Closing The Gap Between Style, Size

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Why can't I find fashions that fit and flatter my "curvy" (well, some would say overweight or fat) figure? I am so tired of looking and not finding. Not finding online. Not finding in stores. I'm a professional woman who needs and wants to dress in appropriate workwear and day-to-evening clothes. I have money to spend. Why don't retailers and clothing designers understand this? Can you help?

— Betsy McD.

Dear Betsy: I hear you! This is one of the most frequent cries for help I find in my email. The average American woman is not a size 6. She's closer to a 16. She is not inclined to wear low-cut, too short, too tight dresses to work. She has plenty of other things to do besides a job, caring for others and, in her “spare” time, shopping for clothes that suit her needs and dimensions. Is anybody out there listening?

The answer is yes, kind of. Retailers and designers, especially online, are getting the message. What's taken so long? Even “Project Runway” (thank you, Tim Gunn!) is now featuring models in a huge range of figure types. (And the competing designers on the show dressed them in an array of styles, some inventive and flattering, others — horrors — in what looked like poorly constructed muumuus.)

> The folks who run the site don’t require that you hit the plus-size tab when scrolling through their fashionable and affordable offerings. They get it. The site offers the same dress in sizes XXS through 4X, or sizes 0 to 36. For them, it's good business. No more disappointment when you click on a style you love and see that it doesn't come in your size. lets you customize its clothing (sleeves, length, neckline) in sizes 0 to 36W. For curvy women who still like the hands-on shopping experience, Lord & Taylor is a popular stop.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: This question might not be your area of expertise, but I have just about given up on finding a crate that my dog can’t break out of. Do you have any ideas for me?

— Nicole P.

Dear Nicole: It turns out I am an expert on this very thing, thanks to a Houdini-like beagle who has chewed his way not only out of those plastic crates from PetSmart but also metal ones with bars that this wily animal figured out how to chew, bend and squeeze his way through.


What you want is the Alcatraz of dog crates. It’s the ProSelect Empire Dog Cage. It is expensive ($344.61,, hard to transport, so heavy it needs wheels to move it around and not foolproof. The beagle in question quickly figured out how to use his nose to nudge open the sliding locks, so we had to resort to using three giant carabiners to keep it locked securely. Since then: No problem.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have been looking at my fellow commuters diligently and haven't seen an answer to my question. I have a fairly long walk to work and therefore need to wear comfortable shoes. I have flats that do the job perfectly, and I bring along a change of shoes once I arrive at my office. My dilemma is when I am wearing longer pants and will be wearing high-ish heels in the office. Do you have suggestions for what to wear to walk in on those days, since if I wear my trusty flats, my pants drag on the ground? I have found comfortable heels but they show the wear quickly and are not really as comfortable as I'd like. I have to believe others have solved this simple issue, but I have yet to spy a solution on the streets.

A Faithful Reader

Dear Faithful: My only thought is a durable wedge shoe, boot or bootie that gives you the height you need for those long pants but, with luck, gives you a more comfy walk than the heels you’ve been commuting in on those days. Any other suggestions, readers?

Angelic readers

Eileen O. writes: “Like your reader Sandy, my husband was also wearing his polo-type shirts untucked, which I think is a very sloppy look. Finally I found a solution that makes both of us happy: David Taylor polo shirts which are, believe it or not, at Sears! The shirts are very inexpensive, come out of the dryer wrinkle-free and look great on him. They are available long- or short-sleeved and have a knit band across the bottom which makes them look neat. My find of the year!”

Reader rant

From Helen B: “Do people really think that beards on men are attractive? Imagine getting scratched by a beard??? Also, when are tight leggings going out of style? They are not pretty on anyone but a really slender woman.”

On Helen’s second point, this from Susan O: “I think leggings should be banned from anyone who wears them without covering up their butts!! Most leggings look like leotards; they are tight, most often thin and see-through. Doesn't anyone who wears them look at their behinds in the mirror before they leave the house? I don't care if you have the best, most fit body in the world — these are not to be worn like pants!! Please ladies — wear your leggings, they are comfortable, I wear them often — but please! Cover your butt! Whew! Thank you!”

Now it’s your turn

Send your questions, rants, tips, favorite finds — on style, shopping, makeup, fashion and beauty — to

Ellen Warren is a freelance writer.

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