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Evening Wear | Manolo for the Big Girl
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The Homecoming Dress

I’m one of those odd people who really enjoyed my fifteen-year high school reunion, in fact, it was much more enjoyable than my ten-year reunion. I sort of came into my own during those five years, going from a semi-miserable, semi-unemployed 28-year-old semi-loser, to a generally well-put-together 33-year-old career woman, one who was married to an objectively hunky guy with a respectable job.So, it’s amazing what a little success in life will do to your willingness to meet with people you only vaguely remember from homeroom English.

Plus Size Homecoming Dress

Image courtesy of DressFirst

At the ten year mark, my friend Jillian had to browbeat me into attending the dinner. She really, really wanted to go, because she had lost a ton weight since high school, like sixty pounds, and she wanted to show off to mean girls and backbiters who’d made her life miserable in 11th grade. So, I helped her pick out a homecoming dress, and I went to the reunion out of solidarity with Jillian, even though I wasn’t any thinner, and if anything probably less successful than I’d been a decade earlier. (At least in high school, I thought, I hadn’t failed to live up to my potential yet.) I ended up having more fun than I thought I would, but only because my friend Karl showed up flamboyantly gay, having come out of the closet sometime during his junior year of college. Without his catty remarks about fallen cheerleaders and beer-bellied former athletes, the evening would have been a loss.

Cut to five years later and I’m eagerly picking out a homecoming dress, thinking to myself that I HAD finally begun to live up to my potential, and that it was my turn to show off a little. And I had an unexpectedly great time. Karl was in rare form. Jillian was engaged to a good guy, and the fallen cheerleaders had metamorphed into moderately decent people, mellowed by age and the humbling effects of the wider world.

Tadashi Shoji for Evening

So okay, you know how yesterday I said I’d have a mess of Tadashi Shoji for you guys because they offer off-the-rack gowns in plus sizes that resemble the customized ones they did for Octavia Spencer?

Well it’s true, they do, EXCEPT where we are in the formalwear season –the winter party season is over and the summer party season won’t kick up until May– the pickings are a little thin on the ground at the moment. Still, I’ve managed to pluck a few lovelies suitable for bigger frames and am offering them for your delectation and delight right now.

Yeah I know, this is going to take a tall woman to pull off, but I also know I’ve got some fellow amazons who read this blog. Octavia Spencer wore a similar feathered skirt with a crisp white menswear-inspired shirt over it. I don’t think it was executed that well because she’s such a wee thing, but I can definitely see this with a tuxedo shirt worn open and tied cowgirl style at the waist to be a way to do high fashion formal without looking stuffy. There’s no elegance better than effortless elegance, and the insouciance of the shirt would make this look fantastic (and can you even imagine the enormous necklace opportunities?)


This dress is gold. It doesn’t look gold, it looks like a sort of anemic wheat bread color here, but trust me, it is a pale, dusted gold and dazzles –not in the Vegas way, don’t worry– in person. This is the most recognizable Tadashi cut and if you pop onto the site you’ll see many variations of this dress with long sleeves, cap sleeves, cocktail length and in various neutral (why? why can’t we have an emerald green or a potiron orange?) colors.

Next up are two cocktail dresses. I believe the first one with the wide scoop neck has made its appearance before on these hallowed pages, but it deserves a second chance. It’s great for pretty much all of the plus-size body shapes except those of us who have extremely broad shoulders but an itty bitty set of hips. Other than that, it doesn’t matter if you’re apple, pear, eggplant, turnip, artichoke or whatever (I made those last two up) it’s going to work like gangbusters on your body.

The lace dress overlay dress, actually reminds me of what Prada was doing a few years ago and McQueen did shortly thereafter, a sort of severe lace. It’s softened up –and was softened even more for the dress we saw on Ms Spencer yesterday which looks like a number of everyone’s favorite Kiyonna dresses— but still gives you some sophisticated edge, where most lace dresses are all about romance and sex appeal. I highly approve.

