Asking most plus-size women about fashion will unleash a torrent of rage, frustration and sadness. So when we heard that Clinton Kelly, the witty co-host of TLC's "What Not To Wear," would be in town hosting a plus-size fashion show today, we couldn't resist picking his brain on style tips for the 50 percent-or-so of women who are plus-size.
P-I: Why is it so hard to find stylish plus-size clothing in stores?
Kelly: I think that the idea of plus-size women not being able to find plus-size clothing is antiquated ... but have all designers gotten on board with it? Absolutely not. ... But there's a lot out there.
I know some women who would disagree with you.
I'm not going to blow smoke here and tell you that every retailer caters to the plus-size fashions. They don't. Fashions for size-2s that are 6 feet tall are glamorous, and most designers want to be associated with glamour.
OK, so tell us what not to wear when it comes to women and plus-size fashions.
A woman shouldn't wear anything that resembles a tent of any kind, because that makes her look bigger. Instead, what you should do is look for clothes that have great fit and structure. A great structured jacket is a must, and if even if you don't look like you have an hourglass figure, it'll give you one.
Women should also be careful with things that look dinky, carrying a little bag or wearing itsy-bitsy jewelry actually makes you look bigger. Pay attention to proportion when it comes to bags, accessories and jewelry.
Can you recommend some basic, go-to items or must-have staples for larger women?
A wide-leg trouser that fits the widest part of you and goes straight down from there -- that's very important. V-neck sweaters or tops are a wonderful way to create the illusion of a longer neck. Taller people usually have longer necks, and the V-shape neckline -- better than a scoop neck -- elongates the neck. You'll automatically look taller.
An espadrille right now is big for spring and summer and it's the ideal shoe for a larger woman because it's light and it has the right proportion. ... The espadrille has some solidity to it and it still has the airy feeling for summer.
I always say there's nothing an A-line skirt can't fix. When your skirt flares away at the hem, it gives the illusion of an hourglass. ... So great pieces would be a V-neck, with structured jacket, an A-line skirt, espadrilles and a cuff bangle and a decent bag.
Are there any fabrics to be avoided?
Anything that's sort of obviously clingy doesn't work if it clings to all the wrong places. Heavier fabrics definitely control the body a little bit more than stretchy polyester. ... Heavier weight cotton or cotton canvas can help. The clothes can help shape the body rather than the body shaping the clothes.
And I'm not saying that polyester is bad -- it has its place in the world.
Horizontal stripes aside, are there any rules in terms of fabric color and print?
Like your accessories, the prints need to be proportional.
Horizontal stripes, I have said they are the devil, but they're not the devil for all women. If the stripe is really fine, and from a distance they look like a solid, they can work. ... And if your lower body is a lot bigger than your upper body, you can use a horizontal stripe on your upper body to make it look like it's more in proportion to your lower body.
But this is the rule: Shape and fit are more important than color and pattern.
A lot of plus-size women think they can't wear white because black is more slimming, but that's not true. ... White can look great in a suit with a wide-leg trouser that fits and a structured jacket.
Do you have any tips for women when it comes to picking out clothes for the changing room? Trying on things can be so demoralizing, sending women running out of stores in tears.
I gotta tell you something: Don't worry so much about a number on the label. They vary wildly from designer to designer.... It's really not your problem that designers can't get their (act) together. If you wear a size 14 in one designer and an 18 in another, it doesn't matter.
You've got to realize that everyone goes through what you're going through. ... You just don't see it. ... Women who are a size 2 go through the same thing.
It's true. Women think, "My body is what's wrong here," and that's not true at all. That's the feeling of powerlessness. ... What you do is to find something that fits the largest part of you and then take it to the tailor. Don't feel like you're a victim of designers and stylists. Women have it in their heads that they have to find something on the rack and that it has to look good, but men when they go to stores to buy suits, they have to have them altered. And women have more curves than men, so how does that make any sense?
Any parting thoughts?
Realize how clothes should fit and get yourself a great tailor or seamstress. ... You're just going to have to factor that cost into your wardrobe these days. Most of all, have fun. No one's going to die if you make a fashion mistake, and don't think that if you're over size 14 that you can't participate in fashion trends. You absolutely can.