This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
I have wide feet. Scrolling through online shops looking at wide width shoes I’m disappointed and downright disgusted with the options. I expect many to be a bit frumpy, but what angers me is the perfectly lovely shoes destroyed with so many extra details. Mixed media, studs, grommets, metallic finishes, one too many strap… I could go on and on. I don’t really get it, especially since shoe trends this spring are pretty clean and simple. Why take a basic tan leather wedge sandal and add to it a snakeskin strap, a raffia covered wedge, a gold strip between the sole and the raffia, and a printed sole? More is not more. We’re already dealing with limited selection and special needs that often take the glamour from shoe styles, why make it worse for us with tacky tchotchkes?
I’m a size 14. Some brands, that’s a 12/14, some it’s a 16 petite, some it’s a 12W, some it’s XL, others it’s 0X. I straddle between regular and plus sizes so I see on a daily basis the atrocities that are offered to plus size women. Again, it seems that brands think more is more and they are so so wrong. A floral top with a lace-up neckline and a sharkbite hem and a cold shoulder and a chiffon cut-out. WHY??? We don’t need that weird hem, that fussy sleeve, those studs or sequins. What kills me is when a brand carries a similar piece in straight sizes without the doohickies, and then once they replicate it in plus sizes they add a bunch of tacky embellishments.
Just because we’re bigger doesn’t mean we lack style.
Be it our feet or our figures, size doesn’t change our taste level.
Slides and mules are hot this spring. Let’s look at some selections in standard widths that incorporate some of the footwear trends for the season:
Halogen – Statement Color | 1.State – Camel Leather with a Wood Block Heel | Sam Edelman – Wide Cross Straps and Block Heel
Topshop – Closed Toe and Bow Details | Marc Fisher – Yellow is the Color of the Season | Chinese Laundry – Metallic
Kristin Cavallari – Soft Neutral for Versatility | Vince – Nude with Modern Silhouette | Joie – Two Straps and Wood Block Heel
Now here’s selections in wide widths from the same retailer:
I made an effort to find fun and on trend styles that would be wearable to work or out for a social situation. As you can see it was tough. The pale blue suede ones top left are Sudini and very similar to the Halogen ones I featured, the tan wedges bottom center are also Sudini and similar to the Vince slides I featured, and the black ones top right are simple, clean, chic, and from David Tate. The rest… they may work with your specific personal style but they’re not terrible versatile, on trend, or even looking that much more comfortable than the straight sized styles to justify their style.
Let’s look at blazers. Whether part of a suit or a way to dress up your favorite tee, blazers are a wardrobe staple for a variety of personal style aesthetics. Let’s see what is available at my favorite department store in straight sizes incorporating popular trends and classic needs for Spring:
Vince Camuto – Statement Color | J. Crew – Gingham |Mural – Cropped in Olive
T Tahari – Office-Friendly Stretch Woven in Navy | Halogen – Collarless style in “Millennial Pink” | Caslon – Striped Knit
And then I tried to find similar concepts in plus sizes at the same retailer:
Not as awful, but still a lack of quality and professionalism in many styles. Shout out to Vince Camuto (the blue blazer) and Sejour (the navy stretch woven blazer) that are trying to make professional suiting in plus sizes and to Foxcroft (gingham blazer) who at least is trying to have some fun in blazers without going completely wackadoodle. Also I have to mention ELOQUII that has been making some beautiful suiting this season that is professional, stylish, and flattering. But in general, it’s far easier to dress as a size 4 woman in Corporate America than one who is a size 24.
Let’s not even get into black tie or Mother of the Bride fashion… I started writing a piece in response to a reader email on this subject and got so frustrated I had to take a break. A size 10 woman can find an elegant, simple, relatively timeless gown while plus size women get sequins and beading on floral jacquard that looks like something Dorothy would have rocked in the ‘80s on The Golden Girls.
Women buy this tacky crap purely because it’s either gaudy or glum. In general, we have the options of orthopedic shoes and black stretchy muumuus or tacky trend overload. Brands, you may have this horrible stereotype in your head that fat women and people with fat feet are stupid, tacky, loud, and gaudy. You may think all we want is asymmetric neutrals or super sexy pinup styles but plus size women and women with wide width feet are as varied as straight sized women. Gosh, what a novel concept!
There’s plus size women who love a preppy style aesthetic. There’s women with wide feet who want to wear a feminine kitten heel. There’s women over a size 14 who work in conservative office environments and desire suiting that doesn’t have satin lapels, peplums, or made out of the cheapest polyester in China. There’s women with bunions, high arches, and wide feet in general who would love a lightweight sandal to go with their breezy sundresses and linen pants. There’s women who need plus size clothing or wide width shoes who are over the age of 22 but under the age of 82. And I have a secret I’d like to share with you… women with bigger bodies make money and like to look good.
