Where to Shop for Size 16?

Hey readers, I thought you may be able to assist with this reader question:

“Allie, I know this is a huge request, but what brands/stores would you reccomend for a plus size (missy 16) women that aren't too expensive? I have a definite waist but a large stomach.

I'm just a SAHM, with dogs, so I don't need anything too fancy but I don't want to look schlumpy either.”  

This is not a huge request, for this is what I love to do (for those who don't know I have another blog – Wardrobe Oxygen where all I do is talk about style for women)! 
 
Since having Emerson I hover between a 14 and a 16.  I have a petite frame, so many plus size brands are too large for me in the shoulders, rise, length.  This makes it terribly hard to find decent clothing.  Many brands stop at 10, many brands have their size 14 and 16 just be larger versions of 8 (which means lots of gaping, bunching, sagging and overall poor fitting clothes), and petites are often TOO petite for me.
 
Stores I Frequent Because They Have Good Size 14 and 16 Clothing:
Ann Taylor.  Yes, Ann Taylor is NOT cheap, but they have ridiculous sales.  When I enter their store, I go straight to the sale section.  I have found $150 trousers for $29.99, cashmere sweaters for $40, and some of the best made tee shirts for only $9.  You can't head to an Ann Taylor sale rack expecting to have success, but every time I do visit a mall, I stop in their Ann Taylor.  You never know what you may find!
 
Another great thing about Ann Taylor is that their sizing is pretty consistent.  If you try on a size 16 dress in blue at the store but wish for it in green, you can pretty much guarantee that if you order it online it will fit.  They have a couple specific cuts of trousers in their stores, so if you know you fit great in their Signature cut, you can order it season after season online in new fabrics and slightly different leg openings.
 
The Ann Taylor Web site has a more extensive size selection than the stores (online they go up to size 18 and XXL in petite, regular and tall).  I have found that Ann Taylor stores in metropolitan areas or large malls will have more of these sizes in stock (people will return unwanted online purchases).  Also Ann Taylor is a retailer that still (usually!) has good customer service – befriend a sales associate, show that you are a serious customer, and they will be known to put things on hold in your size and call you when they are available.

By the way, Ann Taylor isn't all suits and cocktail dresses – I have found great jeans, tees, sweaters and casual knits at this store.  Nine times out of ten, what I buy at Ann Taylor is still in great shape a couple years later so I find the quality and style timeless and worth it!
 
Ann Taylor LOFT.  Ditto everything previously stated about Ann Taylor… EXCEPT that they aren't as consistent with sizing (a 16 in one pant may not fit as well in another), and I haven't found as personalized of customer service in their stores.

I used to buy a lot from LOFT but these days I find the color schemes to not quite be my personal tastes, and their styles to not be as classic/clean as I like.  However if you have a more sporty or feminine style you may have a ton of luck at LOFT.

Gap.  Gap is really wacky with their sizing, most things seem to run large.  I have size 14 Long & Leans and they end up too big by the end of the day.  Their petites are too short for me, their regulars too long, but I often find some true gems there, and they have a very extensive size range.

I like Gap because I can find basic pieces there and the quality is usually pretty decent.  Recdently I have found some nice cashmere-blend cardigans in rich colors that did well in the washing machine on the gentle cycle and then hung overnight to dry.  They always have cute knits that are more interesting than the boring tee shirt (right now they have two henley styles in stock that are cute, come in some fun colors and stripes, and look great with jeans or casual pants and a cami or tank underneath), and they are usually well made.  And like Ann Taylor, Gap often has a goldmine of a sale department.  Sometimes all you find are shell-pink colored XS tee shirts, but sometimes you will find an online return of a woman just your size and shape and end up grabbing five pieces for under $100.

Gap's Web site has even more sizes and styles, and they are always having some promotion for X percentage off or free shipping.  Sign up for their emails and you will always be in the know when they are having a reat promotion – that is always when I stock up.

Old Navy.  I have a love/hate relationship with Old Navy.  I have some things from there that I adore (yoga pants, a couple dresses, a pair of shorts) and some things I despise (pretty much anything I have ordered from their Web site over the past six months).  That being said, Old Navy has a great range of sizes (especially online), they often take popular trends and make them budget-friendly, and they use simple fabrics which means they are kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and washing machine-friendly.

