Where To Shop For Plus-Size Tailored Clothes, With Tips From The People Who Tailor Them

By Dan Ahwa
This Ruby suit is a great example of versatile, tailored garments.

For size-inclusive tailoring, these experts offer sage advice.

It’s easy to make the reductive assessment that plus-size garments are generally free-flowing, shapeless silhouettes, but there’s a selection of well-made garments that harness the power of something slightly more tailored.

While there is still a glut of ill-fitting “curve” collections

Comfort is one of the key drivers for why we wear what we wear each day, and finding quality tailoring that looks good can be a challenge at any size; but for those that identify as size 18 upwards, the selection of tailored garments on offer can be limited, ill-fitting and uninspired.

But what constitutes good tailoring? It’s not always as rigorously shaped as we’re led to believe. It can be a simple matter of how a jacket is cut to fit the body correctly, or the way a pair of trousers skims the legs. Sometimes it’s the way a soft lapel sits on an equally relaxed (but still structured) blazer or vest, the latter I’ve discovered is an ideal way to incorporate tailoring into a plus-size wardrobe as it’s less restrictive than a blazer but still provides the smartness one demands from a sharp jacket.

As we’ve offered in our previous Wardrobe 101 instalment, finding suitable alteration services can make or break your wardrobe, and regarding plus-size tailoring, it often pays to collaborate closely with the designer or seek an alterations service that knows how to tailor correctly to your body shape and can make the necessary adjustments required to ensure the best fit possible.

To help offer some perspective on what to look out for when it comes to tailored plus-size garments, I spoke with fashion designer Sarah-Jane Duff, whose label Lost and Led Astray is one of the few plus-size clothing brands that offer a distinctive design point of view; creative director and stylist Dihlia Terri Moana Teuru, whose work alongside plus-size fashion stalwart Caroline Marr of The Carpenter’s Daughter is a pivotal part in redefining the brand, which is now in its 34th year of business; and regional manager Rachel Korpus and head buyer Linda Wadman of K and K Fashions, New Zealand’s largest retailer of plus-size clothing for women.

Regional manager Rachel Korpus and head buyer Linda Wadman of K and K Fashions.
Regional manager Rachel Korpus and head buyer Linda Wadman of K and K Fashions.

What stigma around plus-size fashion and tailoring do you think people get wrong?

Rachel Korpus: What we see in the market is the lack of true inclusive sizing in mainstream fashion.

In recent years, we’ve seen brands extend their standard size chart to achieve recognition as a label that embraces “size-inclusivity”. However, the number on the size label of a garment does not guarantee its deliberate design for a fuller-figure customer. As a brand, our key point of difference is that we have always carried nine sizes and never had a stigma around plus-size fashion. With more than 40 years of industry experience, we have refined the craft of tailoring garments for plus-sized women. Everyone deserves to look and feel amazing.

Regardless of size, it comes down to the fit, fabrication, styling, newness and joy a great garment can bring a woman.

Sarah-Jane Duff: Stretch — you don’t need stretch fabric to be able to wear fitted clothing. You need a good pattern maker! In terms of tailoring, just because it goes around your body doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.

What should plus-sized dressers consider when investing in a garment that has a bit more tailoring involved?

Dihlia Terri Moana Teuru: When designing for a plus-sized person, we consider button placement, shoulder pads, length of garment and fit of the upper arm. These are key things to look at.

For example, if it is a double-breasted tailored jacket, does it do it up? The fit on the upper arm is most important for ease of movement. Shoulder pads give a more structured look across the shoulders, and we can also ensure the length is correct for your height.

Choosing a more customised tailored piece can be a powerful fashion decision, especially for our beautiful big ladies. When you make this choice, there are various aspects you should think about. Tailored clothing isn’t just about the here and now, it’s a classic addition to your wardrobe that deserves careful thought.

It’s not just buying clothes, it’s investing in a garment that will stand the test of time in terms of style and fit. By choosing to invest in tailored clothing, you’re committing to long-lasting fashion and a perfect fit that boosts your confidence. It’s a decision that goes beyond the surface and dives deep into the world of personal style and self-expression. Plus, it is proudly New Zealand-made.

Sarah-Jane: Make sure you get the right size. Never worry about what the labels say, try on different sizes, all our different proportions mean different styles will always fit differently.

Knowing your measurements can really help to find the right size, particularly when shopping online. We recommend using a measuring tape and taking measurements at the time you are investing in a new tailored piece. Everyone’s size fluctuates, so it’s important to be up to date.

