Ask Allie: Colorful Cusp Sized WorkwearCorporate Fashion Fashion Advice Plus Size Fashion shopping tips
I have lost weight recently and now I am CRAVING color. I am interested in finding some beautiful, bright, jewel-toned pieces to wear mainly for work. I like a bit of structure but having had a personally-dark winter, I just need color. Tops, dresses, and suits. Now that I can shop more on the non-plus size spectrum, I'm at a loss where to look. I'd prefer NOT to break my bank account; I hope you can point me in the right direction.
I can tell by your email that you’re feeling great and want your wardrobe to properly represent this positive outlook. I completely support this, and after some gloomy winter months there’s nothing better than looking to spring and summer with some color!
This time of year isn’t the best for shopping unless you’re trying to score some major discount deals. Retailers are trying to thin their stock for inventory and make room for spring collections. Don’t be discouraged if you hit the mall and only find racks of gray, black, and random sale orphans. New collections should be in stock by March. However that doesn’t mean you can't find some beautiful pieces that will add color to your wardrobe, a pep in your step, and be appropriate for the office. My favorite places to shop online for colorful workwear fashion, and the pieces that caught my eye:
Oh gosh Alison, Nordstrom AGAIN??? Yep, I’m a Nordstrom megafan, and have been since my apparel days a decade ago. Their service is amazing, their buyers brilliant, and they are a surprisingly reasonably priced retailer. Nordstrom has some great in-house brands like Caslon and Halogen that are easy on the wallet, not too trendy, and always have a variety of Crayola hues available. A few of the pieces from these two brands that caught my eye:
- Halogen Zip Back Knit Pencil Skirt. Pink Caliente is a gorgeous color for now as well as come spring and summer. Pair with gray, black, olive, burgundy, and navy now and come spring liven things up by wearing it with red, turquoise, and coral. I’ve had a couple of Halogen’s pencil skirts and they are well made, a nice fabric that doesn’t show every lump and bump, and wear nicely. Also available in black and in regular and petite sizes up to 16 (if between sizes I recommend size down), the back zipper is a fun touch that isn’t so trendy it will be passé by 2016. $58.00
- Halogen Ottoman Rib Cap Sleeve Sheath Dress. The Teal Peacock shade available in this dress is one that will make a statement without being too loud for the office. The doubleknit fabric will hold things in without being constricting and also give a more professional look to a fitted frock. Winterize it with black tights and either a black blazer over it or a black turtleneck underneath. Pair with a colorful cardigan in red, orchid, berry, or even a darker teal and nude pumps when the temps warm, and come summer this dress is begging for a colorful statement necklace and wedge sandals. Also available in black, this dress comes in regular and petite sizes up to XL and plus sizes up to 24W. $98.00
- Halogen V-neck Cashmere Sweater. Cashmere is often passed over because it seems too expensive, but with Halogen being a reasonably priced brand and their cashmere on sale, now’s the time to get a few classic sweaters in cheery hues to wear now until the warmer days of late spring. Available in regular, petite, and plus sizes, there’s still a ton a smashing shades available in every size. This is a piece you can dress up with a pencil skirt or wear on weekends with jeans. If between sizes, size up for a more classic fit. $58.90
- Halogen ‘Taylor’ Skinny Ankle Pants. The ‘Taylor’ collection from Halogen has been available for a couple years, meaning you can buy pants this season, a blazer next season, a skirt the following month and they should all coordinate nicely. The quality is nice for a more casual suit or for workplace separates; these ankle pants in Blue Mazarine are a fantastic way to jazz up a closet full of neutrals. Pair with a black or teal turtleneck for a colorful twist on an Audrey Hepburn-like outfit, go professional with a blazer, blouse, and pumps, or do some work-friendly monoblocking with a teal merino or cashmere sweater and a pair of turquoise or navy suede flats. Come spring, these pants will easily transition and look great with softer shades like aquamarine, mint, and chambray. In regular and petite sizes up to 16, also available in white and black. $69.00
- Caslon Cashmere Tunic. ‘Tis the season to purchase cashmere! The classic shape of this tunic and its flattering neckline will make it a wardrobe favorite. This is a great Casual Friday pick; pair with slim pants and pointed toe flats, or dark wash stretch denim and your favorite tall boots. Regular and petite sizes up to XL available. $76.80 (also check out the similarly cut wool and cashmere tunic from the same brand, a bit cheaper and different colors available)
That’s not to say the only colorful budget-friendly brands at Nordstrom are these two, far from it! It’s just that when you’re cusp-sized it’s sometimes better with this retailer to search their site by type of garment (skirt, dress, tops), and then narrow down by your size to get a better feel for what is currently available. I can also recommend the brands MICHAEL Michael Kors, Karen Kane, and Vince Camuto as brands that consistently use great colors and offer cusp sizes and are often on sale. I didn’t feature specific pieces because their sizes were more limited for color, but you may be able to find a real gem at a great price this time of year.
