Q&A: How to Build a Plus Size Professional Wardrobe on a Budget

April 9th, 2009

Q: I’m trying to start dressing more fashionably and put together, but I am still a poor, broke, college student. I’m finishing my teaching degree and I would like to look professional all of the time. In addition to being broke, I am also plus sized.

Pictured (clockwise from left): Black Tie-Front Short Sleeved Jacket | $54 at Torrid, Stretch Poplin Button Down Blouse | $68 at Kiyonna, Classic Rise Wide Leg Trousers | $29.50 at Old Navy.

A: In order to build a professional wardrobe on a budget, we recommend investing in versatile, structured pieces that can seamlessly mix and match.  Structured pieces will help you look professional, while also flattering your figure.  Plus, your existing college-appropriate wardrobe will be instantly elevated when paired with these professional pieces.

Because fit is so key with these pieces - your tailored pants, blazers, and button-down shirts - it’s okay to stretch your budget in order to get the Right pieces.  After all, you’ll get so much wear out of them that the cost per wear will be manageable.  With a tight budget, take your time to find and purchase the right pieces.  You don’t need to buy all of them at once, and being picky will help you understand what brands and styles fit and flatter you best.  Plus, waiting to buy also helps you take advantage of sales and coupons that will reduce the price further.  Here’s three specific pieces to look for:

The Perfect Button Down Shirt in a stretch cotton poplin style.  A straight, body skimming cut with vertical seams will flatter your figure best.  You’ll be able to wear this shirt by itself - or unbutton it to midchest and layer a camisole or tank underneath.

The Classic with a Twist Blazer, which will pair with tailored pants, jeans, and skirts.  Pick a youthful take on this classic - try details like half sleeves,

Flat Front Pants
with a medium to medium-high waistline.  The higher the waistline, the longer your legs will look (and the taller you will appear). Pants with a slight flare at the leg will help visually balance your figure.

Have a great tip about how to build a professional plus-size wardrobe on a budget? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A,Women,Women's

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracey  |  April 9th, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I highly recommend the Right Fit line at Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug. It’s designed to fit specific body types (curvy, slightly curvy, etc.) and you have to be measured to find your correct sizing. The pieces fit great and are good wardrobe basics – work appropriate flat front pants and trouser cut jeans in flexible neutrals. They are about $50 a piece, but they’ll be in your wardrobe forever. Plus you don’t have to worry about tailoring because of the sizing.

  • 2. Tracey  |  April 9th, 2009 at 7:59 am

    I also recommend getting friendly with the sales staff at your favorite stores. Let them know what your wardrobe needs are, your wardrobe goals, and what your budget is. Once you establish a relationship with them, they can be an invaluable tool in helping you build your wardrobe keeping your price range in mind. They can also tip you off to upcoming sales or they may set aside items for you as new items arrive. Good luck and remember, go for quality pieces not quantity of items.

  • 3. Kerry Cordero, Image Consultant and Personal Stylist  |  April 9th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’d like to add a few tried-and-true image consulting techniques. Dark colors on the bottom are slimming so go for blue, black or gray. Skip the lighter colored khaki colors that are typical of the summer wardrobe. That perfect white blouse can be further improved upon by looking for a collar that is a bit wider and a wrap front will look great on you. And make sure to wear a feew accessories so that you keep your youthfull look. But make sure shoes, belts and jewelry are larger scale to match your plus size. Smaller necklaces can be layered to achieve that affect too!

  • 4. Tracey  |  April 9th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I love Lane Bryant for their bottoms and suit jackets; Avenue for their dresses; Old Navy for basic button down shirts, camis, and tees; and Nordstrom’s women’s department for special pieces. I’m in my 40’s, but try to dress modern and youthful. I’ve been able to find a good mix between these stores and frequent their sales, websites, and clearance items. Ashley Stewart has some fun casual pieces and items that have a pop of color, but they’re more of a casual store than a place to build a work wardrobe. You also might want to check out the Tiana B. and Theme lines on HSN for versatile dresses and Kiyonna for all sorts of pieces. Have fun & good luck.

  • 5. Amanda  |  April 10th, 2009 at 11:43 am

    This may be a little taboo, but especially when I was young, first married and on a strict budget (and yes, I’m a plus-sized girl), I found 2nd hand stores to be a life-saver for a professional wardrobe. Now, I’m not talking about icky, worn-out monstrocities; I’m talking about classics: trousers that fit, a white button-down shirt, a skirt. Finding these items at consignment shops in the right size can be challenging, but they’re out there!

  • 6. Nancy  |  April 15th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I; a young 74 year old. Yes – young. After a long illness I’m just now learning about the”new shopping”. They have closed my beloved Catherines and Avenue, Lane Bryant are mostly for the young, young, I love colors, such amethyst, greens, some pinks, etc. And I do good in picking out what looks great. However, I need help putting things together – this jacket will go with that skirt that goes with that shirt? I don’t want words, there are plenty of those around and my young, old eyes don’t read so good anymore. Show me picturs (examples) if tge reeb abd oubj

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