Fashion, Fluff, Plus Size Fashion

Friday Fatshion on Monday: Pick Me a Holiday Dress

So, Fatshionista readers might recall my excruciatingly detailed comparison of an Igigi dress and a Robbie Bee one, done with an eye to the holidays. Unfortunately, that turned out to be useless, because the Igigi dress sold out in my size, and I decided there were others I liked better than the Robbie Bee one. In fact, I ended up ordering a black velvet wrap dress with silver spots by Kathryn Conover, which keeps appearing and disappearing from the Nordstrom site. I thought I wanted something more colorful, but that dress kept taking my breath away every time I looked at it, so I took the plunge.

Unfortunately, the size I ordered was too small through the boobs, and when I went to return it, I tried the next size up, which was too big everywhere else. Bottom line, the dress just wasn’t cut properly for me, so even having it altered wouldn’t have been worth it. So much for self-breathtaking.

But the thing is, that dress got me in the mood for velvet — a fabric I haven’t worn in years, and didn’t anticipate ever getting in the mood for again. And then Igigi came out with a new set of velvet wrap dresses, which are SO CLOSE to being exactly what I want, except they’re cut like the classic wrap dress, not the yoke one I adore, and between that and the non-petite factor, I suspect it might look relatively shapeless through the waist on me. (If the ties went all the way around the waist? I would order 10 of them.) So I’m not ordering that one, but now I’m super-keen on the idea of a festively colored velvet dress with sleeves for the dozens of holiday parties I totally haven’t been invited to. (There is at least one this year to justify the purchase.)

Except I might be more keen on the festive color aspect than the velvet aspect; we’ll get to that in a minute.

I think I have it down to three top contenders, so now I need your help, Shapelings.

First, there is this one, from Coldwater Creek:

Pros: It is both festive and velvet; shape is likely to be good on me; comes in petite.

Cons: Underbust seams might cut my Rack of Doom in half; am I really a purple velvet person??

Dress #2, also from Coldwater Creek:

Pros: I love the waist detail, and I love that it’s not black, even if I’d love it more in, say, a deep green.

Cons: Not a festive color; empire waist could be flattering or could make me look preggers, and there’s no way of knowing until I try it on. (I do have a Coldwater Creek store nearby, but they didn’t seem to have that one.

And then we have dress # 3, from Zaftique, which is not velvet, but has other qualities to recommend it.

Pros: Would definitely be a terrific shape on me; love the color; I’ve been uncharacteristically into lacy dresses lately, the same way I’ve been uncharacteristically into velvet, but I like that this isn’t too much lace.

Cons: Would definitely have to have it shortened and do something about the weird, not-quite-bell sleeves; don’t know what size I am in Zaftique stuff and wouldn’t be able to return it to a store (which means I might never return it, even if I don’t want it, because I am all but incapable of getting my ass to a post office within any given 30-day period). Not velvet. Also, have heard mixed reviews of Zaftique quality.

Or, do I just go back to the Robbie Bee one, with a black stretch velvet bolero jacket I already own? OR this one from Coldwater Creek, which is practically identical except for also having cap sleeves? Or do you have a better idea for me?

While we’re at it, what are you guys wearing for holiday parties? Fabulous cocktail dresses? Ironic Christmas sweaters? I’m dying to know.

73 thoughts on “Friday Fatshion on Monday: Pick Me a Holiday Dress”

  1. I like the third the best for you. It’s a nice cut and it’s a festive red color. Have you considered Butter by Nadia’s wrap dress? They have them in cotton jersey or satin. You can wear it in many different styles, personally, I think it would look fab on you.

  2. I actually like the last two you didn’t show pics of – the red and black polka dot ones. They’re both festive, elegant and I think would be very figure-flattering on you.

    Sad to say, the boy and I don’t really go to holiday parties outside of meeting with friends and family on Xmas Eve and Xmas day. And, our circle of friends are more the jeans-wearing, non-drinking kind. I’d like an occasion to dress up, although I’d drop dead before I wear a dress or a skirt.

    God, I feel so un-cosmopolitan. Must. Move. Out. Of. Kentucky.