In plus-size fashion, the bust measurement is really important so that your jacket or coat can close. If you find this measurement isn’t listed, we recommend asking for it.

Linda Wadman: Investment pieces should be timeless, offer functionality and fit well. The key when purchasing is to think about how you want this piece to be worn and integrated into your existing wardrobe. Does a silhouette flatter your proportions as an oversized piece? Perhaps a more structured shape will accentuate your figure and maintain a polished look without adding bulk. The most important thing is that you feel great in what you’re wearing.

Dihlia Teuru and Caroline Marr from local plus-size fashion favourite The Carpenter’s Daughter.
Dihlia Teuru and Caroline Marr from local plus-size fashion favourite The Carpenter’s Daughter.

When it comes to quality tailored garments, what is your approach?

Sarah-Jane: We create what I call soft tailoring. We have moved away from more formal, traditional tailoring because I have noticed a trend toward customers looking for tailoring that works with their bodies rather than more ridged shapes. Our tailored outer pieces are designed to contrast with our more delicate draped dresses and tops for a complete look.

At Lost and Led Astray, a good fit begins with the design sitting high on the shoulder and falls from there. We like to use a generous set-in sleeve, so they will fit more bodies and allow for plenty of movement. We always look at the proportions of the design to make sure it will suit a generous sleeve. Double-breasted and wrap styles can be a great way to get more coverage for the bust. Closures are often for styling rather than function as I find outerwear looks best worn open as it creates a lovely longline through the body.

Even if a jacket fits, because of the way a plus-size body moves it will often still pull and ride up. The waist tie is another way we allow for a personalised fit. I like to tie at the back to give more shape to these styles. We also consider different customer heights when designing — some styles have maxi lengths for taller customers or cropped lengths to suit a shorter person so as not to swamp them.

Dihlia: It’s a commonly held belief that tailored suits embody the concept of tailoring entirely. However, our method diverges from this notion. The Carpenter’s Daughter places significant emphasis on accommodating diverse body types, particularly focusing on our curvaceous clientele. The diversity of body shapes we encounter is not confined to a standard size, a fact we greatly appreciate.

This diversity fuels our creative process, allowing us to curate and style for our clients, regardless of their sartorial needs. Tailoring is not strictly limited to suits; it extends far beyond. One of the advantages of our compact, tightly-knit team is our capacity to provide personalised services on custom-fit pieces, ensuring a perfect fit.

Rachel: We try to find the perfect balance between what is on trend, combined with what is considered flattering. Not all trends are wearable all of the time, so we might take a highlight for the season and mix it with a style we know works for our audience. We also aim for most garments to be worn in multiple settings, in the current climate this enables our range to have more value.

The ‘Cocoon’ coat from Lost and Lead Astray works particularly well for taller customers.
The ‘Cocoon’ coat from Lost and Lead Astray works particularly well for taller customers.

What key tailored pieces do you currently sell and what are their key design features?

Linda: Fit is everything in our collections.

We lean towards generous sizing compared to what’s found in mainstream fashion. All of our garments are fitted on fuller-figure women to get a true, realistic look and feel. This season our two top-selling tailored bottoms are our Dana Dresssy trousers and the Classic suiting trousers.

We love the component of stretch, so the content of spandex is something we look for when choosing fabrics. We take into account every aspect of the style, like elevating the waist to offer a flattering line over the tummy and hips. Although not considered tailored, in some of the styles from our everyday range, we add front and back mesh inserts to support and smooth — this is something our customers love because comfort is everything. Finding the right tailored outerwear can be challenging. Our Classic blazer and Lapel Longline vest are fantastic investment pieces.

Every part of each garment is discussed at great length to design the best fit. From the armhole and bicep grades, bust and neck drop, and body length; these ensure the garments offer a comfortable and flattering silhouette from a size 10 through to size 26. Our aim has always been to empower women through clothing that fits well and highlights their curves.

Dihlia: We have a beautiful piece called the Elizabeth jacket, meticulously designed with princess seams at the back, providing a sculpted fit that accentuates the unique silhouette of the body. It’s graced with an ample lapel collar, an endearing flick-and-flare hem that tastefully sits above your hips, and a belt for a secure fit. It’s more than just a garment, it’s a standout piece perfect for special occasions, presentations and black-tie events.

Sarah-Jane: We have our always popular Cocoon coat, which has a classic notched collar with a generous wrap-over front. It has a tie closure, but what really makes it special is the cocooning sleeve shape. This style suits our taller customers.

