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

August 22, 2008

Newsflash: Francesca is stumped!

Filed under: What Should I Wear?,You Asked For It — Francesca @ 9:47 am

Our internet friend CJ wrote:

I have read your FABULOUS post from last August aiding the law student looking for a conservative suit.  I’m in the same spot, but now Talbots has no navy suits for me!  I’d love a navy suit, in size 18/ 16W (or so), preferably with a skirt and pants option.  I do not want pinstripes!  The skirt must be long enough and the jacket short enough to be traditional.  I’d even be willing to have a peplum on the jacket or a flounce on the skirt.  However, it must not stand out.

I’m in the northwest, so I might have more options than someone looking in New York.  However, there are less stores.  In fact, I have been incredibly disappointed with Nordstrom and Macy’s- the first places I went looking.  And Lane Bryant has a jacket, but no bottoms in Navy (Why? so close!).

In response to CJ’s cry for help, Francesca looked high and low for an appropriate interview suit and discovered that CJ is not crazy, as CJ had feared, but rather she is corrrect: Finding a Navy, summer/fall interview suit in size 16/18 is not easy right now.

There are wool suits available, which Francesca may discuss in September or October, but CJ must needs to find a job now, in the August weather, and wool would Not Be Good.

Dear readers! Especially those in the superfantastic Northwest! Do you have any secret sources of interview clothing which might help CJ?

Francesca is truly good and stumped. Perhaps collectively we can help our Big Sister get a great job!


  1. A Talbot’s budget could conceivably include a tailor. There are a couple in my hood who will work from patterns and one at least who has his own (which have not changed in forty years) and then the price is dependent on fabric.

    Comment by raincoaster — August 20, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  2. lands end has a poly blend that may do the trick
    not especially fashionable
    but you can always accessorize!

    Comment by jennifer — August 22, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  3. I had this discussion in May with a sales associate at Lane Bryant, actually. She was stumped as to why they sold no summer suit sets (particularly with all the graduates who are in need of buying them during the summer months!). While that does not help CJ, perhaps an email writing campaign to these stores is in order…

    Comment by Ashe Mischief — August 22, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  4. Try this wardrober from Penney’s. It’s not The Greatest Suit You’ll Ever Own but it’ll get the job done and is available in pretty much every permutation imaginable. Pair it with an Hermès scarf and you’re good to go. Good luck!

    JC Penney's 4 piece wardrober

    Comment by Plumcake — August 22, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  5. I am a young professional, although not a big girl, and have a navy wool gaberdine suit from Land’s End that I have been very happy with. The pants are a little high-rise for my taste although I purchased the slimmer leg which I thought was a younger look, and the pencil skirt is really cute accessorized with a skinny lime green belt. Although a little warm with the jacket on for this time of year, a stretch wool gaberdine is a nice year-round suit that you will get lots of use out of. They also have a very good return policy in case it doesn’t work out. Now if I could find some nice navy dress shoes to match that were also age-appropriate.

    Comment by irrational exuberance — August 22, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  6. I recommend Ann Taylor – though the largest size they go up to is 18, that seems to cover this reader. They often have skirt/pants options.
    I just bought a beautiful navy suit from the Ann Taylor outlet store, which I think came in a number of siizes.

    Comment by the unfashionista — August 22, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  7. Agree with irrational exuberance – a nice mid-weight wool can be a very good year-round investment. Almost all of my suits are wool gabardine or a lightweight stretch wool, and I wear them on all but the hottest days of the year (office buildings are generally cold anyway, right?). But anyway, I personally think it makes more sense to buy one investment-grade suit that you can wear and wear and wear versus a cheapy synthetic that will be done after one season. J. Crew always has an assortment of options through size 16, and they also have tall sizes, although I do think the brand tends to run small. I recently had really good luck suit-shopping at Nordstrom’s – has CJ tried their website, as opposed to her local brick-and-mortar?

    Comment by KS — August 22, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  8. I too have been looking desperately for a suit…haven’t found what i want, but saw this in my search. It’s not the best–poly crepe rather than wool, but in a pinch it might do.

    Comment by jennifer — August 22, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  9. I have this problem constantly – I am a lawyer and a 14/16. I do try Nordstrom’s online often, which will have 2-3 suits routinely that they rotate. Right now though their suits are heavier fall suits. Also has some good pricier plus size suits. Not much selection but they go on deep sale – I got a Lafayette 148 suit for 50% off this summer and just had the pants let out a little bit at the waist. Lane Bryant quality is not great for suits I find. Bloomingdales is hit or miss but sometimes has stuff in their online department. But this is a general problem – so few good suits for larger women! My big piece of advice is know what can be tailored. Right now I’m between a 16 and a 14 and I can buy a 14 and have the waistband let out just enough. Good luck!

    Comment by KL — August 22, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  10. Finding a basic suit isn’t an enjoyable trip when you live in the NW! I live in Seattle and I too have been hunting for that rare needle in the hay stack. Finally I had to resort to shopping on-line for what I needed. Lane Bryant has the three button jacket right now and it is the same fabric that they use in the Houston trouser. The dye lots just need to match and I have said my prayers to the retail gods that they actually will! I just ordered it a couple of days ago so we’ll see how it goes. You can venture to the Alderwood store and they may have it there… I just don’t feel like the mall this week with the BTS crowd.

