7 Ways To Wear Patterns When You're Plus Size And Wanna Spice Up Your Workwear

As a freelance writer and small business owner, I am lucky enough that I can go to my office wearing a 2 Chainz concert t-shirt and on some days, I totally do. But many women who look like me have corporate jobs that require plus size professional wear. And while I definitely got called in by HR at one of my past corporate jobs because I wore too much "loud jewelry," I love the challenge of maintaining personal style while fitting into company dress standards.

My best friend, Kristen, snagged her first corporate job last year that actually required her to dress up to work. Kristen and I are the kind of co-dependent friends who consult each other before we make any purchase — online or in-store. So when Kristen landed this job, I was already mentally going through her closet in my head and putting together outfits. We made very few new purchases and still managed to put together a month's worth of outfits that earned her daily compliments from her new co-workers.

In the six months since Kristen started in corporate, I've realized how important it is as a plus-size woman to not get stuck in the black blazer, black pencil skirt, black sleeveless shell, and black pants rut. Mixing fun patterns with her go-to basics is one of Kristen's favorite corporate style hacks.

As a size 18 on a budget, she does a lot of her shopping at JCPenney, Old Navy, Cat's Closet and, of course, Ready to Stare for her accessories. Even though she really hates having her picture taken, I pulled the best friend card and asked Kristen to let me take her photo in seven of our favorite pattern-mixing professional looks.

1. Floral Shoes

When Kristen and I found these floral patterned flats at the thrift store for only $5.95, I knew this would be a perfect addition to the wardrobe that her co-workers are already in awe of. She built the outfit around the colors in the flats and paired it with a solid blue blazer, green gem necklace, basic black blouse and pencil skirt. I tracked down a similar pair of floral flats on ModCloth.

2. Gradient Pattern Pants

These gradient print pants are one of the few purchases Kristen made without my knowledge and when I first saw her in them, I was so impressed! The cut of the Old Navy pixie ankle pants is so perfect to wear with heels or flats and all of the fun patterns make it super easy to pair with a plain top like Kristen's go-to style from JCPenney. These pants only go up to a size 20 at Old Navy but Eloquii offers a similar style up to a size 28.

3. Cheetah Print Pencil Skirt

Kristen grabbed this skirt from indie business, Cat's Closet, that sells second-hand plus-size garments that are usually all under $20. Kristen has alerts on her phone for when Cat's Closet posts its new items because there's always only one of each item available. She paired the look with a single chain belt from my line Ready to Stare for a little gaudy, corporate realness.

4. Tropical Trousers

Kristen and I affectionately call these her "Olivia Pope pants" because they remind us of a silhouette that Kerry Washington might wear on Scandal when she's being a total boss. Kristen initially didn't see my vision with these pants when I made her try them on at JCPenney, but paired with a sleek bun and bow blouse, this look is totally chic and professional and a far cry from that suit your mom made you buy when you interviewed for your first internship in college.

5. '80s Print Peplum

I'm usually anti-peplum but this dress is another one of Kristen's second-hand finds from Cat's Closet and it's pretty much adorable on her. The simplicity of the black and white pattern pairs nicely with a fun coral colored shoe and gold chain necklace. The high-cut neckline makes it work appropriate for someone like Kristen who is bigger-chested.

6. Architecture Tank

This tank was a score from the JCPenney sale rack and the graphic pattern, which reminds me of the Chrysler building, makes a bold statement and pairs easily with black basics. Kristen wears this tank tucked into a high-waisted pencil skirt or underneath a blazer with trousers.

7. Red Polka Dot Pants

Kristen really loves the Old Navy pixie ankle pants so she has a few pairs including this red polka dot pair. The color alone stands out so the polka dot pattern is perfectly subtle. Kristen added her favorite black basic top and a layered chain bracelet from my line.

Special thanks to Kristen for being my badass model today and my best friend always.

Images: Alysse Dalessandro