Big Girl in a Skinny World: Black Tie and Formal Attire

Ashley's tips on how to find the perfect outfit for any formal event.

ashley falcon
(Image credit: Greg Kessler)

About 2 months ago I received an invitation to a close family friends quinceanera (15th birthday Hispanic celebration, think Sweet 16 or a Bat Mitzvah). At the bottom of the invitation were 4 words that would make dressing for the event much more difficult: Black Tie/Formal Attire. As if dressing a plus size physique for every day isn't difficult enough, finding a formal dress was sure to pose a challenge. Most formal plus size options ranging from unflattering granny dresses to downright ugly. Still, I set out to find the impossible: an Oscar-worthy floor length gown.

As a big girl, I know very well the importance of getting an early jump on shopping. We bigger girls do not have the luxury of waiting until the last minute and picking up a great dress at any shop we choose. Needless to say, life has been so hectic lately, that even with all my past experiences, I left shopping until the last minute. So, although the party was this Saturday, I started shopping for my dress last Monday. Because I'm also a practicing fashion stylist, I was also shopping for my best friend, who happens to be a size 0. Now—you won't believe this—while I was scouring the racks for my galpal, as if by some miracle, I found a stunning deep teal Tadashi dress in a size 16 that fit seamlessly and was reduced from $495 to $35!

A miracle to be sure, but ladies do not follow my lead, as these miracles rarely happen. My best advice for you when faced with a formal event: 1) Start early 2) Try everything on! Some dresses aren't done justice on a hanger. 3) Accept that you may need to spend more money than you had hoped. 4) Purchase a versatile dress—not one that will sit in the closet waiting for another once-in-a-while occasion. Looking for a wild splash of color? I suggest the stunning Tadashi Shoji One Shoulder Gown with a ruched bodice in an eye-popping violet. If you prefer a black dress that could be dressed up or down, consider Montif C's Marilyn Long Convertible dress. If you have always wanted to try the Grecian goddess look, check out Badgley Mischka's incredibly elegant Plus Size Extra Long One Shoulder Dress.

Don't forget the proper undergarments! A stunning dress risks being instantly ruined with an exposed bra strap or panty lines. Find smoothing and discreet undergarments to enhance your look, and don't forget to add amazing accessories to top it all off. Best of luck dressing for your next black tie affair. If you need any advice, don't hesitate to email.



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