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Secrets, Sleeping and Support

Well, it’s late in the afternoon –too much Tramadol in last night’s pasta sauce I’m afraid– I just woke up to the sad but not unexpected news that Pep Guardiola has chosen not to renew his contract as sexypants manager of futbol juggernaut Barcelona and the mango I just chopped up for breakfast tastes like onion because I gambled on “is this knife clean or dirty” and lost, so I guess now is as good a time as any to admit a deep, dark secret:

I sleep with a stuffed animal.

>Richard Parker, generally referred to simply as “Tiger” (hey, not even we creative types can be creative all the time) is a six foot-long Bengal tiger and my constant bedtime companion for close to two years.

I’ve always eyed with suspicion grown women whose beds are covered with plush bunnies, fuzzy bears and other infantilizing paraphernalia. If you are old enough to afford your own bed, you are old enough to spend the night without Mister Floppers and company. Still, when Tiger came into my life, I knew we were meant to be.

Tiger has served as my go-to body pillow since I first brought him home, adherent to his duties where many other body pillows have failed. He regally bears the indignity of being used as a knee-stabilizer on nights when sleeping on my back is a must, he plays the role of “little spoon” with silent hauteur and when I need a bit of lift to write in bed, he’s got my back, literally. Not bad for being purchased while in a 3 a.m. fugue state in the Hallmark aisle of my local Walgreen’s.

My best friend in the entire universe (“and beyond!” she’d add) is also a body pillow enthusiast. She’s a big girl too but unlike me, is naturally endowed with what is known to medical science as “spectacularly ginormous bazoongas”, so much so that, when unfettered or only slightly battened down via stretch cami, they make sleeping comfortably a serious challenge.

Last year she spoke longingly of some firm looking double-pronged pregnancy pillow she saw in either a Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Lopez movie where the lead Jennifer was in The Family Way (I don’t know, nor am I interested, in what the movie is called. Best friend though she is, she also has the singularly worst taste in movies of any person I’ve ever met, despite having a Very Impressive Degree in film something or other).

A bit of Google-Fu led me to the Leachco Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow.

It’s her birthday on Saturday (Happy Birthday, Girl!) and this was my gift. Her initial response was “Oh Girl I ruvs it!” which is always a good sign.

I don’t have one myself, but were my sleeping arrangements other than they are, I would willingly retire Tiger in exchange for something that supported my back, thighs and stomach (my gals are travel-sized so don’t really do much of anything but sit there and tell me when it’s cold).

What about you? Would you wrap yourself in a double-sided body pillow or do you prefer some other method?

From Francesca’s Inbox: Weekend Edition

Sorry Francesca was not able to post this yesterday. Happy shopping!

Liz Claiborne will give you 30% off your purchase through tomorrow with code FRIENDS. The same code gives you free shipping on orders of $50 or more.  Plus sizes here. Plus-size sale items hereFrancesca’s pick(pictured)

CJ Banks has taken an additional 50% off the price of sale items
icon, through tomorrow. Many very pretty tops now for $15, skirts now under $20, dresses now $20. Francesca herself will shop this sale. Francesca’s Pick
icon (pictured below).

Just My Size is offering Playtex bras for just $15 each, through December 22.

Nordstrom has pretty party dresses in plus sizes (Francesca says: 80% are pretty, and the other 20% are oddly dowdy!) Yes. No. Maybe. Free shipping on orders of $100 or more with code HOLIDAY09 through December 20.

Saks has new Louboutins! Francesca’s Frenzy.


Ashley Stewart has taken an


Francesca has many odds and ends bouncing around in her notes, so here she is putting them all out there at once!

