Revenge of the Pencil Skirts (and Other Fashion Woes)

I’m not one to lecture people about what they wear, but I am one to bitch and moan to high heaven about not having a choice in what I wear.

Here I am, job-hopping once again and trying to find decent work and interview clothes that won’t break the bank. I didn’t think it would be too hard. I would stop at a department store or two and find everything I need.

Not so.

I’m an inbetweener. When I’m trying on clothes, I can fit into anything from a size 10 in misses to 1X in plus sizes, depending on the clothing item, the size, the cut, etc. In that respect, I’m fortunate because I can almost always find SOMETHING that fits me that I will like, even in high-end retail outlets.

What I can’t stand is the selection.

Granted, I live in semi-rural Maine, which is NOT the place you want to be if you’re shopping, no matter WHAT size you are. The selection is just non-existent, but as all plus-size women know, it’s worse for us fat women.

My personal style varies, but for dressy clothes, I love anything classic, schoolgirl-ish, or retro. In fact, my favorite skirt of all time is a plaid, pleated skirt which very much looks like it could be part of a uniform. I bought it at Target in fall of 2010 and I never saw them again. I see great contemporary styles too, but it’s hit or miss. Anyway, it’s next to IMPOSSIBLE for me to go to a brick-and-mortar store and find the kind of clothes that I like. Tops aren’t that hard to shop for, but finding good bottoms, especially skirts and dresses, is a total nightmare.

I went to FIVE stores today looking for professional-looking skirts, of which I found plenty, even in my size. There was only one problem. They were all pencil skirts.




Sure, there were other styles for casual wear, but they were too casual for work, so I was stuck rifling through the racks checking labels before I head into the fitting room.

Pencil skirt.

Pencil skirt.

Pencil skirt.

Pencil skirt.

I even asked a sales person if she could find me ANYTHING that wasn’t a pencil skirt. By this time, I was desperate. She actually cringed and said that would be hard, because just about everything these days is in pencil form.

Sorry, but I’m not a fan of pencil skirts. I’m not a fan of that style, and I’m really not a fan of how they look on me. Even if I was a pencil-skirt-wearing kind of girl, sometimes, I want to wear something ELSE. Something flowing. Something with pleats. Something that’s not pencil. Looking through the junior section, of course I could see plenty of skirts-flowing, pleated, etc.-that were not pencil. I guess I’m too old and fat to have variety and attractiveness in clothes, I guess.

Then it happened. A breakthrough. I found a cute skirt with a belt and a long zipper (not one of those tiny ones that barely allows you room to slip the skirt on). I went to the fitting room, put it on, and looked in the mirror. To my horror…it was a pencil skirt.

But it didn’t say that on the label. It said ‘pointe.’ It’s a pencil skirt.

Damn it.

Damn it.

Damn it.



I banged on the wall in frustration and cursed to myself. There’s NOTHING, in any of the stores I have been in, that suits me (and that doesn’t cost a gazillion dollars.)

I can’t prove this, but I have a theory as to what brought about the revenge of the pencil skirts. We are all about ‘slimming’ clothes these days, even in straight and petite sizes. I see jeans and dress pants that have ‘tummy control.’ I see polos that ‘instantly slim you!’ And in most of the pencil skirts I checked out, it advertised that they were cut specifically to trim you down. They even included ‘before’ and ‘after’ graphics on the tags demonstrating the thin-making miracle that is the pencil skirt.

I guess retailers want all women, but especially fat women, to wear pencil skirts to save their precious eyes from our offensive fat rolls. Everything us, in their eyes, is too frumpy and makes us look too fat for their liking.

I finally found something that I like, but I wish I had more options (and much less frustration.) When I get the chance, I’m heading to a couple of malls and maybe even cyber space for better luck. For now, all I can say is, I’ve seen enough pencil skirts to last me a lifetime.

By the way, is it just me, or are retailers these days downsizing their clothes? I have two pairs of size 16 jeans that I have worn for two years. Yet when I try on size 16 jeans lately, it is crap shoot whether they will fit or not. It is the same with button-up tops or any top other than a T-shirt. I can fit into my clothes at home, but try on the same size as a low-end retailer like Wal-Mart and it’s too small.

