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What Should I Wear? | Manolo for the Big Girl
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Interesting Styling Question

Francesca sometimes reads the blog “Single Dad/Disabled Daughter,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: it is written by a 40-something New England man whose teenage daughter is non-mobile, non-verbal, and cannot communicate in any way. (She laughs and cries, but cannot perform a repeatable action at will to represent “yes” or “no.”)

As “Pearlsky” gets older, Single Dad wants to know from his female readers how he can make his daughter look pretty and well-cared-for, without sexualizing her or crossing into creepy territory:

Should her ears be pierced? Her navel? And if so, should she wear those shirts that show her midriff?

I have always wanted, and still want, Pearlsky to blend in as much as possible . . .  . Yes, I know Pearlsky will never really blend in, so maybe it is so she stands out less?

She is dark haired … do I shave her legs in the summertime when she is in shorts and swimming? Should she wear nail polish? Lipstick? (Those two are probably impractical, but still). How about mascara? If not, why do you? Being a teenager, her skin occasionally breaks out, especially in rhythm with her cycle. Should I try to minimize any acne-like activity? If so, how does that reasoning differ from mascara which would only highlight her beautiful eyes. But then, do I want to highlight anything beautiful about her? If so, why? Why not?

Francesca knows that the intelligent, stylish and friendly women here will have good pointers for this poor stymied man! Read the whole post and share your wisdom here.

P.S. Word to the wise: Single Dad really does not like it when people compliment him for being strong or doing things that they don’t think they could do in his shoes. He is also tired of “Lord bless you and Pearlsky” sentiments. FYI.

Story Follow-up

A few months ago, Francesca tried her best to help our reader Jen, who needed an olive-green bridesmaid dress for her brother’s wedding.

Francesca has received this update from the Jen!

Several months ago you responded to my request for help finding an olive green bridesmaid’s dress. You shared my pain in discovering there weren’t many choices out there in the right color. I wanted to send you a picture of what I ended up picking.

JenOlive

You’ll see that the color is not quite olive, but it’s close enough (I got prior approval from my sister-in-law, of course).  I ended up finding it at Evans online – I lived in London for a semester a few years ago, so was familiar with the UK plus-sized shopping scene.  It was labeled a prom dress.  I had it shortened and otherwise tailored and I was quite happy with the result!

Francesca says:  The Jen indeed looks lovely, and wishes the hearty congratulations on Jen’s brother’s marriage.

Halloween Ho! (Not.)

It’s that time again. Halloween, when everything comes out of the shadows — ghouls, ghosts, goblins — with narry a plus-size costume in sight that doesn’t involve bare cleavage and thighs.

Francesca does not wish to use this space to bemoan the days of yore, before Halloween became synonymous with slutty costuming. All she will say is that, in her own circles, people win more points for creativity than for T and A, and she wouldn’t be surprised if that is true for most of you, too, oh ye women of taste and class. That’s all she will say.

So, how to go about creating or buying the superfantastic costume?

Search Your Closet. You probably already have the makings of a costume. Want to be Batgirl? Pull on black pants, knee-high boots, and a close-fitting black top, and make a yellow bat to pin to your chest out of satin or even construction paper. Now all you need is a cape and an eyemask and you are done. Vamp up your makeup to complete the look.  Francesca’s best costume ever involved a fedora, wig, sunglasses and trench coat; the trench coat had a Letter O pinned to the inside, which she offered to sell to people (in yet another Sesame Street reference); watches would have worked, too.

Buy a full costume. There are modest ones to be had, if you search hard enough. Buy early because modest, plus-size costumes sell out quickly. Try One Stop PlusPlus Size Costume Super Center, Plus Size Costume Fashions, Anytime Costumes, Annie’s Costumes, Halloween Adventure (keep scrolling), and Costume Craze.

If you are Apple-shaped, look for costumes that evoke styles of the Middle Ages or Renaissance, such as this Queen Elizabeth dress or this Tavern Wench costume.

