This week, guest writer Julia Moran Martz shares a unique guide on how to handle vegan shopping…for plus sizes.
Plus-sized women face many challenges when shopping for clothes: while there are quite a few options in black or other dark colors, styles are usually a season or four later than standard sizes and it’s difficult to find the cool stuff. Throw in the vegan factor and eliminate wool, animal hides and silk – now there’s a challenge!
Without vegan fashion companies that include plus-sizes, we’re left picking through our options at non-vegan retailers that offer plus sizes. Luckily, our options are expanding. Thanks to designers like VauteCouture and L.A.M.B by Gwen Stefani, there is an increasing interest in eco fabrics: recycled, renewable fibers and plant-based textiles like tencel and bamboo. Some of that interest is trickling into the plus-size category. Faux leathers and coated fabrics are finally trending big and we’re seeing better quality, wild colors, textures and sleek styles that look like anything but those cheap vinyls from the 70s.
Most importantly, 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the very vocal plus-sized blogger. There are now so many that retailers are starting to listen to the deafening noise from this customer segment. A lot of what I call “boxes with holes” are finally giving way to more fashionable silhouettes and lovely fabrics.
Like most plus-sized women, I lust after the runway shows at every Fashion Week, knowing that none of those incredible ideas will be available to me. While we may not find these exact items in our size, we can certainly use them as inspiration while shopping with retailers who do serve our needs. Two interesting trends I’ve noticed in the latest fashion weeks are the more relaxed fit of trousers and a greater variety of skirt lengths and styles. Both of these are great for plus-sized women who never did feel quite comfortable in jeggings or mini skirts. Even maxis are still around, although we’re seeing some more streamlined narrower versions with less fabric billowing about. And if you love shorter lengths, there are oodles of options in pencil, skater, wrap and shift styles, like this ASOS Curve dress.
Where to start? First, let’s forget all those old, stale rules that have governed the plus market for decades. That’s how we got stuck with solid black for everything in the first place. A younger generation of plus women are pushing the boundaries of color, patterns (geometrics, florals and stripes) and body-conscious fits, and retailers are starting to notice. Don’t be afraid to experiment and consider breaking some of those old rules if it feels right to you. If you dig that striped shirt, try it on! Is that bright floral pencil skirt beckoning to you? Try layering it with your favorite blazer. I keep a stash of basics including leggings, skirts, t-shirts and camisoles in a range of colors that fit my tastes. I can then combine these with statement pieces to create my wardrobe. Statement pieces help you express your personal style. Consider interesting shapes like wrap skirts, shirts with unusual collars or hemlines, insanely cool jackets and the occasional vest for layering, all in colors, textures and printed patterns that excite you.
To determine how well an item will work with my wardrobe before buying, I use a nifty iPad app called Stylebook. Having entered photos of my professional clothing into the app, all I need to do is capture the potential purchase from the retailer’s website and “try it on” digitally to see how well it integrates with items I already have. There are other wardrobe apps but this one is my personal favorite so far.
Time to shop
Until we get to a point where plus-size vegan couture exists, you’ll still need to weed out the wool, silk and animal leather products. If a manufacturer seems a bit sketchy with how they list their fabrics, contact their customer service department. A few of my favourite retailers that tick all boxes:
MYNT 1792: One of the most stylish online stores for plus-sized women. They have a small collection compared to larger retailers but the focus is on interesting products that are easily mixable. I love MYNT 1792 especially because they reach out to plus-size bloggers, most recently partnering with five ladies to produce five unique pieces of outerwear from each blogger’s vision. The resulting Blogger Collection is amazing. It includes an insanely cool, faux leather, blush-pink moto jacket with rose gold zippers and studs on both the front and back. I’ve not previously seen anything like this for the plus market, let alone in faux leather. The other jackets are all convertible. Meaning you’ll get a jacket and a coat out of two of them, also a vest from another and short vs. long sleeves from the clear vinyl moto jacket. Convertible items provide more options for mixing in your wardrobe. It’s like getting several jackets in one.
Evans: this UK store has country-specific websites around the globe, where you can snag affordable wardrobe basics and some unique printed dresses, tops, skirts and leggings. They even have nice retro-styled swim suits. This is one of the few stores that allows you to shop by shape, sorting the items by apple, busty, hourglass, or pear.
SimplyBe: this chic retailer offers a range of styles from edgy to corporate, house items and designer brands with country-specific sizing. Many of their dresses are lined to improve wear and they even offer several in petite, tall and regular.
ASOS: ASOS Curve covers a range of styles (and countries, including Australia, the US, UK, Italy, Germany and France). For instance, their skirts go from mini to maxi, pencil to full-on skater, all in a variety of colors and textures. Be forewarned, they do sell both faux leather and animal leather items so read the descriptions carefully.
IGIGI and Kiyonna: if you adore the draped grecian goddess aesthetic, both of these brands may inspire you. Lovely colors, well-made designs (I own an IGIGI top that’s beautiful), forgiving knits and they even have wedding dresses. Just watch out for the occasional bit of wool in overcoats.
Navabi: founded in Germany and available online internationally, Navabi’s clothing covers a wide range of styles from tailored to layered and loose. I’m in love with the unusual styles and details they incorporate into their items. Watch out for the occasional wool or animal leather item.
A little inspiration
While I don’t know of any specifically vegan plus-sized bloggers, the gals below are a few that I follow for style inspiration only. If you know of a vegan plus blogger, please leave a link in the comments for the rest of us.
Youlookfab: Angie Cox is a professional stylist for all sizes and types of clients. She has great Pinterest boards if you want to keep updated on trends and Fashion Week shows. She also notes which items are plus and which are vegan (as in shoes and faux leather jackets) in her blog posts.
Gabifresh: Gabi is a plus-sized blogger with a truly unique personal style. She is not afraid of color and can certainly mix it up.
The Vivienne Files: Janice Riggs excels at creating wardrobe capsules for different color schemes, environments and purposes. Her most recent series involves basing a mini-wardrobe on artwork, like in this post on Alexander Calder vs. Mondrian.
Curvy Girl Chic: Allison is one of the five plus-sized bloggers who designed a jacket for MYNT 1792 – enough said.
Nicolette Mason: Nicolette is an editor and contributor for Marie Claire magazine and one of the five plus-sized
bloggers who designed a jacket for MYNT 1792.
In addition to purses, jewellery and scarves, footwear is the hardest accessory for a vegan to find. Check out this Vilda article about finding the perfect footwear, and if you really want to cause a ruckus, slam on these zombie stilettos from Iron Fist for your next staff meeting. And remember, measure twice/buy once—unless the retailer has an amazing return policy.