One of the biggest frustrations about shopping as a plus-size woman is the lack of options — from the small number of stores we can shop at to the limited variety of trends designers are willing to make in our sizes.
I grew up with thinner friends, and it was sometimes very isolating. When we'd go shopping, my skinny friends would all be trying on cute clothes together — and I'd be in the accessories section, because no clothes in the store fit my body. Always being the fat friend, sister, or girlfriend can sometimes make you feel alone and misunderstood.
But we all know now that style has no size. And to prove it, my skinny best friend Alle and I dressed alike for a week.
And it changed our lives.
On Monday, we straight killed it in the outfit that started it all.
Weeks before, we'd accidentally worn these outfits to work on the same day — which gave me the idea to have us dress alike. Perhaps having two friends with different body types slay in the same outfit would remind the fashion industry that women can wear whatever they want.
Alle is wearing a suede fringe skirt by And Other Stories ($200, Stories) and I am wearing a Darana fringe maxi skirt ($22.19, Fashion to figure). We are both wearing the “Phenomenal Woman” T-shirt ($32, Omaze).
Alle has had her fringed skirt for a long time, and ever since I saw her wear it, I went crazy looking for one in my size. I had almost given up hope, but Fashion to Figure FINALLY made a nearly identical one.
This highlights a big fashion problem: If a plus-size woman sees a unique straight size item she likes, it's almost impossible to find anything similar. The brands that make clothes for our thinner friends don't want to make the same pieces in bigger sizes, and there's no way to know if plus-size stores will ever carry the specific thing we want.
Though, Alle's skirt came with its own challenges — like a lack of ventilation.
"This outfit was comfortable and cute and dramatic, so basically, everything I want," Alle said. "The only problem is that my skirt is 100% suede, and Monday was over 100 degrees in New York. BAD COMBO. I nearly took this skirt off and wandered around in my shirt and undies all day."
COME DRESS WITH US!
After avoiding the color for years, I LOVE wearing red — but it's miles from Alle's fashion comfort zone, which is why I'm so glad I got to make her wear it.
I loved how bold this dress was, but trying to find the identical dress in both a straight AND plus version was almost impossible. In fact, there was only ONE place that Alle and I could shop together.
Because I wanted us both to wear something red and cute, but Alle doesn't own anything red, we had to go shopping. The only place that had a good selection of both plus and straight size clothing, and where Alle and I could actually shop together, was ASOS.
"Shopping is a social activity, and it sucks that there’s literally ONE place — even online — that has cute clothing at good prices where both of our bodies are welcome," said Alle.
WEDNESDAY: For our third day, we wanted to do an outfit that I would normally wear. That meant wearing a crop top and a skater skirt.
The majority of these outfits were put together from things we both already had: Alle's faux leather skirt is from J.Crew (but is now sold out), and my skirt is from Forever 21 (also sold out). Our pom-pom hats are AMAZING, and are still available ($21, Amazon).
Finding a matching crop top turned into a nightmare for us, so we decided to make our own. There are literally ZERO basic fashion items available in both a size 2 and a size 18.
When god closes a crop top door, he opens a crew neck T-shirt and scissors window. We bought two men's crew neck tees ($8, Old Navy) and made our own.
Having Alle understand the challenges of finding basics like a simple white crop top made my struggles feel validated.
Shopping as a plus-size woman can be a demoralizing experience, and it's hard to express that feeling to thinner friends. Plus-size women make up 67% of the US population — we shouldn't have to buy men's shirts and cut them up just to have something that straight size women can find at any fast fashion store.
On Thursday, it was Alle's turn to pick our #twinning outfit, and she did not disappoint. "We're dressing like luxurious witches who don't care too much," she texted me.
"Once again, it was incredibly difficult for us to find the same loose black dress — which is a really basic item that should not require a search party to locate — in both a size 2 and a size 18," said Alle. "And ASOS, once again, came through when absolutely NO OTHER STORES ON THE ENTIRE INTERNET WOULD."
Initially, I wasn't a fan of the dress Alle had selected. Wearing shapeless dresses is something I avoid, because they're the sort of thing that plus-size women are told that we "have" to wear. But I surprised myself by liking it a lot.
The material was really light and soft — I was basically wearing pajamas all day. Alle picked a good piece... I just wish finding a dress like this in both our sizes had been easier.
We decided to finish out the week with a bang: On Friday, we channeled our inner Sporty Spices in a green athleisure jumpsuit.
"This outfit had two strikes against it: it's a color and it's a jumpsuit," she said. "I've never worn a jumpsuit in my adult life, and if anyone but Jess asked me to do this, I'd turn them down cold. I don't take a lot of fashion risks, and this one had me nervous."
I really live to push myself out of my fashion comfort zone, and it was cool to find someone to share a risky fashion moment with.
What was upsetting to me was thinking about how many other best friend pairs don't get to have experiences like this — because stores won't cater to their different body types. Plus-size women deserve the same clothing options their straight size friends have, and we want to be able to shop together.
At the end of the week, we had learned some things about fashion AND about our friendship — but mostly about how important it is for other people to understand your struggles.
Alle has always been pretty aware of the advantages of dressing as a thin woman. "Thin privilege is a very real thing," she said. "Though I knew that plus-size women have to jump through some insane hoops to shop, seeing HOW abysmal was eye-opening."
As for me, I realized that I no longer had to feel so alone. Size is no barrier to style — hopefully, the fashion industry (and the world at large) can realize that EVERY body deserves amazing clothing.
After all, jumpsuits come and go — but best friends are forever.