As a stylist and entrepreneur, I'm always at work. Even when I'm not working, I'm observing the people around me, surveying stores, and well, eavesdropping.
I was in a high-end consignment store last week. A woman's whole batch of clothing had been rejected. She marched away from the buyer and demanded to speak to a manager.
Honestly, I was ready to roll my eyes. Go read online reviews for any consignment store. The consignors complain the prices are too low. The shoppers complain that the prices are too high. Rinse and repeat. I thought her complaints would be the same as everyone else's.
But this was different. The woman asked the manager why they refused to buy any plus-size clothes. The manager said there's no market for plus-size items in their stores.
Here in the US, the average woman's size is 16-18. In a country where most women are plus-sized, there's definitely a market. It's just under-served. How did the store manager even know there's not a market? He's refused to ever buy plus size clothing!
The woman left without buying or selling anything. On her way out, she shouted "You know big girls like nice stuff too!" And she was right. So, where's a fashion-loving gal supposed to shop when she isn't straight-sized? I'll tell you.
How is plus-size defined?
We can debate all day what numbers are really plus-sizes. Some people say it's anything over a size 14. Others will say it's over an 18. There's a whole group of women who are between straight and plus-size who are woefully under-served by the entire fashion industry. I call this being "cusp" sized, because you're right on the cusp of fitting into both departments. Yet, nothing fits in either one. It sucks. For the purpose of this particular blog post, I'm only including stores that carry at least a size 20.
And, we'll be exploring stores that aren't already well-known as plus-size retailers. For example, you won't find Torrid or Lane Bryant on this list. We're focusing on department stores and boutiques that cater to chic women who wear a size 18-24. This post is for successful women who need quality work wear.
20 stores for plus size women's work Clothing
#1 A Piece Apart
While most of their wares are too bohemian for conservative offices, some of the pants and tops are work-friendly. If you're on the petite side, you can probably get away with sporting some of the dresses too. Shop here if you want quality pieces you won't see on anyone else. And, if you happen to be visiting NYC, visit their boutique.
#2 Anna Scholz
Here you'll find gorgeous dresses and fun, trendy pieces rendered in quality materials. While their aesthetic is fairly bohemian, it can work for entrepreneurs and creatives. They are an exclusively plus-size brand.
#3 ASOS Curve
Online mega-retailer ASOS serves up some reliable plus-size work wear. Things tend to veer toward the trendy, cheap side though. It works best for those under 40.
The legendary department store offers plus-size clothing from high-end designers like Marina Rinaldi and Lafayette 148. They've also got affordable options from Vince Camuto, City Chic, and Sanctuary Curve.
#5 Curve Couture
Situated on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, Curve Couture is San Diego's best plus-size retailer. They also have an amazing accessory collection. Their company motto is "real fashion in real sizes". And they only carry sizes 8 and up. But, hey, if you wear a size 2 you can get some earrings or a scarf. (See how it feels?!) Kudos to Curve Couture for their irreverence and success.
Make sure to ready the customer reviews before making a purchase at Elloquii. Their quality is hit or miss. That said, you can score some solid plus-size work pieces at reasonable prices. Most of their items are under $100.
Are you into ethical fashion? You have to try Everlane. Like a lot of plus-size retailers, Everlane has great accessory collections. Their shoes and bags are highly rated.
If you're in a business casual environment, try Loft. Their wrap dresses, tops, and knit blazers are perfectly appropriate for a modern office. Loft is a great brand for apple-shaped women and those who are larger in the middle.
For those who love designer wares, Misook has you covered. Seriously, cover yourself in Misook and you will instantly feel like the boss babe you are. It's not cheap. But neither are you.
#10 M.M. LAFLEUR
For those of you in the C-Suite, I urge you to check out M.M. LAFLEUR. This NYC based company creates high-quality pieces that are truly timeless. Explore their high-end suiting and sheath dresses. You won't be disappointed.
If you work in a creative environment, consider Modcloth for plus-size dresses and tops. Many of their offerings are appropriate for a business casual or creative atmosphere. It's great for artsy entrepreneurs.
Since it's a department store, Nordstrom carries many different plus-size brands. For nice, reasonably-priced work wear, I love Tahari and Vince Camuto in particular.
#13 Nordstrom Rack
Of course, you can also visit the Rack and score great deals on Nordstrom's plus size clothes.
Tip: If you're in San Diego, the Carmel Mountain and La Jolla/ UTC locations have the best selection of work clothing.
PinkBlush is a maternity clothing retailer that specializes in romantic and extra-girly fashion for women who wear sizes XS-3X. They make fantastic sweaters, cardigans, and dresses. Most of these can be worn in a business casual environment.
#15 Sak's Fifth Avenue
For my ladies in the C-suite (this is a code word I'm using for "rich AF", can you tell?), get your rich butt over to Sak's. Pick up a Marina Rinaldi skirt. Throw an Akris Punto blazer in your bag. Grab an Oscar De La Renta dress while you're at it. You've earned it!
#16 simply. be.
It's very similar to Eloquii. I could just copy and paste that description here. But that's lazy! Also what if you skip that one, but read this one? Like Eloquii, simply.be. offers inexpensive work wear for a woman who wears a size 20 or larger.
Tip: Check the reviews because quality can be hit or miss.
Like every other millennial mom, I clock a lot of time at Target. Even if you're not in their target demo, don't sleep on this big-box retailer. They have amazing designers working for them. For plus sizes, Target offers several lines. Ava & Viv, Prologue, and Universal Thread are my favorites.
#18 OF/ MERCER
It's Another hip, online boutique offering high-quality work wear. If you don't want to look like everyone else, check them out. They serve the woman who wears a size 14W-20W.
#19 Off Fifth
It's Sak's cheaper, sluttier sister! She lets everyone in! Jokes aside, Off Fifth is the place to score premier designer duds at a steep discount.
This UK-based fast fashion retailer serves women who wear sizes 14-34. It's great for those of you who need "cusp sizing". Again, cusp sizing is what I call it when you're straddling the line between straight and plus-size departments.
The perfect store wouldn't have plus sizes
Let me just pat myself on the back for that magnificent click-bait headline. Of course, stores should carry all the sizes from 000 to 30. But they shouldn't separate out those above a certain size and give them a weird, exclusionary title. Even Melissa McCarthy agrees with me.
If I could snap my finger and create the perfect store, I would. All of my inventory would be available in petite, straight, plus, and long.
Is that top available in petite? Yes. Does this dress come in size 22? Yes. Do those jeans come in long? Yes. Can I get this blazer in a size 20 petite? Yes. I would be saying yes to people all day long! I wouldn't separate short clothing and size 20 clothing into a special department. And every item would be available in every size.
While there are a few independent retailers who already do this, I would love to see it become a standard practice in the industry. It would certainly be the standard in my perfect store.
And, I wouldn't alter the design of a garment for clients who wear larger sizes. Have you ever noticed how a straight-size top will have nice buttons and seaming at the waist, but the "same top" in plus has cheap buttons and no shape? Yeah, my store wouldn't pull that crap.
Even online, I wouldn't make my customers who wear a size 24 click over to another page for the same dress. I'm looking at you Loft! A size 2 would be on the same drop-down menu as a size 24.
Unfortunately, my perfect store doesn't yet exist. I'm glad we're getting there. Where do you love to shop for high-end work wear? Did I leave out your favorite? Sound off in the comments!
Shop stylist-approved plus-size WORK clothes
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I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I'm a personal fashion stylist, writer, and entrepreneur in San Diego. My style blog features practical fashion advice for women everywhere. Addicted to blazers since 2004.