the case. Many retailers and designers have retired the fashion rules, which means a woman over a size 12 can and should wear any silhouette she desires.

Elevated and chic essentials

I loathe the word, “basic” when talking about essential closet staples because it implies that they are boring and honestly, that’s what we have been given for so long. When curating any wardrobe, you need really chic essentials to pull a look together and I am so thankful we’re not limited to ill-fitted tees and the same boring cardigans.

Beautiful special occasion dressing

From dances to weddings and every special event in between, finding the perfect dress has been a huge challenge. Young women are left looking matronly and mother-of-the-brides are left with the same shapeless shift and lace shell that every big box bridal store has in four different colors. Feeling beautiful at an event is life changing.

Workwear for the career climber

When I go to work, the last thing that I want to resemble is a meme of a woman with a caption that says, “Can I talk to your manager?” I want to look like I am in charge. I want to look like I know what I am doing (even when I don’t.) I want to dress for the job I want! Now, we have options.

Non-boring prints

There will always be an ongoing debate on how much floral is too much floral or if big prints are more “flattering” than small prints, but one thing is for sure, our selection has surely expanded. The prints and patterns are sophisticated, interesting and I want more.

Bold Color

Guess what? I don’t care if you have been told that black is a slimming color and what we’ve been expected to wear for years because of that outdated and frankly, fatphobic mantra. Color looks beautiful on everyone. You were not born to blend in. We get conditioned to shrink inward and be careful not to take up too much space, but that’s old news. Take up space. Be loud. Be colorful. (Of course, if an all- black wardrobe is your vibe, you do you.)

Sustainable options

I am a recovering fast fashion lover and not because I genuinely loved fast fashion, it was all I had access to for a long time. It’s now much easier to find brands with extended sizing that are committed to sustainability and even if a brand is not completely sustainable, being able to purchase pieces more mindfully and with intention has been much easier to do. Investing in pieces that will be with you throughout many seasons and hopefully beyond, is an investment I am happy to incorporate into my shopping habits.

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