Plus Size Style through the Decades-One Plum’s Odyssey

Deborah Dressing Up

It all started with a pair of red sneakers I went to sleep wearing. I was hooked! The discovery put a spring in my step catapulting me into a lifelong romance with fashion.  At a tender age patterns and themes began to emerge. Nautical knits, florals and shoes  kept reappearing. East Coast black influences eventually merged with California casual. Growing up I created makeshift solutions since there was a glaring void in 70s plus size fashion.  If I couldn’t find the wide leg navy pants I yearned for, I’d go to an Army and Navy surplus store  and buy the original sailor’s pants.   Yes, I would have to be inventive, but the thrill of coordinating outfits further emboldened my plus size identity and sparked my creativity.

My "Mod" 1968 dress

Living close to the ocean (Boston-hence the running nautical theme) with incredible boutiques like hippie chic George’s Folly (just down the street) to Paraphernalia (where designer Betsy Johnson got her start) set the stage for my budding fashionista self.  My first favorite outfit, a purple suede fringed vest with matching lace front miniskirt had a  magical, transforming effect on me the night of a school dance.  Do I remember if anyone asked me to dance?  No, but I can still feel the gained sense of confidence I had wearing a put together look in what would  later become my signature color.

 

I experimented with looks ranging from denim overalls, plaid shirts and vintage furs (an old muskrat purchased for $20) and my grandmother’s Persian lamb.  Safari jackets, hair bandanas, Huckapoo shirts and “Goody Two Shoe” wedgies were au courant. I loved witnessing the evolution of espadrillles, Gucci equistrian themes, preppy madras, hand embroidered peasant blouses.  I loved all the fresh interpretations of  classics I adored. I was fearless in my experimentation.  My mother (the slim, fashionable,  Jewish Jackie O) would disapprove of my misguided adventures into vintage.  “You’ll catch leprosy”, she said.  This was my fashion journey and I was cultivating my style.  I learned about the illusion of prints, the value of a good, classic outfit and the elements of  plus size style.

Nautical in 1989.

70s, 80s and 90s

 

From my tailor grandfather, I learned about fabric quality and cut.  My mother taught me how to buy an outfit, a look.  Her fashion philosophy was to buy quality over quantity.  Wardrobe is an investment.  Never underestimate the value of a great black sweater or a navy blazer.  When I wanted to wear Edwardian or flowing vintage, my mother pushed me towards tailored pieces.  Her style sensibility became part of my DNA and I subconciously adopted a version of her style.   

 

1948

 

1989

There were so many aspects of fashion I love like the drama of the entrance.  I  was the “girl in the pink sweater walking on the beach” so making  a memorable impression was theatrical and I was/am a true ham.  I loved the hunt for the perfect accessories to an event and the “what will you wear” conversations. As I became more self-assured and joined the ranks of plus size modeling, I became intrigued with the emerging  plus size garment industry in 1980s Los Angeles fortunate to play a role in bringing fashion to a “ forgotten woman”.

I kicked in the door to a world that had little use for me as a plus size woman, but I’m relentless when I’m in pursuit of an ideal.  The road I traveled, ironically hired to sell plus size lingerie, led me back to where I belonged all along at Plus Size Plum.

About Personal Style

Some rules can be bent.  I can wear a fur vest even with a big bust (if it’s cut right), but I can’t wear kelly green anymore  despite the fact that I still have the Studio 54 disco dancing girl inside me, it doesn’t suit me in my fifties.  I dress with a youthful perspective (so no more Misook) . I love linen as it reminds me of summer in Milan (where I’ve never been). And I am crazy for plaids, stripes, paisley and Chanel.  For me, to quote  my other style icon, the fabulous, Mouna Ayoub, “Fashion is art”.  Madame Ayoub (who I once had as a customer) came decked out in Chanel from her thigh high boots to  her necklaces.  Her style left me awestruck.

For those of us who love fashion, it’s an expression of individuality, style and an endless source of joy.

Mouna Ayoub in Chanel

My mother, my first style icon

In signature purple Ann Klein and Armani scarf (from mother)

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3 Responses to Plus Size Style through the Decades-One Plum’s Odyssey

  1. Paula Gallemore says:

    I am remembering just how enchanted you looked in 1989, (thank you for sharing a beautiful photo with us). Your wedding dress was just dreamy… From the color and fabric to the wonderful shoulder detail “poufs”, a modified leg-o-muffin” sleeve, V’d neckline with shirring at the bust, the waistline was shaped and contoured…. The skirt glided, you floated.

    It makes me happy that we still talk about fashion with passion, a renewed point of view, and now, with a sense of knowing that we had “been there, worn that” and we would not revisit that look now… To share the fashion excitement of “did you see this or that in the magazines”, on tv or in the movies… My hope is that we will forever talk about new styles, colors, fabrics, cut, what works on the body and what does N-O-T. And why I look forward to our “what will we wear” conversations when we are in our 90′s.

  2. Okra N Tomatoes says:

    What a great read!

    Thank goodness you decided at an early age to go against the grain and
    “Do you”…considering there were few options for “us” at that time.

    Yes your mother certainly is the epitome of class. Love it!

    I’m still haunted over the polyester pants with the sewn inseam running
    down the middle. I had every imaginable color. Horrible! Just horrible

    “The forgotten Woman” remember that store? I so loved that store!! Thanks fer’ the memories!

  3. Deborah says:

    Polyester???I wore a muumuu if you look at a previous post!

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