Full-figured Fashion

Full Figured Fashion (<i>cont'd</i>)

Although Sandie mostly sports her own designs, she also loves Janelle Bonlie's Love Your Peaches denim clothing and Big on Batik's tropical sarong wear.

Another designer who specializes in extended sizes is Abbie Kearse, an MTV news reporter who started making her own clothes when she couldn't find anything fun and hip in her size. "There is a very girlie and glam rock side to me," she says on her Web site. "I love Betsy Johnson, Anna Sui and Gucci. However, they don't love me."

Taking matters into her own hands, Abbie formed "abbie lynn usa" and launched her own e-commerce site a little over a year ago. Her online shop is filled with plenty of flirty dresses in playful prints and sexy, shoulder-bearing tops and gowns.

Admits Catherine, a 24-year-old bookstore manager from Washington, D.C., "I am going with my inner-Muslim and not baring my shoulders, but I really want Abbie's cherry-print dress. It's so Sandra Dee." And more importantly for someone as young and fashion-forward as Catherine, "It doesn't say Lane Bryant."

Catherine sites Queen Latifah and Joan Jett as her fashion role models and says it's hard for her to find large-sized clothing that's not too "career lady or frumpy." Online stores that target the younger customer, stores like Abbie Kearse's, are a boon for fashion doyennes like Catherine.

"I hate not being able to find things I like," she says. "I don't like feeling like all that's out there for me are weird sweat suits with rhinestones. I'm young and I don't have the money to go to all the best stores."

Catherine has found a way to manage her dollars without sacrificing any of her keen fashion sense. She scours thrifts stores and eBay for vintage dresses from the 1930s. She says she finds the clothing from this era well-made, feminine and more interesting to look at. Catherine's favorite purchase so far is a navy blue dress that she wears at every special occasion. "It never lets me down," she jokes.

Whether defined by a closet full of vintage dresses or a bunch of island-happy sarongs, large-sized fashion is no longer limited to muumuus and caftans. According to Sandie, good style is available in any size. "I've even sold the clothes right off of my back!"

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