Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

October 31, 2007

Winter clothing for the harassed college girl

Filed under: Boots,Fashion,Shoes,What Should I Wear?,You Asked For It — Francesca @ 11:56 am

Our internet friend Katie writes:

Dear Francesca,

First, I love your blog. You’re alway so superfantastic it makes me squeal in a totally non-fangirlish sort of way.

Unfortunately, I need your help.

I’m a big girl who’s a first-year college student at a school in New York, and it’s a fifteen-minute to half-hour walk from the residence halls to the academic side of campus, depending where on the academic side you’re going. The library is closer, but the computer science buildings and such are on the far end of campus. Much of the walk there is on a brick walkway, and people walking on foot have to contend with people on rollerblades, bikes, and skateboards, though there will be fewer of them once it starts to snow.

But! This is my problem! I don’t want to be like the other girls on campus, content to wear frumpy sweatpants or old jeans and t-shirts, and I refuse to touch flip-flops. See, my school has a 70/30 male/female ratio, so most of the girls on campus know they don’t have to be superfantastic for male attention, and don’t want to be superfantastic for themselves.

(And no, I don’t want to be superfantastic for male attention either, I’d much rather attract female attention. I’d also like to avoid getting hit on by said males whenever possible, but that’s not an option.)

So I need clothes, dear Francesca. Clothes that can stand up to bitter New York winters. Shoes that can survive walking through a foot of snow to get to class, and heels that won’t get caught between bricks and lead to a broken ankle. Layers, so that I can be comfortable in the freezing outdoors and the chilly library; the far too warm third-floor physics department and my sweltering sixth-floor dorm room. Clothes that make me look superfantastic without looking like I’m desperate for male attention, because the most persistent here insist they’re a “cure” for lesbianism and the shyer ones just stare at my chest.

I’m right on the line between average and petite, wear a size 24 pant and a larger top (between 24 and 30 depending on cut and stretchiness of material). I’m very large-chested and can’t wear tops with thin straps or lacy shoulders because I hate showing my bra straps. I don’t mind denim, but I love soft fabrics. And I’m a poor college student paying over thirty thousand a year for school.

Can you help me?

Francesca says: Katie, the fashion gods have heard your cry, and created a store just for you:, which has lots of clothes good for layering, at reasonable prices, and with a look that is both attractive and cozy-comfy for the hard-working, fashion-conscious college girl who wishes to look feminine but unpretentious. Up to Size 32, just for Katie!

Francesca recommends the “Shop by Outfit” option for ideas of what to wear during the cold Northeast winters. Katie will enjoy the outfits under “Weekend Wear,” such as this layered look comprised of cotton bootcut jeans, a tank top, thermal hoodie, and quilted vest (dress up with a pretty necklace and earrings to bring the femininity factor up a notch):

and in the “Wear to Work” section is this very pretty and chic ensemble, sure to drive the college boys crazy in Katie’s unattainability, and turn the heads of not a few girls, too:

The outfit is comprised of machine-washable pants, a “floaty, flirty” blouse, and that adorable red quilted peacoat, which Francesca covets.

Now, for shoes. Francesca is familiar with the ill-paved cobblestone pathways, and sympathizes with the need for stylish shoes and boots which will keep one warm and not get caught in those stubborn cracks or break the bank.For days when it is very cold but not raining or snowing, Francesca recommends the Ariane by Bastien, which claim to be waterproof but Francesca never believes these things about suede:

For days of snow or rain, there is the Claire, also by Bastien (in black or dark brown) — or browse the “boots” category on this blog for Plumcake’s many suggestions for wide-calf boots.

