As a plus-size woman looking for crucial gear for my own long-term travels, I’ve found that good plus-size travel clothes are few and far between. Most versatile women’s gear, like convertible dresses or shirts, only work for people that are very thin, and many plus-size options, when you can find them at all, are designed for the retired cruising set, and not necessarily for backpackers.
Travelers come in all shapes and sizes, and I want to empower my fellow plus-size travelers to find what they need for their own adventures, whatever they may be. Over a few posts here on HPL, I’ll be highlighting different types of plus-size travel gear, starting, in this post, with good resources for cute plus-size clothes that won’t break the bank, and will help you look great while globetrotting!
In a good plus-size retailer, I look for the following qualities:
1. High-quality materials/construction: A lot of widely-available plus-size clothing is made of cheap, shoddy materials (Forever 21 comes to mind), so I mostly strive to buy higher-quality or better-constructed clothes whenever possible.
2. Tailoring for plus-sized people: Though many stores have a ‘plus-size’ section of some kind (though often small and dismal) the section is often a bit half-baked. Many just take clothes for straight-size people and then just make a larger version, with the same proportions. This doesn’t work very well for plus-size bodies, as weight distribution can be quite different. There are many retailers that have clothing that is specifically made for plus-sized people, instead of just adding the size as an afterthought.
3. Cute, trendy clothes: OK, this one’s kind of a gimme, as pretty much everyone looks for cute, trendy clothes no matter their size. However, it’s pretty difficult to find cool clothes in plus sizes. Though it now seems that many retailers are figuring out that people over a size US14 want to spend their money on cool clothes (shocker right?), many still only carry two kinds of plus-size clothing. Loud, big-patterned mumu-type clothing, or stuff with cherries printed on it (pseudo-rockabilly style). And while there’s nothing wrong with being into this type of clothing, variety of options is much appreciated.
Here are a few of my favorite plus-size retailers:
ASOS: ASOS is a UK-based online retailer and center of my plus-size clothing universe. Their clothes are not necessarily cheap, but are well-made and last a very long time–I’m still wearing clothes from when I started buying from ASOS, over two years ago. They also have sales pretty often, so it’s worth checking the site regularly. The number one, A+, super thumbs up, best thing about ASOS, especially for travelers, is that they offer FREE shipping and return shipping anywhere in the world with a purchase over USD$30. Clothes are generally true to size.
H&M Plus: H&M’s plus-size section is limited, but steadily growing. There’s not a lot of variety, but it’s a good site to get decent-quality basics at reasonable prices. H&M is great for those whose travel wardrobes have a color palette centered on dark or neutral colors. The tanks and shirts are especially good, but they also have the occasional cute dress or skirt. Note that their sizes run a little small.
Target: Target is on the cheaper side of things, and really great for basics, especially maxi dresses, cardigans, and dresses with shoulders and knees covered (great to wear when visiting churches). Clothes generally run true to size.
Levi’s: For light-packing advocates, jeans are definitely considered a “luxury” item, but for some women, jeans are a must-have outfit staple that simply cannot be left behind. The debate has gone on for ages. If you’re going to weigh down your bag with a pair of jeans, they should at least be of good quality. Levi’s has real denim jeans (none of that weird stretchy business) up to a size 24. They also have high-quality jeggings, if that’s your cup of tea. Since Levi’s are made of denim, they will take foreeeeeeeever to dry, but denim also doesn’t require very frequent laundering. Levi’s sizing is pretty consistent…as consistent as you can get in women’s jeans, anyway.
ModCloth: Though they tend to be on the pricier side, Modcloth is very consistently cute, well-constructed, and has a variety of types of clothes in plus sizes. They mostly have dresses, and may be a good place to find your one “dress-up or dress-down” dress that you pack, like a maxi dress, or a “little black dress”. They do have a decent variety of sweaters, skirts, underwear, and nicer tops. They also have a great collection of bathing suits. This may be a bit expensive for the average budget backpacker, but if you have a ‘dress-up’ occasion to pack for, this is a great place to start.
I hope this will be helpful to my fellow plus-size travelling babes. Soon to come are more posts about different types of travel clothing: bathing suits, outdoor gear, underwear, and other things that will help you be well-equipped for your adventures!