When I was in my cousin's wedding party almost eleven years ago, I was given explicit instructions about what to wear from my toes (nail polish color) all the way up to my hair (couldn't cut it). I appreciated this as it allowed me not to think too much. I just put on my uniform and participated as needed. Since then I've been a guest at two weddings. One took place, both ceremony and reception, at a semi-rural church and had a dress code of "try to look nice". The other took place at a church and then a local restaurant and also had a dress code of "try to look nice". I tried, both times, and wound up wearing a black dress and a loosely-interpreted pant suit, in that order. This wedding is both fancier and an opportunity for me to step it up a little when it comes to looking nice. I am most comfortable in a t-shirt, jeans and a loose-fitting cardigan/sweatshirt/sweater. I wear Earth shoes most of the time, never wear make up and I feel overwhelmingly girly when I do things like get a manicure or wear earrings other than my standard tiny silver hoops. This is just a lot for me, and more often than not I'm fanning my face or whining about how hard it is. So, I need your help.
I have three dresses I'm pretty much settled on. I have a few requirements...sleeveless dresses must have substantial straps, the dress must hit at or below the knee, there shouldn't be too much cleavage, and it can't be brown. These three seem to fit the bill. Then, there's the shoes. I have also included some of my top considerations with each dress. I would like to wear heels, though I never do, and would prefer something 2.5-3.5" with a slight platform to offset the height. I have a wide foot, so some shoes just won't work at all. I also like a more substantial heel if for no other reason than I want to feel stable.
I like the color, which is apparently more of a deep gray versus a taupe/champagne color, I like the tidy pleating at the waist, I like the empire cut, the v-neck on front and back, the length, the subtle detailing on the skirt and the wide straps. I don't necessarily love the fact that it doesn't have sleeves, but I could handle a wrap or a lightweight cardigan. I would most likely go for a solid black shoe, but depending on the shade I suppose I could try the choice in the middle (if the color matches). Then again, too matchy-matchy?
I really love how easy this dress looks. I like the cap sleeves, the pleated skirt. I think the ruching at the waistline is flattering as is the v-neck. It is something I'm definitely likely to wear again and it would bring some color to the party, but it might be too casual (?). The shoe options are more varied with this dress, but not overwhelmingly so. I could pull off a black heel, even patent, or I could go for the nude/sand heel look. Many fashion sites recommend gold shoes with coral dresses, but I am deeply concerned that people will think I'm going for a Baby a'la Dirty Dancing look.
Igigi dresses have a reputation in the plus size/fat lady world of being expertly constructed, comfortable and universally flattering. While I have never owned an Igigi dress, I have dreamt of it. This dress is a lovely taffetta sheath with an interesting bodice, fitted empire waist and an appropriate length. It has straps that can be removed if that's your thing, too. I am somewhat wary of the bodice being too big as my bodacious tatas are not, by comparison, as big as the plus size industry would like them to be for my size. But overall, this is a high end look that is both modern and classic. For shoes, I could wear anything, right? Here are some choices. I generally loathe red and black together, but I would do it for some color. I also love the teal/aqua choices.
If you can believe it, this small list has been narrowed down from a 20+ list of dresses running the gamut from Saks Fifth Avenue to David's Bridal. I created a document and sent it to my most trusted advisers, people who truly know my body well (and not like that, pervs...ok, maybe one of them), and people who know what it sounds like when I whine about being uncomfortable. The entire experience has been positively overwhelming, but I truly feel like I've graduated from lazy femme-nist tomboy girlhood to actually being concerned about first world lady problems like FASHION. Where's my diploma?!
This experience has also illuminated some of what I heard muttered in fat fashion communities and from some of my more feminine friends...plus size fashion really blows, people. What does exist is either cut poorly, constructed from cheap and unflattering fabrics, or completely unattainable price-wise. The colors are boring, the styles are often matronly and it's next to impossible to find a variety of sizes in the store. This means that fat women need to have things like credit cards to shop online, we need to have the time/financial flexibility to wait for things to ship to us and be credited to us when we return them. We have to trust the way the various department stores and labels measure their brands, we have to sift through endless amounts of ill-fitting and tasteless "juniors" clothing to find something remotely demure and conventional, and we will all have to settle at some point in our lives for something that fits and falls within our price range rather than something that's perfect. It's frustrating and dehumanizing and I wish it wasn't so painful. If I can come out of this experience looking and feeling fabulous, I will consider it a great victory. Bodies are so complex and we are being clothed by a fashion industry that hardly cares about us.
That being said, your two cents is highly prized. Please share it in the comments!