How I Learned to Love Shopping as a Plus-Size Woman
Grammy-nominated singer Mary Lambert shares her journey to discovering plus-size fashion and reveals her shopping secrets. Here's her story.
To be honest, I used to hate shopping. I rarely left a store without crying, cursing my body, and swearing under my breath at the fashion industry. Maybe the industry thinks that fat people are a liability because our hands are made from Twinkies and we will wipe our Yellow #5 marshmallow fingers on the expensive jeans they make. I don't know. I guess my biggest gripe is that brands are fully aware that they are alienating plus-size women, consciously refusing to produce a pant above a size 12. In the last couple years, I've discovered I'm far from alone in my frustration. There are a ton of trailblazing women who are fighting back (all hail the fatkini!), but the lack of plus-size clothing in stores that I would love to shop at is grossly unfair.
I think it does something to your psyche when the majority of clothing companies don't even acknowledge that you exist. I may have already been self-conscious about my weight, but shopping as a plus-size high-schooler seemed to compound my lack of self-worth. I ended up buying baggy clothes and ill-fitting jeans as a weird kind of punishment for not fitting below a size 14. My life was changed when I entered a plus-size clothing store that wasn't designed for hippie teachers or female ministers. One of the cashiers, who was around my size, had on the cutest dress in the world, and she held up a red skirt to me and said, "This would look SO good on you!"
I stayed in that store for two hours. I tried everything on and cried in the dressing room, and I realized then that being cute wasn't contingent on size. I don't know if that lie started in Hollywood or in the stockroom of some store that got a severed dress form, but I promised myself then that I was not going to succumb to the harmful belief that thin equals beautiful. Though to me, fat doesn't equal beautiful either. Beauty, by way of fashion, has to do with confidence, with flattering silhouettes, with patterns, with proper fit for body type, and with an abundance of self-love!
Since that day in the dressing room, I now LOVE trying on clothes, being photographed, and turning the sidewalk into a runway. One of the best parts about my job is that I get to dress for red carpets and appearances, and I often forgo working with a stylist because fashion is half the fun of any event! Even in my music video for "Secrets," I'm wearing one of my own dresses from Modcloth. Here are some of my favorite companies, stores, and websites to buy clothing.
Modcloth has such an awesome range of sizes and styles. I love buying both performance clothes and everyday wear on the website. And their shoes! Although they don't have a physical store, I love that they show how other people wore it; the ability to see what your dress looks like on someone your size is such an asset to shopping online.
Part of what I love about City Chic is that they switch out their clothing pretty regularly. I have a lot of items that weren't reproduced, so they feel like one-of-a-kind. They seem to be ahead of the curve, and I like that you have to be confident to pull off some of the pieces. City Chic is not for the faint of heart.
My Pick: Mono Haze Harem Pants ($40)
I just discovered this website from a plus-size blog, and bought a few items online the other day. I'm excited to see how they fit. If they're anything like the photos, I'll definitely be rocking this on a red carpet!
Torrid is my trusted source for jeans and boots. I buy the same skinny jeans from them year after year and they have never failed me. I am also obsessed with their comfy panties. Perhaps my favorite thing from them is their boots. I was always envious of girls who wore boots with their skinny jeans, but I could never find a boot wide enough for my super muscly calves. But then I discovered Torrid's awesome, affordable shoes and boots. Have no fear! You too can wear thigh-high boots, my wide-calved babes!
My Pick: Over-The-Knee Boots ($73)
Tatyana is my favorite boutique by far. I love their physical store in New York, but buying online is also super easy. One of my favorite things about Tatyana is that they don't cater to plus-size women, they just happen to carry plus-size clothing—which is how it should be. I love their retro clothing, circle skirts, crop tops, and bright colors.
Rent the Runway is my big fat secret. Part of being my own stylist means I have to figure out a different way to purchase red carpet gowns. In my field, you can't really wear the same dress twice unless you want Isaac Mizrahi to scorn you on TV. Also, renting dresses means you get a lot more options, and options are FUN. Also, it would be very expensive to buy every red carpet gown. Rent the Runway recently launched plus-size options (yay!) and it has been love ever since. When I need a glamorous dress in a pinch, RTR is the first place I go.
If you have some dollars to shell out, why not work with a designer to create custom, one-of-a-kind looks you’ll love? Helen is a dear friend of mine and has designed four dresses for me in the last year. We worked together to create both of the dresses I wore to the Grammys. Her portfolio is stunning, and we'll definitely be making more dresses together this year!
For more inspiring plus-size fashion, click here!