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November 4, 2009

Big Girl in a Skinny World: Office to Evening Fashion

Lose the suit! MC's plus-size fashion columnist, Ashley Falcon, dishes on her office-to-evening wardrobe essentials for the holiday season.

Check out Ashley's favorite picks for day-to-night wardrobe staples here.

ashley falcon

Photo Credit: Jason Lloyd Evans

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I am perpetually shopping. That's not unusual for fashion stylists and up-and-comers like me—our ensembles are, after all, our calling card. But unlike many of my Bergdorf-on-speed-dial colleagues, I'm just not hung up on labels. At 220 pounds and hovering between sizes 16 and 20, I simply can't be, or I'd literally have nothing to wear. My rule of thumb: If it looks good and fits well, then brand be damned. I snagged this season's quintessential boyfriend blazer at Walmart, where it was hanging a stone's throw from the mulch and garden hoses. And I practically live in the khakis I spotted in Topshop's maternity section. You'd need X-ray vision to know that these slacks were intended for the baby-on-board set.

Still, despite the endless hours I spend hunting for clothes, I usually walk out of stores empty-handed. The major plus-size chains seem to think their only customers are 40-something lite FM—ers who keep a set of shoulder pads stashed in their sock drawers. Sorry, but there's nothing chic about a faux-leather vest, whether it's in a size 0 or 18. And I won't settle when it comes to cut. A big girl wearing ill-fitting clothes? Tragic.

As a result, my wardrobe is a small but well-curated collection of versatile workhorses—mostly in black, of course—that I dress up or down depending on the occasion. Case in point: A few months back, I assisted a Marie Claire editor during New York Fashion Week. I knew the pressure to look chic amid the pin-thin crowds would be crazy intense. So I packed seven mix-and-match outfits—leggings, skinny jeans, jackets, embellished tees, opaque tights—that saw me through every single event, from backstage photo shoots to I'm-on-the-list after-parties. It's true, I was routinely the heaviest woman in attendance. But thanks to my savvy wardrobe picks, I held my own among fashion's "bitch, please" cliques.

This holiday season, you'll no doubt need similarly effortless ensembles that can take you from office meetings to post-work cocktails, with only minimal tweaking. Here's how I do it: The foundation of my day-to-night outfits is always a well-tailored blazer. I pair mine with a fine cami and, depending on my mood, a pencil skirt or black leggings. I'll accessorize this work-friendly look with a cute pair of ballet flats and some simple jewelry. When quitting time rolls around, I'll ditch the flats for killer heels—metallics are hot right now, so opt for a pair that has some serious sheen. I'll cap off the outfit with an eye-popping necklace, the kind that would require a shoebox to store. If you're going to invest in one piece of jewelry, that's the one I recommend—your lazy Sunday T-shirts will be instantly reborn as Saturday night showpieces. Trust me, these simple tips deliver killer results for just about every occasion, big or small.

LAST MONTH: The best jeans for curvy women.
NEXT MONTH: Finally, boots that will fit all calves!

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