Stop dumbing down style for those of us who need extended sizes. Stop thinking we don't “get” style. It's not that, it's that we literally don't get style. We have to seek it out with online retailers, word of mouth, social media. We're so smart we've learned to give up on the mall for catering to our needs, we're smart enough to know that studs on a pair of sandals is so copycat Rockstuds from a couple years ago and the only reason we buy them is because there's nothing else. If brands could just start by following Coco Chanel's advice and remove one doohickey before producing several thousands of an item. These brands may be pleasantly surprised to find that items in larger sizes and widths may sell better if they're actually stylish.
Wide feet aren’t necessarily fat feet. For many of us wide widths it’s bone structure we’re born with. That’s why when women with wide feet cram their feet into prettier narrow shoes they end up with foot deformities.
You may be too small for many of the clothes in Roaman’s/Jessica London/Ellos (I think they are all under the same umbrella company), but they do have some nice plus options for basics and suiting, as well as trendy shapes like off shoulder blouses and dresses for example. I can also vouch for their denim. Even their shoes are looking more on trend lately, I’ve noticed (silver sneakers!). Their catalogue is just huge, and I did buy a dress for a black tie wedding from them as well. Yes, it was beaded, and I was a little afraid of looking like the mother of the bride, but I was assured I looked great, and the shape was so flattering and it was so easy to wear that I didn’t care. I don’t work for the company or anything like that, I just thought I’d mention them as an option for your plus size readers looking for stylish options. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3307e647825275fb76a4ca7a11df04c7113b6a00cf2f127de993cf05952fa3d3.jpg
Oh, Allie, you are literally the best. And this post is one of the reasons I have been a loyal follower for years! You GET it. Keep being a voice for so many of us. We are grateful. I am currently a 14 (have been up to 18 and the lowest 12) and I have a wide, size 9 foot. I love fashion and I am a working professional that lives in a small town. To say this has been a challenge is an understatement!
I completely agree! For shoes, though, try Maryland Square (Marylandsquare.com) Lots of styles and brands and lots of sizes, narrow through really wide, and the same price no matter what size. Good luck!
I imagine some of the cost of developing an item is getting the pattern right and setting up production. So, if the plus size market is so small (it’s not, but let’s pretend) then why doesn’t anyone focus on a portfolio of relatively timeless, well made basic pieces in good quality fabrics? I don’t need 33 options for blazers, but I’d like 3 in a variety of fabrics. Ditto for skirts and trousers. That would let a retailer figure out the pattern and fabric weight once and carry that style for 2-4 years with just minor changes to color/pattern.
Hear hear! I don’t wear plus size, but I agree, geez.
About the feet I have the opposite problem, my feet are narrow and many shoes don’t fit well, most flats fall off them,. 🙁 I have sensitive feet too, so I need something with some cush, not easy to find.
My pet peeve about clothes for women is the lack of comfort and often the poor fabric. I find a cute jersey T I like, that’s also comfy (actually very hard for me, I hate it when it’s tight under the arms) but the fabric is so thin and flimsy it’s see through, it looses it shape quickly, starts to smell…. Can’t I get a good quality fabric like in the men’s t-shirts? Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I want to show off my torso all hours of the day.
And often there are all kinds of wide necklines, open backs etc. For some summer stuff, fine. But I live in a cold climate, I actually need my clothes to keep me warm, geez.
Alison French-Tubo says
Good article, thanks. I have a lot of experience with the shoe problem since I developed severe plantar fasciitis in my 20’s almost 20 years ago and had to wear orthotics daily for 5+ years. I can go without but still have to be careful about what I wear. Amazes me how narrow the so-called comfort line Sofft is.
Oh, and blazers. I am thinking of going to a bespoke company to get the combination of style and fabric that I want. I’m willing to pay up to $200 US to get a simple but stylish navy blue light weight wool blazer. I can’t go higher than that on price but if you know where I can get what I’m looking for, please tell me. For example, has anyone tried Sumissura? If so, what was your experience with them?
I’ve talked about this before. I have such trouble with pants because although longer lengths are available in straight sizes, they are not often available in plus sizes. Why do “they” think that plus size women all have short legs? There are many of us who are tall and plus. I have long since given up on women’s jeans and buy men’s jeans because they have more variety of length and waist size. Not all tall women are size 2! C’mon folks!
Bridget Wall says
For sure. Gosh.
I have been so disappointed in wide width options for shoes, too…I mean, why is it exactly so hard?
