Plus side of dress­ing for suc­cess

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - OPINION -

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. 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@, Follow on Twit­ter


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