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

November 19, 2012

Big Girls in Europe: Barcelona Fashion

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Culture — Miss Plumcake @ 9:02 am

Greetings from Barthelona, home of incredible pork products, the second best football team in Spain and a whole lot of cool-looking melty buildings.

Modernista Architecture: further proof that peyote is a hell of a drug

It is not, however, home to many big girls. Do they not exist? Are they simply not allowed out of doors? I’m not sure.

I’d like to report on the elegance of Spanish gorditas, but the handful I’ve seen so far seem to suffer the same fate as many of their American sisters: cheap clothes, especially the ubiquitous cheap graphic top with tackazoid metallic screen prints. Sigh.

I suspect it’s a question of supply. Their access to stylish plus-size clothing must be even more limited than in the US.

Sure there’s Marina Rinaldi, but I popped into their store on the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive, and although the clothes were beautifully made, they do err on the side of elegantly mumsy with disheartening frequency.

That being said, I have noticed a certain out-and-about uniform here in the heart of Catalunya.

Scarves. Always.
From the sweet young things trundling to language class to the stopped-counting-after-Franco doyennes walking their blue-rinsed terriers along the Carrer d’Aragó, long but tidy woven scarves abound. The older women tend to wear them neatly knotted in a cravat while the younger set goes for a more casual double wrap drape around the neck.

Fit is Everything
In the US there seems to be two fits: painted on or falling off. Most of us do our best to navigate the middle ground, but ours is often a tale of woe, with a top clinging like a needy ex one day only to be stretched out beyond recognition after the first wash. Although skinny jeans are still the pants of choice, they’re merely close-fitted, not denim deathgrips. Tops can be loose or skim without clinging and sleeves end where sleeves ought to end, not a foot south of the wrist.

I’ve got to say, this one threw me a little. Even outside their fashion institute, the cuts and colors were surprisingly conservative, much more along the lines of DC than New York or, God Forbid, LA.

Cleavage was virtually non-existent even on warm days and when it made an appearance, it was incidental, not integral to the look. As for speculum length minis, I’ve only seen two: both worn by drunk British girls. Which isn’t to say there weren’t short skirts, but they were paired with matching opaque tights –usually black for both– and loose fitting tops.

Another surprise, and I suspect a seasonal one. Barcelona embraces a very Donna Karan color palette with grays from heather to charcoal, soft browns from fawn to dark chocolate, muted pinks and blues and every possible permutation of beige. It might not sound exciting, but it looks fantastic. Bolder colors –if hunter green and rust are bold– come from the omnipresent scarves. The makeup is muted too, and women, especially women of a certain age, looked the world better for it.

What to wear in Barcelona to fit in with the locals:

  • A loose but not sloppy thin sweater or knit top over a slimmer knit or button down shirt in complimentary neutrals. Lightweight moto-cut twill jacket if it’s chilly at night.
  • Long woven scarf in an interesting color or pattern
  • Dark slim-cut denim or twill pants either paired with boots or ballet flats. Precariously high heels look out of place for day, though I’ve seen a pair or two at night.
  • Hair is either long and slightly unkempt or chic bordering on New Wave and accessories are about what you’d see in the states with big bags abounding, although there’s little to no 80’s or 90’s hipster irony, thanks be to God.

August 1, 2012

You Asked For It: “It doesn’t work but I don’t know why”

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Art,Color Studies,How To Wear It,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 8:00 am

Superfantastic reader Ginny wrote in with a work wear quandary. Seems our heroine, who is in the process of entering a more professional work environment, happened upon a pair of wide-legged navy pinstriped trousers and is at a loss how to wear them.

“Logically the pants should work almost like jeans because of their colour – they should kinda go with everything? But they don’t seem to.
Am I just overanalyzing because I’m not used to formal pinstriped trousers? Should I just wear it with my navy cardigan despite the slight colour mismatch [her navy tops are different shades of blue]? Am I just going to have to wear black or white button down shirts with these pants? Why don’t the pants seem to work with purple or brown? Could I do a blood-red slim sweater with these trousers? Help!


Okay class, raise your hand if you’ve made the rookie mistake of buying a fantastic separate without being sure anything else in your closet is actually compatible. Of course you have, it’s a rite of passage like bad bangs or ritual sacrifice. Now you’re stuck with making it work.

First the jeans thing.

Jeans “go with everything” because we’ve trained ourselves to believe that.

