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I'm a communications specialist with a passion for vintage and I run an online vintage business called Vintage Baubles & Bits.

I consider myself a saver of beautiful items from the past and a repurposer of treasures!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Plus Sized Vintage - How to Make it Work

So as a girl of not-so-skinny proportions who happens to love vintage, I run into conundrums on a regular basis. One - finding vintage clothing in plus sizes is hard! Two - when you do find it, it isn't always cute. Three - what was plus-sized then, may not be today. Believe me, when I find a dress that fits - I keep it. There is no putting that up on Etsy or at flea markets!

Here are some tips for when you're searching for plus-sized vintage to keep in mind, especially if you're searching online.

1) Invest in a flexible tape measure, the kind you can pick up for like $2 at any sewing store, and measure yourself! Be honest in your measurements, you don't have to share them, but be sure to be accurate. I found this page on measuring yourself correctly to be really helpful. What I liked about it is that it shows you measurements that you often forget - like your arms! I can't tell you how many times something has fit everywhere else, but the armholes were just too tight. For a plus-size girl this is an important measurement that's often left off of listings. Don't be afraid to ask the seller to measure this for you.

Also, consider buying items that may measure an inch or two bigger than your actual measurements. I know, we all love to stick to the skinnier sizes - I feel your pain! But honestly, you look so much better if something isn't skin tight and fits appropriately and a little give can give you room to have the piece tailored if you need to. It's always easier to alter something that's too big, than too small.

2) Look for dresses or shirts and skirts that offer the following:
  • Elastic
  • Stretch fabric
  • "Open" hips
  • High-waisted
What I've learned is that elastic is your friend, especially on those days where water weight is not. Dresses that have elastic at the waist can usually fit more figure types. Fabric with a little give is always good too, there's nothing more embarrassing than blowing a seam, I've been there too... On dresses if the listing says "open" hips that means the dress usually has some flair to it and that too is slimming, less restricting and usually more flattering. High-waisted dresses and skirts are also great. Normally you're the skinniest at your natural waist, so things look more flattering if they hit you there.

3) Accessorize! Look for things like:
  • Belts
  • Heels
  • Tights
  • Boots
  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Purses
  • Jewelry
Often a little boost from an accessory can turn a vintage dress from nice or ho-hum into va-va-va-voom! If the dress looks like a sack (which sack dresses were a 60s and 70s trend) cinch it in with a nice belt, skinny if you want to look delicate, big if you want to really add a splash of color. Heels almost always look better with vintage, just think about it all the housewives wore them! Plus, they make your legs look skinner, boost up your bum and tend to give the illusion of a flatter tummy - just pick comfy ones! Same goes for boots and tights. You can really make a vintage piece more modern by adding tights and ankle boots this season.

Then if you're looking for a little fun gloves, purses and jewelry can add a punch. No one really wears elegant gloves anymore and it's a shame. They can make your hands looks so delicate and they came in so many styles. I love to wear mine when I head out somewhere nice. It's a touch of class automatically. I also can't tell you the number of compliments I've received when I bust out some of my vintage handbags. They had so much flair! They weren't about shoving everything and the kitchen sink in the biggest bag possible, they were about style, art and elegance. Trust me on this one! And the jewelry is a given. Nothing looks nicer than some sparkles!

The final, number one rule to dressing vintage in plus-sizes? Wear what fits you and flatters your figure. The style guide isn't that different from today. Learn what shapes fit you best and search for them. They're out there girls!

As a helpful hand in your search here are three Etsy sellers that either have a plus-sized section in their shops or carry a fair amount of plus-sizes. I can personally speak for threadoverheels, as I've purchased from her myself and I think I've "favorited" more than a dozen of her dresses. But I also liked what I found at iloveswift and sarahblackheart.

Happy shopping!

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