By Gillian Armour, AICI CIP

Fashion Stylist Institute Scale Up Plus Size
Fashion Stylist Institute Scale Up Plus Size

Our work as image and fashion consultants takes us down many paths with our clients. Recently I’ve been doing quite a bit of consulting with Plus Size female clients. My clients tell me they want to look fashionable and yet are constantly challenged with finding "fashionable" clothing in the market place today.  It can be very disheartening for them to watch fashion shows, admire the clothes, and realize that not a thing on the runway will fit them. Despite this realization, they can definitely recreate the looks while being body conscious and fabulous.

Here are a few tips I offer and that you can use to help your clients find great fashion in any size:

It is quite simple and affordable to look "high fashion" no matter what your figure.  You'll need 3 things: current fashion magazines, a notebook, and patience to wear your dream outfits!

After you've seen a look that you would like to recreate from a fashion magazine, deconstruct the outfit in your notebook.  With great detail, list the components of the outfit including all accessories.  Note the color, fabric, cut, and embellishments for each article that constitutes the outfit. This list will be your guide for the rest of your "scale up" adventure, so every detail is important. List accessories in the side margins as you will be shopping for these later on as well.

From client experience I can guarantee that you already own at least one article of clothing on your list. So, your next step is to shop in your closet. Pull garments that are the colors of your desired palette.  Gather accessories and shoes that are similar to the ones you've noted.  If necessary, take any existing garments to the cleaners in preparation for assembling day.  Once you've taken an inventory of what you already own then it's time to do some online shopping to fill in your list.

There are great "as seen on stars" websites as well as trendy plus size online shops available. Comb through these shops using keywords from your detailed list ("wide-leg trousers" "bow tie blouses" etc.). You may find a comparable outfit already coordinated and ready to wear, and in your size on these sites and will be able to accessorize with picks from your closet.  A few sites I recommend include: modcloth.com, Amazon.com’s Plus Size Shop

Alas, if you don't find what you need online, you'll have to visit department stores (alone or with your fashion consultant). This can be a little tricky if the look you seek is for next season. Don't fret! Sales racks will have clothes from past seasons that can be used. For example, if it's the dead of winter and you're looking for a cute summer ensemble you saw in a Spring/Summer spread from fashion week, check out the sales rack.  You will be able to find linens and lighter weight fabrics for a fraction of the price. Furthermore, if you hold out until March, you'll be able to find exact looks for the next season trickled down from the runway, hopefully in your size. If not, you will find alternatives with the same color palette. Keep in mind also that in late July and early August many department stores are marking down Spring/Summer in anticipation of the new Fall collections coming onto the sales floor.

Your last course of action to "scale up" runway fashions is to hire a skilled seamstress. You should have a seamstress on call anyway for your clothes to fit you perfectly. In this case, you need a highly skilled seamstress with a keen eye for detail. You'll be presenting her photographs, a Polyvore collage or your magazines tear outs of what you need to complete a look. You may already have the jacket, accessories, and shoes, but you need the blouse and trousers made. It is imperative that she is able to free hand a pattern and craft you well fitted clothes that match the expensive, authentic look of the designer outfit you desire to replicate. Ask for work samples and references. You'll need to do some research about her background in working with various fabrics and techniques, as well.

Assembling day will be exciting! You've put in the work and now you finally have all of the components for your look straight off the runway. It may have taken some time, planning, and money, but plus sized women should be able to wear high fashion. Let the work you put into getting the stylish finished product be you and your image consultants little secret.