Ye Olde Fat Shoppe

OutsizeLike many I have traumatic tales of shopping for plus size clothes. The frustration, the frumpiness, the flammable fabrics. Then recently at the Yorkshire Air Museum I spotted this advertisement from a WWII newspaper and realised we have come a long way. If a 1940s larger lass heard me moaning about my tapered jeans and shirts with beards she’d be rolling her eyes, "You think you’ve got it bad, missy? Why, back in MY day all I had was a Charmingly Colourful OUTSIZE FROCK!"

Gracefully draped style, designed to give soft slimming lines to the full figure. In brightly coloured screen print effect Rayon Crepe in various shades. 46, 48 & 50 ins. hips.

It looks like the basic idea was that one drew attention away from the hips with gigantic shoulders, upon which one could have landed a Lancaster Bomber.

The model doesn’t seem particularly outsized. I guess it’s only been in recent times that we’ve progressed to actual plus size people modelling plus size clothing, so it might have been too radical to sketch a proper plus size chick. Or maybe they had to ration their pencil strokes since there was a WAR on, don’t you know.

They also very thoughtfully catered beyond 50 inches: Others equally attractive in Prints up to 54 ins. Also Rayon Frocks, 46 to 60 ins.


What do you think of the plus size clothes of today? Are they getting any better? I must admit I had a few "Back In My Day" moments when I first arrived in the UK in 2003 – I nearly wept in an Evans store when I saw jeans without stupid sequins and costume jewellery that actually got around my wrists and fingers. And then I found Monsoon stocking up to size 22, so I could buy things off the same rack as my slip of a sister (except I didn’t coz it was so bloody expensive). I found three different shops with non-frumpy Going Out Tops. I was excited by the options, but part of me wanted to shout at the younguns, YOU KIDS! YOU DON’T KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE! I didn’t have no fancy wrap dress! All I had were black trousers and man shirts!

But five years on, from what I’ve read in emails and blogs, it seems that overall both the clothes and the shopping experience are still prone to extreme suckiness. It’s not all Charmingly Colourful Rayon but there is still some ways to go – as best illustrated by Katy’s horrific experience in New York.

. . .

I had eggs for breakfast on Saturday, of the Green & Blacks miniature soft-centred persuasion. Very tasty and no doubt top quality fuel for the eight-mile training walk that followed… but nothing can beat gnashing the ears off a good old Aussie Red Tulip bunny. Will somebody scoff one on my behalf and recount every filthy detail in the comments!? Happy Easter, comrades.   

34 thoughts on “Ye Olde Fat Shoppe

  1. I seem to remember Evans being called Evans Outsizes as recently as the 80s (and maybe even early 90s?) and I think at one stage the Big is Beautiful range in H&M started in a UK size 12, though I may have made that up.

    The absolute best thing about being less lardy is not having to buy fat clothes any more. Yes, I am that shallow. Shopping is now fun. I just do rather more of it than my bank manager (and the planet) would like!

  2. I only really hit the ‘larger ladies’ sizing when I got to the UK. I was still squeezing into size 14 in Oz before then. I got very used to good chlothes in lots of sizes: M&S and Dortothy Perkins would have been my favourites over time. Since coming back to Oz (2002) there seems to be more variety with Myer selling some decent brands in larger sizes – and someone figured out that it wasn’t sequins and animal prints that we wanted. Tarket and K-mart are even ok for some basics. I have always hovered in the 16-20 range so I have been ok. Now since my pregnancy I am loving all the smocked tops from the last season (seriously if you arn’t pregnant these are flattering to NO-ONE), and I have found that I have actually gone down to a 16 in everthing but my belly!

    As my journey has been more recently about putting ON weight instead of taking it OFF I will provide the easter egg commentary… I have been LOVING the lolly jar at work with the little cadbury eggs in it (and all the boys are making me do the trip for them cos everyone can forgive the preggers chick), but I am looking forward to gnawing into a good ol’ Lindt bunny. Last year I had a beautiful easter bilby ( from Darrell Lea and felt good about my conservation efforts.
    Yumm getting hungry…might have one for lunch… I am eating for 2!

