It’s hard to dress for your shape when you’re a plus size woman. Just finding attractive clothes in your size is tough. Add to that trying to dress for your shape and shopping can be a nightmare. You try on one outfit after the other and your self esteem plummets.
That’s why I asked Ashley Martin of Boutique 1780 all about dressing for your shape, whether you’re a pear, an apple, a rectangle or the rare inverted triangle. Ashley’s made it her mission to carry inclusive sizing in her store. When you see a top or dress you like, you don’t have to go to a separate part of the store for a plus size. She’s got Size S through 3XL on one rack.
In this interview, Ashley talks about her difficult journey of going from Size 4 to 14, then trying to find attractive clothes that fit. She also talks about the difficulties she faces as a retailer and how she manages a retail store, a pop-up shop and an online store.
Watch the video or read the blog post. I also included time stamps in the blog post if you want to jump around the video.
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase.
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I started my business when my second daughter was five months-old. I had a daughter under three and then a five month-old. I had always wanted to start a clothing boutique and even before my husband and I got married, we talked about where in this [Pennsylvania] region it might make sense to open a brick-and-mortar store. But I never really pursued it.
What really inspired me, and actually gave me a mission behind just wanting to own a clothing boutique, was sitting in the nursery at church with my daughter and looking around me and seeing all these other moms who were either wearing maternity clothes that were now too big, or wearing clothes from pre-baby that were too small. Meanwhile, Baby looks awesome.
That’s really what inspired me was helping moms, as well as any other woman who finds herself in that phase of life where her body is changing and she doesn’t know how to dress the shape that she has now or she’s finding stores aren’t very friendly to what fits her shape.
Clothes and Confidence 03:41
It was reassuring to see that other women were having the same struggle, while also motivating. We [moms] just did this amazing thing. We should feel confident and beautiful because we’re strong. Look what our bodies just went through! And instead, when I don’t feel confident in my outward appearance, I become a wallflower. I shrink my personality because I don’t want to draw attention to myself.
I find that if you feel confident in your outward appearance, you just carry yourself with so much more confidence. You feel more comfortable being assertive and let your personality shine through.
It Started in the Garage 04:48
I started [Boutique 1780] in my garage. My husband pulled his truck out and we laid down a remnant carpet. We hung up some metal pipe and some curtains, so that you couldn’t see all his tools. We just made that space work.
I did a lot of — and I still do –pop-up events. I would load everything up in my van, set it up at a street fair, church or wherever they were having vendor events. Home parties, things like that.
Moving to Brick and Mortar 06:05 was a year of a lot of change for me. in the spring, I bought a Winnebago camper that’s been completely converted into a mobile boutique. I love this because I can still do a lot of the street fairs and things like that. This has given me back a lot of my time because I don’t have as much set up and it’s easier to bring my kids with me.
In Manheim, Pennsylvania, where I currently reside, there was talk of a new marketplace coming. I reached out to the building owner very early and got connected with the manage. They were creating this curated boutique-type marketplace with crafters and antiques and all this kind of stuff. I said, I want to be a part of this, do you want me? So, that was my first storefront that opened November. And I’m still a one-woman shop, so I’m a little exhausted.
From Size 4 to 14 10:37
When you start to gain weight, you don’t realize that it’s creeping on until your pants don’t fit anymore.
Prior to getting married, I would go to the gym five days a week, and then also go to Zumba three or four days a week. I was new to Pennsylvania and I didn’t have a lot of friends. And the guy that I was dating — who’s now my husband — didn’t live minutes away, so we didn’t see each other during the week. I was a gym rat.
Then I got married and I started cooking more and going to the gym less and so it slowly started to creep on. Then I had that first baby and I bounced back a little bit. But then I had baby number two and that was almost four years ago and I have yet to bounce back.
I went from a size S to a size 14, somewhere around there.
Feeling Confident 12:25
That’s I think why it’s so important to me to help others feel confident, is because you sometimes want for others what you don’t always have yourself. With my daughters, I give them daily affirmations and not only on their looks, but their intelligence, because I don’t ever want them to doubt [themselves].