  3. I’m actually wearing this top in Cinnamon (yea for color, silk and satin!): –probably with a black velvet skirt.

    Love the dresses with the polka-dots over red! And I’m a big fan of Coldwater Creek quality. I also like the brown — even though it’s not as bright. It just looks lush.

  4. I’m so totally unfashionable it’s not even funny. It’s a good thing I DON’T have any parties to go to, because I would inevitably end up looking like a fat lump (fat I am, but I really don’t like looking like a lump!).

    However, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in here for whatever it’s worth. Out of the ones you’ve posted up there, and taking into account the pictures I’ve seen of you, I definitely like the Robbie Bee one the best. I do like those first two (the ones you actually posted pictures of), but like you said: not exactly festive. Soooo close… but not quite there.

  5. I’m pulling for the last Coldwater Creek one. I like the shape and the cap sleeves a little better (not trying to comment on your arms or anything; I just think they’re cute).

  6. Go with the one that’s just like the Robbie Bee but with cap sleeves. Definitely.

    So, that black dress with the silver dots. Was it as gorgeous in person as it looks? And which sizes did you try that didn’t work on you?

  7. (not trying to comment on your arms or anything; I just think they’re cute)

    My suspicion is that Kate has killer arms, but I agree on the sleeves — it just seems better for this time of year, even though cap sleeves aren’t really any warmer than sleeveless.

  8. ALSO, how do you find the sizing at Coldwater Creek? Because there are some dresses there that are so gorgeous they’re making my teeth hurt (weird, because I think of them as kind of a grandma-pantsuit store), but I wear a 16W in dresses and I don’t think I can typically wear a straight 16.

  9. I really like the Zaftique one… though, I may be alone in that. I’m such a lace person.

    I had the most depressing dress shopping venture this weekend, I was looking for a dress for my friends wedding. (Not until may, but formals for tall fat people are not easy to come by.) I found this AMAZING black dress at torrid, it was black, satiny, all ruched through the waist and bust with a halter top and a brooch at the waist. It looked awesome on me, making my waist look skinny and me generally look like I am not huge on the bottom. Unfortunately it was about 10 inches too short. SO depressing, and there was nothing to let down. It would only have been 90 bucks. *tear*

    In other news, even my company’s holiday party has been downgraded this year. In past we’v ehad a nice dinner dancing thing and that was fun. This year, they asked around and it looks like overwhelmingly people just want to go bowling. (Thank you male dominated office.) This is me, not going.

  10. ALSO, how do you find the sizing at Coldwater Creek? Because there are some dresses there that are so gorgeous they’re making my teeth hurt (weird, because I think of them as kind of a grandma-pantsuit store),

    The straight 16P fits me just about perfectly, and straight 16 no P comes close, actually. So no, you probably can’t wear the straight 16. They do have plus sizes, but of course, they don’t have the same selection of dresses in plus. Grrrr.

    I totally thought of them as a grandma pantsuit store for years, but they always had one or two nice things, and over the years, they’ve been getting a little bit cooler. They’ve definitely been making an effort with the dress selection just since fall. This is a Coldwater Creek dress I loved, but it’s 2 sizes too small for me now.

    My only reservation about the CC dress that’s like the RB one is that, upon closer inspection, they didn’t line up the dots on the seam right down the middle of the bust. That might drive me insane.

  11. Have you considered Butter by Nadia’s wrap dress?

    I definitely have, but I fear they’d be too small on me, since they say the upper limit is 16. I’ve also considered the Monif C version, but I can’t tell if it would end up being too short on me.

  12. Oh, and…

    So, that black dress with the silver dots. Was it as gorgeous in person as it looks? And which sizes did you try that didn’t work on you?

    It was damn near as gorgeous in person. The 14W didn’t work in the boobs (a cami might have saved the day, but it still just wasn’t quite right), and the 16W was too big everywhere else. They had a ton on the rack at Nordstrom when I went to return it — at a store where the plus dress selection was pathetic — so you might be able to find it to try on.

  13. Yeah, most of the dresses that come in plus I don’t like much, but this one is gorgeous! So gorgeous that I think maybe you should get it and have it shortened, even though you don’t need to opt for the one pretty dress that comes in plus. (I would do the same thing, I am so not into long dresses anymore.)

