Someone, somewhere will be mad at me for telling you this, but I’m going to tell you anyways: When I started my career as a model, there were few sophisticated plus size clothing moments. In fact, the beauty direction at photo shoots was often “happy fat girl.” You know: the rosy-cheeks, pink-lipstick, curls-and-a-big-smile kind of look. The kind of look that when applied to a bigger woman makes her seem more palatable to those who might not be into her extra pounds.
If you’re a plus-size shopper, you know that “happy fat girl” isn’t reserved for hair and makeup choices, it’s reflected in the clothes available to us. What we’ve got on offer is often cheap, colorful, juvenile, and decidedly unsophisticated — which, really, is a reflection of what brands think of us.
Well, I am far from that. In fact, I describe my style as sharp, tailored, and menswear-inspired. But as you can imagine, finding clothes like that above a size 12 has long been a challenge. Where are the structured blazers? The wide leg pants? The classic coats? Where are the brands that want to tell plus-size women they can be sophisticated grown-ups, kick-ass bosses, or just cooler than some floral-printed muumuu?
I grew so tired of trying to find them, that I started my own brand. It’s called Henning and — surprise! — it launches today. Henning is a destination for fashion-minded, tailored pieces like double-breasted suits and classic trench coats in sizes 12 to 24. Obviously, my first piece of advice in finding chic, sharp garments is to shop at Henning, but beyond that, there are some ways I’ve learned to get a look I love.
1. Buy Menswear
I’ve been thrifting men’s designer blazers and outerwear for years. I like how commanding the strong shoulders and straighter lines make me feel. Of course, they create some fit issues, but all you need is a good tailor to make everything a-OK. A shopping tip: Always buy to fit your shoulders — that’s the one thing a tailor can’t really alter.
2. Pay Attention To "Mature" Brands Like Eileen Fisher Or Lafayette 148
For some unknown reason, plus-size shoppers are often treated like teenagers or grandmothers. But don’t knock the more mature brands! They often carry well-made staples. So even if the brand isn’t your usual vibe, they might have pieces that work with your wardrobe. Your best bet at finding things from more mature brands is to sift through a department store’s offering.
3. Try Custom From New-ish Brands
If you can’t find anything you like, consider custom. There are a handful of brands who do this to varying degrees. For example, Emily Meyer will start from scratch and Suistudio allows you to pick your own fabric.
4. Don't Forget: Accessories Can Change Your Vibe
When in doubt, wear something minimal or basic and lean into accessories that make you look more elevated. I’d say that’s clean white sneakers or strappy square-toe heels and small pieces of gold jewelry. Right now, my go-tos are Vans' classic slip-ons, Rebecca Minkoff’s Nanine sandal, and Stone and Strand’s bolt earrings.