I don’t wear plus size but I agree with the ugly doohickies. I will pick up a nice black handbag only to turn it over and see that they added some cheap looking studs on the other side. Or I will pick up a nice jacket or blazer only to find that they used really cheap looking, shiny buttons. The same can be said for shirts. They are always adding some tacky extra, which destroys the whole item. Why or why can’t they just leave things alone?
Yes yes yes! I’m an in-betweener as well, and when I need a plus size, the selection is abysmal. I just want the same clothing as the straight sizes–larger! I want classic style pants and nice jackets and a suit, for God’s sake. I am usually a plus bottom, straight size top and I can’t find a suit to save my life. I could cry I get so frustrated trying to dress like a professional. Thank you for speaking out about this.
There’s our darling Coco again…what a wonderful world this would be if she was still here to give everybody hell!-Laurel Bledsoe
Recently I watched a Canadian tv show that featured ‘curvy fashion’. It was noted that 30% of Canadian women are plus size. Yet, in a typical mall there may or may not be one store for plus size women. At best there is a small selection of plus size clothes in a department store. I am not a plus size woman, but I have friends that are, and they want to look stylish just as much as I do! If thirty percent of the market is plus size, than why is there so little quality, stylish fashion available for them?!!!
Hooray – you have again articulated something that frustrates me about ‘plus size’ fashion (let’s not even start on how I feel about the phrase itself). Add in to the equation that I’m also petite/short in stature and things become even more difficult. I think the fashion sector in Australia is starting to get it, but I still have to search far and wide and online, and try on every item to gauge actual size and fit, before I can get it right. The upside is that I’ve become far more discerning as I’ve gotten older (or perhaps less tolerant?) and will refuse or return items that aren’t up to scratch, and will pay more for an item that’s well made and beautiful (shout out here to Boden for their gorgeous Lola skirt of which I’ve bought 2 this season, including the print below – lovely prints, flattering shape AND POCKETS). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f35bcbac17c136991dcfb5a88f7493def93c68c09a8ebd120c21aed7cb73e2c8.jpg
Michelle Van Ellis says
I completely agree! I own an online “curated selection” store for cusp sizes and it is *hard* to find the stuff I want to sell. My rule is if I wouldn’t wear it, I don’t sell it. I comb through so many racks of crappy, shapeless, or over the top bedazzled clothing to find the cool tee shirts, the simple, flattering dresses, the funky vintage finds, the fun and on trend pieces that women will feel attractive, polished, cool, and at the top of their game in.
I shared this article on my twitter and on my business FB page with a “heck, yeah!” 🙂 Thanks!
And then there is the pricing. I recently found an incredibly lovely black cocktail dress by Layette 148 at Neimans. Like you I straddle between straight and plus sizes usually either a 16 (or 18 if the item has a straight silhouette) missy or a 14 in women’s sizes. The dress that caught my eye was on sale for $248 in missy and available in a wide variety of sizes, up to a 16. Since it had a straighter cut I decided to see if the dress was also available in Womens (as is often the case with that brand). It was but the price tag jumped to $798! That’s more than $500 more for the same dress in essentially the same amount of fabric. I understand that straight and plus sizes require an entirely different pattern tho most upper end brands are using a separate pattern for each individual size, and the patterns are digital now so it’s or like anyone is physically cutting the pattern or the fabrics now so this justification is quickly loosing its relevance. The price difference for the dress at Neimans was probably an oversight by someone managing the web page but it sent a strong message to me that their plus size offerings are unimportant to the company. That’s very unfortunate as they are one of the few stores that carry items that dont scream frump!
Thank you so much! I have had wide feet my whole life, regardless of my dress size. I, too am on the border between plus and straight sizes. It’s so frustrating! I do not want to dress like my grandmother on her way to the opera. Pretty shoes, PLEASE! And pretty clothes that aren’t gaudy, too. I feel like my only options in the plus sized department are “grandma” or “goth.” I am glad that at least the goth girls have more to choose from these days, thank you Ashley Nell Tipton, but what about the rest of us? I don’t want to wear edgy black stuff with studs. I’m a mom of teenagers. I want to look like the sophisticated, tasteful woman that I am. I appreciate this article so very much. Now we just need more designers to get on board. We can’t give up on this important cause: DIGNIFIED CLOTHING FOR EVERYONE!
This post is perfect! I am 70 and “still” [how offensive is that!!!] interested in what I wear and how I look—-and I’m in your size range. The choices are, to use someone else’s words, SAD! Thanks for this great and completely accurate rant.
This is so timely for me because I have spent the last week looking for a plus sized jacket.
I am tall and plus sized 1x and that seems to be an impossible combination. (When will retailers figure out that taller women are more likely to be larger sized? It’s just proportions)
I also highly prefer natural fibers for environmental as well as aesthetic reasons.
