The Most Useless Piece of Advice I’ve Ever Received as a Curvaceous Traveller

Here it is, the most useless advice I’ve ever been given as a plus size traveller: “If you don’t pack it, don’t worry. You can just pick it up as you go.”

Oh yeah? Try finding summer clothes in Japan when you are curvaceous.

I’ve been making the rounds at various shops looking for some clothing updates for my travels.  I am beyond frustrated.   

I’m proud to say I have hips and boobs.  I have measurements that once made men swoon.  (My husband still swoons for me, but let’s keep this PG.)

Finding well-fitting clothes has always been a struggle for the “plus-sized”.  Even now, when the average size of half the women in the U.S., U.K. and Australia is above 14, the label of ‘plus sized’ still carries a negative stigma among buyers, designers, and the fashion industry as a whole.  The industry largely disregards the fact that plus sized now equals the real size of a majority of women. These women have the buying power to spend on clothing that looks good and fits well.

While acceptance is growing for labels to begin marketing to the curvaceous, most larger sized options are still crammed into the back of department stores with styles designed for the likes of Granny.  And polyester, no less!

As a traveller, a full time one at that, this is beyond my comprehension. And then there are THOSE posts….

Posts that offer the most useless piece of advice to any plus size traveller: “If you don’t pack it, don’t worry. You can ‘just pick it up’ somewhere on the road.”  

Ugh.  That mentality frustrates the shit out of me. 

Do you know how difficult it is to find a fleece hoodie that fits boobs and hips and doesn’t fit like a garbage bag? Or a waterproof jacket to walk 800 km across Spain? Or to find lightweight travel pants that don’t chafe or aren’t made of polyester!

Do you know how difficult it is to find a fleece hoodie that fits boobs and hips and doesn’t fit like a garbage bag?

Even if we could ‘just pick it up’, it’s a matter of finding places to do so.  

The plus sized market is still very much a specialty field.  A lot of designs that work well for travel simply aren’t tailored proportionally for larger sized women.  They just make larger versions of garments designed for straight sized people.

I was in Ireland in the middle of winter on a business trip.  The only clean clothes I had were the ones I was wearing.  Since I was there for a couple of weeks,  I had dropped off the rest at the local laundromat who screwed up the pick-up time, leaving me with nothing to wear for the following day.  I was desperate for something – anything – to wear.

Not surprisingly, I found myself in the back of a department store. I bought a wafer-thin tube skirt which hugged all the wrong places and went ‘pilly’ on that first – and only – wear, because it was the only thing I could ‘just pick up’.

Mount Oberon
Tara @ Mount Oberon

The advice of ‘just pick it up’ reflects the same arrogance that the fashion industry is adhering to.  The writers are ignoring the fact that people come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes.  They ignore the fact that most travelers plan years in advance to make their travel dreams come true.  Long term travelers have to consider every ounce of weight and every dollar they spend.

I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve found myself  thinking, when looking for clothing, that “plus size women apparentlyhave no style.”  The issue does not reside with plus sized women though. It’s all that’s on offer in retail outlets. The issue resides with the designers and the buyers for plus size departments. They offer crapmost of the time.

Plus-sized women of every age want the same opportunity to wear stylish apparel that is flattering to their body type.

Short Sleeve Striped Cotton Shirt
Urban Rose Womens Plus Size Cardigan with Long Duster Length
ECCO Women’s Soft 7 High Top
Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women’s Plus-Size Modern Straight Jeans
Simple Black T-Shirt
Black Yoga Pants
City Chic Fifi Bra
Fatface Tunic Dress
Lane Bryant Active Leggings
MacPac Merino Henley Long Sleeve Shirt
Maxi Dress
ExOfficio Hoodie Jacket
Virtuelle Tee
Versatile Straw Hat
Women’s Long Sleeve Merino Tee
Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander Waterproof Rain Jacket
Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pant, Water and Stain Resistant
Merrell Sandals

I like looking good, and I want practical clothes that work for my life. Especially my travel life.  

Travellers need natural fabrics that are light weight and quick drying.  In six years of living in Australia, I have found one pair of quality travel pants that fit reasonablywell.  I still had to take up the legs by several inches. (Who ARE these Amazonian women they sell to?)

The world in general seems to be becoming more comfortable with the idea that not everyone is supermodel-thin and instead, seeing people as they really are.  But if the fashion industry is slow to react to this growing trend, the pace for manufacturers is glacial.

Worldwide Solo Trek packing
Everything that went into my suitcase for my Worldwide Solo Trek

For instance, I saw a Women’s 16 fleece in a shop that would likely have only fit a 12-year-old girl.  Technology may help bridge some of the gaps, as manufacturers become more automated and driven by real world data.  (We can only hope, right?!) On-Line merchants also hold some promise of narrowing the gap between fit and style.

From experience I know that I have to prepare for every eventuality when I pack. 

I make sure that everything layers, has multiple functions and that everything I have in my bag will suit any occasion.  I adapt my packing list to suit my trip where I can.  I pack one or two extra things and throw in a small tube of washing detergent and a portable clothesline, so that I’m not caught short.  I certainly don’t need another throw away skirt!

I have tested the theory.  Never ever think you can ‘pick something up’ when you are a curvaceous traveler.  I look forward to choice when it comes to plus sized clothing.  In the meantime, I think it’s best to be prepared instead.

I have found some handy links for buying plus-size online. 

But sometimes you just need to try it on first and these outlets offer that!

J.Jill – good, flowing fabrics that wear well.

Talbots –  Their jeans are great and I love that Talbots account for vertically challenged plus size women too! (And seriously, will someone buy me this dress?!  It’s perfect for travel!)

Target – They can be a hit or miss, especially as the seasons change, but I do have some key pieces in my wardrobe from Target.  (Check out my simple travel wardrobe below.)

Old Navy –  Surprisingly Old Navy have been my staple for t-shirts for years.  Again, they can be a hit or miss, but most of the time when I’m in the U.S., I’ll stop in to replace old T-shirts which have finally worn out.  (I wear t-shirts practically a lot in my travels!)

Fatface – Many of their clothes go up to a size 20, so it’s not completely Plus size, but it works for many. When I travelled through England, I found this brand and I have three dresses from there that I wear ALL the time. Very versatile for both winter and summer

Check out my simple travel wardrobe:

Short Sleeve Striped Cotton Shirt
Urban Rose Womens Plus Size Cardigan with Long Duster Length
ECCO Women’s Soft 7 High Top
Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women’s Plus-Size Modern Straight Jeans
Simple Black T-Shirt
Black Yoga Pants
City Chic Fifi Bra
Fatface Tunic Dress
Lane Bryant Active Leggings
MacPac Merino Henley Long Sleeve Shirt
Maxi Dress
ExOfficio Hoodie Jacket
Virtuelle Tee
Versatile Straw Hat
Women’s Long Sleeve Merino Tee
Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander Waterproof Rain Jacket
Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pant, Water and Stain Resistant
Merrell Sandals

When it comes to online shopping, I always check the return policy buying hitting the ‘buy’ button.

Here’s a great online site – travelfashiongirlI’m really liking it.  I’m going to explore it more in the coming weeks and see what they have to offer.

Are you curvaceous and found great clothes that totally rock your world? Leave a comment and let us all know what you have found!

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Other posts You May Like:

What’s In My Bag for my Indefinite Worldwide Trek

The Only Roadtrip Checklist You Will Ever Need

Packing List for the Camino de Santiago

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