Monday, July 25, 2011

Gailc Carriger On Retro Rack Special Edition ~ Plus Size Vintage!

Aside from the Rack, Fashionable Reader, I am not really a plus size girl. However, I am the universal shopper for many of my friends. Which is to say, they all know that when in dire need I am available in any emergency ~ emotional, lifestyle, or physical ~ if a shopping jaunt is required. I have drawn up spreadsheets that correlate tops to bottoms for a stylistically-challenged beta reader. I have shopped for friends and partners who are too busy to do it themselves (and then returned the unwanted items). I also lived for five years with a plus size fashionista man.

Vintage is difficult to find in plus sizes for many reasons, one of which is that things are often tailored down as they are passed around. The end result is that what survives tends to be on the smaller end. Another reason is that stretch fabrics do not withstand washing so well as non-stretch. One of the things I would do is hunt for dresses in thrift stores that can become vintage with a little tailoring.

Gail tailoring

Since I am not an expert on shopping for plus size vintage I decided to call on a friend. Sarah and I have been BFFs for over 20 years. She's a gorgeous redhead who just happens to also be plus size. She is also a brilliant professional seamstress. I put this question to her. Her response was as follows:

Finding vintage clothes in plus size is like catching lightening in a bottle; especially finding cheap vintage plus size. I've had decent luck on Ebay for retro fashion. But Ebay is getting harder to sell on so the selection is not as great as it used to be.  Sometimes you can find nice things on Etsy too but you really have to troll both sites constantly to find awesome deals.

For actual vintage in plus sizes, the only online store I know of is Re/Dress NYC. They specialize in sizes 14 and up. (Gail notes to keep in mind that sizes have changed, I wear a size 10 in vintage size, sometimes a 12. My modern dress size is 4-8.)

From ReDress

For retro/mod/mid-century inspired new clothing, I like Domino Dollhouse and Pinup Girl Clothing.  Domino Dollhouse carries only plus sizes and Pin Up Girl carries all sizes up to 3X. For nice boutique items that can have a vintage feel or flair to them, I like Lucie Lu ~ she carries only plus sizes from 1X to 5X.

Since your readership is [located] all over the place, it doesn't make sense to recommend specific brick and mortar stores but I can say that I've noticed more consignment stores are starting to carry plus sizes and sometimes you get lucky and find something fabulous.

If your readers are ever in SF try Vintage Expo, I think it happens twice a year. It doesn't specialize in plus sizes but it is a HUGE event and some of the vendors (at least 2 that I know of and probably more) do carry plus sized stuff. 

Excerpted from RedressNYC's site: "If you're in New York, plan to shop at The Big Fat Flea in May
 (formerly known as The Fat Girl Fleamarket).

If you're near Boston, there is the Big Thrifty also in May

She adds that Bust magazine published (Jan 2013) a list of 6 online stores that carry cute plus sized vintage-inspired clothes.
  • - they used to be a brick and mortar store in Brooklyn specializing in plus sized vintage. Now they are strictly online and make their own repro-vintage. (Site can be slow to load.)
  • Domino Dollhouse - based in CA, think Modcloth but more affordable and strictly plus sized.
  • - their look is definitively mid-century retro-chic, think Rockabilly. Sizes XS to 2X.
  • - carry sizes 10-28 in a mix of styles.
  • - sizes from XS to 4X. Style is what you'd expect from their name. (But they are not cheap.)
  • - retro-chic with some nice pieces that I haven't seen on these other sites. Their UI isn't the greatest but they seem to have quite the selection. Sizes XS to 2X.
So my sincere thanks to Sarah for the wealth of information.

In addition, I follow various bloggers who are plus size.
  • Shelley of New Vintage Lady describes her blog as "vintage sewing for the stout woman." Her skill set is way beyond my own but she is an inspiration. 
  • The stunning Miss Amelia of Good Stuff Only occasionally ventures into vintage pin-up and rockabilly in her street style photo blog. 
  • There is also The Curvy Fashionista, her focus tends to be modern and trendy.
And here is an article from Plus Size Vintage on rockabilly.

