Plus side of dressing for success
My cousin Tom is getting married the first weekend of October, and while my Italian family is thrilled for the occasion, the women are in the usual pre-wedding tizzy. They have to buy new dresses. And shoes. I can’t stress enough the importance of shoes.
Before my own wedding, I traveled across the tri-state area looking for the perfect dress. For my mother. I showed a handful of dresses for a very discerning audience.
Not my bridesmaids, my grandmother.
On Friday afternoon, with a few hours to spare, I decided to start the process of searching for a dress at the five-minutesaway-from-my-house King of Prussia Mall. The wedding is in the afternoon and the invitation said cocktail attire so I don’t want to wear a floorlength ball gown. But I can’t stroll into a store and pick from an ample selection of dresses. I’m a plus -sized woman. If I’m lucky, there is a rack, probably in the back of the store, but mostly they tell me they only carry plus sizes online.
The average size of the American woman is a size 14. Of the estimated 310 million people in the United States 60 percent are overweight. That figures to roughly 93 million female shoppers in the doubledigit size range. So the biggest mall on the East Coast had to have a dress for me, right? Not this time. Three years ago I found a tan-sheath-with-black-lace cocktail dress at Bloomingdale’s and wore it to a number of weddings and special occasions.
“Just go to the mall and pick out a new dress,” my husband Tom said. “You don’t get it,” I huffed. I returned to Bloomingdale’s hoping that lightening strikes twice. A non-pushy sales woman greeted me and I asked where the plus sized formal or cocktail dresses were.
“We don’t really carry plussized formal dresses,” she answered.
“I guess Bloomingdale’s doesn’t think big girls go out,” I joked.
She laughed and mentioned they don’t carry petite formal dresses either.
“There is a selection online,” she said. “Let me show you one dress we have I think you will really like.”
She pulled a short-sleeved, round-neck pink crepe shift with an asymmetric hem (all pictures of mentioned dresses are available at www. katiekohler.com) that made me want to scream “frock!” Instead, I shook my head politely and said it wasn’t my style.
“Oh, you want something more risqué,” she said.
Not exactly. I just didn’t want to risk wearing the same thing as elderly aunts.
Next stop, Macy’s, equipped with something Bloomingdale’s
COMMENTARY would never offer — a 20-percent-off coupon.
Oof! Grandmom Mary has a saying when I bring her to the mall and she doesn’t like anything. “Who are the store buyers? Idiots! You can’t give this stuff away.”
An Adrianna Papell elbowsleeve beaded gown was the only thing that remotely stood out in a bunch of tiered, matronly-looking dresses.
Currently, the King of Prussia Mall only has one store that caters exclusively to plussize women, Lane Bryant, but Torrid, a younger-style shop, is opening soon. Neither carry formal dresses in store, but I took a quick gander through Lane Bryant hoping I could at least find one of the threequarter-length-sleeve shirts I am constantly on the hunt for. No luck.
“Am I not even going to be able to find a shirt today?” I thought.
On my way to Lord and Taylor, where I know many have found nice dresses, I ducked into Neiman Marcus. Was price keeping me from finding the right dress?
The price tags weren’t as eye-popping as some of the styles. There I found what was the ugliest dress — a keyholefront long dolman dress that was strikingly similar to the dresses the nuns wore at Holy Saviour.
None of the dresses at Lord and Taylor wowed me. Most were black with lace and beading. I know the fashion rule that black is slimming, but I have black dresses and I want to start wearing more color.
J.C. Penney’s offered a dress in a variety of colors with a uncomfortable looking cap sleeve. I plan to wear a shrug or something to cover my arms anyway, but the idea of my arm fat being pinched for hours immediately turned me off.
With dinner approaching and dress shopping stamina about to hit zero, I walked to Nordstrom as my last stop, all the while thinking how much I hate my upper arms and how there should be an Arm Haters support group.
Nordstrom’s cocktail dress selection was minimal but a salesperson immediately offered to help me.
“We have a much bigger selection online,” she promised.
Then something occurred to me, maybe it took a while since I hadn’t shopped for a dress in a while. And men, if you are still there, thanks and trust me on this. The key to dress shopping is trying it on and seeing how it fits. We don’t have the ease of option and universal fit of the suit. We have breasts, hips, thighs, curves, and problem spots. And if you’re like me you have that plus some.
I am not, nor I will ever have 36-24-36 measurements. If by some miracle I do, you will see me skipping down Main Street in a bikini. Feel free to honk and maybe we can go shopping. Buying a dress will be a cinch so we will have plenty of time to look for shoes.
Katie Bambi Kohler is a Norristown native and a current resident of King of Prussia. Visit her at www.katiekohler. com. Email kkohler1129@ gmail.com, Follow on Twitter