Curve-Friendly Boutiquing (Part One)

Current Boutique shopping back with dresses.

Should you avoid buying vintage clothing, just because you have the jelly that yo momma gave you?

A lot of women love to go to boutiques to find vintage clothing and I’m definitely one. However, when I first started visiting boutiques in the DC area, I got a little discouraged by dresses and pants that were in my size, but when I tried them on, they did not compliment my curves.

If you are a woman of color who avoids going to boutiques because she fears this kind of harrowing experience, definitely read on. You really don’t have to be afraid. I’ve picked up some great tips over the years.

1. To pick something that fits: Know your brands

I’ll use myself as an example to start with. I’m short, with a smaller bust, larger hips and derrier. The epitome of pear-shaped. I am very picky about where I shop normally (I almost get angsty about it), so I’m alright with going to Ann Taylor for a size small or extra-small shirt, but I do usually avoid buying my pants from Ann Taylor, no matter what kind of new ‘signature fit’ they’re promoting. Instead, I go to Ann Taylor LOFT or NY&CO for my pants and skirts. Sound familiar?

We all love the vintage looks you can hook out of the one-of-a-kind boutique shopping experience, but many of the popular stores in the area, such as Current Boutique (U Street, Alexandria, Bethesda, Clarendon), Mustard Seed (Bethesda) and Frugalista (Mount Pleasant) also have a range of your favorite brands. You can save a lot of frustration by homing into your size section and even then, homing in on your favorite brands. At that point, you may ask, ‘Why go to a boutique, then?’ But, these stores take clothes on consignment—which means you are still getting a great deal on something that has been gently worn, even something spectacular that a fellow fashionista needed to relocate out of her closet.

And we all know the agony of deciding to give up a dress, skirt or once-worn pair of shoes we adore but just do not have the space for. You may even see a dress that was sold out when you finally got to the clearance sale last Spring, but now it’s hanging there on the hanger, happy to see you, and at a great discount.

2. Go larger with unfamiliar brands

  • Tip: When you’ve got curves and you’re in doubt, go for larger sizes.

For unfamiliar brands, or a brand that you know is a high-end label, go one or even two sizes up to make sure it fits you in the best way (I do this with Kate Spade and Calvin Klein dresses, for example). You can take high-end risks in your precise size if the clothing is stretchy cotton, or labeled with a more flexible size range, like Medium or Large. As my friend (and as also I joke, my stylist) Eugene always says, when you’ve got curves and you’re in doubt, go for larger sizes. You can get a larger size tailored, or even try your hand at taking something in with sewing needle and thread at home. But there’s little you can do if the skirt, dress or pants are too small.

3. Never compromise on size

And, I’ll tell you right now, being healthy and making it a personal goal to lose weight is perfectly fine, but I am definitely not a fan of buying something that is too small with the intention of slimming down to squeeze into it. Sure, you can empower yourself to do it—but you deserve clothes that fit you, right now.

Embrace your body and luxuriate in the kind of clothing you deserve, the kind tailored well to not just fit you, but also compliment the part of your body that connects to your mental and spiritual well-being… your soul.

Negative clothing and body associations eat away at you over time, I think. So, get those bigger pants if you need them and you know someone who can take them in a few inches for ya!

4. Empower yourself to make tiny alterations

Now this may sound crazy, and you might be timid about altering an item of clothing from a great brand on your own, but in my book, the second greatest thing a curvy woman should have in her arsenal when boutiquing, besides knowing and loving her own body, is the confidence to make small alterations with a sewing needle at home for a perfect fit.

Trust me, you can do it. I am by no means a seamstress. I own a sewing machine that I inherited from my grandmother, but I’m afraid to dig it out of the closet and I’m kind of terrified of breaking it if I ever do work up the courage to touch it. My mother loves to sew, and she taught us how to make crude doll dresses (think tubes with arm and head holes cut out) when we were little, from old fabric scraps. That’s as far as my knowledge goes, that and practice. Yet, even with a teeny tiny bit of experience, I have managed to ‘take in’ dresses and skirts that didn’t fit me snugly enough across the chest, or in the hips when I went for a larger size.

If you don’t know how to sew, but you do know how to drive a car, which is far more complicated… well, ohmygosh, is it time for you to learn—sewing is SO easy to do and you will save tons of money on popped buttons, etc. when you skip the trip to the drycleaners.

Check out my sewing instructions and teach yourself in a few minutes.

5. Don’t hate the playa, just win the game

So, I encourage you to try out some of the great boutiques DC has to offer. Girl, don’t be scairt’. And venture out into the Maryland and Virginia neighborhoods too. My favorite locale is Bethesda, though I got a kickass Yoana Baraschi dress at Current Boutique in Alexandria recently. (And I had to Google her to see how many – hundreds – I’d saved when I got home.) Also remember, the locale affects the kind of haul you’ll get—and neighborhoods like Alexandria have high tone clientele. At that, you can treat this like an actual game and use your guile to wrangle an excellent deal—and an excellent fit—out of the fashion world.

Don’t let your affinity for the brands and sizing that your curves are comfortable with put you off shopping in boutiques.

You deserve to be in these stores too and enjoy the shopping experience as much as anyone else. And then, it all goes full circle. I’ve become acquainted with new-to-me brands in boutiques that I hope to find again later or online when I do my regular shopping. And that’s another empowering thing, learning that there are more brands available to you and your body type than you might have first assumed. Which, of course, is a sexy feeling in itself.

In part two, I’ll tell you even more about the wardrobe-transforming power of boutiques, and where to sell your own gently-loved clothes.

Anyone else have a boutique they love for having great styles for curvaceous ladies?

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