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

September 29, 2012

You Asked For It: Twistie’s Baking Library

Filed under: Books,Food,Free Shipping,You Asked For It — Twistie @ 11:19 am

(Actual illustration of Twistie at actual size… only two hundred and fifty years ago and much smaller)

In response to my harrumph of last week on the response my week’s worth of baking delicious things for the annual block party, several of you (and you know who you are) begged for the recipes.

Darlings, I love you all like Plummy loves her granny pants, but I’m not typing out that many recipes. I made four fabulous treats, three of which required a minimum of two recipes to assemble. In fact, two of them took three each. That’s a lot of typing of other people’s copyrighted materials.

Instead, I’m going to reveal the sources of all the recipes, tell you where to get copies, and leave it to your own ingenuity and budgets to get them or not. I will further recommend that any of you who enjoy baking more than once in a very, very, very blue moon pick up at least one of these three volumes. Every one is brimful of clear recipes for delicious treats for all occasions.


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 20, 2012

Plus Size Maxi Dresses Under $50

Filed under: How To Wear It,Maxi Dresses,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 1:16 pm


THAT, my friends, was a rough two days.

I’m fine, everything’s fine.

I’m sitting here in Plumcake Cottage making eyes at the leftover half of my Texas-shaped waffle (I’m a slow eater and everything west of Abilene got cold while I was working my way down from Texarkana), Hot Latin Boy is on the beach playing football and Dozer just scared the daylights out of the puka shell necklace-wearing maintenance guy who uses the empty house in front of ours as a tryst with a woman who is almost certainly Not His Wife.

So, as I said, everything is fine.

Everything was NOT fine yesterday, when a routine medical appointment in the states was preceded by your elegant hostess yakking her guts out on a winding mountain pass and an ill-timed fainting spell and succeeded by a Mexican military flashlight shining in my sleeping face at a routine stop where I had to explain to the Very Nice Men With Guns that no, HLB didn’t steal my car and roofie me up with the intention of selling me –possibly by the kilo– to the highest bidder, he was just driving me home.

Thus the blankie…
and the pillow…
and the fact that I wasn’t screaming even though I woke up in Mexico.

Much showing of bandages and kissycute iPhone selfies later, hilarity ensued HLB was freed and we finally got home, where I slept for the next 20 hours.

That brings us up to now.

So. Maxi dresses.

When I asked you what you wanted in a maxi dress post, many of you wanted something with sleeves under fifty dollars.

These don’t all have sleeves –don’t worry there will be more sleeves coming your way before I’m through– but all ring in under fifty bucks from designers who’ve provided me with some decent togs in the past.

HSN is a crapshoot.

Either they knock it out of the park or they…don’t. At all.

But when they’re good, they’re very very good and you get an extremely well-made garment for a ridiculous-in-the-good-way price. I first turned to them for their excellent costume jewelry, much of which is offered in extended sizes, and have had solid enough luck with them to return a few times a year.

(click on photos for links)

I cringed a little in the video for this dress when designer Antthony, in describing the slightly Grecian detailing of the dress talked about how big a fan he is of “Madam Gray” –he obviously meant Madame Grès who is responsible for the draped dress taking form in the 1940s– but it was probably just a slip of the tongue.

Regardless, possibly influenced by last summer’s retrospective “Madame Grès: Couture at Work” at the Musée Bourdelle, the Grès fingerprint is all over this dress. What Grès viewed as sculpture, Anttony understands as visual trickery.

The asymmetrical offset draping pulls in the eye and creates a smaller waist.

Unlike his austere counterpart, the draping on this dress is gentle. Though sleeveless, the straps are wide enough to wear a bra and the neckline isn’t perilously low, although a camisole –make sure it’s slightly blousoned to keep with the feel of the dress– works here as well.

One Antthony deserves another, and apples, I’m looking at you here.

Okay, look at the draping from the center of the bust down the front.

That’s one of those design elements that when you see it on a skinny girl or on the hanger you say Not Now Not Ever, right?
Except that waterfall is going to look amazing on you.

It’s going to start right between the girls –I believe those are molded cups, a nice touch– and go lalalalalalanothingtoseehere all over your stomach.

Be advised, sometimes it takes a little fiddling in the morning to get it to drape just so, but once you get it, you’ll be grand.

Pattern? You want pattern? How about this ikat print from Twiggy (yes that Twiggy) London?