1- Francesca has received many emails letting her know about the new “Faith 21” line by Forever 21 (which Francesca has already written about. She’s not that behind the times!). The problem — beyond the fact that they carry few true plus sizes– is that neither Plumcake nor Francesca is in Los Angeles, which at the moment is the only place that Faith 21 is available. So, she asks our West Coast readers: Have any of you checked out these clothes? What did you think? Do you have photos of yourself wearing them? Can you speak to their quality, or the age/style demographic who would most like it? What is the pricing like? Please write in to francesca@shoeblogs.com and I will compile your comments in a future post.

*** Update: Blogger reviews here and here.***

2- Speaking of new lines, Target has recently launched plus-size sportswear by Pure Energy. Their press release: “The Pure Energy collection features brightly colored, dip-dye and burnout tank tops, flowing floral skirts and maxi-style dresses, sophisticated nightlife pieces and a variety of in-style denim including skirts, capris and jeans . . . . [April] delivery into 300 Target stores will follow up with a larger distribution to 1,000 Target stores in June. Tops are offered in plus sizes 1-4 and pant size range from 14-24. Affordable price points starting at $16.99-$29.99.”

***Update: A review by a blogger here.***

3- Internet friend Moira wrote in about Susie Orbach’s new book, Bodies. From the Daily Beast article about it:

Who doesn’t fret about their body? Even the genetically blessed can’t escape self-scrutiny. But what Orbach is attempting to draw attention to is the fact that we don’t question where this massive discontent stems from and why the numbers are epidemic. “Millions, literally millions, struggle on a daily basis about troubled and shaming feelings about the way their bodies appear,” she writes, adding, “for an increasing number of younger people it is almost as though the body is something that is so much a trouble to them that they are wracked with anguish about it and they feel they have to transform it.”

Buy the book here.

4- Shoe lovers might be interested in the $10  Shoes Under storage container, which allows you to keep 12 pairs safely under one’s bed. (Francesca could use three).

5- If you wear shoe size 10-15, check out Barefoot Tess, where you will find, among other things, the Delman Candace sandals available in sizes 10.5-13:

(and if you wear a size smaller than 10, look at their sale page, too, as the smaller sizes tend to hang around longer. For example, the Loeffler Randall Colette is on sale in sizes 7.5-12.)

6- The website Unigo, where college students review their schools, has started a section where students blog about the fashions at their respective universities.

7- Apples! J.Jill has a nice linen blouse (weekend or office casual) perfect for our shape, available in 5 colors through size 4x. Click here to see.

8- Gemdiva writes:

In case you haven’t seen it yet, HBO has a new series that features a terriffic “Big Girl”.  She is confident, smart and totally beautiful!  Check it out. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a total celebration!

She refers to gorgeous Big Girl Jill Scott! (whose most important accomplishment, as far as Francesca is concerned, is the development of the Butterfly Bra.)

9-  Another shoe storage solution — clear boxeshere! (Good Mother’s Day gift.)

10- A tip from internet friend Leah:

So I have what is maybe an unhealthy addiction to Etsy, the online “marketplace” for handmade/vintage/crafty clothing, jewelry, and other stuff.  Normally I use it for sourcing my own materials, but today I was doing some serious procrastinating and got sucked into an Etsy vortex of cute stuff available in larger sizes …  Of course, one of the great things about Etsy is that if you see something you like and they don’t already have it in your size, you can talk with the maker and see if they would mind making it for you to your measurements.  I like. 

Happy shopping/reading/browsing!


Sales! Contests! Codes!

From Francesca’s mailbox:

Click here before September 4 to enter a contest whose winner receives a $500 gift certificate to Igigi and a personal consultation with their “style guru”! Also, check out their bold new “mod” dress. Francesca loves!

And here, Lane Bryant is having a Sweepstakes – enter to win $77,000 in cash, a trip to Las Vegas, and tickets to a show. They are also giving away a pair of jeans every day. Also, for a limited time, buy one top, get the second 50% off.

New designs are available by “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans at Nordstrom. They run up to size 24W!