    For some reason I was worried that it was the 16W that didn’t fit you, even though that’s silly. 16W dresses normally fit me perfectly, so that sounds like the sizing is pretty typical, if it was overall too big for you. The nearest Nordstrom has a truly pathetic plus section too (weird, because this is a pretty fat city), but it might be worth a try. And one of the many malls around here has GOT to have a Coldwater Creek.

  14. FJ, I LOVE that dress! And I even considered getting it and shortening it, but I’m afraid that might mess with the line of the skirt.

    Oh, wait, I just realized you meant normal-shortened, because it doesn’t come in petite. I was actually thinking of having it taken up to just below knee-length, since it would be a little much as-is for, like, Al’s company holiday party.

  15. I like the Robbie Bee one for you too. (Although I do agree that you might be a teeny bit too busty for it… can you try it on at a store?)

    I have my eye on the Igigi velvet wrap dresses too, but I have to keep reminding myself I already have two gorgeous party dresses and a hot new pair of shoes that would go with either of them, but not that green velvet wrap dress. The dress I’m probably going to wear is a strapless black cocktail dress (I ordered like 4 different strapless bras from Fantasie and found one that fits well enough for one night) with a flared skirt. And of course, the shoes

  16. No, I totally meant taken up to knee-length (or, yeah, just below). I don’t think petite women should ever have to wear full-length skirts. And neither should I.

    I think the skirt is a pretty standard A-line all the way down, which means taking it up wouldn’t mess with it. It doesn’t have gores coming in partway or anything. I might have to reconsider once I saw it in person, but I’m guessing it would transition to knee-length just fine.

    About bustiness in the Robbie Bee: I wear a 38F and a different version of that dress was just right on me, maybe a weeny bit squishy. Any bigger and we would have had a problem, though.

  17. Hi Kate,
    Chiming in to say I love the first dress, and think it would be gorgeous on you. Heh, although I’m one to talk, given that I am not, myself, a purple person.

  18. Thanks. I decided on a top/skirt combo this year to allow for the possibility of wearing jeans with the same top at a different (more casual) party later.

    I also have new red streaks in my hair to match. Hee!

  19. Mmmm, clothes, one of my fave topics!

    Personally, I think the 2nd one isn’t really a great cut…it seems to have extra fabric where it shouldn’t and would look bulky and odd. I think it’s really made for people who want to hide their bodies. The 1st one, the purple one, looks well-shaped and I love the colour, but I think the more festive and pretty one is number 3. Either 1 or 3 would be my choice – I’d wear either.

    Also, I like the 3/4 sleeves on 3 – I have a couple of empire waist tops with those sleeves…they are terrific for letting you pile on a big bunch of bracelets or bangles and show them off!

  20. *ahem* I should say that I WOULD wear 1 or 3, IF I wore dresses, but I haven’t worn a dress since the tragic rust-coloured tent dress incident of my 14th Christmas (whereupon my mother made me wear a dress I UTTERLY HATED to the family dinner, because it was the only dress she could find, during that era of crappy plus-size clothes, that fit my bulk).

  21. Well, 1 looks like it could be quite roomy in the bust. I’m pretty generously proportioned up there, so I’m used to keeping an eye out for that. Then again, I also am quite happy to have acres of cleavage showing, mainly because I find anything too highly cut makes me look even bustier, so I’m probably not the best person to ask if you actually want to look elegant!

    Also, unless you’re pale with a bluish tone, it’s hard to make purple velvet work.

  22. When I saw that first dress in the CC catalog, I dropped my teeth. But it only goes up to a size 16. I need an 18. Damn them. I am SO a “purple velvet person.” You strike me as being more “red” than “purple,” so I’d pick #3 or one of the last two, for you. But if you think you really love the purple, don’t listen to my jealous ass. :-P

  23. You know, I’m thinking we need to start a “more plus size dresses!” letter-writing campaign to CC.

    When I went into the store the other day, I tried on a couple dresses I wasn’t that crazy about, just to make sure I’m a 16. I checked the racks, and they didn’t have either on the floor in 16P. When I mentioned that to the salesgirl, she was like, “You know, I swear, that’s our most popular size.”