Ikat is one of those prints I’m convinced works better on big girls than on straighties. Little wisps of things just don’t have the mass or the presence to really carry off a full length ikat print.

Since this pattern is already fuzzy it’s going to blur over things you might enjoy having blurred (and also hide stains if you’re clumsy) and –contrary to many prints– make you look taller. All of these dresses are available in multiple colors, but I like the earth tones of this one. It’s so much more chic and will transition nicely into the cooler months.

Finally we’ve got two from Liz Lange that are simple simple simple and perfect perfect perfect.

First the flutter sleeves.

Some variation on this theme is what I wear most of the days here at Plumcake Cottage. It’s dead easy, looks fantastic and can be styled this way or that for just slapping along the malecon watching the sunburned tourists take photos of our resident lazy sea lions or a dressy dinner of forced conviviality with new neighbors.

I’m not generally a fan of the flutter sleeve, but the neckline and shoulder are so widely set, the flutter sleeve works. Plus it’s not chiffon, so it’s more of a draped sleeve than a fluttery one.

Lastly, we’ve got a more evening-appropriate maxi that can be styled for day.

There’s something about a long sleeve maxi that I love. It’s just a little more formal, but still incredibly easy. These bracelet length sleeves do it for me big time, but what I really love is Lange’s signature inset waist. She takes a panel of material in the waist, sets it inside where the normal seams would traditionally go, adds a wide-to-narrow ruching element and drapes it down from there. End result? The Scarlett O’Hara treatment, no bedpost hugging required.

May 17, 2012

You Asked For It: Shoes for Maxi Dresses

Filed under: Accessories,Five Great...,Flats,How To Wear It,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 3:03 pm

Greetings friends and lovers, yesterday dear reader Helena wrote in with the following query:

Do you think it is appropriate to wear blue wedge espadrilles with a Chico’s maxidress and lightweight cotton sweater to a wedding in June? It’s at the Newark Museum in fabulous downtown Newark, NJ. Thanks in advance. The Chico’s lady told me to wear strappy sandals but with my size 11, not particularly nice feet, I vetoed that immediately.

I know what you’re thinking, and although the jokes just write themselves (I mean Chico’s and the Garden State? It’s a slow soft one right down the middle), one must always remember that some are born Newark, some achieve Newark and some –presumably like our friend Helena– have Newark thrust upon them.

That being said, I’m not entirely sure espadrilles –which I love and will feature in an upcoming post– are the way to go here.

One of the few fashion rules actually reliable in the real world is “the longer the skirt, the flatter the shoe.”

The inverse –shorter skirts require higher heels– often is true as well, but it’s by no means as reliable and should be approached with fear and trembling, especially in New Jersey.

I love maxi dresses because they are so effortless. In fact, the only time I see a maxi dress gone truly wrong is when some well-meaning but inevitably dopey-looking person Tries Too Hard.

Jean Arthur in a hostess gown circa 1929

The maxi is the natural descendant of the hostess gown, a floor-length dress popularized in the late 1920s and so called because it was an easy but elegant uniform for casual gatherings at home, especially in the late evening as they historically incorporated elements most often found in negligees and had a sort of glamorous pajama chic.  Their popularity has been cyclical –the last time we really saw a major resurgence was the early 1970s– but ankle-grazers have been going strong for several years and it looks like we’re in for one of those rare, decade-long trends (see also: boot cut jeans).

Prior to to the baby boom, a hostess gown might be worn with low-heeled mules, but when maxis re-emerged slightly before the days of disco –thank YOU, Halston– they were considerably less formal and best served by nearly pancake flat sandals.

Do we think that's Marisa Berenson modeling a homemade hostess gown in Woman's Day, 1967?

The same holds true today.

I tried on all four of my maxi dresses with shoes of varying heights and the highest heel that didn’t look actively bad was a 1 1/2″ wedge.

As owner of not one but two “size 11, not particularly nice feet” I understand your hesitation re: strappy sandals. They’re questionable as a species in the best of times since so often they show a lack of discipline, surely one of the few cases where more straps equals less restraint.

Instead of espadrilles or strappy sandals, here are five appealing but relatively minimalist sandals, streamlined enough to be elegant, but casual enough to reinforce the effortless glamor of a maxi dress (which I’m sure you’ll be accessorizing with a shawl or wrap instead of a cardigan and one –count ’em ONE– piece of Major Statement Jewelry and little else, correct?)