Forget shopping in the men’s department. I love men’s clothes, but it’s next to impossible for find clothes that will accommodate my figure, obviously because men’s clothes are designed for MEN’S figures. Whenever I pick out a shirt, it fits great everywhere but won’t close over my rack of doom. I go a size bigger and I’m swimming in it.

Pants are even worse. I find pants that are long enough, but that do not accommodate my hips or my ass at all. I go a size bigger so they fit around my waist, but the pants are too long and WAY too baggy every place else.

Yes, I have some sewing ability, and if I had the materials (and the time), I would make my own clothes. For the time being, however, making ALL of my clothes is not practical. For the record, buying fabric that you like isn’t much easier around here than buying clothes you like.

Shopping sucks.



  1. Tori · September 11, 2012

    I guess retailers want all women, but especially fat women, to wear pencil skirts ….

    Hrm. There are no pencil skirts — or, often, any skirts — my size in my area. B y this logic, I can only conclude that retailers want me to run around town buck naked. 😀

  2. Patsy Nevins · September 11, 2012

    I buy all my clothing by mail order. I live in jeans & tees, so even though I am considerably larger than you, I find what I like more easily. However, the sizing is a bitch. I understand that I have gained some weight in the past few years with aging, finishing menopause, & rebounding from my last 4-year bout of compulsive exercise, but why is it that I have some jeans which are 2 or 3 years old which still fit me fine, but I need to go up a size when I buy new ones?

    I have changed with menopause from an hourglass to an apple, so most of my weight is in my midsection & I have comparatively slim legs for my size, so I like the skinny jeans which mean that I can buy something which fits comfortably through the waist & tummy without having ten yards of extra material in the legs. I am also in Maine, as you know, & I long ago gave up on finding anything I really like here aside from maybe some new underwear. my daughter-in-law keeps trying to tell me that they have nice plus size clothes at Walmart, but not for me. We go there at least once a week for food shopping & I have looked. All the plus size clothes Walmart carries make me want to vomit & their online selection is no better.

    I wish you well & send you good shopping vibes. I would not wear a skirt unless someone wrestled me to the ground & put it on me, but I hope that you find what you want & need. We are ALL…all sizes, shapes, & ages…individuals, with unique tastes, lifestyles, needs, etc. We should all be able to find the clothes we want & need for any occasion & any job without tearing our hair out.

    And if you are too old for good clothes at 23, then I, at 63, should be wearing nothing but fluttery shirts with butterfly sleeves & doubleknit polyester pants, which is not happening in THIS lifetime. Keep looking, my friend. There has to be something for you somewhere.

  3. bj1980 · September 11, 2012

    Oh they are. Just My Size used to be my underthings destination, because their size-14 drawers fit — snugly, but they fit. They don’t anymore. At all. I haven’t added additional inchage through the undercarriage. Not to mention, the construction isn’t as sturdy and the fabric’s lower in quality. And oh dearie me, do *not* get me started on Lane Bryant/Roman’s/Woman Within/Catherine’s offerings. You’re really not getting what you pay for in clothes anymore.

  4. La · September 11, 2012

    So glad to see that you both posted! I’ve been missing you.

    Clothing and I just do NOT get along. You are so right about the sizes changing and especially when you shop online, like I do (and Patsy), it’s such a pain when something doesn’t fit to send it back. A lot of times, I will find something that fits great and I buy several of them in different colors. I am also a jeans and tee-shirt kind of person. I’ve never been a “dressing up” person. I do not like wearing dresses and skirts. Comfort has always been my bag. My all-time favorite outfit was a fabulous pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. I just felt so good when I put that outfit on. Of course, I’m much larger now, but I think of that outfit with fondness quite often.

    My biggest problem at the moment is finding a bra that fits correctly. My favorite was always Olga, but when I gained weight, I needed a 46DD and Olga only goes up to 42. Those were the most comfortable bras. They fit me perfectly! I even emailed them to see if they had any plans to offer bras in larger sizes – of course, they never answered me. I didn’t expect that they would. Now I can’t find one that looks AND feels right to save my life. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, to no avail.

