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Video: Web only: Fashions to flatter your figure

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TODAY contributor
updated 9/24/2009 3:59:27 PM ET 2009-09-24T19:59:27

I’ve worked with women of every shape and size over the years, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I can’t wear that” or “But they don’t make things like that in my size.” An estimated 41 percent of U.S. women are larger than a size 14, and only 10 percent of retailers cater to this category. Therefore, with a mission in mind, I wanted to find what is available and affordable.

I’m excited to say hope is here for a brand-new day. In fact, designer Mark Fast, who is known for his body-hugging dresses, included three models from a plus-size agency in his London runway show just last week. It’s fashion-forward for fuller figures, with mainstream retailers expanding their offerings and more specialty boutiques popping up to offer the latest styles in plus-sizes.

Setting the plus-size standard
When it comes to full-figured women, a few brands have literally had it “figured out” for quite some time. After being in business as a specialty retailer for more than a century, Lane Bryant has become the go-to spot for plus-size shopping, thanks in part to the brand’s emphasis on fashion, not merely size.

Meanwhile, Spiegel creates practical collections that are all about mixing and matching, perfect for a busy workweek. Most styles come in sizes 14-24w, and as an added bonus, you can even find some pieces with their signature Shape FX technology, which is designed to “make the body you have look like the body you want.” 

Though Silhouettes has been around for 20 years, the brand is still hip to new marketing and design concepts, as evidenced by their social networking initiatives. They make shopping simple, by breaking down their Web site with categories like “Wear to Work” and “Favorite Casual Essentials.”

Trendy takes
More stores are bringing full-figured fashion to the forefront with new collaborations and trendy spin-offs. Forever 21’s Faith 21 label offers youthful styles at the same low price point as its original brand. Torrid brings trendy designer fashions from labels like Betsey Johnson and Ed Hardy to full-figured gals.

Even British-based shopping mecca Topshop has an option for full-figured women thanks to its plus-size counterpart, Evans. After inviting plus-size singer Beth Ditto to perform at the store in 2007, and learning that she refused to appear because they didn’t make clothes that would fit her, Topshop’s parent company, Arcadia Group, signed her on to design a line for their plus-size brand. Beth Ditto for Evans is now available online, and though the brand is based in the U.K., the retailer ships to 17 other countries, including the United States, and offers sizing and currency-conversion information.

All about the fit
As a curvy fashion designer, Abby Zeichner prides herself on being a fit specialist. She goes on HSN — where her Abby Z. clothing is available — to talk to women about how to wear certain styles and play up their best assets, no matter what size they are. 

Kiyonna.com puts a strong focus on figure-flattering dresses and separates that are also stylish. Founder and designer Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi recently expanded to include curve-hugging pencil skirts as well as tailored trousers. In addition, Oldnavy.com offers affordable full-figure options exclusively online, featuring great everyday basics and a denim fit guide.

Department and mainstream designs
Curvy-minded collections are popping up at mall anchors and mainstream chains. Los Angeles-based contemporary designer Rachel Pally introduced her White Label line of plus-size clothing at Nordstrom back in 2007, and now she’s one of the department store’s top-selling vendors. Macy’s offers plus-size styles from designers such as Michael Kors, Sean John, INC and Levi’s.

Meanwhile, in June, Target launched Pure Energy Plus, a young contemporary private-label line designed to “look similar” to the retailer's other clothing collections. While some stores are cutting floor space and assortments dedicated to special sizing during this retail slump, JCPenney says they plan to invest and expand their full-figure offerings. Most recently, they added styles to in-house power brand Worthington, as well as Allen B. and Nicole by Nicole Miller.

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