Buy Pieces of a Costume. If you cannot afford a full costume, or cannot find one that suits you, another option is to buy pieces separately to mix and match. Francesca, for example, has purchased a witch hat, wig, cape, false eyelashes — all in blue jewel tones —  and witchlike shoe covers, and will do up her makeup with lots of blue glitter. Who cares what she calls it, she loves blue.

Dorothy Ruby Slippers available at One Stop Plus and other vendors

Dorothy Ruby Slippers available at One Stop Plus and other vendors

Here, Francesca urges you to patronize those vendors who  serve the plus-size population year-round:  Torrid.com Plus Sized Halloween Costumes is selling Halloween wings, tiaras, masks, fishnets, makeup, etc. , and One Stop Plus, in addition to full costumes, has wigs, Halloween purses, etc. (Francesca loves the Coffin Clutch)

Sew Your Own or hire a seamstress. Francesca still remembers 7th grade, when Rachelle Lamberte came to our costume party dressed as a perfect replica of Disney’s Snow White, wearing a dress her mother had hand-made for her, complete with the stiff white collar behind her head and the red headband with the bow.  The costume was memorable partly because Rachelle had the exact perfect hair — not a wig, her own, real hairstyle — to go with it, and a perfect figure, and a mother who went to the trouble of making that for her, and the rest of us realized that we could never, ever compete.  Indeed, the next year Rachelle embarked on a romantic relationship with a hot 10th-grader, who delivered flowers to her at her locker once a week. In the contest of life, Rachelle Lamberte was the clear winner . . . until Adrienne Chevalier’s chest, along with Adrienne,  transferred to our school and Rachelle sort of faded into the background.

::blink blink::

Oh, I’m sorry. Francesca got carried away. Ahem. The point is, a costume sewn just for you will be memorable.

One more point:

Don’t mock existing populations of people with your costume. It is one thing to wear old-time styles such as poodle skirts or hoop skirts or tie-dyes, or to dress as aspirational professions such as astronauts, doctors, or firepeople. It is another thing to mock ethnic or religious populations. Rule of thumb: how would someone who actually has that identity feel if you walked by them on the street?

If you think it is all in good fun and Francesca should relax, take a look at this costume and imagine how you would feel if this showed up at your Halloween party. See what I mean? (Thanks, Leah G, for the link.)

Finally, an invitation:

Send us pictures of you in your Halloween costume, for us to post! Send them to Francesca@shoeblogs.com

You Asked for It

Internet friend Megan asks:

A friend of mine from high school has asked me to be in her wedding party.  I was very hesitant to say yes due to lack of funds and surplus of height/weight compared to her other bridesmaids.  She ensured me it would be all right.  I am now on a mission to find the dress to wear to fit in with the other girls.  The requirements are that the dress is short (knee height) and navy, as well as matching these:

She suggested I try this one, but I’m afraid it won’t be supportive or dressy enough.
 

Through your shopping ventures, have you come across a navy dress that fits this small price range as well as look?

Francesca says: The way to fit in with the other girls is to smile and love your friend and make it her wonderful day of specialness.

Francesca further says: Yes, she has come across this look, but alas, not at the $40 price. She tried many, many places but could not find the navy, knee-length plus-size dress nice enough for a bridesmaid! Francesca suspects that Megan was not counting on the Francesca to find a dress under the 50 dollars. However, under the $200, we can do. In fact, here are several nice dresses from the Sydney’s Closet which might fit the bill (figuratively), which is good since Francesca does not know the Megan’s size or body shape! (Click on the pictures to see more details. All the styles are available in Navy.)

  


Finally, Francesca says: For the support, one must wear an excellent bra. Search this very blog for “strapless” to find one in the large sizes!

Francesca wishes our internet friend the amazing time at the wedding!