I went back and forth on this one because at first it looked like a shapeless Formal Fatty Tent. Upon closer examination,

I’ve determined this could be a godsend for those who carry their weight in their stomachs, especially high in the stomach.

The cage sleeve (you’ll have to zoom to appreciate the work) covers the bust and creates a bit of a waist in case you don’t travel with your own and the gathering on the bust looks like it’s pinned in two different directions so you get a nice cascade effect instead of Random Bunch of Material.

Oh, and for those folks who say you don’t have any place to wear them: FIND places to wear them.

Even if you live in the stickiest of sticks, there’s always opening night of the opera in the closest city, benefits…whatever. I’ve always said “Free your closet and your ass will follow” and I honestly believe it’s true. Just like you’re supposed to dress for the job you want, shop for the life you want. You’ll be amazed at what happens.

Octavia Spencer and Tadashi Shoji, Red Carpet BFFs

First the bad news: most of these lovely gowns from Tadashi Shoji were customized for Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and aren’t available off the rack. Those that are, the lace wrap dress for example, aren’t available in plus sizes. Drag, I know.


That being said, Tadashi consistently offers evening wear with the same distinctive house DNA in plus sizes and later in the week I’ll feature a handful of dresses that, like Mo’nique’s Oscar dress from last year, are available off-the-rack and in big girl sizes, so never fear.

I haven’t seen The Help because I find the whole Benevolent White Person genre tiresome and at least borderline offensive. Also I hate the smell of popcorn, so I almost never go to the movies.

Still, I am thrilled any time a comic actress actually wins an Oscar and I’m doubly thrilled that this plus-sized Southern jewel has taken a play from the Audrey Hepburn playbook and aligned herself with one designer for almost all her red carpet events.

For Hepburn it was Givenchy and for Spencer it’s Tadashi Shoji.

I’ve always thought Tadashi Shoji is doing now what Valentino did back when Mr Garavani was still the big boss; making beautiful clothes that looked beautiful on the female form. Neither Tadashi nor Valentino reinvented the wheel, but why bother? Let Gareth Pugh make a cocktail gown out of machine gun parts and walrus hair. Not all designers have to be directional, there’s nothing wrong with pretty and elegant.


There’s also nothing wrong with wearing a dress that isn’t strapless, especially because I can barely utter the phrase “strapless skin-tight mermaid gown” without putting myself in a fashion coma.

Ms Spencer is 5’2″ (which means she’s probably really about five foot nothin’) and yet keeping the color simple and the hair and makeup clean, her stylist does an admirable job making sure she doesn’t drown in a sea of evening gown. Usually.


(a rare misstep, but barely. It’s just a bit too much dress and hair for the petite Alabaman, though I love the color)

I also love that she’s wearing sleeves so stylishly.

Too often you see a shrug or a wrap plopped on top of an outfit and it just screams “Hi, I don’t want to show my arm fat” but with Tadashi, the sleeve is proportioned so precisely to the waist (because the right sleeve length can emphasize or minimize your waist/bust/hips in very exciting ways if you bother to pay attention to it) that you don’t even think of the Fat Arm Shame.

What do you think of Octavia Spencer’s outfits? If just one could hang in your closet, what would it be?

Five Great: Products for a Party Polished Neutral Lip Under $10

Fashion, like every curse, is cyclical, and makeup is no exception. We’ve been having a serious smudgy-eyes, slap of lipgloss moment for a little long while now. That’s great, but as the winter party season is getting into full swing, I’ve noticed the fine art of the polished neutral lip has eluded many, many women who really ought to know better and it’s leaving otherwise perfect party looks a bit haphazard and undone. Have we forgotten how to do an evening neutral?

A nude or neutral lip takes just as much effort as a bright. It’s the colors, not the technique, that changes. Here are the five products I use for my evening-appropriate neutral lip.


N.Y.C. Automatic Lip Pencil in Naughty Nude

I think I’ve already sung the praises of N.Y.C.’s Big Apple cream blush stick as a total game changer and the only blush I’ll ever love, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when this historically inexpensive drugstore brand produced what is essentially a duplicate of Chanel’s “Roux” lipliner with all the payoff at one-tenth of the price.

