Friday, June 10, 2011

{Style Inspiration} Plus-size Vintage Fashions

How about this, my first reader request post! In response to Loretta's request for advice on dressing vintage for larger-size ladies, here are some pages of "outsize" fashions. You don't have to be plus size to find lots of inspiration here in the pretty detailing, either!

Leach-Way Fashions pattern magazine / catalogue no. 322 from around 1950. View A (the polka dot one) is described as "a slimming model with becoming under-the-bust gathering into the front facings, and an inverted pleat in the front of the skirt gives room for walking while preserving the popular straight line."

The shirtwaist is definitely a key look in this magazine - this is just half of a double-page spread devoted to variations on the theme. I like the princess seaming on the model on the left, and the large collar and panelled construction on the lady with the sunhat. Note that they all have sweetheart or V-necklines - collared, revers or collarless, it's always the most flattering on a larger chest.

For coats, the swing jacket or tailored princess coat from the cover are good options - it's usually best to avoid boxy overcoats and belted trenches (which on a fuller figure can end up looking like a pillow tied in the middle if you're not careful). Also note that all the styles in the magazine are designed for a smooth line over the hips, any fullness provided by large central inverted pleats and box pleats. Avoid knife-pleated skirts like the plague.

Surplice and double-breasted bodices are also good options for the fuller figure. Vertical detailing like the pintucked lines in the set to the left or the waterfall frill on the right help to draw the eye. Indeed, both these styles would be flattering on any figure (I love those pointed shoulder yokes on the left!).

This page from a 1936 Sears catalogue has a few good details - the styles from the mid thirties were designed on long, slim lines anyway. On the third frock, "The V neck and diagonal bands of fagotting will slenderize your face and throat, and those cool, airy capelet sleeves conceal the heavy upper arm. Notice the big white composition button and buckle too, and the smooth hipline and crisp action pleats." Oversize detailing - big buttons, wide collars, large prints and so on - can help proportionally 'reduce' larger figures (on the other hand, tiny buttons and small prints can emphasise size).

These last two pages are from Home Fashions no. 28, 1941. The first goes in for various shoulder detailing, which as you know is one of my favourite things.

My favourite on this page is top centre: "Some frocks remain in our memories as being outstanding successes and this charming model is certainly one of them," the writer waxes lyrical. "The bodice with its becoming neckline is kept quite plain, and all the interest is centred on the well-cut skirt with its panels that curve to meet the waistline back and front."

Just a small disclaimer to note that although I have emphasised the slimming qualities of various design details, this reflects my own preference to look as tall and slender as possible and in no way means that I wish to dictate how anyone should want to dress or that plus size ladies shouldn't embrace their curves. Just to clarify.

If there's any particular topics you'd like to see me cover, please leave a comment or email me at charlotte (at) - you know I enjoy researching, so it really tickles me to be able to do requests!


  1. LOVE this post! Tip top advice - as always.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I adore vintage clothing, but get discouraged because I feel like nothing would ever fit me or look good on my fuller figure. I especially love the first polka dot dress. I wonder if there is any way I can convince my mom to make me one like that...

  3. This sooo helpful . I have gained a lot of weight this past year and i just have to realize that my lovely vintage dresses are going to have to stay in the closet this summer.* sniff* this post gives me inspiration to try to make something "vintagy" and becomming myself
    Thank u Dear

  4. Thanks soooo much, Charlotte, for this post! It helps a lot. I don't know if I'll ever lose the 20 lbs I'd like to lose, so I'll look for fashions like these for now. It's my birthday tomorrow, so this was like an early gift! I'm behind on posts because of the NHL Hockey playoffs here in Vancouver BC...our home team may win the Stanley Cup tomorrow, on my birthday. Now wouldn't that ever be neat!


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