As of 2010, the average American woman wore a size 14. In some circles, this is considered "plus size" or "large." Women who wear a size 14 or higher may find it challenging to find the perfect plus-size apparel, especially for formal or semi-formal occasions. However, available options run the gamut from the department store at your local shopping mall to trendy boutiques that cater just to plus-size women.
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Designers like Jkara offer formal or semi-formal designs online and in high-end department stores like Dillard's. Outfits are available up to a woman's 24 and include intricate hand beading and sumptuous fabrics like chiffon. Eliza Parker offers designer plus-size dresses up to a size 28, with assurance for a variety of body types. This is particularly important since many chain stores offer plus-size clothing tailored for a smaller person but made in larger proportions; this does not guarantee a fit or a flattering style.
Trendy boutiques offer an alternative for clothing tailored for plus-size women. Hot Topic's answer for alternative plus-size young women is Torrid. This store provides an edgier, sexier look for club-hopping fashionistas unafraid to be boldly beautiful. Available sizes range all the way to a size 28, or their single-digit conversion 1 through 5, with a 5 converting to a 30 or 32. For a more mature, glamorous alternative, Catherines offers dresses up to a size 34 women's or 5 plus. In addition to both of these companies having physical stores, they offer online shopping.
For those who prefer home shopping, The Home Shopping Network, or HSN, offers semi-formal dresses up to a size 3 plus (or 24 to 26 women's). Some of these dresses can be purchased on a payment plan. Another option that opens up a worldwide marketplace for you at your fingertips is eBay, the online auction site. Here, retailers or wholesalers offer new dresses and individuals sell used outfits. Sizes and styles vary considerably, as do prices, which can be fixed or set by a winning bid.
Some boutiques offer formal or semi-formal wear for special occasions like proms or weddings. Promgirl -- which advertises itself as "The Online Prom Superstore" -- has an entire section dedicated to girls with fuller figures. This website offers dresses by various body types for various occasions, for sizes up to 32. In addition to plus-size bridal gowns, David's Bridal offers special-occasion semi-formal wear up to size 26.
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