Naughty Nude is a warm toasted brown, a little darker than you might think you’d want for a neutral lip, but it translates to depth and richness, not darkness once you put it on.

I know it’s been the fashion to line your lips and then fill in with a pencil, but for this application I truly just line the outside and then fill in only the corners of my lips, smudging inward to create a more three-dimensional pout. This is especially handy if you’ve got flat or large lips like your pal Plummy. A bit of depth helps them from visually taking over your (my) face.


Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Rosy Nude

Is it just me, or has Revlon really been bringing their A game to the lip color scene recently?

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I’ve worn straight outta-the-tube lipstick on a regular basis. Probably not since Chanel reformulated my beloved “Energy” but Revlon might just change that.

Rosy Nude reminds me of nothing so much as the sort of lipstick models wear in commercials where they’re not supposed to be wearing any makeup and of course they just happen to look fresh and dewy and flawless because when you’re a model, you just roll out of bed looking camera ready (I, on the other hand, look like a tearful rhinoceros doing her best Winston Churchill impersonation…in a fright wig).

I also appreciate it’s fragrance-free.

It’s not that I really ever minded a little scent in my lipstick, and I know folks of a certain generation love the smell of old school lipstick, explaining the success of the pretty but surprisingly proletarian “Lipstick Rose” scent for Frederic Malle, but it’s nice to be able to pick a lipcolor without worrying whether it’s going to affect your sense of smell, taste or bother anyone you might be smooching.

Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Soft Nude

Don’t trust the Amazon image, which is much more lavender than the actual product. I’ve posted the image with the closest color reproduction I could find.

Muchas gracias to the original photographer.

On me, Soft Nude is considerably paler than my natural lip color, so it’s not a shade I’d wear all over unless I was going for a very nude lip, like this Edie Sedgwick look from the always brilliant Samantha Chapman (tutorial here). Actually, I don’t think Sam is even using a lipcolor at all here. If I remember correctly I think she used concealer on her lips. You could do that, of course, but a pale nude is much more wearable.

What I use it for is as a lip highlighter.

For my evening look, I line my lips with Naughty Nude, filling in the outer corners a bit as I’d mentioned, then I apply Rosy Nude all over the lip.

The Soft Nude goes on the middle of the upper and bottom lips in the center half to bring the center of my lips visually forward, a trick Brigitte Bardot used to great effect, enhancing her already perfect pout.

If you’re a perfectionist you could blend it with a lip brush, but I’m not so I either buff it with my ring finger or make a few gentle kissyfaces.

Next comes the lipgloss.

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Perfect Peony

Again, the Amazon image on my screen is too blue like it seems to be with all the Revlon images, but it really is a perfect neutral peony.

I apply this in a thin layer all over the lip when I know I’m going to be eating or drinking, or if touch-ups won’t be practical, it’s sheer enough to let the other colors play through but adds longevity to the look.

Admittedly it dries a little sticky, so I wouldn’t wear it without a slicker, more moisturizing gloss on top.

The color is amazing, doesn’t peel or kiss off, but for me this is not a standalone product. It’s great as part of this look an I’d wear it for a regular day look topped with (lots) of hydrating lip gloss, but if you’re looking for one lippie to toss in your bag and be done with it, you’ve got better bets elsewhere.

Revlon Colorburst Lipgloss in Rosegold

Now THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!

I swear this is a spot-on dupe of MAC’s Lychee Luxe Lipglass and just about the prettiest gloss I’ve come across in a month of ice cream sundaes. It’s shimmery without being glittery, shiny without being goopy and incredibly easy to wear.

The shape of the sponge applicator is new and takes some getting used to for those of us used to the traditional doe foot, but I like it and gives excellent one-pass coverage.

For my evening look I just top everything off with a slick of this gloss but if I wanted to do a low-key everyday neutral, I could easily see myself wearing the Rosegold over the Rosy Nude without thinking twice.

Do you have favorite products for a neutral evening lip? Requests for other product recommendations or reviews? Put it in the comments and have a fantastic weekend!