Read on the see the shoes

April 10, 2012

My So-Called Feminist Eureka

Last month on Twitter, reader Leah Gates asked me to share my Feminist Eureka moment on the tumblr blog The Eureka Moment.

I didn’t have a eureka moment per se.

I never had that cinematic money shot where I jumped on my desk in the middle of my social studies exam and suddenly declared “This is patriarchal hegemonic bulls**t of the most rank and venomous order and, as God as my witness, this misogynistic outrage shall not stand!

After all, I was popular and being Popular While Fat, especially in high school was radical enough. I didn’t want to ruin my chances at Prom Queen.

The truth was, and still is,  I’m a pretty girly girl on the outside and my highly-polished candy shell has served me well.

It’s not fake.

I point that out because  we’ve all run into sugar-coated vipers from time to time — in the South their distinctive hiss is, of course, blessherheart— but I believe for every poisonous powder puff there are a dozen women just like me, whose almost cartoonish femininity is just one letter in their persona’s alphabet soup.

It has always been thus.

I loved classic movies as a kid.

I still do, but as pretty as Audrey Hepburn looked in all her Givenchy frocks, I never related to the easily-digestible non-threatening Professional Naif. Where were the female rugged individualists with opinions and guns to back them up? Except Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun. Screw that trick-shooting traitor.

Sure, I wanted to DRESS like Holly Golightly but I wanted to BE The Duke.

And as much as I wanted it, I knew it was out of reach and it was out of reach because the Rules were Different For Girls.

I didn’t even know what the rules were.

I knew they didn’t involve  pushing for the front of the line or trying out a new and exciting dirty words only to have it excused away with the mysterious “boys will be boys“.

I knew it involved being a Nice Girl, since the worst thing in the world –with repercussions so terrible I never exactly found out what they were– was to have your name whispered along with the pointedly capitalized phrase “Not a Nice Girl”.

Nice girls did (or more often didn’t) do this, that or the other thing and the finishing school finish line always kept moving.

I was walking a moving tightrope just to make sure I didn’t fall into perdition before the training wheels fell off my bra and yet somehow when my brother acted up it was —say it with me now— “Boys will be boys“.

Sure he got punished –I still can’t believe he thought making pornographic calls to 911 from a payphone and then hanging around the phone after was a good idea– but for he was punished his actions, not as a judgment against his character.


February 15, 2012

You Asked For It: Crock Pot Cheesecake

Filed under: Recipes,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 4:56 pm

Alright, back in the day when Twistie was doing her Recipe of the Week or whatever I know a lot of you didn’t like it because you felt it reinforced some stereotype about The Constantly Eating Fat Girl and honestly, it wasn’t my thing either, but Twistie can do what she wants on weekends as long as she doesn’t a) Feature any of that woodland magickal faerieeyeeie Stevie Nicks nonsense she knows I hate b) Besmirch the good names of John Wayne, John Waters or Julia Sugarbaker or c) Mess with Texas. It’s that simple.

Still, a mess of you asked for a recipe for my Crock Pot cheesecake, and never being one to deny my readers anything I am humbly obliging the request.

This makes a dense, creamy cheesecake. Using a mixer instead of an immersion blender –my KitchenAid is still stateside and I just got a cool new immersion blender. It’s magenta!– would probably make for a fluffier end result.


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup toasted pecans, ground
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter

16 ounces cream cheese, room temp (neufchatel works okay, too)
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used this instead of cream because I made a gallon of yogurt and am trying to get rid of it)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely zested lime or lemon peel

Fill your slow cooker with enough water to come at least halfway up the sides of whatever you’re using as your pan. We’re bain marie-ing this baby, because cracks in cheesecake are wack (RIP Whitney).

For the crust, mix all ingredients together and press into the sides of 7″ springform pan. For the filling, dump all the ingredients in a large and blend the heck out of it for five minutes with your awesome new immersion blender OR beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy, adding the additional ingredients and beating that for three minutes. Pour into your slow cooker, cook covered on high for about 3 hours until the edges aren’t shiny and the center is just set (mine took closer to 4, but check at 2). Turn the Crock Pot off and let cool for an hour before refrigerating.