I also think that you can love yourself where you’re at and still want to make improvement.
How Ashley Selects Inventory 14:05
I carry sizes small through 3XL. And it is a challenge for retailers. I know a lot of retailers who started out with the best intentions and wanted to carry inclusive sizing but then that stuff sat. And even looking at my own racks, I do see where the 1X and the XL might not move.
But what I have found is that a woman who is plus-size, once she finds a place that will take good care of her and that will provide stylish clothes for her in her size range, she will be extremely loyal. If you’re not seeing the clothing on a woman who looks like you, you’re probably not going to shop with that brand.
Ashley’s Mission 16:28
One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is not make [plus size] women feel like “other,” like “here, this is my section of the store.” When I say that I have inclusive sizing, I mean that sizes small through XLs are on the same rack together. If you see a style that you like, you don’t have to go look for it in a separate section on my website or on a different rack in my store. Everything’s together.
Your Body Shape 19:01
I suggest knowing your body type and knowing what styles are going to work with your body type.
Also, keep in mind, we don’t live in a day and age where our clothes are custom cut for our bodies anymore. We don’t go to the tailor like we used to. We really have to filter everything through that lens and say, this isn’t necessarily cut for my body and the problem is the top or the pants or the dress not my body.
I have a sign in my fitting room that says, there are no wrong bodies, just wrong styles for your body.
Which Style for Which Shape 23:08
I will start out by saying that my philosophy is to dress for the body that you have, not the body that you wish you had. And if you like something, wear it. There are some styles that fashion experts will tell you that I shouldn’t wear, but I love them so I wear them anyway. If I love it and I feel pretty, I’m going to wear it. So, take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Not sure of your body shape? Ashley recommends these links.
Some of the least common body types are the inverted triangle, when you’ve got a wider shoulder and a narrower waist. Look for:
- V-neck tops
- Peplum styles
- Dresses with stretchy material
- A-line cuts
- Pencil skirts
- Most pants will look good on your body type
Apple [shapes] are little bit more common. You’re just a little bit round all over and you don’t necessarily have a distinctive waist. Look for:
- Longer tunics
- Vertical layering
- Longer dresses with a varied hemline
- Nude shoes will make you look taller and elongate your legs
- Scoop neck or a v-neck
- Plunging necklines
- Longer necklace
Rectangle is another less common body shape. If you’re a rectangle, you’re kind of even all over.A lot of the [plus size] models are rectangle. Just about anything looks good.
- Pretty much any neckline
- Raglan-style tops
When I’m purchasing inventory, a lot of times they will actually photograph clothes on a plus-size model. But, again, she’s very tall and she’s very proportional. [Her shape] doesn’t mean she necessarily represents my average customer.
The majority of women are pear-shaped. You’ve got larger hips. You’ve got a little bit of a defined waist. Look for:
- Cowl necks
- Basically any neckline depending on your cup size
- A-line or straight skirts
- High-waisted skirts
- Mid-thigh or mid-calf hemlines
- Sleeveless dresses with a flared bottom
You have a natural waist if you are pear-shaped, so we want to draw attention to that. Adding a belt something like that will draw attention to that waist. That’s what your goal is; you are trying to make yourself look more proportional.
Unfortunately, if you’re a pear shape, you have to try on jeans to see what looks best on you. Sometimes we have that problem with gapping in the back, when it fits in our hips and through our thighs, but then it’s gapping in the back at the waist. Look for a mid- to a high-rise jean. I carry Cello jeans that have become one of my favorites.
A frilly sleeve will look nice because it will draw more attention to your top, as opposed to your hips. Also wear darker bottoms and lighter-color top tops.
In General 29:11
If you are heavier up top, pick things with a smaller print. If you put big, huge flowers on, it will draw more attention to your larger chest or your larger belly.
Foundations are so important. (Bra and underwear.) One thing I tell women when they come shop with me, is to wear your the bra you actually leave your house in, not your sports bra. If you’re wearing your sports bra that doesn’t necessarily flatter and is meant to smoosh and hold things in place, the tops aren’t going to look right.
See also: VIDEO: How to Find a Bra That Fits