Plus-size panache: tips for larger women and men

Carrying a bit of extra weight? Don’t make heavy weather out of summer dressing

Black and white dress, €80 (in-store late August/early September) at Evans

Black and white dress, €80 (in-store late August/early September) at Evans


For those of us carrying a few extra pounds, the unexpected rise in heat levels recently has been worrisome, to say the least.

When you fall into the plus-size category, you live your life abiding by a certain number of rules or expectations: plus-sized clothing is, more often than not, made with more fabric, more coverage, more length, than regular-sized clothing. Tops and sleeves are longer; trousers are looser; T-shirts are empire line and waistbands are, quite often, stretchy and elasticated.

Ordinarily, these differences come in handy – for covering one’s bottom, for example, or skimming over one’s stomach. But when the heat rises, those extra lengths of fabric are anchors, weighing you down as you attempt to navigate your way through the day.

The most specific concern is, of course, chub rub – an “of course” that may be lost on those of you whose thighs have never touched, and who haven’t experienced the exquisite agony of inner thigh chafing. Walking around town in 25-degree heat (and then some) becomes an exercise in efficiency: how can I get from A to B in as few steps as possible?

Luckily, Evans has come to the rescue with comfort shorts (€12), a pair of light nylon-mix shorts that can be worn under skirts and dresses, providing a welcome barrier between one thigh and the other. They are available in black, white, and nude (only wear if necessary; if these babies are spotted from a distance they look like surgical knickers) and sizes 1-3.

The most important thing to remember is that nobody – except the children, on holidays from school and not yet accustomed to the cruelties of life – is enjoying the heat all that much. We’re not used to it, and we hate change – as well as which, it gives us very little to moan about in the elevator at work.

Tie your hair up. Flowing locks are all well and good, but in this sticky, muggy weather, a top knot is your only man.

Check the label. Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen will keep you a lot cooler than their synthetic counterparts, polyester and nylon. Silk is okay for the non-sweaters among us.

Plan ahead. If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, ward against the chub rub – either by investing in a pair of Evans’s Comfort Shorts (€12) or wearing trousers.

Dress it up. Dresses are a solid choice in the heat – they’re like fashion’s air conditioner, allowing a breeze to flow through the fabric and around your body. Plus, they’re hassle-free.


Cover up. Months of wearing cardigans and jackets to cover your arms means wearing a strappy sundress and little else seems totally bizarre, but believe me: while nobody is looking at your arms, they will notice rivers of sweat pouring down your forehead.

Even think about support underwear. You may be unused to leaving the house without your tummy- tucking knickers, but once the mercury hits 25 degrees, they will result only in discomfort and yeast infections. Give your body a break.

Layer. Skirts and shirts or T-shirts are fine when it’s cool outside, but there’s nothing worse than feeling constricted and restricted around your midsection.

Menswear: ‘Where am I supposed to buy clothes – in the shop for giants?
A recent survey by Hibernian Health found that 61 per cent of Irish men are overweight, compared with just 38 per cent of women – meaning boys may be having as much, if not more, difficulty dressing for the warm weather. As George Hook (right) once asked me: “Where am I supposed to buy clothes – in the shop for giants?”

While a lot of menswear brands cater for large sizes – Marks & Spencer, for example, caters for up to a 50-inch waist – being a larger man, in fashion terms, is tough. A woman can cover up with swathes of fabric and floaty dresses, but for men, especially in a corporate environment, a shirt tucked into a pair of slacks conceals very little.

Advice? Like your female counterparts, invest in natural, breathable fabrics. Think more safari than gangster chic, and try a light, short-sleeved shirt, untucked and paired with linen slacks or cotton trousers. Stay away from T-shirts, which are often heavy and sweat-inducing, and belts, which will only encourage the overheating of your waistband.

Shopping for him
Marks & Spencer ( caters for men up to a 50-inch waist.

Mr Big’n’Tall in Goatstown (01-2988002, stocks waist sizes from 44-80 inches

Debenhams has a dedicated Big & Tall tab on, stocking sizes XXL to XXXXXL and trousers up to a 48-inch waist, from brands such as Rocha, John Rocha and Maine New England.

Jacamo ( stocks sizes S to 5XL and waist 34-54 inches, from labels such as Ben Sherman and Penguin.

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