Notes: I didn’t bother with the crust because they don’t sell graham crackers here and also eating cheesecake for the crust is like reading Playboy for the intimate body hair. I also didn’t have a springform pan that fit in my current slow cooker, but since this makes a small cake, I just used the biggest glass mixing bowl that would fit comfortably. It worked like a charm and was cooked evenly all the way through.

Make it, enjoy and thank you for being a friend!

January 31, 2012

You Asked For It: Spanx

Filed under: Intimates,Suck it,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 2:56 pm

Good morning my live active cultures of love, how’s every little thing? What? Yes I did have yogurt for breakfast, cactus and prune flavored, thank you. Why do you ask?

We’re going to spend the rest of this week focusing on shapewear, and never fear, I still have a handful of corset recommendations, but several of you have asked me what I think about Spanx.

Spanx can just go ahead, do some breathing exercises, maybe stretch a little, purchase a crazy straw from the party supply store of their choice in any one of a variety of colors and suck it.

(none of these cartoons actually need shapewear)

I have never, EVER had a piece of shapewear from them that lasted more than one or two wearings, didn’t roll or otherwise backfire or have glaring flaws right out of the package. I gave up on their legwear ages ago after putting my hand through three pairs of their pantyhose, once on the first try.

Maybe they’re just made for women with only a little bit of pudge, or whose hourglass boom boom isn’t quite so pow. Maybe it’s because I’m the only person in America who has a torso longer than two inches. I don’t know, but I feel like I’m the only woman on the planet who doesn’t think these things are the best invention since sliced vodka.

Oh maybe it’s user error, you say.

HA and verily double ha! There are little baby angels who are rougher on their clothes than I am.

Heck, I painted my patio in Hermes and didn’t get a speck of Unicorno (apparently in Mexico, unicorns are fuchsia. In an unrelated note: there’s a lot of peyote in this country) on my entire outfit so it’s not like I’m running around with an angry jackal in my pants, laying waste to all hosiery within a 10 mile radius.

PLUS Spanx is ridiculously overpriced for the quality and what’s worse, most plus-size stores these days (please imagine me shaking a cane in geriatric wrath, you may also imagine me in a kaftan if you wish, but it’s not necessary to the visual) have either vastly reduced or completely eliminated their hosiery in favor of selling the Spanx line.


Remember about six million years ago, back at the dawn of the current century, where you could buy those amazing Lane Bryant opaque tights that looked great and lasted FOREVER and you didn’t mind spending $18 on one pair because you knew your knees would wear out before those tights did?

Gonesville. Replaced by ^%$# SPANX for the low low price of $30 – $40, which would be okay if they, as previously mentioned, didn’t suck so hard there are ostriches in Africa wondering what that breeze is and if maybe they couldn’t cut it out because it’s messing with their (the ostriches’ not the Spanxs’) feathers.

Sure you can get some novelty legwear and a basic entry-level black tight from the Lane Bryant home brand, but solid black is not the same as opaque black and one of my biggest pet peeves is a theoretically opaque tight that isn’t. Grr.

Honestly, for that manner of stretchy shapwear I’ve had far better luck at places like Ross and TJ Maxx.

For example: this past summer I bought an amazing high-waist pencil-skirt slimmer that has been a revelation and I KNOW I didn’t spend more than $10 for it. I’ve even worn it as a miniskirt under a long sweater and over a pair of my antediluvian but still functional LB opaque tights. Sadly I don’t have a brand for you (it’s seamless and I’ve rubbed the printed label right off) but if I find it again I’ll report back.

Izod –I know, right?– makes some surprisingly solid shapewear in plus sizes, all of which are higher quality than any of the Spanx I’ve experienced, and I’m pretty sure each piece I bought was $7.99.

There’s also some brand called Lady Princess that I’ve never seen anywhere other than Ross and Ross-esque stores.

I’m pretty sure they’re designed for drag queens (I think it’s the name) but I don’t care. I’ve had good luck with their more heavy-duty pieces.

As far as the major players go, I far prefer the Avenue Body line of shapewear to Lane Bryant’s Cacique (though I still prefer the LB bras) but neither of them really carry my watermelon since both brands tend to roll, fold, pill and lose their shape within a half dozen wearings.

So is there a brand of Spandex-not-steel shapewear you can find online and which I actually LIKE?

Yes, and stay tuned kiddios: I’ve got a Review Revue coming up tomorrow.

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