    Me: “That’s because so few people carry it. Petites usually stop at 14.” Salesgirl was flabbergasted. I mean, it’s not like she was a major decision-maker for the store, but she just had no idea it was an unusual size, and that might have something to do with the popularity. And I fear the decision-makers are equally clueless.

    Likewise, I’m sure they’d do just as well selling all their party dresses in plus sizes. Even though the dress options have gotten better in general, we can always use more. Especially at the mall. (I will give CC credit for carrying all the sizes they offer in-store, at least, instead of making all the plus and larger petite sizes only available online. Even my beloved Eddie Bauer only carries up to 14P in-store, which pisses me right off.)

  24. I love dresses as much as the next girl, but I always go with separates for the holidays. Since I moved from NYC to Cali, I never have the dressing up occasions that I used to, and I find that a snazzy top with a pair of slacks or a skirt is a much much better option. That’s why I’ve invested in a beautiful microvelvet wrap top from jjill to wear with a pencil skirt and boots to my Xmas festivities this year.

    If you’re really dying for a velvet dress, I’d recommend you visit their website. They’ve got lots of pretty stuff for plus-sizes which never ever appears in their stores, though if you order from a store, I think you don’t have to pay shipping.

  25. Rubiatonta, I’m not much of a fancy separates person, but I totally know the top you’re talking about, and I almost bought it the other day to wear with jeans.

  26. Even my beloved Eddie Bauer only carries up to 14P in-store, which pisses me right off.)

    I am actually falling out of love with EB. I’m almost exactly the same size as you are – one inch shorter, and I find their petite sizes seem cut too long. I love their tops, but they’re 24-26 inches long for the most part. Give me back my 22 1/2-inch-long shirts, dammit.

  27. The good news about Eddie Bauer, though, is that if you buy something online that doesn’t fit, you can take it back to a store. Saves a ton on shipping, and is a great time-saver, too.

    I often buy two sizes of something I like, and then take back the one that doesn’t fit (if I’m lucky, one of them does). Nordstrom and Coldwater Creek have the same policy — though my beloved jjill does not, which sux.

  28. Love the brown one best, I think it looks slinky and elegant all at the same time. But I’m biased as I love things in brown and velvet is one of my favourite materials!

  29. So far I like the dots best but I’m going to look around a little.

    There is actually a name for the yoke style you like best and it is incredibly flattering. I know I’ll think of it…

  30. Go for the beautiful purple one! Its a gorgeous colour, and from pics of you posted here, I think it would be lovely on you.
    It’s also a fairly classic cut and could last you years.

    After that, dress #2 although I don’t think the colour would work on your fair complexion & hair as nicely….

    Really hope I’m remembering the right pics on this site….

  31. Out of those three, I like the purple one the best. There’s something dowdy about the whole red lace/sheer sleeve thing that #3 has going on, even though the rest of the dress is fab.

    From the Nordstrom page you linked, I am enormously fond of this even though it’s clearly shown on a non plus model (what’s the point?). It could either be unbearably fantastic or horrible, depending on the cut, so it’s something I’d try on in the store. The banding around the waist makes me think that it would work on an hourglass shape, though.

    I might give up my first born for this polka dotted dress. It’s so cute and not too fussy or formal or expected and the belt just hits the model perfectly.

    And I know this might sound crazy, but what about a sweaterdress? Along with velvet, it always makes me think of winter when it comes to fancy clothes and it’s kind of unexpected and far easier to fit.

  32. I’m kinda liking the Purple. Looks uberflattering, and since there is no embellishment, the purple is not over the top. Besies, Mom had a purple dress for… (Bob’s wedding?) so it MUST be tasteful. She had those awesome psychedelic pumps to go with it, too.

    Not that we’re still looking for Mom’s approval or anything. Yeah.

  33. OHH, those are some hot looking dresses. I’ve recently gotten into lace and velvet too, it very sensual.

  34. J, I was totally thinking of that dress the other day, which I didn’t take after she died, ’cause at the time, it was too big for me. I bet it would fit now. Rats. And those shoes were amazing Stuart Weitzmans, but alas, I didn’t inherit the teeny feets.