Just because you’ve got a pair of pants that are the same color as your favorite pair of 501s doesn’t mean you can wear them the same way. If it did I could wear my blond mink in place of my favorite khakis (ha ha, just kidding. Could you imagine me owning khakis?)

Jeans are sui generis as a pantular species, so just save yourself some heartache and abandon the whole idea.

You’re  also wise to be wary of donning mismatched shades of navy. Trust your instincts and skip it.

It takes a quadruple black belt fashion ninja to be able to wear colors that are ultra-close-but-not-quite the same. I’ve only known one personally who could do it and although she could,  she didn’t.

Let me touch on the idea of pinstripes.

Pinstripes are a little tricky these days. I call it the Curse of the Naughty Secretary.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good pinstripe, but when a design element becomes porno shorthand for an office worker, it’s something that should be approached with fear, trembling and a concerted effort to say “I am a professional” not “I am dressing up as a professional.”

So, on to your neutral matching woes.

Ever wonder why some people can wear brown and black together and look amazing while others look like mentally deficient beagles? 

The most successful dressers have a strong understanding –either innate or taught– of color theory. They keep their cools with their cools and their warms with their warms if they want a cohesive look and mix them thoughtfully if they want something purposefully disjointed.

If you’re having the dickens of a time getting colors that should go together in theory go together in practice, I almost promise you it’s because one is warm and the other is cool.

Your two go-to neutrals for navy other than white (which you mentioned you didn’t like wearing) are camel and gray, but any color can work.

The trick is making sure your neutrals –or any color, really– are the same temperature.

Most of us think blues are naturally cool, but it ain’t necessarily so, so color check yourself before you color wreck yourself.


What this means to you is if your pants are a warm navy, make sure your grays are warm too. If they’re cool and you want to wear a red sweater, make sure it’s a cool red sweater.

Purple works with navy only when the navy is has a good bit of red in it. Browns can go either way but generally cool on cool is more successful than warm on warm for that particular combo.

So analyze, but analyze wisely, brush up on your color theory, be careful with pinstripes and don’t ever come home with a separate unless at least you own three other pieces that can work with it right off the rack.

Oh, and sit up straight, get that hair out of your eyes and give me some grandchildren. I won’t be around forever you know.

Gin and Tonics,

Miss Plumcake



July 25, 2012

…and now I can’t unsee it

Filed under: Advanced Fashion — Miss Plumcake @ 10:45 am

Last week we chatted a bit about maxi dresses. I had a few more entries planned on the same theme, but since the most recent post got essentially no response, I ditched ’em.

I wanted to do a bit on caftans, which can be terrifically glamorous when done correctly.

They’re a bit Advanced Fashion so potentially not for the average user, although I honestly don’t think they’re as tough to pull off as most people think.

Right now I am in love with this caftan from Iman.

Iman is easily my favorite model of the post-couture era –Linda Evangelista  is a close second except she is constitutionally incapable of taking a good photo with her mouth shut– and she’s a whip-smart businesswoman to boot. She created one of the first high-quality lines of cosmetics for women of color –Iman Cosmetics launched in 1994, but she was famous for mixing her own compounds and demanding makeup artists use them for her shoots well before that– and, if I wore socks, I am entirely convinced she would rock them off.

The caftan above is positively made for the statuesque big girl with the personality to match.

The print is bold but the vertical design minimizes any added visual bulk, the chiffon overlay has fantastic motion and it’s pretty much everything you want in a caftan when you want to channel Elizabeth Taylor during the Burton years rather than Helen Roper during the Stanley years.

Only one teensy problem…

June 29, 2012

What a (Big) Girl Wants

Filed under: Advanced Fashion — Miss Plumcake @ 12:40 pm

Yesterday, superfantastic reader ChaChaHeels commented:

I think a lot of dress manufacturers for plus sizes are producing under the delusion that “the big girls want to dress the same way the smaller girls do”. […]

It’s not true that plus size girls “want the same clothes” that “regular” sized women can wear. Plus sized women want clothes that flatter the curves and shapes they alone have, so that they don’t feel uncomfortable or look like their clothing is unsuitable. I think we want the opportunity to look great, like other women can and do, but the clothes have to be designed around our actual bodies, not some one’s idea of what we should look like. There are plenty of ways to cut fabric and create designs that do just that.

First of all, may I once again express my appreciation for my readers, who –unlike commenters on many blogs out there– are erudite, thoughtful and gracefully manage to rise above the “boobies! poop! my dad can beat up your dad!” standard set for internet discourse.