Before it gets that cold, Katie could wear the Kira 40 by Rieker (in black or chestnut) which covers the whole foot, making the chemistry lab assistant happy, has wide heels for maneuvering the cobblestones, and are made of leather for the comfort while standing around mixing chemicals and telling off the obnoxious boys. It is a handsome shoe, rather than pretty, but is functional for Katie’s many logistical needs, and is certainly many steps up from sneakers and flip-flops:

Happy shopping and happy studying! Please let us know how your new wardrobe works out!

xoxo, Francesca


  1. If I were on the other team, I would prefer a girl who dressed nicely, too, as opposed to what I have seen (but do not know if it is standard) as the traditional lesbian costume of khakis and a flannel shirt. Shouldn’t everyone want to look superfantastic? Doesn’t everyone want to wear gorgeous clothes and shoes? Even if they are tools of the oppressive patriarchy, nice clothes are more fun than slobby ones.

    Comment by class-factotum — October 31, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  2. Oh for the love of Jehovah, she is in her first year of college!!! She is young!!! None of these outfits were superfantastic or even cute. Horrid stuff that is. Especially those shoes and boots, it does not get much frumpier than that!!! Why not Old Navy, they have great prices, cute clothes, and affordable cute shoes and boots, and the plus sizes go up to a 30!!! Torrid? They always have sales, those are just a few. Normally i like the clothes that are featured here, but I had to speak on this one.

    Comment by Misalexis — November 1, 2007 @ 12:01 am

  3. I think this outfit would be fabulous for Katie for college (I know the shoes are cheap, but they’re so cute. I saw them in the store and loved ’em!)

    Comment by kimocean — November 1, 2007 @ 3:56 am

  4. Oops, I wasn’t really done :-). I went to a college in NY that sounds much like where Katie is going so I know of the walks she speaks. I’d recommend getting some great long scarves. They’re so cozy and ad instant style and warmth.

    I also was going to recommend some cute knit/jersey dresses, cardigans and tights. Tights can be your best friend when wearing dresses in the cold and there are so many cute inexpensive knit dresses out their right now and great colored tights. As a fellow big busted gal, I like the v-necked ones. Also at Old Navy there are these:

    or this:
    (I’m loving the dark blue!)

    There are some great lounge pants there too (basically long underwear) which I bet you’ll find useful for dorm life. Layers are so important in that climate so don’t forget to get some good layering shirts. I agree with MisAlexis that Old Navy Plus is a good resource for the poor college gal but Francesca is also right that Avenue has some good stuff this year. I too love that red coat!

    Good luck Katie!

    Comment by kimocean — November 1, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  5. I would also recommend silk thermals (black, for preference – if that works with her colour palette) for light layers that insulate well, and look good on their own, if you should have to peel a couple of layers off.

    I haven’t bought anything I can remember at Old Navy, but I’ve read that their quality, and sizing, is very iffy – the clothes tend not to hold up well, and the sizing can best be described as a “suggestion.” At least at the Avenue, Katie can actually try clothes on, and assemble an outfit that suits her idea of what a freshman in college should wear. I have to say that a lot of the clothes that college kids wear strike me as being closer to what Katie has described as frumpy – rather than what MsAlexis describes as frumpy. But I leaned toward vintage and ethnic – and still do – so YMMV.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — November 1, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  6. Usually I’m on board with the fashion advice, but this time….not so much.

    Here’s my pick, courtesy of Target online, where you get free shipping when order is over $50:
    Sweater coat:
    Black boot cut jeans:
    Closed-back clogs:
    Red tote:
    Total cost of complete outfit: $ 90.46

    Comment by Girlfriend — November 3, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  7. Thanks so much everyone for your suggestions and support. Unfortunately, skirts and dresses aren’t really an option, even with tights, as they aren’t really appropriate for a lab environment, and I’ll be in lab a minimum of three days a week winter quarter. Adorable ballet flats aren’t an option either, as they’re a safety hazard when dealing with caustic chemicals–if you drop something nasty and it spills, you want your whole foot covered, not just your heel and toes. Scarves are definitely an option for when I’m not in lab, provided I take them off and keep them far, far away from all chemicals, animal matter, and flames when I’m working, handbags…are not an option, ever, as I need to lug my laptop and multiple textbooks around campus. I do appreciate the advice, even though I’m (unfortunately) looking for a comfortable, functional pair of shoes for lab that can be reasonably worn the rest of the day.

    Comment by Katie — November 4, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

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