The other tailored style in store is the Orchid jacket. This is a more classic, double-breasted cropped shape with an extended lapel collar, which gives a minimal look. It’s designed to hit you in just the right spot at the top of the hip to create a lovely waist.

We also have a super-cute cropped trench jacket on the way. When it comes to tailoring, we love riffing on classic shapes and giving our own Lost and Led Astray spin.

Sarah-Jane Duff in her K Road boutique in Auckland.
Sarah-Jane Duff in her K Road boutique in Auckland.

Do you offer bespoke tailoring for customers in-house?

Sarah-Jane: We offer a custom service where we work with customers to make an existing style their own. We also do alterations all the time, but it is most often to change the length rather than any fit issues. We work really hard on our fits, so we don’t tend to have many issues in this area.

Dihlia: We do offer personalised services to our clients. We can create unique pieces tailored to specific sizes, styles and fabric preferences. If a client requests a particular style in a different material, we are capable of fulfilling this requirement. It’s also important to note that we understand individual body types vary significantly, like Caroline’s differs from mine. Therefore, we are committed to creating bespoke pieces that are designed to meet the unique needs of each client.

Linda: Our garment technicians specialise in grading each piece specifically to the needs of a fuller figure to ensure the best fit possible. Although an alterations service is not currently something we offer, we pride ourselves in providing a variety of style options and sizes for different body types. Every garment throughout all of our collections is available in nine sizes, 10-26.

What fabrics do you work with when it comes to designing comfortable tailoring?

Sarah-Jane: Natural fibres that breathe and drape so beautifully over the body. Wool is the number one, but I’ve learned a fabric blend like wool/viscose can help give your garment a longer life. Our designs rely on the natural give and movement in the fabric, which informs our fabric choices.

Dihlia: Our approach to fabric focuses on luxury. We utilise materials like viscose/spandex or cotton/spandex which we have made a blazer in before. This offers flexibility and adaptability, specifically catering to the needs of plus-size body types. In addition, we incorporate jacquards, ranging from natural cotton and silk to synthetic fibres. Our use of wool, especially for crafting long coats, is predicated on its natural, breathable attributes. Wool is revered for its superior insulation and soft touch. This could also include both 100 per cent wool or wool blends, both designed to provide ample warmth.

Linda: Women are busy! And want clothes that are fashionable and offer functionality. We include high-quality fabrics with a component of spandex, which adds wearability and freedom of movement without restrictions in your everyday life. We also focus on fabric performance when considering factors like rubbing, therefore will include natural fibres for breathability and recycled polyester blends for longevity.

Shop plus-size tailoring

We love how these tailored garments offer comfort and a sense of style.

Cropped bolero-style jackets are a clever way to play with proportions, and a tailored jacket like this is a perfect throw-on over a loose-fitted dress, immediately transforming the ensemble into something that feels like a little more effort has been made. Available in a range of colours and prints, we’re especially taken with this playful leopard-print option, the perfect way to inspire a look made up of artfully clashing prints.

For a blazer with a generous fit, this is an ideal option for men who need a tailored blazer that works for both formal and semi-formal situations. Made from Italian fabric that blends cotton, linen and elastane, this is an ideal fit for men who need a hardworking blazer with a point of difference.

The local label has made a conscious effort in recent seasons to offer a wider size range for its customers, and when it comes to a classic black suit, they offer up this smart and versatile option up to a size 20, with the option for a custom fit beyond this size. The wide-leg trouser has a flat waistband and belt loops, while the complementary blazer is perfect for any occasion — try this over a T-shirt and jeans or ideal when you need to add something tailored to a loose dress.

A softly tailored garment like a hybrid jacket shirt design is the kind of versatile tailoring that works well on a range of body types. Smart when buttoned but when worn open like a jacket, it allows the opportunity to play with layering and the chance to fall around the torso that’s complementary and comfortable.

What’s not to love about this standout coat? Softly tailored, it’s a joyful and contemporary take on a classic trenchcoat shape, rendered in a silky soft parakeet-green puffed nylon with quilted topstitching. Enveloping and warm, the New York-based brand is one of our favourite plus-size offerings on the market. Available up to a 6XL.

A great investment is a vest that easily adds a layer of formality to an otherwise casual look. Made from linen, this is a good example of an easy, tailored piece that doesn’t feel too restrictive and can work for a variety of dress codes, whether for the office or perhaps on the weekend.

Dan Ahwa is Viva’s fashion and creative director and a senior premium lifestyle journalist for the New Zealand Herald, specialising in fashion, luxury, arts and culture. He is also an award-winning stylist with over 17 years of experience, and is a co-author and co-curator of The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.

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