Clothes Shopping Tips for Women With Obesity

If you are overweight, it can be difficult to find clothes that you like and in which you feel good. You likely have found options to be limited for sizes higher than 12. Thankfully, several brands and designers have finally started to take notice, and more clothes are being made available with overweight and obesity in mind.

Woman trying on plus-size clothes
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The Problem With the Term Plus-Size

In a survey of 1,500 women by retailer ModCloth, 56 percent of women felt that the very term often used by clothing brands to denote higher sizes, often calling sizes higher than 12 “plus-size,” was a problem in itself; these women said that they were frustrated by being labeled "plus." Given that the majority of U.S. women wear a size 12 or higher, this is definitely problematic.

This may get to the whole notion of fat shaming, albeit inadvertently. Fat shaming refers to being made to feel bad, guilty, or embarrassed for having overweight or obesity. Sometimes it is done intentionally, but other times, terms that have been long used—such as “plus-size”—can have the unintentional effect of making those in need of a different clothing size feel shame or embarrassment about their clothing needs. This, in turn, can fuel the fire of poor body image. And poor body image, including many different types of dissatisfaction with one’s body, has been shown in some studies to lead to further weight gain.

The Search for Fashionable Clothing

Women looking for clothing in higher sizes have too often been disappointed by the available offerings. From retail stores to high-end designer brands, few have catered to sizes higher than a 12 or a 14. Women needing a range of sizes often complained that what few options were available to them were lacking in fun, fashionable features.

But that is changing. Several brands, both new and old, are now offering items in higher sizes that look good, feel good, and can earn a place in any stylish wardrobe.

Brands Offering Higher Sizes

Some brands, like Lane Bryant, have been well known for offering a range of higher clothing sizes. Lane Bryant, which can trace its origins back to 1904 when a dressmaker named Lena Bryant opened a shop on Fifth Avenue in New York City, offers clothing in sizes 14 to 28. Their items include tops, pants, lingerie, dresses, and even swimwear and activewear. The Lane Bryant brand is so well established that there are physical store locations in nearly every state.

Further, Lane Bryant even offers designer collections, such as those created by well-known designers Isabel Toledo, Sophie Theallet, and Lela Rose.

Another brand that offers sizes up to 28 is Eloquii. According to the brand’s consumer shopping site, it offers contemporary clothing styles in sizes 14 to 28. This includes several fashionable ready-to-wear dresses, such as the gingham wrap dress and the studio embroidered bishop sleeve dress, both of which are flattering in all available sizes. Eloquii even offers a wide-width shoe line.

For higher-end workwear, some brands to consider include Marina Rinaldi, Persona, and Elvi. Marina Rinaldi is an Italian line out of the Max Mara Fashion Group that offers ready-to-wear items in higher sizes. Persona Clothing Co. states that it caters to working women. And Elvi is based out of the United Kingdom, offering a number of options in a range of higher sizes.

Other established brands are beginning to launch collections for women who want and need more sizing options, and, as manifested by Elvi and Marina Rinaldi, the effort is not limited to U.S. shores. British retailer River Island announced in December 2015 that it would be launching its first-ever “plus-size” line.

And sometimes it can be easiest to find more sizes online. For example, retailers like J. Crew carry sizes up to size 24, Kate Spade up to size 16, and Banana Republic up to size 20, while Loft carries up to size 26, Gap to size 22, and Akris to size 20 online. Other well-known brands that carry full “plus-size” lines on their websites include, but are not limited to, Ralph Lauren’s Lauren Woman, Forever 21, Old Navy, and Michael Kors.

Don’t forget consignment sites, where you can often find great pieces in larger sizes for a discount.

Melissa McCarthy Designing a Clothing Line for Higher Sizes

Stepping in to make sure fashionable clothing is available to women who need a range of sizes, celebrity Melissa McCarthy (known for her starring roles in Bridesmaids and Spy, among other movies) introduced her own clothing line in 2015 for a wide range of sizes.

Buying Clothing Even as You Are Losing Weight

While weight loss is encouraged for your health if you are overweight or obese, you still need something to wear that makes you feel confident while you are working on losing that weight. So, if you’re anticipating further weight loss, or if you find yourself fluctuating between sizes, you may want to buy a few pieces in the different sizes that fit you, even as your size may change from month to month.​

Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to lose weight all the way down to your ideal weight in order to start reaping health benefits. Many studies have established that several health gains come with losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your excess weight.

For instance, in a study of 867 adults newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, those who lost 10% or more of their body weight in the first few years after diagnosis were twice as likely to be in remission than those who didn't lose as much weight.

This means that a person who weighs 300 pounds and loses just 30 pounds (10 percent of their total) is twice as likely to go into remission than someone who didn't lose that weight.

Another condition that is sensitive to small changes in weight is high blood pressure (hypertension), which is also commonly found in patients who are obese or overweight.

High blood pressure is also a known major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, and therefore lowering blood pressure is crucial to reducing the risk for these diseases.

Studies have found that even a small gain in weight can raise blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.

Just as small weight gains can raise blood pressure, so can losing even a small amount of weight results in improved blood pressure. One study that looked at patients with obesity who were in the age range of 20 to 55 years found that those who reduced their calorie intake by 800 calories per day (under carefully guided and supervised study parameters) not only lost weight but also lowered their blood pressures. This study also showed that those who lost weight also improved their obstructive sleep apnea, which is interrelated with both obesity and high blood pressure.

So, begin by taking small steps, which eventually add up. Start with that first 5 percent, and you’ll be amazed at how, over time, that can become 10 percent weight loss. And, in the meantime, feel confident in knowing that a wider range of clothing options is finally becoming available to women of all shapes and sizes.

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