Fourth of July Do’s and Don’ts

The American Independence Day, it approaches, and Francesca knows how much the patriotic Americans love to dress on this day in outfits which evoke their flag! Hooray for the Red, White and Blue, Francesca says. But there is a Right way, and a Wrong way. Rule of thumb: if you are an adult and you would ONLY wear the outfit on the Fourth of July, it is probably a Wrong (little children are exceptions, and it is OK to wear ONE kitschy novelty item IF a Very Cheerful Relative offers you one). If you would wear it on August 10th, it is fine. For example:

Do:

Don’t:

julyfour4.jpg

Do (for a very informal family gathering):

Don’t:

julyfour1.gif

Do:

Don’t:

julyfour6.jpg

Do:


Don’t:

julyfour5.jpg

You Asked For It

Internet friend Sarah, from Fort Madison, Iowa, wrote:

I’ve recently begun seriously incorporating regular exercise into my routine.  I have workout clothes but, they are largely of the shapeless, tent like t-shirt variety.  Though I always feel fabulous after working out, motivating myself to hit the gym is hard enough in the first place; I’d like to feel fashionable while walking or doing aerobics.  Can you recommend any sellers of cute, plus-sized workout clothing?

Francesca says:

But of course I can!

If you wear size 1x or a small 2x, start with Athleta. Check the sizing charts carefully as they leave little wiggle room, literally. Gym/training clothes are here. Francesca likes their skorts.

For higher sizes, or simply more options, you can also try the cotton tanks or light shirts at Shop Avenue.com, Old Navy, or Roaman’s (who are currently having a “buy 2, get 1 free” sale on tanks, tees, shorts and capris!) Lane Bryant is selling sporty tops at 2 for $25.

Remember that an outfit does not have to be labeled as an exercise outfit to become your exercise outfit. Choose something cotton and light and fun for you to move in.

One might also try Woman Within, but Francesca finds their wares frumpy AND they turned us down for an affiliate partnership, so boo on them! However, one never knows and the important thing is that we all exercise and look superfabulous doing it!

Good luck!

PS Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat when you are walking in sunny climates!

Olive the Questions from Readers!

We received this letter from our internet friend Jen:

My future sister-in-law has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her and my brother’s  August wedding.  She is mercifully allowing the bridesmaids to pick their own dresses, as long as they conform to our assigned color (mine is olive green).  Excited for an excuse to do some major dress shopping, I’ve been thinking about making a trip up to New York City to shop.

Are there stores in NYC that you could suggest?  I am not limited to typical bridesmaid dresses – David’s Bridal is my absolute last resort.  I’d like something tea/knee length and to be able to wear the dress again in non-bridal settings.  I’m a size 18 or 20, roughly pear shaped, and my maximum budget is $200 (and I would love to pay much less).

You love to perplex the Francesca, do you not?

On one of the hands, we have the flexibility in styling. On the other of the hands, the dress must be olive green, quite pretty but not a typical color for the fancy “occasion” dress. Francesca is sorry to have to tell you that finding plus-size occasion dresses in a particular color is not so easy, even in New York, unless that color is black, sapphire, or emerald.

Francesca says: You do not need an excuse to shop in New York City. Go there to poke around at Saks’ Salon Z and at Rootchi and at the boutique of Monif C  and at Lee Lee’s Valise and at the plus-size department at the Macy’s flagship store, but do not expect to find the tea-length olive green dress appropriate for your brother’s wedding! Go to have a good time without such pressure! (Also, you must visit the Talbot’s Woman store on Broadway at 82nd Street and tell the wonderful saleslady Veronica that Francesca says hi. Hi Veronica! Hi!)

Francesca scoured the websites of ALL the New York department stores, from Bergdorf’s to Barney’s and back, and did not find what you seek. At Igigi she found this lovely olive dress for just $92,

which is very pretty and perhaps what you want, but also perhaps not elegant enough for the lavish affair. How formal is the wedding?

Sydney’s Closet used to have an olive green dress but it was floor length and frilly and very, very bridesmaid-y. And anyway it is not available any more, and a search there for “olive” did not turn up anything appropriate for this wedding.

So unless the Igigi dress fits the bill or you happen to find what you need in person in the Big Apple (or closer to home), Francesca says: Buy beautiful olive-green material and have a dress custom-designed and made personally for the Jen.

(In this vein, Francesca checked Dress By Design to see if they have any olive material, and they do. Look at this gorgeous swatch of embroidered shantung silk!

But a dress there in this fabric costs over $300, and for this price the Jen can probably have a dress made by her own seamstress.)

Congratulations on your brother’s wedding, and let us know how the search goes for the dress!

xoxo

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