Friday, October 18, 2013

Fat Girl Fashion On A Budget: Office Friendly Finds

By Caitlin Seida

Let's face it - we're all looking for things that look good and don't break the bank. When you're a larger lady (like myself) that task seems IMPOSSIBLE. Everything is either covered in sequins or bows or kittens or mirrors or looks like a Cosby sweater reject. My secret? Thrift stores. I shop them religiously. Today's outfit is almost entirely thrifted, so you won't be able to get this exact look, but I've found similar items for you to recreate this look for just a hair over $50, excluding accessories and undergarments. But we'll talk about those later.

Take a Look At That Top!

Here's the front view of the entire outfit. Office appropriate, right? It's a short sleeve knit turtleneck shell from Lord and Taylor - gotten at my local Goodwill for $3.99. Score! It's a size 1X and runs true to size. Since it's a thrift store score, it's hard to find an exact original price. Mine is cotton - perfect for fall weather. A comparable one from this season's collection in merino wool runs $60 on their website! Savings on that one item? $56.01

The Cardigan is an Isabella Rodriguez - gotten at an outlet store for $4.99. It's a size Large, but runs a little bit larger than you'd expect. It's form fitting on me, but in a good way. It's tissue thin, so more for decoration than warmth and I love the way it flows open at the front. The only thing I'm not so fond of is the peplum-like styling at the back - I feel it emphasizes my already considerable backside. As a bonus, though, it keeps any unfortunate pant/shirt gaps from happening and showing the world my skivvies.  The original is again, no longer available but looks like it retailed for $39.99. Total savings? $35.

Bottoms Away!

These pants are a true gem of a thrift store find. They're made by Studio 1940 - a brand made for the now defunct chain of stores, Fashion Bug. These pants are a size 24 - larger than I normally wear, but the number means nothing when the fit is right. True to my hourglass shape, I need a larger butt allowance and a smaller waist. These pants are just right! Since they were gotten thrift, they needed some repairs. The buttons fell off and one of the hook and eye combos was worn out - nothing I couldn't handle in under 15 minutes. And for $5, totally worth it! They've got wideset red pinstripes, just my favorite! Original retail price, as far as I can discern, was $29.99 - not too bad for a good pair of pants! Total savings? $24.99

Accessories Make the Outfit

Let's get onto the accessories, though. They make the outfit yours - original, unique touches that allow you to express your personality even in a stuffy, business-casual setting. This bag was made by someone near and dear to my heart - my "Almost Sister In Law" (It's a long story!). She's a graphic designer and designs every one of her bags from scratch and screen prints them onto quality linen totes. I'm not joking when I say that my entire life is in this bag - it's held up to so much abuse it should look worse than it does. Retail value is $20, but I got it as a present. Total savings? $20.
This necklace is AWESOME. It's a heart with wings - kind of my own personal little symbol. Again, it's a handcrafted piece made by Etsy seller Horribell. It's on a sturdy chain and has, again, held up to a lot of abuse. I can't wear it often or when I'll be wet or sweaty since it is NOT nickel free (and I have a contact allergy to nickel) but it's one of my favorites so I gladly wear it whenever I can. With a turtleneck like this, it doesn't come in contact with my skin and I can wear it freely. It retails for $11.50, plus shipping. I paid full price.

So to recap:

Lord and Taylor Cotton Sleeveless Turtleneck Shell: $3.99 (Original Retail Value: $60.00)
Studio 1940 Red and Black Pinstripe Pants: $5.00 (Original Retail Value: $29.99)
Isabella Rodriguez Ruffle Cardigan: $4.99 (Original Retail Value: $39.99)
Abbie Normal Graphics Bag: $0 (Original Retail Value: $20)
Horribell Heart With Wings Necklace: $11.50 (Original Retail Value: $11.50)
Total I paid: 25.48
Total Full Price Retail Value: $161.48
Total Savings? $136

How You Can Get The Look For Less

I've gone ahead and found some reasonable copycats of the items I found by thrifting. First up are the pants: Plus size pinstripe pants are tough to find. Ashley Stewart Women's Plus Size collection offers pinstripe pants (PINK! pinstripe pants!) for $24.84. I know that's a bit more than you'd like to pay, but for good fitting pants, I know I'd pay a million bucks if I could. You can get them by clicking on this link:

Next up is the turtleneck shell. ToBelnStyle offers a turtleneck shell in a variety of colors (including a pink to match those pinstripe pants as well as a basic black) that comes in plus sizes. Re-sellers on Amazon are offering it for $8.95, but I'd spring for the new, out of the box one from the manufacturer for just a few dollars more ($10.99)

The cardigan was a little harder to track down. Hollywood Star Fashion offers a plus size drapey cardigan that's got the same comfy tissue-weight feel and same basic silhouette as my Isabella Rodriguez piece. And it comes in a variety of colors - yes, my favorite black, but also a pink to match those lovely pinstripe pants, a calming ocean blue and a bunch of white, gray, peach and neutrals to suit your tastes. It'll set you back a mere $14.50

So to get this outfit without scouring the thrift stores and crossing your fingers? A hair over $50 ($50.33 not including shipping, I might add.) That's not too bad for quality pieces that fit and are work-appropriate, and items that you can mix and match in your daily wardrobe. Other plus size stores (Torrid, I'm looking at you) charge you $50 for ONE piece of clothing. So while the pricetag is a little hefty, it's all about perspective.

Get the Accessories

I'm a big believer in buying from independent artisans and craftspeople when you can. And paying full price for them - these people put their heart, soul, time and hard earned skills into making these pieces and deserve a living wage for their work. Some people view handmade as inferior - that view could not be further from the truth. If you're looking for a little splurge as a way to spruce up a basic outfit like this one, take some time and money and invest in a handmade piece.

The necklace from Horribell can be found on Etsy - if this isn't your style, she's got plenty more cool stuff to choose from and it's all reasonably priced in the $10-30 range for most of it. She does lean toward the more goth/punk/alt style, but you might be surprised at what you find. 
Angel Wing Heart Necklace by Etsy Seller Horribell: $11.50 plus shipping

AbbieNormal Graphics is currently experiencing an Etsy outage and having problems with her shop. I've linked to her Facebook album showing samples of some of her designs,
 See more here or e-mail for one of your own!

Both of these accessories together will run you $31.50, not including shipping. But they are so totally worth it! If you bought the accessories, the entire outfit would cost $81.83, minus shipping costs. Again, a hefty price tag but everything is quality and able to be mixed and matched easily with other pieces.

Why don't you tell us about your favorite place to score plus size duds for less? How about your best thrift store score? Happy shopping, ladies!

Caitlin Seida has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites including,,, and The Daily Puppy. A Jill-of-All-Trades, she splits her workday as a writer, humane society advocate and on-call vet tech. What little free time she has goes into pinup modeling, advocating for self-acceptance, knitting and trying to maintain her haunted house (really!). You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and of course here on I Feel Delicious!

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