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January 19, 2010

Big Girl in a Skinny World: Runway Looks for Curvy Women

Runway looks for real bodies! MC's full-figured fashion expert, Ashley Falcon, spotlights the season's hottest trends, fit for all shapes and sizes.

ashley falcon

Photo Credit: Greg Kessler

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In my past life, I must have been Karl Lagerfeld's pincushion. How else to explain my almost masochistic devotion to fashion, despite the fact that, at 220 pounds, I can't actually wear much of what comes down the runways? And yet, without question, the highlight of my year is Fashion Week. My version of nirvana is curling up on the couch with my laptop and scouring the straight-off-the-catwalk looks on style.com in search of wearable pieces that I can actually incorporate into my wardrobe. It's no simple task, but I am living proof that it is absolutely possible to build an enviably chic and relevant wardrobe comprised entirely of XXLs and size 20s.

Case in point: Not long ago, I attended a fashion industry party clad in a charcoal-gray Adrienne Vittadini fitted frock, dressed up with some Dior booties and a chunky necklace. Simple, to be sure, but feminine and sophisticated and, thanks to my glammed-up makeup, evocative of the ultracool '40s-era looks that dominated last fall's runways. A well-known model, outfitted in (what else?) subzero skinny jeans and a cropped leather jacket, marched right over, looked me in the eye, and cooed, "I loooove what you're wearing," before disappearing into the crowd. Needless to say, I could have died a happy woman then and there.

While it's true that many of fashion's freshest looks just won't work on big girls—I'd sooner sashay down the street in a dress made of curtains (sorry, Scarlett) than in a jumpsuit or harem pants—there are plenty of options this spring for the plus-size set. Romantic ruffles were a major crowd-pleaser, so invest in a flouncy skirt or a dress with soft, frilly details. I've already started hunting down denim pieces and military-inspired blazers—both pair well with leggings. Initially, I dismissed the Grecian-draped dresses that cascaded down the Lanvin and Burberry Prorsum runways this year, fearful that they'd add extra layers and folds where I neither needed nor wanted them. Boy, was I wrong. Draping, if done correctly, can actually mask problem areas and elongate the body. My teal, knee-length draped dress from Igigi has officially become my Saturday night special.

One basic rule to keep in mind: Find garments that hint at a trend rather than club you over the head with it—touches of lace on a cashmere cardigan, for example, rather than the full-on sheer lace getups that A-listers from Gwyneth to Gaga pranced down the red carpet in this year. The major retail chains—Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and Macy's among them—do a good job distilling over-the-top trends into accessible pieces for all women. Be bold and hit the fitting rooms early!

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