Old Navy has no consistency with sizing though.  You could order 6 pairs of jeans in the same wash and size and they would all fit differently.  You could order two of the same tee shirt in the same color, size and fabric and not only would they fit differently, one may be see-through and one may feel almost spongey because the knit is so thick.  No rhyme or reason.  It is truly hit or miss.  That being said, they too often have great promotions and free shipping online so it's a great place to find cheap summer dresses, tank tops and loungewear that is fun looking and fits your size.  And once in a while, you may find quite a gem.

Caslon for Nordstrom.  Nordstrom?  That is NOT budget-friendly!  However the Caslon brand at Nordstrom is quite reasonably priced and usually from very good quality materials.  Caslon clothing comes in petites and plus sizes, and their sizing is pretty generous (I usually purchase a Large instead of an XL).  Caslon makes simple pieces in rich colors that always have some little detail that keeps them from being boring.  They also do a great job at taking current trends and making them wearable and budget-friendly. 

The Caslon line is usually found on the second floor of your local Nordstrom store, and mixed in with other brands.  I have had the best luck online because there is a more organized and extensive selection and more sizes available.  Nordstrom is now offering reviews of their products so you can often find out from other customers how an item fits or feels.

I personally keep my shopping choices as simple as my wardrobe – searching high and low in various stores in the mall only makes me exhausted and feeling fat and awkward.  I do a lot of online shopping so I can try items on with the wardrobe I already own, the proper shoes, the proper undergarments, flattering lighting.  I am less likely to buy something out of desperation or frustration, and less likely to get home with buyer's remorse. 

I do a lot of Virtual Window Shopping where I will look at an item, place it in the Web site's shopping cart and then leave it there for a couple hours or even a day or two.  I will look at my current wardrobe and stop and think – will this work with what I have?  Is this something I need?  What are the washing instructions – will it sit in my trunk for three weeks until I get to the dry cleaners? 

Once I have determined that I like it and think it will be a good purchase, I often look for the same item on other sites so I can see how it fits on differnt models.  That which looks adorable and work-appropriate on one model may look tight and club-like on another.  I also google the item because you can often find reviews on style blogs of a popular item from a store like Gap or J. Crew.

So readers, if you are a size 16, what are your favorite places to shop?  Where do you have luck?

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13 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    February 10, 2010 / 12:12 am

    Thank you all for the great tips! I’ve looked at a few online sites and feel much better about being able to find nice clothes!

    Christine

  2. February 9, 2010 / 7:38 pm

    Kiyonna – love their stuff, though it’s not cheap and sale stuff is all final sale. Their dresses are pricey, but end up being the items I go to all the time so are worth it. Tops are a little more hit-or-miss, but usually hit.

    Torrid – Juniors sizing for most items so I often have to go up a size. But their prices aren’t bad, their accessories rock and they’re a great resource for trendy pieces like skinny jeans or colored tights. One or two trendy items can balance out the dowdiness of Lane Bryant.

    Nordstom – I’ll save items in my shopping bag and then check back often. Their stuff goes on sale pretty regularly and I feel they have the best dress selection.

    Macy’s – often has more options of the same stuff as Nordstrom. Plus they have Baby Phat and Michael Michael Kors and brands like that.

    Lane Bryant – LOOOVE their jewelry. Can deal with their pants, jeans and blazers. Almost always hate their tops.

    alight.com – often good for sundresses. Site itself can be really frustrating to navigate.

    Junonia – good for athletic wear. Their fit model is a size 18 so I actually have to size down as things fit differently than I’m used to. Luckily they go down to XL.

    Old Navy – quality has been going down recently, but still can find some good stuff

    Target – summer items are definitely better than winter. I have the best luck with their casual, unstructured dresses.

    Gap – their XXL tops often are waaaay too long. If you’re tall or have a long torso, that’s great but I’m only 5’5″.

    Silhouettes – only mentioning because I have never liked anything I’ve gotten from them. Save your money and move on.

  3. Madeleine
    February 9, 2010 / 10:33 am

    Hurrah for the exchange between Orig Anon and Sarah R- I had exactly the same reaction when I saw the ‘just’ in OA’s description of herself and am really delighted to see it discussed in such a positive and constructive way. Original Anon, your work is really important, and recognising that yourself is the first step in making sure that those around you recognise it too. Ok, lecture over.
    Happy day, peeps!

  4. February 7, 2010 / 4:59 am

    Try a Talbots 14 women’s petite. Since it is an unusual size, you can often find it on sale online. Their pants are high quality, long lasting. They also have a generous return policy.

