1. Skip the Junior’s section – but don’t take her to a “frumpy” adult store, either!
If your daughter is overweight, she may have long left the junior’s section in the dust, much to her dismay. Juniors departments and brands targeting tweens and teens usually have the cutest, most trendy clothing. Unfortunately, they’re also cut small, and generally not for figures with generous hips, butts or breasts – even when they offer “plus-size” versions of their clothes. If your daughter can’t shop in the same sections or stores as her friends, she may be angry and frustrated before you even begin.
So you may need to shop at an adult store or department – but not everything there (that fits her) is going to be age appropriate for a teen. The trick is to be selective and to stay positive. It helps to first identify pieces that she likes in the Junior styles (perhaps earmark a catalog and take it with you) and then hone in on pieces in adult departments that have similar features, patterns, or fabrics. Some stores like Target, Old Navy, Macys, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc. have pieces in adult/larger sizes that are targeted to 20-somethings. And huge applause: trendy Forever21 has a plus-line, Forever21+!
For every trendy top, dress or skirt you buy, be sure to get a collection of basic pieces she can mix & match with – jeans that flatter her figure, leggings that come all the way up (and don’t cut off her circulation), tanks/tees/cardigans in a variety of colors. If she has an adorable ruffle top in a bright color pattern that pops, no one is going to notice – or care – that she’s in XXX black leggings or size 24 jeans.
That said, some stores, such as Macys, have plus-size extensions of the junior brand. The trick may be finding these sizes in stores – don’t be afraid to shop online!
2. Have a frank discussion about fashion trends & clothing styles – before you shop.
The unfortunate reality of fashion trends and the clothing industry is that probably 60% of clothing styles and “in” fashions aren’t flattering to more than a few body types. Runway fashion is made for 5’10″ women with legs for days, size A breasts and virtually no hips! When those styles are modified for mainstream fashion – and the average teenager/20-something – little attention is paid to whether anyone above a size 12 (or with hips & breasts) can wear it. Every few seasons, curvier girls get lucky with a trend that suits them – empire waist shirts & dresses come to mind – but more often than not, what’s “hot” right now is far from universally flattering.
But that’s the fashion industry’s problem (when will they wake up!). Your daughter may not be able to sport a drop-waist dress or low-rise jeans, but she can definitely find cute clothes that flatter. Seek out the stores that carry more universal styles year-round – your best bet is stores that cater specifically to plus-size women (where empire waists are always in style!).
Bear in mind that stores that DO “size up” the trendy clothes, may have simply added inches of fabric but not taken real fit into consideration. And not everyone is curvy in the same places or proportions! So set expectations: unless you’re extremely lucky, you’ll probably have to do a lot of trying on. Finding a total lack of fit in clothes that are supposedly your size can still be extremely frustrating. Tell your daughter that clothes are sized up from a “standard” size 4 – and that there is nothing wrong with her body if they don’t fit well! Some manufacturers get it and others don’t. Blame them, so your daughter doesn’t think it’s her.
And if this fall’s fashions are a good fit for your daughter’s body type – stock up! You never know what the next few seasons of trends will bring.
3. Focus on hip accessories.
Back to school fashion isn’t just about the clothes – accessories matter, too! Try searching for a really cool backpack that she can show off in the halls. It might be in her favorite color, or have lots of bells & whistles (compartments! gadgets!).
Beyond something practical, like a backpack, accessories are a great way to dress up an outfit and build confidence. Your daughter doesn’t need to be afraid of belts, for one. The right belt, paired with an otherwise drab dress, can define your daughter’s waist and accentuate her figure. Or, if her waist is a problem area, she can wear a flash pair of earrings or a chunky necklace.
Don’t forget about hair – a fresh haircut (especially one that suits her face shape) can go a long way in boosting her self-esteem.
4. Save some budget for a good tailor.
If your daughter finds a piece of clothing that she loves… but it doesn’t quite fit, don’t be afraid to have it tailored. Why do celebrities always look amazing in their clothes? It’s not because they are thin and “perfect.” Nope! They have their clothes tailored! Bigger girls can look just as elegant, as if the clothing was made just for their body – by having it made for their body! If you find a top or dress, or even a pair of pants that could fit a little better, seek out a local tailor who can alter the clothes so they are just right. This is also a helpful tool if your daughter has lost weight/changed shape and her old clothes no longer fit. If you spent $70 on a fashion top last year – spend a little money to adjust it for a second year!
5. Start early – and try some online shopping trial & error
Did you know that a lot of stores carry additional sizes online? This includes plus sizes clothes as well as tall sizes. The tall sizes can be a great fix for a girl who wears an L, XL or up to a size 16/18. The few extra inches of fabric can make a big difference for fit, especially around the hips.
The problem with online shopping is – you can’t try any of the clothes on! To avoid an endless sequence of returns and new sizes, be prepared to order about five things for every one thing you keep. Not sure of the size? Order two sizes and return one. Take a deep breath when you see the total charge on a big order and remember, you’ll probably be returning 80% of what you ordered and getting credit back! Even though ordering online can involve delays and hassles, it can really expand the range of clothes to pick from, increasing the odds of finding pieces your daughter loves.
For recommendations of plus-size specific online retailers – see number six!
6. Introduce her to plus-size fashion sites (if she hasn’t been already)
There are more options for overweight teens than baggy sweatpants, oversized shirts and “mumus.” Fashion isn’t what it used to be – and that’s a good thing! There are clothing retailers whose specific aim is to take trends and styles and size them up – properly – for bigger girls. Lane Bryant, while considered an “adult” store, is readily accessible – it’s not hard to find a franchise location at your local mall. Look for one or two “wow” pieces that are both on-trend and teen girl appropriate. Another mall-friendly store is Torrid, which specializes in teen/youth clothing trends.
Online, it’s a real wonderland of fashion for overweight and larger girls. Not only are there stores that offer a wide variety of styles and options, there are bloggers dedicated to putting together cute outfits and telling others where to buy the pieces. Browse some of these blogs & websites with your daughter and make a shopping list. These same blogs can be great confidence boosters for her – she can see curvy, happy women who can be stylish and hip. There’s a dearth of role models on TV and in fashion magazines – but they’re all over the Internet!
Here are some great bloggers to check out:
And here are some clothing retailers:
7. Go bra shopping
You’d be amazed how a properly supporting – and fitting – bra can transform your daughter’s shape and self-esteem. Having your breasts come in is awkward enough without having to wear ugly, bulky, poorly fitting bras – as most “mainstream” stores carry for bigger girls. Did you know that 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size?
Forget Victoria’s Secret – those bras aren’t made for fully grown real women, let alone your growing, plus-size teenager. Find a specialty bra store or boutique near you, and get her fitted. Band size is actually more important than cup – with the right, properly supporting band, you can wear almost any bra style – including thin, pretty straps (ultimate teen humiliation – your cute tank top barely covers your monster bra straps).
Budget to spend at least $100-$200 on your daughter’s bra(s). Before you fall over from shock – hear me out: good bras are pricier, but worth it! This garment will provide the base for everything your daughter wears – and a high-quality bra can smooth back fat, create a waist where there wasn’t one, and improve posture. Most of all, your daughter will feel pretty in her non-frumpy, actually-fitting bra. And that’s priceless!
Recommended: Intimacy Bra Boutique
For more on plus-size shopping for tween and teen girls, see:
Back to School with fitsmi Style (written for teen girls)
The Curvy Girl’s Guide to BRAS and PANTIES (written for teen girls)
Photo by Symic