From outerwear to underwear, women of size have far more choices than they did even a few years ago. Plus-size lingerie in particular, has become far more exciting.
It used to be that intimate wear for larger women was dull and utilitarian at best. Most underthings in plus sizes were plain, refrigerator white and with all the sex appeal of that appliance, too.
And, as Dina Krause of Skokie recalls, "It used to be only in specialty stores. I'm really glad to see it in regular stores."
Today, department stores, online sellers and other retailers carry a wide range of beautiful plus-size clothing, including lingerie. Underclothes and sleepwear for sizes 14 and up now come in all kinds of colors, styles and types.
Women who wear plus sizes can shop with confidence. The marketplace offers generously cut panties, slips, camisoles, nightgowns, pajamas and more to fit your body and suit your tastes.
More and more brands now realize that women of all sizes enjoy pretty underwear and are willing to pay for it. Even designers like Ralph Lauren and DKNY are now creating intimates in larger sizes.
In fall 2013, Maidenform, which already offers a variety of plus-sized undergarments, will introduce a new line that expands the size ranges of its most popular products. Norah Alberto, a spokeswoman for the company, says the expansion is a response customers' complaints that its clothes in women's sizes were completely different from those in misses' sizes. "We're going to take our best-selling styles and extend them to fuller sizes," she says.
Plus-size lingerie gets a makeover
From lacy to tailored, sexy to sturdy, everyday to special-occasion, today you can find just about any styles of intimate wear you like.
"What do I like or what does George like? Those are two different things, honey!" says Krause, laughing. George, her husband, comments from the background, "Less is more!"
"He would like it to be as sheer as possible," she explains.
Krause, however, says "I like good coverage. Being a large woman, I like to feel contained."
She prefers full-cut briefs, for example. Although hip-huggers, hi-cuts and thongs are now made in plus sizes, many women find them hard to wear. It depends on your body shape as much as your body size.
Vicki Thomas of Wheaton also prefers the waist-high style. Both Krause and Thomas like the comfort of cotton briefs, as well.
"I want to be comfortable," Thomas says.
Fortunately, these days cotton underwear is no longer limited to plain white. Cotton panties come in many patterns and colors, even black, which is Thomas's favorite. There are also cotton blends that add extra softness or stretch.
Plus-size lingerie gets comfy
Thomas says she looks for comfort in all her intimate garments, with the possible exception of some items worn under special-occasion clothes. "What I like and what I feel comfortable in are two different things," she concedes.
"Anything the binds or pulls on your body is uncomfortable to me."
For sleepwear, both Thomas and Krause prefer loose nightgowns to pajamas, and choose styles depending on weather.
"George likes pajamas," Krause says. "He thinks I'd be warmer and not put my cold feet on him."
Even for nightwear and daytime loungewear, Thomas chooses soft, comfy cotton knits. Lightweight t-shirt-style nightgowns and cozy robes that feel like sweatshirts are her favorites, along with loose-fitting, casual housedresses appropriate for answering the door or venturing outside to fetch the mail or the newspaper.
Krause appreciates the wider range of fabrics, colors and prints now available, but stays away from anything "too girly. Frilly is itchy," she says.
Thomas does wear slips in fabrics other than cotton. "I think a slip should be slippery," she says.
For hot-weather wear, Thomas recommends culottes-style slips under skirts and dresses. "If you're walking in the summer and you have chafing, this solves the problem," she says. Boyshorts offer another solution to this common irritation, which can afflict everyone when temperatures and humidity soar.
The range of undergarments now available also expands the range of street clothes for larger women. Styles you might have shied away from in the past, such as sheer or lacy summer tops that reveal a lot of skin, turn into flattering fashions with the right things underneath . If like Krause, you feel more confident with more coverage, wear see-through garments with a thin camisole underneath. In cold weather, Thomas says, she may add a camisole as an extra layer for warmth.
Well-fitting, pretty undies can give you a secret boost. Perhaps no one else will see what you have on under your clothes, but you'll know.