So there you have it, my darlings. I hope this has been of some help to you. Good luck in your quests and remember, if nothing else you can always accessorize with vintage and believe you me, this blog will come back around to talking accessories on more than one occasion.


  1. So awesome to have these resources! thank you

  2. I don't want to sound like a Negative Nelly, but I'm kind of surprised to see JC Penny listed. I was just there yesterday - I need a formal gown (obviously plus sized) for an event on September 2nd and their choices were hideous. Even on their website they don't have anything appropriate for a formal event in plus sizes.

    I went to several stores, even one that specializes in formal gowns, and found nada. Hours of shopping and all I had to show for it was a pedometer that said I had walked nearly 10,000 steps and nine pairs of trouser socks.

    Admittedly, today I'm a bit bitter over it. I can't understand why they make all formal gowns sleeveless for one thing. Not every woman wants to show her arms and I hate the little jackets as they often slide out of place with normal movements. Nor do I understand why they are now making plus sizes with those horrible ruffles all the way down the skirt as they just serve to make one's legs look fatter - the same way horizontal stripes are a big no-no. (Even Tim Gunn says so.)

    And the few that did have sleeves or at least a jacket with it were so doggone matronly. I mean, I like matronly most of the time, but I'm trying to find something that is both elegant and sexy without being slutty. IE: Something with a sweetheart neckline, showing just enough cleavage to tease, not enough to have a Janet Jackson moment.

    I might just have to have a dress made from scratch incorporating elements I like from various dresses I found, but it is frustrating. By the end of the day besides the physical exhaustion of walking into a ton of places (and also, frankly, from having to push mom's wheelchair - selfishly I wish she'd break down and get an electric one, but she thinks if she does that it means she's given up - she can walk some, just not for long periods), there was just a deep depression that the stuff I even kind of liked didn't come in my size and the stuff for my size was so ugly I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy.

    Sorry if I brought anyone down. I don't mean to. Feel free to ignore me. It was just the JC Penny was somewhat shocking to me.

  3. Jami, sorry to hear it. I will say, I haven't been to JC Penny in a couple years. And they do change their stock depending on the stores location. I hope this isn't a total trend for them. Then again, I've never go looking for anything more formal than a summer dress there. I have more formal wear than I need already.

  4. A few more gorgeous vintage ladies to add to your blog list:

    And oh dear Jami! This is why I sew: I can assure you that shopping is an utterly depressing venture no matter what your dress size happens to be.

  5. Crud - Forgot one!

  6. Hey their, thanks for mentioning my blog towards the bottom, I also have a new website everything with being plus size and loving the vintage look. Great write up!

  7. Thank you so much for this! It's a wonderful resource to start looking and I appreciate that.

  8. Right now, Torrid ( has a Retro line that's yummy! Torrid (for those that don't know) is a mall and online store that sells plus size clothes for women.

    (Full disclosure. I work at Hot Topic, the parent company of Torrid.)

  9. Also has some designs that go up to 3X. I have one of their dresses, bought from another site in XL with some stretch in it that fits very nicely.

  10. I love Torrid's retro-inspired lines. has some plus-sized selections as well - I have the Trixie dress and I LOVE it (I got mine when she had them marked WAY down, but after owning it for a few years I would be willing to pay full price for it).

    It made me squee to see Miss Shelley of New Vintage Lady mentioned! I've 'known' her for a few years from a message board and she's certainly a lovely gal!

  11. Wow, thanks for including me in this Plus Size (or as I say, Stout) post.
    I've been sewing for a few years and it's so freeing, and cheaper, once you hit a stride. I gave up on ready to wear a looooog time ago! If I could make shoes I'd do that too!

    Yay vintage!

  12. Hi! I know this is an old article, but I thought I might be able to help out fellow Aussies. You should check out my store

    We have vintage clothes and we also do bespoke reproduction suits and dresses!

  13. Just thought I'd share my discovery. After reading all the comments.
    Here's a website I came across, although their plus sizes only go up to a 2X, the prices are great. I hope this website can benefit a few readers.


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