Q&A: Work Wardrobe Inspiration for Plus-Size Women

The blogger behind Curvy CEO talks dressing professionally while staying cool in the summer heat.

Dressing for work in Washington’s summer humidity is hard enough—but for some women who aren’t the size two commonly seen on fashion blogs, finding office style inspiration can be even harder. Enter Curvy CEO, a DC blog that provides a haven for professional women on the hunt for work-appropriate clothes that celebrate their curves. Its founder, Kim (who prefers not to use her last name because of her day job), has been working on Capitol Hill for the past seven years and noticed a gap in the fashion landscape where plus-size styles were concerned. She launched her blog in 2011, and it now attracts more than 14,000 hits a month from readers who appreciate her frank and honest discussion about dressing for your profession and body type while also expressing personal style. 

We talked with Kim about the common issues she and her readers face, favorite products to beat the heat, and local stores she loves. 

What’s the main wardrobe problem you and your readers come across?

Finding things that are going to be appropriate as well as durable. The temptation is to throw the dress code out the window when the temperature goes up, but you still want to wear things that are office-appropriate, that have sleeves, and that are not going to get rumpled by the time you leave the office. I’m a big fan of layering. For instance, you might want to wear a sleeveless dress or top and then have a blazer or lightweight cardigan that you can slip on when you’re in the office. I’m a big fan of letting the clothes do the work for me, so I like to wear bright, cold colors or patterns. I also look for clothes that already have the embellishments as part of the design, or that have some sort of detail—a dress with a sweetheart neckline, maybe an accent around the waist, some sort of draping in the fabric—so that’s one less thing you have to do to make your outfit interesting. 

Washington is notorious for its heat and humidity. How can a curvy girl dress to celebrate her figure but also give her body room to breathe?

I’m a big fan of items that are made from a mixture of natural fabrics and synthetics. By getting something that’s made of a more blended material, you’re going to be in a sturdy fabric, but it’s still lightweight. 

There’s also this great accessory called Hot Girls Pearls: You keep them in the freezer, and then when you put them on they keep your neck cool. They’re great when you’re commuting, to help you get where you’re going. 

The biggest barrier is probably your own self-confidence. Everybody’s hot, everybody’s sweating. If all else fails, don’t be ashamed.

Are there any products or tips you swear by to help curb the always-terrible thigh-chafing issue?

Spanx are your friend—not just for smoothing but also to prevent “chub rub.” Monistat makes a great product called chafing gel, which is a smooth gel that creates an almost powdery layer on your skin to prevent your legs from rubbing together. Sometimes I’ll use baby powder and add in some Love’s Baby Soft, a baby-powder scented perfume, so I smell great while staying cool.

What are your go-to stores for professional clothing for curvy women?

My top favorite is Macy’s. I love, love, love Dress Barn—it’s a professional woman’s dream, because almost anything in there you can wear to work. Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, JCPenney. If you are a size 18 and under, you can go to Ann Taylor. If you are a size 16 and under, you can fit into Banana Republic, the Limited, or White House Black Market.

How about everyday beauty essentials to curb sweat and keep makeup looking fresh?

You definitely want to stick with powders in the hot weather, because anything creamy is going to slide right off your face. Things with a little more powder will help absorb sweat. Lip and cheek stains are good; my favorites are from Benefit. 

Finally, do you have a mantra that curvy girls should keep in mind when navigating the streets of DC?

Whatever you’ve got, make it look good. As a larger woman, you can command a presence in the room. You be as big as you are. Own your space. Stand full in that space.