Basically I can only buy Eileen Fisher, and I do, I have a closet full of it. But when I have a big meeting or a legal proceeding, I need a suit or at least a suit-like combo of skirt and jacket. I have two jacket options right now, both Eileen fisher – one is a crosshatch gray/black cotton collarless jacket style, and one is a dark purple silk longer jacket. Even Eileen Fisher doesn’t make business formal work clothing very often.
I had some hope about a line called Basler that was sold at Neiman Marcus and Saks but I’m no longer finding plus sizes from them this spring.
Eloqii, Louben, Sejour, Talbots – tried and failed. Mostly synthetics, mostly not long enough for my tall frame. Ugh.
I loved this post and agree 100%. I need wide width shoes with arch support and other than athletic shoes…shoe emporium Nordstroms has a small, pitiful selection…so ugly and on top of that, pricey…so I am paying a lot for shoes I want to hide because I am embarrassed to be wearing them. Not to rag on Nordstroms but their plus size options are generally terrible in both styles and quality. I have not ordered from Eloqui so not sure on the quality of their clothes…it sounds like it I should give them a try. Like you, I am in between reg. and plus size depending on the brand and style. At least in clothing I feel I have more options..not so AT ALL in wide width shoes. I keep wondering If I am odd woman out needing wide width because if there was a demand, wouldn’t more companies manufacture and sell them? What do other women do? The only brand that meets my criteria of width and arch support seems to be Munro and the selection is hit and miss style wise. Dansko sometimes is ok, never great. The brand Fidji has some cute styles but is impossible to find state side…first tried them at Nordstroms and the brand’s regular width is fairly generous but now Nordstroms has a very small unattractive selection and zappos quit selling them completely. help…………………………….
I went to Nordstroms not long ago, looking for shoes. I told the sales person I wanted some dressy wide width flats to wear with dresses, and showed him some samples of what I was interested in. He brought me two pairs of straight sized shoes that I could not get my feet into, and a pair of UGGS boots – you know, those sloppy things that look like oversized bedroom slippers. I kid you not! I closed my credit account there, have not shopped there since. The claim to be the apex of excellent service. I felt so completely disrespected. Never again!
Megan Bryant says
This is SO true! Here I am a size 24 woman who wears a size 6.5 wide and I struggle SO much with finding things that fit my taste, and love of fashion. It’s not fair. And all the spangles, hems, and patterns are so frustrating. It’s true that I just like simple good quality fabrics and materials. I would like the same choices as size 4. Why is it so hard to find anything preppy for plus sizes? Classic clothing is the foundation for a good, agleless wardrobe. We need more options. We really should demand it. Thank you for bringing this to light and I hope more plus size women will speak up about what they want to see in fashion.
It’s like the industry’s finally realised we don’t want to look like walking flower gardens but somehow decided that walking disco ball is the next logical step!
Tashia Graham says
I’ve been trying to find shoes for my wedding in a wide width, and I’m definitely running into this issue! I don’t want a bedazzled grandma shoe!
Grandma doesn’t want a bedazzled grandma shoe either!
It took me quite a while to realize that a “standard” width shoe in Ireland/UK is wider than one in the US. The US standard is a B width, but over there it’s a C. This explains so much about why I can walk into a store in Ireland and buy a pair of shoes that fits me, but here I almost always have to order a special W fitting on the Internet (from a smaller, clunkier, basically uglier, selection). Grrr.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
That’s fascinating, I never knew that! And it’s not like Irish people have wide feet than Americans! Crazy!
So well said! And try finding a shoe in size 8 but in EEEEEE width. Lots of comfortable, beige shoes screaming “Wheelchair one week away”! Annoying for someone younger, with strong, healthy feet AND a sense of style. Being a plus size as well demands creativity on a high level. And patience, lots of patience. The amount of time I put into research is unbelievable, but so worth it when I finally find an item that fits as well as suit me and my personal style. But the overall feeling is still a deep misunderstanding of size from the designers and manufacturers.
I have the problem of being somewhere between petite and plus- and it’s so hard to find stuff that’s fitted correctly! I’ve given up on trying to figure out what size I actually am, because the numbers are different everywhere! Workwear especially is a nightmare and I have to get about everything tailored. I’m not sure if you were at Kate Spade when I was trying on their dresses, but the 14 was too tight across my chest but I was swimming in the bottom.
And mother of the bride dresses are terrible across the board. My mom is getting a bridesmaid dress for mine because she can’t stand the crap they’re peddling to moms.
Good on you for telling brands they need to appeal to everyone because it’s frustrating!
x0x0 Caro http://thecarolove.com/