  3. I think things are a bit better, I can get some pretty good stuff from New Look and Dorothy Perkins. Having said that I am now reconditioning lots of my old t-shirts to make them more flattering/funkier.

    My pet hate is the yucky names the larger size ranges get given – ‘inspire’ in New Look makes me go “Blech!” everytime 🙂

  4. I think it’s funny what we consider “plus-size” models in the US. If you are a size 10 or 12, you can be a “plus size” model. This means that in fact stores like Lane Bryant have to specially make smaller clothes for the models. Also the mannequins in the store are rather small, so they have to use the smallest size (14) and then pin them tight in the back. Does this seem weird to anyone else??

    ALSO, I am apparently the only plus-size woman (I am a size 22) who hates Lane Bryant’s new jeans (other than the new sizing numbers, which everyone despises because that’s just stupid). They have three styles, which are supposed to be super flattering on “every figure” but they look like SHIT on me. No matter what style I tried on, they are either too baggy or create camel-toe. GROSS. I have absolutely zero pairs of jeans right now, literally. I wear skirts *all* the time. ::sigh::

  5. I collect vintage knitting patterns. The standard size is a 34″ bust. Occasionally there is one labelled “for the matron” with a 38″ bust. Cracks me up every time – I’m a “matron” size

  6. Hi Shauna, long time reader-1st time commenter! Thanks for the Red Tulip link. I didn’t realise RT were a Cadburys label. I had been wondering what they did for the rest of the year! However, Easter to me as a Sydney girl is a Bertie Beetle show bag. (and maybe a Twisties one)

    Anyway Shauna, thanks for all the great hints and info over the years: The Ennell Sports bras me which allowed me to run for the first time in 35 years with Sean O’Malley, Green & Black Chocolate and most importantly gym empowerment and more. I would not have discovered any of these without you. I’m grateful to you forever. Truely!

  7. @ janelle: I totally forgot about the easter show this year, and the good old $1 bertie beetle bag…
    the joys at being overseas i guess…

    mmm Red Tulip bunnies, it used to make it special cause they’s only come out once a year, and everyone knows that bunnies tastes better than a block of chocolate!

  8. i’ve noticed over a certain size clothes get a bit tenty and flamboyantly coloured or sparkly here and from shops cost an arm and a leg … seriously, 40 euros for a creased tent top? no thanks! tis why i shop online… or in shops like additionelle while on holiday in canada, they have some quite flattering stuff for decent prices 🙂

    happy easter luv!

  9. Re: VerseFameBeauty
    I totally agree with you about LB! I bought some jeans from there just last week because I had no other choice and at the store, the jeans were tight and looked okay. Then after wearing them for about an hour the next day, they were literally falling off! Plus, they didn’t fit my figure in a flattering way anymore. And you are so right about the mannequin thing, sure the tops look good when they are pulled back on a figure that doesn’t have rolls.

    And I HATE the styles for plus-sized ladies. HATE. I cringe every time I see a high waisted or halter top bust at the store. Hello! I have boobs and a stomach, the only thing those tops do is make me look pregnant. Seriously.

  10. That outsize frock doesn’t look too bad actually – at least it has a waist!

    That 40’s look is in this season – the styles at the back of the Bravissimo catalogue were that cinched in waist style…

    Personally I like the ‘prom dress’ look but they are all too short on the high street. Need something knee length or just below!

  11. Whenever I went into Evans I used to come back out again in tears because I hated the cottons and linens they used to make everything (nightmare to iron, yet still creased to hell within minutes of donning) – then cried even more when first Evans and then every other FatChick outlet/department in town followed suit. Which is when I was reduced to buying from an online catalogue (SimplyBe) – and wished I’d found it sooner because their clothes were something I actually wanted to wear! (They’re still sending me catalogues and emails now complete with special offers to entice me back as I haven’t shopped with them for a while – hell, I don’t shop with them because I don;t need to anymore!)

    And yep, I totally agree with Ann (first comment) – the best thing about losing weight is being able to buy regular fashions in regular normal-size-person boutiques, I can’t get enough of it!

