I recently had a vivid dream that led me to go hunting for summer dresses. It was in the heat of July, and I was striding across Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, past The Bean. I was wearing the most stunning bright-burnt orange maxi summer dress. I wanna say it was a cotton blend summer dress, tiered at the bottom, and perhaps had some crochet detailing near the neckline and/or sleeves.

I told you, it was a vivid dream.

When did I grow up to be like my mother? When did I start loving dresses?

This is a VERY recent phenomenon. I went through a flowy skirt love affair in college, but this is a whole new feeling. Now I want dresses for more than just formal occasions. I want a dress to take me to an elegant luncheon with friends, to the grocery store, and beyond!

Summer Dresses

But where’s a full figured (but getting fitter) bella on a budget supposed to find the summer dresses of her dreams?

I hit up the usual online plus-size suspects, and some new selections — for a roundup of maxi dresses.

Jessica London’s one of my new discoveries and I love their take on Michelle Obama style. Sleeveless shift dresses FTW! And ooh, this shirtdress is classic Seventies safari-chic. I could work that.

But I took one glance at this olive colored earth-diva bubble hem cotton jersey dress you see above, and I can’t believe I don’t already own it. It’s currently $59 – $64, so this bella on a budget will be waiting for the price to come down a tad more. Or for the knockoff to start appearing at my favorite discount stores, heyo!

Avenue is all over the maxi dress madness, but booooooo — all of their offerings are in the kind of overkill patterns that plus-size clothing emporiums seem to just love. Show me a maxi dress in an understated, classic pattern, or just a selection in bright, eye-catching, timeless colors and I’ll be a happy gal. Until then, I’ll be moving on.

Summer Dresses

I think this purple floral sleeveless chiffon dress from ye olde Lane Bryant is pretty for a tea party or bridal shower, but it’s not the summer dress of my dreams.

Courtesy of one of my fave blogs, the Fatshionista, I discovered SWAK Designs, which looks promising. Their dress selection didn’t yield what I was seeking, though the Desi dress is tres chic and on sale!

Once again I gotta give it up to the design gurus behind Old Navy’s women’s plus line — quite the selection of chic colorful day dresses. The dress in my dream was like a magical hybrid of the crochet trim maxi dress, which unfortunately only comes in black, and the soft jersey knit tiered maxi dress in bright coral.

Summer Dresses

$36.50. Too cute. I’m borderline ready to buy.

But I’ll admit, I’m a bit hesitant. I’ve had fit issues with plus size dresses bought online before. I’ve got more than one dress I’ve bought online, wore once and never again because of questionable fit. Why do I buy online? It’s definitely my preference to try my clothes on — sometimes repeatedly, to make sure I really really love it. But I have to shop online, because for some reason, most plus size clothing is offered online. Even though the average American woman is between a size 12 and 14, the selection for women these sizes and beyond in stores, still tends to be limited to unflattering, anti-trendy styles.

I wonder how many curvy girls have wound up stuck with ill fitting, wrong-sized stuff because a physical store doesn’t exist, or isn’t anywhere near where they live? Or settled for an outfit that just fits, but isn’t the outfit of their dreams?

Recently I chatted at length with Claudette Grant, designer of CGsCouture Designs, a Fort Lauderdale-area designer and professional patternmaker who specializes in full figured fashion. She admitted that she gets quite a bit of business from women who need to have their retail-bought, badly fitting garments altered to fit correctly. “If it isn’t the shoulder’s too long, the bust doesn’t fit right, or something else.” This has been my frequent experience. Claudette encourages curvy girls to seek out their local tailors and designers, and consider the benefits of working with them on the garment of your dreams, instead of settling for less at a retail store. “I mean, that’s a $36 dress. You can buy a $36 dress, or you can work with a designer who’s going to measure you perfectly and construct the outfit that’s perfect for you, made to your specifications.”

That makes sense to me.

If you’re in South Florida and are in need of full figured fashion, contact Claudette. I’m planning to meet with her soon, myself. And I know finding cute plus size clothes will be easy for my NYC bellas — I wish I could be in New York City in late April to attend Curves and Cocktails, a fabulous shopping event hosted by Belle Noir Mag. There’s bound to be no shortage of full figured fashion inspiration there.

What styles are you looking for in your summer dresses, bellas? Where are you shopping for your summer dresses these days?



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