5 tips for buying a plus-size dress

By: Natalie Bahadur

Image courtesy of Author: Canadian Living Credits: Image courtesy of


5 tips for buying a plus-size dress

By: Natalie Bahadur
Regardless of your size, shape, height or weight, finding a dress that makes you feel like a million bucks is a great feeling. But finding that perfect dress can be a challenge – especially if you’re a plus-size woman. There’s a limited selection of both retailers and actual products, making shopping for plus-size dresses an unsatisfying and often frustrating experience.

Karen Ward, the blogger behind Curvy Canadian, offers terrific advice on how to find just what you’re looking for when it comes to plus-size fashion.

“It is very difficult for plus-size women to find stylish clothes in Canada,” says Ward. In order to find something you really like, you need to do a lot of research, she says.

“There are only a handful of nationally recognized plus-size retailers here in Canada, and if you’re looking for something a little bit different or unique – or you just want some variety when you shop – the shopping process can become very frustrating,” she says. “Shopping is supposed to be a lot of fun for women, but if you’re not finding what you’re looking for, it can become a chore – something you dread instead of look forward to.”

Finding the perfect dress
Ward’s number 1 tip for finding the perfect dress is to not worry about whether it’s “flattering.” “We’re already beautiful. We don't need a dress to flatter us,” she says. “It would be lucky to have us flatter it!”

Her advice is to experiment with shapes, colours and cuts to find the dress that you like best. “Fashion is a democracy,” she says. “Don’t let others tell you what you should or should not be wearing; that’s your decision. One of the best parts of fashion is that it is a means of self-expression.”

Acknowledging that everyone has things that they’re self-conscious about, Ward says you shouldn’t let your insecurities drive your decision to make a purchase. “Remember we are always our own harshest critic. Get out there and try something that you wouldn’t normally pick up,” she says. “You’ll be surprised by how much you might end up loving it.”

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn some important tips to keep in mind when shopping for a dress on page 2
Important considerations when shopping for a dress
Ward identifies the following considerations to help you find a dress that works perfectly for you.

1. Colour
"This spring, bright colours, colour blocking and unique colour combinations (orange and pink, for instance) are a big trend,” Ward says. “If you like it, work it! If not, don’t worry about it. Just know that there is so much more to a fashionable plus-size woman’s wardrobe than black.”

2. Pattern
“A lot of plus-size women’s clothing features really loud, gaudy prints,” says Ward. “I am not really a fan – but to each their own. Some people say that smaller prints tend to make a woman look bigger, whereas bigger prints have the opposite effect. I don’t really buy that.”

Her advice? Have fun with prints! Ward recommends prints that include colourful florals, polka-dots, birds, elephants, horses, cats or other animals, feathers and geometrics. “These are all suitable for women of any size,” she says. “Just try it on, and see if it works for you.”

3. Fabric
Ward generally prefers structured fabrics, “because lighter cottons and cotton blends tend to cling in places you don’t want them to cling,” she says.

Most importantly, make sure the fabric is comfortable. “So many plus-size items are made out of cheap fabric – polyester, I'm looking at you! – and these fabrics don’t do well over time,” she says. “They fade and lose their shape in the wash and don’t breathe properly, and they’ll make you sweat if it’s hot.”

4. Cut
The cut is the most important thing to consider, says Ward, regardless of your size. “The cut of the garment determines how it will sit on your body. You need to make sure that the cut works for your body, and that the garment is fitted where you want it to be fitted, and more relaxed where you want it to be relaxed,” she says.

5. Length
Ward has an “anything goes” attitude when it comes to dress length. “Maxi, midi, mini… I rock them all!” she says, adding that when it comes to finding the perfect dress, it’s all about what works for you.

Page 2 of 3 -- Are you ready to shop for a dress? Our expert shares five dos and don'ts for plus-size dress shopping on page 3

5 dos and don'ts for plus-size dress shopping
Before you hit the stores (or do some window shopping online), Ward offers up the following dos and don’ts to help you have a positive shopping experience.

Do give it a chance. Pick up things you wouldn’t normally consider. Experiment!

Don’t buy something just because “it fits!” Make sure everything you bring home and put in your closet is something that you absolutely adore. If you just sort of like it, it will end up taking up valuable closet space and being a waste of your money.

Do try out trends you’re considering. Just because you wear a plus size, doesn’t mean you can’t follow the trends.

Do shop online. There is a whole world of options just a click of the mouse away.

Don’t forget the “straight-size” stores. Although not everything in a standard-size store will fit, sometimes you can find oversize or stretchy gems that will work perfectly well on your plus-size body.

Ready to get shopping? Check out our photo gallery of 10 beautiful plus-size dresses.

Natalie Bahadur is the senior editor of and a contributor to

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5 tips for buying a plus-size dress