Talbots. For years I associated the brand with granny gear: boxy blazers, shapeless cable knits, and the like. But Talbots has undergone a makeover with runway-inspired fashion designed to court younger, modern working women (like us!). At a preview of their spring line, I clamored for their basic silk tees, ideal for layering under your favorite blazer. Voil — instant polish. (Ditch the grubby camis already!) Available up to a size 20 in pastels like lavender, melon, and lemongrass, the shirts have ample room in the bust and stomach, so no awful sausage-casing bulges.
Another highlight of the spring line: the belted chambray shorts. A controversial pick for big girls, I know. But these gray just-above-the-knee shorts are cut forgivingly in the stomach area (no spare tire!), taper oh-so-slightly (no tree trunks!), and don't sit too high (buh-bye, Urkel!). Paired with a chic cardi and sandals, they're formal enough for a casual Friday at the office or a Sunday brunch with your guy's parents. Cap off the outfit with Talbots' sophisticated tasseled leather handbag in nude, spring's color of the moment.
James Jeans. Too many big girls think designer denim is reserved for women with matchstick legs. News flash: James Jeans, a favorite of Hollywood hotties like Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba, and Kim Kardashian, carries up to size 24W. What's more, all their sizes come equipped with what I call a "muffin-top buster" — a contoured waistband that is lower in front and higher in back. I live for the Hunter Z, a blue straight-leg that is easily dressed up or down depending on the occasion and the heel. My advice: Invest in several pairs. If you're like me, chub-rub tragically claims a few of your favorite jeans each year. Best be prepared.
Home Shopping Network. The purveyor of American-eagle coins and Wolfgang Puck steak knives is also ripe with plus-size fashion finds from the likes of Badgley Mischka and Naeem Khan, who have developed remarkably stylish and affordable lines for the network, in sizes as large as 3X. And since HSN boasts a robust website, you don't need to be channel-surfing at 3 a.m. to buy any of it. I snapped up a cropped camel suede jacket from Badgley Mischka's American Glamour label, which, when I received it, looked and felt far more luxe than its $150 price tag suggested.
Got any surprising places to shop for plus-size? Share the good word at marieclaire.com/ashley. Until next time!