There are new clearance items at Swimsuits For All in both Plus and Women’s sizes. Francesca says: Buy a swimsuit today, at markdown, for next summer in your current size. That way you will have something pretty to look forward to, and no pressure to “lose the weight by summer” as all the ladies’ magazines would have you do. Have fun in the sun exactly the way you are!

Shop “Final Sale Items” at Kiyonna, and get an additional 40% off by entering code EXTRA40 at checkout. Offer ends August 27. This dress is still available in “sizes 0x to 5x, and can be yours for $61.20, a savings of over $66! (But, please, wear it with a bra!)

Through tomorrow, get 20% off everything at Evans.

Shop at J.Jill before September 1 and enter code HBC214 at checkout to get 15% off your order!

Until August 24, buy at least $100 of items at Coldwater Creek and get $25 off by entering code WXH3908 at checkout. And did you know that Coldwater Creek has over 1,500 items in their Outlet? So many clothes, so little time.

Through August 25, get 40% off your highest-price item when you order from Woman Within and enter code WW20264. Francesca says: Beware, my petite sisters, the clothing at Woman Within run very long!

Old Navy has just introduced their Fall Plus line, which you can see Chic Peek—New Fall Collection in sizes 16-30, only at here. Lots of colorful new things!

Roaman’s has announced a “50 items at 50% off” sale. You can see those items here. Some are terrible, but some are superfantastic. It is worth a look-see.

Francesca received a press release announcing the founding of a new company which provides clothing for women who wear bra cup sizes C-DD but are otherwise of “thin or average” size (which, to them, means a waist up to 33″ and hips up to 43″). She is informing you as a courtesy to our racktastic sisters, but sincerely hopes they soon realize that many buxom customers are lusciously large everywhere.

Today and tomorrow: Everything is marked down (some items more, some items less) at Holy Clothing. If you like the Gothic or Renaissance look, this sale is your dream.

Naval Academy Reunion Dress!

To the fantastic Francesca!My mom, who is superfantastic on the inside but sometimes a little over-functional on the outside, is going with my dad to his Naval Academy class reunion dinner dance.  The dinner! The dancing! The men formerly in uniform! What is not to love? Yet she is not so excited, because she must now pick out the dress.  She is a petite 14/16 “apple with a waist” (her description) who finds that dresses are almost never large enough in the bust. She is much fun but not much into frills, and has skin that carries off bright colors and black and white equally well; usually not yellow, but she loves green.  In fact I will just attach her photographs. (one is all of our family women but she is the one with the cute butt in the middle, the other is us being very cute together even if I did forget to wear makeup that day)  She has been encouraged by my dad to spend more on a dress than she usually would, which I think she still thinks means less than $100 but he thinks is less than $200.Mostly I just want to help her feel great in the room full of the souped-up trophy wives, since I already know she is pretty foxy but she maybe does not.  I was hoping you might be able to help?? Everyone’s petite sections have vanished and the world of internet shopping is scary and without measurement references, but living in a fairly small town in the south there are not a lot of in-person options.

Thank you so much for any help/inspiration you can offer!!

Much love,




Francesca loves that Leah sent the photos, and gave us permission to post them! Indeed all the ladies of Leah’s family are beautiful and superfantastic. (And her mom indeed has the “cute butt,” if she doesn’t mind Francesca saying so.)

As soon as Leah said “green” and “petite” and “Apple,” Francesca’s thoughts turned straight to Igigi.

Yes, yes, Francesca is constantly recommending them for formal occasions. This is because the clothes are beautiful, and because, somehow, magically, even items that look like they would be ill-suited for an Apple, or for a petite girl, manage to look like they were made for just such a woman!

Francesca does not know how this works. She only knows that, as an Apple, she will sometimes try Igigi clothes under the assumption that they will probably have to be returned, and voila! They look amazing.

And their green dresses are such a gorgeous shade of emerald.