(heh, boobies)

That being said, while I am inclined to agree with La ChaCha for my  personal choices, it’s tricky to talk about plus-size women in general as wanting any one thing. Except for licking Nutella off Mario Balotelli’s midsection, and even then, some people might not like Nutella.

The sensitive Italian striker got a yellow card for this display after scoring his second goal against Germany in the Euro semi-finals. Worth. It.

Some big girls really do want plus-size fashion that’s the exact same as straight-sized clothes, and I think most of us would at least like to have the option of making the same sartorial blunders as our thinner pals.

It’s not that straight-sized clothes are designed so much better, it’s that there’s so much more OF it.

While a size 6 can walk into virtually any clothing store and find something that fits, be it good, bad or ugly, a size 16 has a harder time of it and a size 26 harder still. Size 36? You might as well bring your own Sherpa and a hip flask: You’re gonna be looking for a while.

That being said: It’s so much better than it used to be.

Maybe the clothes themselves aren’t better –Lane Bryant has been slouching towards Old Navy for at least five years now– but instead of one or two stores we now have…ok, still pretty much those two brick and mortars, but online shopping has exploded.

That’s why I can’t bust too hard on Monif C. or any designer cutting and styling exclusively for the plus size market, even if their clothes don’t ring my bell.

I mean, whatever your opinion on orgiastically fringed teal maillots, when it comes to shopping options it’s difficult to argue this:

is better than this:

The black swimsuit photo also illustrates one of the difficulties of designing tailored clothes for the big girl: These women all wear more or less the same size, but are VASTLY different body shapes. You’ve got your standard –if you can call anything a standard– pear, apple, rectangle, hourglass and ice-cream cone shapes and because they’re plus-sized, the differences are more extreme from a pattern-drafting point of view.

Obviously ChaChaHeels is right: there are plenty of ways to cut and design clothes to flatter plus size bodies, and it’s not even that hard. The problem is, which of those women do you pick as a fit model for clothes “designed around our actual bodies”?

My theory is it’s a numbers game.

The more clothes available, even the tragic messes, the more likely you are to find something that fits both your body and your taste. Forever 21 isn’t my idea of a good time, but once I found a fantastic blue and white striped dress very reminiscent of Lacroix-on-the-Costa-Brava-Circa-1986 in their plus size collection. Plus there will always be women who choose fashion over flattering (and good for them. There are enough safe dressers in the world).

What do you think plus-size women want, and if you were queen of the forest, how would you give it to them?



March 28, 2012

Whisky Tango Foxtrot: The Shbootie of Darkness

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Whisky Tango Foxtrot — Miss Plumcake @ 2:44 pm

Happiest of humpdays, friends and lovers!

First of all, great big globs of appreciation go out to everyone who helped with my query yesterday.  I think the easiest plan of action is to bring her a dress that’s very similar to the one I want –albeit with a slightly different neckline– and have her copy that. I’m also up to my ears in fantastic fabrics, so I’m not sure whether to curse or kiss each one of you.

But my love/hate relationship with cotton lawn is not why you’re here. No, you’re coming for the Whisky and staying for the Tango Foxtrot.

I’m not going to lie: If these Sophie Gittins offerings were court shoes instead of peep-toed shbooties I would probably actually like them and, were they on serious sale, I might even add them to the Advanced Fashion Novelty division of the Plumcake Permanent Collection.

Don’t judge me.

But they’re not, so I won’t.

(you’re still judging me, aren’t you?)

What I WILL do is ask you for the situation where these shoes would be the only possible solution to your wardrobe emergency. I’ll be awarding extra points to anyone who includes references to Apocalypse Now or, for my fellow classicists, Heart of Darkness. No “The Horror” though…too easy.

February 9, 2012

Eloquii: Here’s Hoping!

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Fashion — Miss Plumcake @ 5:24 pm

Oh man please don’t let Eloquii suck.

So remember back in the day when The Limited owned Lane Bryant and for a couple years in the early noughties (yeah I hate calling them that too) when you could walk into Lane Bryant and come out with clothes that lasted more than one season, might’ve had some naturally occurring fibers and weren’t covered with random flaccid ruffles/metallic screenprints/shoddily adhered sequins and sometimes things even had sleeves? Plus you didn’t have to mortgage your house to buy a pair of underwear?

Man, those were heady days my friends.