Five Great: Little Black Dresses for Cocktails and Beyond

Happy Gray Friday everyone!

No, that’s not some newly invented consumer holiday, it’s just all rainy outside and my dog is giving me Meaningful Looks whenever I try to encourage him to leave the cozy confines of his crinoline to go outside and do what needs to be done. No, I’m not sure why he sleeps cuddled up on a crinoline. Several months ago he started using one of my old, bizarrely dead wasp-filled (how?! HOW did that happen??) petticoats as a bed. I don’t know why.

Maybe he’s the reincarnated spirit of Christian Dior, maybe he’s just a weird dog. Either way, I’m not getting that crinoline back and I suspect I’m going to find a puddle somewhere.

Speaking of crinolines, the winter party season is well upon us and although I don’t subscribe to the theory that every woman must must MUST have a little black dress, there’s no denying they come in handy especially if you don’t have the dough to drop on several high-end pieces.

Accessories make the dress when you’re talking basic black. Take, for example this Tadashi Shoji asymmetrical cocktail dress.
First of all, I love it because it has SLEEVES and hits just below the knee, which means it’s appropriate for all but the most conservative of occasions.

For a holiday party, I’d pin on something like this fabulous Judith Jack snowflake brooch just where the ruching gathers over the hip and toss on some sparkly earrings.

Then when spring rolls around, replace the brooch with a pastel silk flower –I think we’re past the super-saturation of the early Sex and The City days– and coordinating shoes, maybe even sheer shortie gloves in the spring color of your choice if you’re adventurous, and you’re good to go through May.

Of course, you can go with something that’s already adorned, like this
Kay Unger dress with an oversize asymmetrical collar. The right accessories will take this through Easter too, and if you’re REALLY hippy –more eggplant than pear– this is an answer from heaven to balance out your figure.


It will also work gangbusters if you’re straight up-and-down and tall (short and topheavy, you’re up next). Plus, it’s a slightly more interesting variation on the asymmetrical thing that’s been around and shows no sign of slowing.

I know what you’re thinking. No way this
David Meister draped sequined dress
is going to work on a big girl, but you couldn’t, in the words of the dope (in both senses) Kanye West, get much wronger.

I know, I was surprised too.

This is an absolute no-brainer for apples and the topheavy among us. Just toss on a pair of substantial, not spindle-thin, heels to anchor the look and be prepared to devastate. However, it works surprisingly well for the hourglassed too, even if you’ve got a bit –maybe not a TON– more sand in the bottom.

I tried on something similar to this a few seasons ago, not expecting much and I was shocked at how well it worked on my frame. It’s glitzy, it’s young without being reminiscent of mutton incognito, and it’s got just enough Bianca Jagger to keep it capital F fashion without being self-consciously hip.
Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more grown up but still  visually compelling, there’s this Tadashi Shoji cap sleeve number.

I’ll be honest, I debated putting this in because of my well-known hatred of all things cap sleeved. Then I thought about how cute this would look with one of my vibrant silk rebozos, Frida-style:

Or paired with a luscious emerald cashmere cardigan under a skinny little belt for that “Oh, yes, I always look this chic. See, I just popped this little sweater on in case I’d get cold. You mean some people have to TRY to look this fabulous? How interesting!”

And finally, the sleeper hit: David Meister’s 3/4 sleeve asymmetrical dress no sequins, no lace, no ornamentation, just a well-designed black knit dress that will look great on pretty much everyone, all the time.

Honestly, this is the dress I’d be most likely to select for my own closet because I could wear it to a hundred different parties a hundred different ways. It’s the perfect backdrop to not only a set of bangin’ curves, but also those showpiece jewels and traffic-stopping shoes. Bib necklaces, hair ornaments, ridiculously over-the top shoes, gloves, handbags…with the exception of my sneakers and cowboy boots, I’m having a hard time imagining a single accessory that wouldn’t work with this dress.

Nope. Can’t do it.

Stay tuned next week and through the rest of December for more of the Five Great series. Now while you’re off shopping, I’m going to find a puddle.