Eloquii is known as a plus-size retailer, but as a cusp-sized woman I have found many pieces there (especially dresses and tops) that fit me nicely. Their prices are great, their style is on trend without making you a fashion victim by next season, and if you sign up for their emails you’re notified when they have fantastic sales (at the time of writing this post, the entire site was 40% off and they promo code was offered on the home screen). All this plus they have not just customer reviews but customers load pictures of themselves wearing the pieces to get a true feeling for how the piece may look on you. They always have a lot of great color, some of the pieces I liked best:
- Brandi Sheath Dress. Holy flattering seaming, Batman! This is a true desk to drinks dress; wear to the office with a blazer or cardigan, then ditch it and add some higher heels for an evening out. While it comes in navy and black, the green is a gorgeous color that will look great year round. $88.00
- Leather Sleeve Cardigan. Bold color and an edgy yet office-appropriate detail? Swoon. This cobalt cardigan would look great with a black and white striped tee, over a more basic black dress, or with a print incorporating both colors in the sweater. $88.00
- Empire Flare Top. Another piece with flattering seaming, this top is made to highlight your assets while still being conservative enough for the office. The three-quarter sleeves makes it a piece that can easily be worn through spring and come fall and the cut would look great with skirts and trousers. Available in three bold hues. $48.00
- Studio Faux Leather Skirt. Not every color has to yell, some make quite a statement with just a whisper. This pencil skirts comes in basic black but the two pastel hues are the ones that impress. Pair this peachy shade with a bolder color for a look that is more elegant; I’d love it with neutrals like gray and taupe but it would also look amazing with darker shades of pink, Pantone’s Color of the Year and other shades of dark red, and dark greens from olive to hunter to peacock. $88.00
- Kady Fit Ankle Pant. Eloquii is one of the few brands out there that offers short, regular, and long lengths to plus sized fashionistas. These pants come in those three lengths as well as seven different colors. A classic trouser that can dress up with pumps and a blazer or be casual with a sweater or tee and flats. $78.00
- Kelly Blazer. The perfect piece to add a pop to your office wardrobe staples, this blazer has a flattering shape and a statement-making neckline. Hook it closed and wear over a dress to give the frock a new look, or wear open with a striped or printed top and trousers. $110.00
Eloquii adds new styles on a regular basis so it pays to return every so often to see what's new. Also consider following them on social media, where they're very active and are quick to answer style and fit questions!
ASOS can be pretty overwhelming at first glance, but it’s a great resource for cusp sized (and tall since you mentioned you were 5’8”) apparel at reasonable prices. Like Nordstrom, your best bet may be to choose a category like Dresses or Tall, and then narrow down by price or occasion. A few colorful pieces that I found in their new arrivals, dresses, and tall categories:
- River Island Sleeveless Vest. This chiffon layer top is so cheery and so versatile. Wear now with a blazer or cardigan and trousers; come summer pair with distressed boyfriend jeans for the weekend, or a pair of wide-leg white pants and wedges for work. Yellow is surprisingly versatile and goes with everything from neutrals (gorgeous with olive), to other bold hues like plum, teal, fuchsia, and cerulean. $49.27
- ASOS Woven Full Swing Dress. Oh this green color is divine! Right now pair with black tights and ankle boots for a mod look but come summer you can easily lighten this dress with nude pumps or even a statement shoe in yellow, pink, or blue! $47.38
- ASOS Wide Leg Trouser with Piping. A red pant is so chic and such a great way to update closet basics. Pair with a black or gray cardigan, a crisp white shirt, a Breton stripe tee, a print blouse with a hint of red. Come spring and summer, wear with a silk or rayon sleeveless shell and statement necklace. $72.01
- ASOS Tall Shift Dress in Textured Rib. A heavyweight fabric makes this great for the office, and the half sleeves makes the piece work into spring. Consider wearing with a pashmina or infinity scarf in a different bold hue for a fun winter look. $39.80
- ASOS Sleeves Swing Dress. I own this dress in black and think it’s a great price and a versatile wardrobe piece. I’ve worn as-is with a statement necklace and booties, have used skinny and wide belts with it to change up the silhouette, paired with cardigans and blazers for the office, and find it can dress up or down with a quick change of accessories. $18.95
- Oasis Ponte Jacket. Oh ponte, how I love you so! You’re stretchy and comfy yet tightly woven and heavyweight so it’s like sweats for the office! This bold blue color is a great way to jazz up the wardrobe and would look amazing with bold hues but can also look quite smart with a mix of white and black or white and navy. $75.80
ASOS also has a lot of sales, it's smart to sign up for their emails to be aware when they take place. Their shipping and return policies are customer-friendly, making it a great online clothing retailer to try out.
And now I ask you readers for your suggestions – where do you look for work-friendly cusp-sized clothing in bright bold colors?