  35. I strongly object to the purple one with the lopsided underbust seams! They’ll do the rack no good. Maybe you remember my fatshionista post a while ago, I was wearing an orange tunic with a very similar cut, and everyone was telling me to get a better bra because my boobs look weird. But my bra was just perfect, it’s the seams that look so unflattering.

    Personally, I think the last Coldwater Creek would flatter you the most.

  36. Have you considered having a dress made? It might be easier than you think – strike up a conversation with friends, and you’re bound to find someone who is good with a sewing machine (and I don’t mean, “I can fix a hem if I have a gun to my head” kind of good). Show them the dresses that you like, and you may find that they are able to make something combining the best of all of them, in a material and color that you love. Dresses are surprisingly easy to make, so it shouldn’t take long.

    Good luck.

  37. I like the purple and the brown options best. (And the ruched green velvet CC one somebody else suggested).

    But then I’m a shortarse who likes full length dresses. What do I know?

  38. I also like the brown and the green.

    And I can’t believe you actually have all these people earnestly helping you choose a DRESS. Don’t you know there are children out there having an obesity crisis as we speak!?

  39. I’ve just bought this skirt from Monsoon with the last of last year’s birthday:

    It’s really heaving with beading, and the thread that looks white is actually silver. And I am *just* small enough for the biggest size. The only slightly hiccough is that it’s hand-wash only. Wore it out for my birthday a week ago and for Phantom at the theatre on Saturday and loving it.

    Still need a party dress though, and struggling to find one.

    I love the purple one, but then I’m a recovering goth :-)

  40. The Zaftique dress looks a bit long for a petite size, though I like the styling on it a lot. I think the Robbie Bee would probably be the best of the bunch, it looks very refined and you’d probably get the most wear out of it.

  41. Don’t you know there are children out there having an obesity crisis as we speak!?

    Hey, trying to find cute dresses IS an obesity crisis!

    Buffpuff, your link goes to a page that says they’re sold out of the item.

    And Eleanor, love the skirt. Damn, I want Monsoon here.

  42. I’m gonna have to join the chorus for the Robbie Bee like dress from CC. It’s delightful and pretty enough for way more occasions than just holiday parties.

  43. I love the purple except for the cinch at the waist I’m not sure about. I love the brown and think it would suit your curly blonde hair in a glamorous movie star sort of way, but yes the empire waist is worrying. I can totally see you in red, but not that particular shade nor that particular dress. I like the polka-dot coldwater creek best. The color is better than the Robbie Bee and I like the cap sleeves better than the sleeveless.

  44. I like the last Coldwater Creek one that is like the Bobbie Bee. I think your lust for velvet is totally understandable, but the bolero jacket you already have would probably satisfy that. Plus, you could wear the jacket with the Coldwater Creek or without. The color is very festive, but you could wear it during other times of the year as well since it isn’t velvet. As much as I love velvet, you’ve got to be careful with it too – even the stretchy stuff – since it can get crushed when you sit on it for long periods until it is cleaned again. I had a great Laura Ashley stretch velvet dress in a midnight-blue that I wore to a holiday concert. After I got out of my seat at intermission, there was an imprint of my butt on the back. I ran to the coat room for my cape. “No that’s OK – I’ll keep my wrap on – it’s a little cold in here.”

    With the Coldwater Creek red dress, the definition on the waist is what gets my vote. The Bobbie Bee is great, but the waist is higher and not as defined which could lead to the “preggers” tent-thing if it doesn’t hit you just right. Still, either would work.

    The cut of the purple dress would probably be flattering – I have always been very pleased with Coldwater Creek’s merchandise – but the color would be reminiscent of the Fruit-of-the-Loom grape, ya know? It would look a lot better in green, red, burgundy, or black. I have a similar Coldwater Creek style (last season’s version) in a teal and it is just gorgeous. I too love the detailing on the brown dress, but the color is not so great. I get so excited when I see a great dress and look hopefully to see if it’s in another color… then it’s a huge letdown. This is my only complaint about Coldwater Creek – those “what were they THINKING?” moments. These inevitably show up on clearance really fast.