  5. February 6, 2010 / 10:48 pm

    Hi Orig Anon…I’m glad you took my comment well. It came from a place where I said “I’m just” this, or “I’m just” that. I’m not “just” anything, lol!

    I also agree with the second anon that Avenue doesn’t always have the best made stuff. But for being at home with kids and dogs, a nice v-neck tee or tank from Avenue I think would be ok with a cute skirt. Presentable enough that if the UPS guys drops by, you’re not mortified! Goodness knows that has happened to me in the past.

    Also wanted to mention: my word verification is “mendiet.” LOL…I guess that’s as good a diet as any.

  6. February 6, 2010 / 4:33 am

    Talbots jeans and sportswear fit very well, and last forever.

  7. Anonymous
    February 6, 2010 / 3:55 am

    I in the past, I have been anywhere from a size 12 to a size 22 and I am currently a size 18. Here is where I have found some successes:

    LL Bean: Some of their clothes are a big frumpy, but I have found a lot of stuff there that I really like. They have a Plus section, but right now I am starting to fit into their XL misses’ selections. I buy almost all of my LL Bean clothing from the Sale section of their website. Many of their winter things are dramatically marked down after Christmas.

    Lands End: Sometimes the fit is a little tight. However, they carry tall sizes, and I am tall and have a long torso, so I really like their tall cashmere sweaters.

    Avenue: I personally think that most of their merchandise is not well made, but I have found a lot of staple pieces ($4 short sleeve shirts, camisoles, etc.) on their clearance rack. Last year I found a pair of trousers for $6 from their clearance rack. I personally think that their sweaters are mediocre, since you can find similar styled sweaters that are better made from the Double L collection at LL Bean.

  8. Anonymous
    February 6, 2010 / 2:03 am

    I’m the original Anon and thank you all for such great tips!

    Sarah R, you are absolutely correct. I know that I am doing important work being at home. As for my style, I really like dresses and skirts. Jeans are really hard to fit on me, and I don’t really find them comfortable. I do need to wear them occasionally, like when the dogs decide to play the Mud Bowl.

    I’ll definitely take a look at these stores. I’d love to wander around daily in cashmere and silk but it’s just not practical day to day. I need to learn to get better value for money.

    Thanks again!

  9. Anonymous
    February 6, 2010 / 12:17 am

    Thanks Allie, this post has been really helpful! I actually have trouble at place’s like Marshalls so I will give Anne Taylor and Loft another try. Have a great weekend!

  10. February 5, 2010 / 9:21 pm

    I’m a 14/16, but on the tall end of the spectrum, rather than petite. I do pretty well at discount stores–Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx. I’m a big fan of Jonathan Martin dresses, which they often have at those stores, and Seven7 jeans, which I find there all the time.

  11. Tina
    February 5, 2010 / 8:17 pm

    I am borderline 14 – 16 but depending on the brand style I can wear tops from a M all the way to an XXL so it depends on the style/designer and pants are usually a 14 or 16. On the cheap Dots has some really good Plus size stuff. Otherwise I do like the Gap, Target, Walmart and Kohls. I found Cathrines to have some very nice stuff, which sells size 14 and up, kind of expensive but AWESOME deals at times. Also Lane Bryant is good and they usually have a huge clearence section =)

  12. February 5, 2010 / 6:57 pm

    I’m a size 18/20!
    First of all, can I say, she’s not *just* a SAHM? That peeves me. She’s a valuable woman whether she is in the workplace, or at home with her child/ren.
    My faves: Kiyonna, bought off eBay. Mossimo, again, bought off eBay. Igigi…yes, eBay! I don’t pay retail if I can help it. But if I have to be shopping in stores, I suggest Lane Bryant, Avenue, and sometimes I luck out at Target.
    I wish I knew what her style is…is she dresses/skirts, bohemian, classic, jeans and tee shirt? Really hard to say. I am dresses/skirts with tank tops, and I looooove the tank tops I got at Target and Walmart. I’m wearing a red Walmart tank right (Go red!) with a red gypsy skirt I bought at Walmart also. Leopard flip flops courtesy of Target.

  13. February 5, 2010 / 5:58 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of New York & Company. They go up to Size 18, and I find their sizing to be very consistent, and all of their clothes fit me wonderfully! I’m a size 14 right now w/ a defined waist but a tummy like your reader who asked the question. I also shopped there when I was a size 16, and had equal luck. They have a good mix of wear-to-work and cute casual clothes!

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