“Summer Breeze” Cocktail Dress

“Delicate Lace” Cocktail Dress with Shrug

If your mother would prefer a floor-length gown, the “Dreamy Nights” dress may come to the floor on the Petite woman, and there is the gorgeous “Enchanted Nights” dress, which can be shortened as necessary. From Sydney’s Closet, “Intoxicating” is on sale but there are no returns. It is a mock two-piece, can be shortened, and would lovely on many the Apple.

Leah should remind her mother that the well-endowed chest can be not a liability, but a great asset, one to show off!

Good luck, and please tell us how the dinner goes!


Big Girl Bares (almost) All!

A dear internet friend writes in with a conundrum:

Dear Francesca,

From pool-side in the middle of the hot summer, I ask: where might a 38DD find a cute bikini?

When I say “bikini”, I’m talking completely bare middle here, not a tankini set or skirted bottom or other (very pretty but not what I’m looking for) additions to the bikini swim basic. When I find lovely swim retailers with suits larger than a C-cup (several linked from your site), they all want to hide the middle! So now I am lost when shopping, as my experience is that I’m too large for the average store or juniors and then too small/very badly shaped for the “ladies stores.”  I’m 23, 5’8″, size 14/15, flat-bottomed Apple (so all of the attention is up top. Which I’m fine with, so no need to de-emphasize, but only to securely support.)

The only style note is that I like bright or solid colors or funky patterns in my two-piece, not so much the floral, conservative frills my mom would love. For example, I like some of the trendier swim suits that you’d find at Target in the juniors department, but their idea of an XL top seems to max out at a C-cup. (The women’s section, sadly, seems to offer little in curvy support even when the correct size, and always with the stomach covered and the bored floral pattern.) I also love shopping at Torrid (my average style tends towards the Tripp selection), but all of Torrid’s (very cute!) swimsuits persist in covering up the middle. As for shape (halter top, string set, bra-style cups, etc.) – I’d love to try them all, if only I could find a place that sells them in my size!

Thank you, and the other wonderful bloggers of Manolo for the Big Girl, for highly entertaining and useful information,


Ah, a Big Girl of confidence who will flaunt her abdomen! Francesca approves!

But, ayyyy! Francesca has been searching for bikinis that meet all of B’s criteria — 38DD, actual bikini, with secure support but no florals — and indeed it has been a frustrating endeavor!

Unless Francesca has missed something, she believes that dear B. will have to look outside of the United States for what she requires. Thankfully, Bravissimo does sell a few bikinis which meet all these criteria (and a 38DD in England is the same as an American 38DD).

See, here is an underwire plunge bikini top (matching panties sold separately; just scroll down) in the bright, solid color which  our reader prefers:

Happy summer, and remember the sunscreen!

xoxo, Francesca

Bra reminder and news

Oh, my goodness! Can you believe this blog has been going for 9 months? It feels like yesterday that Plumcake and I dove into the wonderful, wide world of plus-size clothing here at the Manolo network. And what a superfantastic trip it has been!

This means that it has been 9 months since Francesca reminded you to consider carefully whether it is time for you to replace your bras. Much can happen in 9 months! If a baby can gestate in 9 months, that is plenty of time for your bras to stretch out, sag, and gap. It is enough time for you to gain or lose a few pounds and now need a new size.

So, start shopping!

If you are racktastic and need a hard-to-find bra size, Francesca recommends that you start with BiggerBras.com and Bravissimo.

Of course there is also the Cacique line at Lane Bryant, the ONEsexy bra collection at Avenue, and the full-figure department at Frederick’s of Hollywood! Mmmm!

And now — hat tip to our internet friend Carol for bringing this to our attention — Big Singer Jill Scott has created a bra brand of her own in partnership with Ashley Stewart. The “Butterfly Bra” not only has wide, gel-filled shoulder straps but also two support bands in the back and — Francesca’s favorite feature — underwires filled with gel. No more underwires cutting into the delicate flesh of the Big Girl! Hallelujah!

Take care of those girls!


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