    And Patsy – you sure are right about menopause changing the fat distribution. I never carried weight in my stomach and now it all seems to be gravitating in that direction. Of course, I don’t have the blessing of thin legs – so, I get the double whammy! I am 50, so I’ve got quite a bit longer to go with that. Yay for me!

    Thanks to finding fat acceptance websites like this one, I am now so much more comfortable in my own skin that I actually do think about what kind of clothing I am wearing. That’s a big step for me!

    Hope to see more posts from you both soon!

  5. La · September 11, 2012

    P.S. – I couldn’t get a pencil skirt on my body to save my life! No way, no how!

  6. Moe aka @biggirlblue · September 11, 2012

    It was arbitrarily decided somewhere along the line, seems like it has been about three years, that the most flattering skirt for most body types was a pencil skirt. Before that all you could find were a-line skirts. I am totally with you on variety. One retailer does not need to only carry pencil skirts unless that is what they are known for. We all have more tastes and personality and wants than a closet full of pencil skirts will allow. Glad you found something though but still so frustrating. Perhaps it’s time to take up sewing. At least until this pencil fetish is over with.

    • JoannaDW · September 11, 2012

      I love a-line skirts and I WISH I could find some now. Granted, I would hate to have a closet with only a-lines, but I would take that over a closet full of pencils any day. I don’t understand why retailers don’t carry variety. Most people I know don’t wear one type of clothing all the time, so they can’t give me the BS that variety in clothes won’t sell. Even those who are die-hard jeans-and-tees people can find variety in the jeans and T-shirts they buy. Why not anything else?

  7. Patsy Nevins · September 11, 2012

    To me, a pencil skirt is basically a straitjacket for your legs. Such total comfort & freedom of movement! Even though I like slim leg jeans, I often will, if I have any doubt, size up on size to give me plenty of comfort & room to move. I don’t give a damn what number is on the label, I care if it fits fairly well & if I have enough room to move & breathe & if I like it & feel like myself in it.

    • JoannaDW · September 11, 2012

      Lol, thanks for this. Straightjackets are a no-no for people that work in retail, or for anyone that expects to be able to walk. And forget about bending over.

  8. Patsy Nevins · September 11, 2012

    That was ‘size up ONE size.’ Score another one for the queen of typos.

  9. Patsy Nevins · September 15, 2012

    Even though I am no fatshionista, I do like comfortable clothes I like that fit. And, yes, I KNOW that, after cutting back from 4 hours of exercise per day to 45-60 minutes & aging & finishing menopause, my body shape has changed, I am losing some muscle tone, & I did gain some weight. That still cannot explain why I have clothes of a certain size which are 3 or 4 years old which still fit, yet I cannot buy anything new in the same size & get into it. In the past 8 years, I have gone from being able to fit into size 16’s in many things, occasionally even a 14, to needing a 24 virtually all the time & in some cases giving serious consideration to a 26. Now, SOME of that is aging & menopause, but some of it is that clothing manufacturers are cutting corners to save themselves money & material & to force more of us into sizes large enough that they feel justified in charging us $5-$10 more than the 14-24 range, which of course already costs more than the straight sizes. And there is no consistency. I bought size 11 panties the last time I got JMS panties & was less than thrilled with them. I sit here typing in size 9 Fruit of the Loom panties which fit me perfectly & which I found in a package of 5 pairs for less than $8 thrown into a bin at Walmart. That beats the hell out of $5-$14 per pair at Lane Bryant or Avenue.

    As I said, I love jeans, live in jeans & I also do not carry a purse but stuff everything I take with me into pockets, so I need comfortable stretch denim jeans in my size with functional pockets, which lets out MOST elastic wait denim pants. And I need them to be comfortable through the waist & belly without looking like palazzo pants through my legs. I don’t really CARE what the size label says as long as I like them & they are comfortable, but I don’t like being forced into a more expensive size range not by changes in my body but by the fact that clothes are being cut smaller. That isn’t fair to me or anyone else.

    And good luck, Jo, to you in your search for clothing & for steady employment.

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