    As far as Navy shoes… I have worked in retail for 25 years in the NW and I have had many conversations with all kinds of shoe buyers and manufacturers over the years. The only place where navy blue shoes sell well in the world… yes, in the world… is the PNW. We will continue to see less and less of them every year because they tell me that manufacturing them is costly and they don’t always sell so they are producing less and less. I say the manufacturers don’t pick savvy styles to create for the buyers to pass on to us but that is a whole other story. If you want a good selection of navy then your best bet is to head to Downtown Seattle because that is where you will have the best shot at finding what you need in footwear. Hit Nordstrom and Macy’s first then all the fun little shoe stores. Northgate Mall also seems to have historically had more navy shoes in the stores there… worth a check!

    Happy hunting!

    Comment by cupid42 — August 22, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  11. Try Jessica London at Their JG Hook collection is a good source of classic clothing.

    Comment by gemdiva — August 22, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  12. This is the exact suit I own in plus:

    Got it last year but appartently they still carry it. You will be pleasantly surprised by the qualify of the material. It even has a cute striped lining in the jacket!

    Comment by irrational exuberance — August 22, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  13. I work for a fairy conservative accounting firm and have to wear suits most of the year- last year I tried the Penny’s suiting option listed above and was quite happy with the final product- I have since purchased several others from them, and find the suits comfortable and easy to wear- some of them can even be laundered at home. Give them a shot- They are reasonably priced, easy to care for and comfortable.

    Comment by Kimiks — August 22, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  14. I’ve purchased 3 really nice suits at K&G Superstore (cheesetastic name) at Southcenter and Alderwood. You have to dig, but they’re there. My best score was a black crepe jacket / skirt / trouser combo for $98. Check it out, and don’t be put off by the gangsta-looking men’s suits up front.

    Comment by Virago — August 22, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

  15. I’d also look at — would definitely have the size range, but probably more separates than suits.

    Target also often has (cheap) classic suits up to size 18 — Isaac Mizrahi line in particular. Worth a look.

    Also worth considering — dress + jacket?

    Comment by Sara in Austin — August 22, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  16. When the OP said Talbot’s, has she tried Talbot’s online? I just got a nice navy silk/cotton blazer today, in a 20WP (could probably have worn the 18). I think they may still have the navy pants or skirt to match.

    Comment by Hermione — August 22, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  17. I would second the caution on shoes–don’t aim for a navy suit unless you already have interview-ready shoes that would work with a navy suit. And, in Portland at least, those shoes are harder to find than the suit. I do love a navy suit, but I have found that a well cut black suit and a crisp white shirt look sleek and professional enough for any interview–and I am speaking here from the interviewer’s perspective. A really great suit won’t hurt you, but if I don’t particularly notice your clothes, that’s because you’re blending into the law firm environment, which works just fine for an interview.

    Comment by Sheila — August 23, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  18. When I was still working and wearing suits (I refused to wear the khakis and polos that the female VP wore, as I didn’t want to look like a man-wannabe and as I have yet to find a pair of khakis that don’t make my ass look a mile wide), I got a lot of cute suits on eBay. Not sure what the stock is of basic navy, as I was looking for Chanel-esque knockoffs in pinks, but it’s worth a look. I figured out which size I was in which designer and I was off to the races.

    Comment by class-factotum — August 23, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  19. I’d suggest trying Eddie Bauer. There’s one in Pacific Place in Seattle (if that’s where inquiring reader is) and a number of other locations in the NW. Their web site is handy too ( and they carry up to a 20 in their regular sizing and 26 in their plus sizes.

    Their selection for suits is small but they’ve got a basic blazer and basic pants, their clothes tend to be fairly flattering and good quality for the price. That basic blazer and trouser in gabardine found under “business casual” link on their web site, does come in navy.

    They tend to focus on casual, outdoorsy and business casual (which covers 99.9% of social situations in the Pacific Northwest, sadly — people wear jeans to the opera) and the vaguely frumpy but if you look around, especially in their clearance section, they do have the occasional gem. If you look under clearance/dresses the sleeveless v-neck dobby dress is crazy flattering, cleavage friendly (if you’ve got it) and would also be super-cute under the right blazer

    Comment by SaraDarling — August 25, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  20. Oooh, followup on Eddie Bauer. I haven’t seen their plus sizes in the stores much — it might be online only, I’m not sure.

    Comment by SaraDarling — August 25, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  21. Hi Everyone!
    Sorry I did not post sooner. Thanks for all of your help. Sadly, I don’t fit into the 18 at Anne Taylor :( (of course, sad for them that they don’t get my money!).

    Now, I am definitely leaning to having something made, because it could be stylish and perfect, and lasting.

    As for shoes: My career services office told me to wear BLACK! Yes, Black! I’m also now considering a dark gray. I already have a black suit, but I need something different to wear to the “call backs”.

    Thanks for the lands End and JCPenney tips, I had NEVER thought of them!


    Comment by CJ — August 29, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

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