    I’ve had nothing but pain from Zaftique. The sizing isn’t consistent and the quality has been so-so.

    … so my feedback would be:

    1. Coldwater Creek in the red dots

    2. Bobbie Bee

    3. That wrap-style dress if you get stuck and the first two aren’t working for you. It is a cute style even if the tie doesn’t go all the way around.

    Hope that helps! Sorry for the long post. I read this blog a lot but this is the first time I’ve posted, so also apologize for the long lurking period. Good luck!


  45. The brown is gorgeous, but brown is generally not the most en-gorgeous-ing on blondes, who really do better with a rich color. I love the purple, but the bust seams look like they will become enough of an issue to annoy.

    The red lace is lovely, and it looks like what I know about you from reading here.
    In addition, it looks to me, (in that tiny photo, maybe you could call the company and check)
    that the mesh of the overskirt and the sleeves is UNHEMMED (which is often the case in similar price points. Mesh is VERY hard to sew, and the time it takes often is prohibitive in costing a dress. Do this for a living much?)
    That makes shortening a snap.
    Or a snip. As it were.

  46. I recommend either of the red polka dots, they’re very festive! The purple would look gorgeous with your hair and eyes, but I’m afraid of the weird bust area.

    Or have one made. I know one of the best seamstresses in Chicago, she is a friend and made my WONDERFUL wedding dress. She charges about $50/hr to design and make a dress tailored to your body with any fabric your heart desires. Her name is Julia Needlman and I’ll look up her phone number if you reply in comments that you want it. :)

  47. I vote for the last two. The brown velvet #2 is the wrong shade of brown, and that purple is very very strong – does it come in any other color? Didn’t care for #3 at all.

    as for party dressed, I don’t wear dresses at all and my friends will all be working at that time, so no dresses or parties for me!

  48. I love the purple velvet, but I can’t see that seam you’re talking about. The brown is sooooo brown, so muddy really, and you hit the nail on the head with the empire waist issue. The red is going to be crazy difficult to hem because of the way the lining hangs, and it MUST be hemmed.

    My favorite is actually the Cold Creek red polka dot. Gorgeous. But of the top three, the purple.

    I am planning on bringing out my maroon velvet separates.

  49. “Buffpuff, your link goes to a page that says they’re sold out of the item.”

    That’s most peculiar. I went to it again and it says they have lots of sizes left!

  50. Most peculiar, indeed — ’cause now the link works for me, too. Must have been a glitch the first time I tried it.

    And I do think that dress is gorgeous, btw. It was definitely in the top 5, and would be a lot more versatile than many of the others. I think my problem is that, while I know it would be totally va-va-voom on, it looks less exciting to me in photos. Which is probably why it’s the one I should buy. :)

  51. Oh, and Psyche, THANK YOU for the dressmaker recommendation! I don’t think I’ll be doing it for the holidays, but I’ve wanted to find one I could trust for a long time. Would love her phone number.

  52. Julia Needlman’s number is 773-750-2180. I do hope you enjoy working with her. She does everything from CEO level women’s suits in luxury fabrics brought from Italy or France, to baby clothes, to glorious eveningwear and wedding dresses. She also designs and sews medieval and renaissance clothing for historical re-enactors. And she makes classical violinist Rachel Barton’s stage gowns.

    If you’ve never worn clothes designed exactly for your body and nobody else’s, it’s an unbelievable delight.

  53. i own the purple ponte knit donna ricco dress that mizerychik linked to, and i am very happy with fit and quality. I like the weight of the fabric and the sleeves, it’s a good winter dress to wear on its own, though i regret not getting the earlier version of teh dress when it had a sash that knotted in the front.

    fwiw, i think the robbie bee red dress is nicer than the ones you posted. in terms of retailers you might take a look at shabby apple, which now has plus sizes and decent prices as well. i am having an as yet unconsummated romance with one of their dresses:

  54. Holy crap, M., I’d never heard of Shabby Apple! And I love it! You outshopped me!

    I like that Donna Ricco dress a lot, but the sleeves would be no good at all on me. Nice to hear a review, though.

  55. I have had poor customer service with Beware, exchanges are for store credit and not for refund. As a fairly careful reader of websites, I was not aware of this.

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