I’m not saying Lane Bryant doesn’t still occasionally knock it out of the plus-size park, but I have some dear friends –who shall remain nameless since they are under the employ of Charming Shoppes– who straight-out admitted the quality of the average Lane Bryant product has dropped to what one friend calls “Just above Old Navy” while the average price per unit creeps ever higher. Sigh. ‘Twas always thus.

SO this is why I’m super excited about Eloquii, the new and confusingly vowel-heavy plus size line from The Limited.

I haven’t ordered anything from them yet but I am very encouraged to see a thoughtful mix of trend pieces and classics designed for actual adults to wear to their actual jobs and in their actual lives and although you can’t tell right now, I’m typing with all my fingers and toes crossed with the girlish and perhaps naive hope that Eloquii will fill the gap in plus size ready-to-wear between slouching-towards-bargain-bin Lane Bryant and lines like Lafayette 148 New York, which are fantastic but err on the side of prohibitively expensive for most wallets.

From what I’ve seen on the site, I’m pretty excited. True, there isn’t much that rocks my personal casbah at the very moment, and I’m a teensy bit concerned about the skirts being a little short because Lord knows how many plus size designers forget how big girls go OUT –especially in back– before we go down resulting in supposedly knee-length skirts that become festivals of oversharing when worn by a girl with more than the average quantity of junk in her trunk.

Still, I’ve selected a handful of items that might be wending their way to Villa Plumcake sooner rather than later.

I LOVE this striped dress
. I would love it more if it hit at the middle or the bottom of the knee because honestly, it would be SO much more chic but still, I LOVE this dress. And would you look at that? SLEEVES.

The great thing about this dress is it will always look fashionable, no matter how old you are. it would be cute on a 16 year old and elegant on a woman of a certain age (although again, would be so much better if it wasn’t above the knee). It’s my favorite item on the site right now and if any of you have experience with it, I’d be very interested in hearing your take.

How about this trench coat
? It’s tricky to make a decent trench for a big girl because the traditional cut adds a lot of bulk precisely where you don’t want it and the double breasted look is tough, especially for the chestally blessed. It looks like they took their time with the seaming of this one and although I’ve been burned many times before, this trench –especially in that color– might just be the one that’ll save me from swing coat perdition.

Who asked for a sheath? Someone asked for a sheath. Well, here you go.

February 6, 2012

Corsets! Finally!

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Intimates — Miss Plumcake @ 3:28 pm

Okay gang, I have one hour and thirty seven minutes before I have to be down in the little village of Popotla to wait for the fishermen to come in. Not, sadly, because I’m waiting for a sailor, but the fishing boats come in at noon and if I’m not there to fight tooth and nail with these surprisingly tough little Mexican grandmothers (I don’t know how you say “throw elbows” in Spanish, but I sure bet they do!) at the exact minute they splosh today’s catch on their ramshackle folding table, then the seagulls will get my dinner and frankly, I cannot live with that.

As promised, here is a belated corset post with recommendations.

Please note I don’t actually own any of these corsets, although I wish I did. I judged them based on apparent quality of construction, variety of product (as in: do they offer longline/underbust/cotton/bridal/whatever corsets) and how much the site annoyed me.

My favorite by far is

Although they don’t offer as much as I’d like to see in the way of neutral colors, they’ve got an impressive selection of underbust, sweetheart and longline corsets suitable for almost all your waist-cinching occasions.

By the way, if you’ve got a natural waist larger that 43″, you’re still probably safe going with a corset built for a smaller waist since fat is more malleable than bone. Just don’t go passing yourself out or doing anything dumb.

OH! And they’re doing a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on almost all corsets, so if you and some friends (I’m thinking bridesmaids) want to go in on a group order together, this might be the time to do it.

This long line underbust corset is for waist training. Personally, I don’t think waist training is a good idea because that stuff can mess with your ribs and lungs and other important parts of your body that should probably not be jostled around for the sake of a smaller waist. Still, there’s no harm in popping one on for a few hours if you’ve got a special event coming up, or if you need the extra control 24 steel bones provide.

If you want to do an overbust corset and still be responsible WRT the chestular situation (no Platter O’ Boobs/Dish of Desperation) a deep sweetheart is the way to go. That way you can maneuver the gals to their upright and locked position without spilling over into “I couldn’t get a date in high school so please approve of me now” territory. No one looks good in that territory.

There are TONS more corsets from the ridiculous (camouflage corset anyone?) to the sublime, but I’ve got to go throwdown with the old ladies over the best salmon so I’ll leave you to sort it out yourself. Good luck!

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