  12. What are salespeople DOING making personal comments to their customers? Poor Katy.

    I believe I own a couple of dresses suspiciously similar to the charmingly-colourful number (but without such big shoulders). As Sandra says… they do give you a waist.

    The lady’s hat looks a bit small for her, though.

  13. I’ve gotten used to living in Los Angeles. Here, with so many bigger-hipped and buxom Hispanic and African-American girls around, it’s so easy to find wonderful clothes in my size.

    When I went home to Melbourne for Christmas I was horrified by the frumpiness…nay, the downright FUCKAWFULness of the clothes I was able to find in the various stors I visited.

    I near on wept when I realised my choices of Christmas dress were Frumpy, Polyester, or Nanna. NOTHING to be found in flirty/sexy, cotton or young. Then I remembered I’d be going home in a few weeks and breathed a sigh of relief, but oh my god! Even the expensive fat lady stores that used to have great stuff are now all blech.

  14. What suprises me the most about the ‘trendier’ City Chic label for plus sizes is that most of the clothes are sleeveless or skimpy halterneck tops which require strapless bras. How many size 24 women do u know that can get away wearing a strapless bra? I still don’t think they’ve got it completely right. Happy Easter Shauna 🙂

  15. *spits out coffee onto screen*

    Holy crap on a stick!

    This makes me want to run over to Torrid and hug all the employees!

    Good grief, those poor women! And all the while in that era, they were staying at home with the kids, barefoot and pregnant and expanding their waistlines rather than their horizons. So, not only did they have wretched clothing to choose from if they should dare gain a few pounds, but their lifestyles made it even harder to maintain their weight.

    All hail the feminist movement!

  16. Since I´m now at the maintenance phase and actually pretty skinny I don´t have any problems clothes shopping — but thank God! because I live in Argentina where most clothes shops stock only three sizes, 1, 2 & 3. At 50kg and 160cm (around 110lb and 5.3 for you Imperial people) I still sometimes need a size 2 or even a 3. By Argentine standards I am a little chubby and occasionally get called “Gorda”, in English “Fatty” (a common nickname here, where they don´t mince their words). How the hell do Argentine women of the size I used to be back in the UK ever survive and where do they shop?

  17. re: Michelle

    YES!! THEY STRETCH! WTF is up with that?? They FALL OFF. I mistakenly wore them for a day walking around NYC – thank God for my long coat, because the !@#$ jeans almost fell to my knees once!! My friend I was with was laughing his @$$ off that I had to stop every block to hitch up my pants!

  18. I hated LB. Have a secret thrill any time I walk by that store and know I don’t have to shop there any more. It’s a real shame the clothing industry still doesn’t get it with plus sized girls. I doubt they ever will.

  19. Hmm. I remember crying in grade 11 because I couldn’t fit into a size 12 anymore. I was devastated. And fat clothes didn’t exist then. I have no idea what I wore for the next few years. Scraps of clothing held together by duct tape or something? Anyways – Thank God in about 2002, Penningtons opened up in Canada… followed shortly by a supposed “trendier” one (who’s name escapes me but it’s the same company). Penningtons is great for casual business clothes though they do tend to go through horrible patterned phases which drive me nuts. I just don’t buy those clothes. But – for the basics, they’re good. Also are good for fat teens ’cause they do have about 10 different types of jeans which are “trendy”. However, they do have two different brands — MXM which is supposed to be the trendier stuff, that seems to have issues with sizing. I’m an 18-20 for most of their clothes but for the MXM I’m at least a 24, maybe a 26 which isn’t good for the ego. Was less than thrilled last time. However, I do manage to find enough clothes there that are okay, that I don’t “mind’ wearing. However, I’m beginning to find my “vain” self again and use that as a motivation to lose weight. Uh huh, I’m vain and it’s okay! 😀

  20. I dunno…I think, at least in America, plus-size fashions can still either be described as Matronly or Slutty. There never seems to be a middle ground between the two, so unless you enjoy tent shirts and stirrups or the alternative of showing off your backfat rolls in obscenely lowcut tanktops and shrugs that NO ONE should wear, you’re kind of out of luck.

