It's the dead of winter, and I've got sundresses and bathing suits on the brain. Sounds strange, I know, but that's how the fashion industry works. While you're trudging to the office in your puffiest down coat, my colleagues and I are scouring designer look books for the must-have pieces for summer. Of course, it's near impossible for a full-figured fashionista like me to shop a season or two ahead. Over the course of a year, I fluctuate anywhere between a size 16 and 20. Come spring, half my closet may not fit me. Besides, plus-size retailers don't really adhere to the traditional fashion calendar. At this very moment, you may have better luck finding a Valentino ball gown in a size 18 than a denim shirtdress (a spring wardrobe essential) in that same size.
There is one blessed exception to that grim fashion reality: Marina Rinaldi, a division of chic fashion house MaxMara, one of the few high-end Italian designers to cater to the size-14-and-up set. There's nothing quite like true designer Italian— the luxe fabrics and impeccable tailoring. When you're a handful of woman like me, that kind of quality is as effective as a pair of Spanx in making you look about 10 pounds slimmer.
I recently checked out Marina Rinaldi's spring and resort lines, available in February, and couldn't keep my hands off the silk sleeveless black frock with the silk-screen front. It's a young, bold take on the little black dress— and Lord knows how much we big girls love black dresses! Pair it with metallic sandals, which add polish to everything from jeans and a tee to evening attire.
Another personal favorite: a black-and-white-spotted one-piece swimsuit, which I'll be sporting this summer beneath a bold yellow button-down that doubles as a cover-up. I don't own many swimsuits, and I loathe shopping for them. (Who doesn't, really?) Though I grew up in Miami, hitting the beach usually fell behind big-game hunting on my weekend to-do list. Still, I believe every woman should own at least one bathing suit that won't have her hiding behind a towel. And this '40s-inspired number is seriously flattering, thanks to the curve-containing sweetheart cut, side ruching, and camouflaging print.
Be forewarned: Marina Rinaldi doesn't come cheap. A simple but ridiculously versatile khaki drawstring shirtdress retails for $395. (It also comes in a juicy melon shade.) But trust me, it'll pay for itself— you'll wear it to work, happy hour, and Sunday brunch. It's well-made, with a flax linen that won't fade, pill, sag, or pucker after only a couple of wears the way polyblends do. Besides, finer fabrics are far more forgiving if you gain a few pounds here or there.
I've got loads more style pointers on my blog marieclaire.com/ashley. Check it out— and be sure to send me your top tips!
"When you're a handful of woman, quality is as effective as a pair of Spanx in making you look slimmer."