    My main problem with plus-size clothing, as a ShortFat, is that fashion designers may be keeping their stiff upper lip and designing for the Zaftig woman, but they still don’t believe it’s possible to be fat AND under 5’8″, so I usually end up looking like a little kid playing dressup in her plus-size mother’s clothing. I know I could get stuff tailored, but it’s the principle of the thing, and it’s also good motivation to keep striving for bodyweight normalcy.

  21. @ Erin: It’s funny that you say that, because being 5’9 I’ve always said the exact opposite thing about plus-sized designers.
    I always thought that they assumed that if you’re a size 20, then you must also be 4’10. Another thing that they seem to stereotype is that, if you’re past a size 16, you must also have impossibly ginormous boobs.

    My clothes shopping inner-dialogue is always stuff like, “This shirt is so cute, and apparently it would be even cuter if I were an F cup…” or “OH LOOK! What a great pair of…um…flood pants. Shit.”

    To put things in perspective, however, we could have been those poor women having to wear “brightly coloured screen print effect Rayon Crepe in various shades”. Yeesh. (*hugs Torrid charge card*)

  22. Thanks for the linky love, Shauna. By way of postscript: last night I took off the LB jeans I bought without unzipping them, and not because I had miraculously lost a stone since Tuesday, either. I am NEVER going into one of their shops again. The bastards.

  23. Red: Funny, because *I* think much of the plus-sized clothing *doesn’t* allow for large boobs… then again, I’m a 40JJ so maybe I’m expecting too much. 😛

  24. Shauna you should see the choice of Easter Bunnies now.

    I walked into Kmart and there would have been at least 10 different types. Way too many to choose from.

    I ended up just buying a 20 pack of plain hollow eggs in a carton and shoving them in the freezer (the only way to eat easter eggs!!)

  25. Plus sized shopping was a NIGHTMARE 120 pounds ago. Just because they made a shirt a few sizes larger they charged over double the price. I hated the clothes, I hated how much they cost, and I hated the change rooms. One of the best things about going from a size 24 to a size 8 is shopping!

  26. I quite like the smock look but then I’m a 12A bust and 157cm(5’3″). What is a challenge is sleeve lengths. This season they seem to cut at the most unflattering part of the arm.

    I don’t consider any clothes shop off limits, even the ones where they play loud music. What I do notice about plus size fashion in Oz is that it’s over embellished. It’s too busy. And the shop assistants often go overboard with the accessories so it becomes busy on busy. Less would be more, IMO.

  27. I’m counting the minutes until I can buy my clothes without going near a fat shop. But I’ve never had a truly awful experience in fat shops, just a disappointing choice of clothes at overinflated prices! My biggest problem with fat clothes btw is the size of armholes – sleeveless tops seem to leave my breasts (well, bra really!) somewhat overexposed – what the hell’s that about??? Surely I should be able to wear a sleeveless top without having to worry about how much bra I’m displaying?

  28. Hi Shauna, I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, lurking in the background and just thought that I;d say hi! I have to agree with Wendy above, the armhole issue is the bain of my life, what is going on there- how can anybody possibly have fat armpits?? I mean, trying on a top and finding the arm holes go down to your waist is just completely ridiculous. And don’t even get me started on Evans trousers; there’s something about their fit that ALWAYS gives me a massive spare tyre, with a huge flapping gap at the waist at the back. Once I got so pissed off I tried on a size 26 (I’m a 20) which were falling off me but still gave me a massive tyre… sigh…

  29. I know this is old but I have just returned to Scotland after a holiday back home in Perth over Easter. Red Tulip bunnies are awesome but my favourite has always been the Humpty Dumpty. Last year I got my mum to save me one from Easter for when I was back later in the year. This year I was all set to scoff my bodyweight in Humpties only to find that I couldn’t find a single one!!! It’s just not Easter without Humpty Dumpty!!

  30. I’m reading through your archives (and loving every post, by the way!), and I decided to click on the link to Monsoon, only to discover that the model all over their website right now is my sister’s best friend from high school!
    Too weird not to comment. . .

  31. I’m reading through your archives (and loving every post, by the way!), and I decided to click on the link to Monsoon, only to discover that the model all over their website right now is my sister’s best friend from high school!
    Too weird not to comment. . .

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