For all the constant prattle about whether or not Dallas is a world-class city, there is at least one respect in which Dallas has most other major cities beat: shopping. We may not have 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive, but there is just as much fashion in this city as anywhere else, ranging from the priciest haute couture to the trendiest fast-fashion. Our city is littered with outposts of French and Italian fashion houses, unique boutiques full of handmade wares, and enough mass-market retail to clothe everyone in the city three times over.
What is sorely missing, though, is any kind of decent selection of fashion-forward clothing for plus-sized people, women (or femme-identifying) in particular. There are plenty of Big & Tall stores peddling dated, poorly-cut suits and awkwardly proportioned polo shirts, but men of size don’t have a much easier time shopping for stylish duds in Dallas. Considering the sheer number of objectively fat people in this city, of which I am one, there's no good reason for Dallas to be so devoid of clothing that falls out of “normal” size ranges.
Take a look at North Park, for example. If you are outside of the “normal” size range — a misses’ 16 — only two stores have any clothing for you: The Gap and Neiman Marcus. If you are even a 16W, which means a slightly curvier figure than a straight-size 16, the number of shopping options drops to a big fat zero. You’ll fare slightly better at the Galleria, where Belk and Nordstrom and a handful of other retailers, including Forever 21, have plus-size selections that range from dismal and tiny to outdated and embarrassing.
For years, plus-size shoppers have been shoved, quite literally, online. A couple of years ago, Old Navy announced that it would stop carrying plus-sizes in its hundreds of retail locations. Not that anyone ever wants to purchase anything from Old Navy — their clothing is of terrible quality and often looks as if it has been stitched by someone in the middle of a seizure — but it would be nice to have at least a few places to pick up a cheap black skirt for a damn job interview.
If you are plus-sized and want to do any shopping, you have to head north. There is a Torrid in Frisco, which sells on-trend, fast-fashion pieces at pretty reasonable prices. You won’t find anything fresh off the runway there, but there are enough comfortable skater dresses in cheeky (or chic) prints to keep me clothed for a lifetime. The Forever 21 at Stonebriar Mall in Frisco probably has the best plus-size clothing selection of the Forever 21 stores in the area, but it often looks as if it was recently hit by a tornado or some other natural disaster. Good luck finding the pieces on the hangers, much less arranged by style and size.
Then, there is the boutique scene. Dallas has dozens of award-winning boutiques, the vast majority of which don’t carry anything over a size 10 or 12. There is one North Dallas boutique, which will remain nameless, that caters to plus-size women, but even your stodgy, Southern grandmother would call their collection boring and dated. None of their offerings remotely approach fashion-forward; it's all shapeless linen blouses and ugly wide-leg pants.
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The metroplex’s most successful plus-size boutique is an online retailer called the Marlie Madison Boutique, located in Plano. The tiny boutique, tucked into a sort of antique-mall style gallery of other, equally tiny boutiques called Boutique Marketplace, has over 100,000 fans on Facebook and does a robust mail-order business. From the looks of their Facebook page, most of Marlie Madison’s business comes from out-of-state. On a recent visit to the actual boutique in Plano, the plus-size selection was fair, certainly nothing compared to their online offering, but still the most well-stocked boutique for fat broads in the entire metro area.
There are plenty of fat people in Dallas with incredible style, so there's no excuse for local retailers' failure to provide some — any — offerings to plus-sized customers. Denton resident and plus-size blogger Natalie Hage, known as @nataliemeansnice on Instagram and Tumblr, is frequently featured in fashion articles on major websites like Buzzfeed and has nearly 50,000 followers on Instagram. Via her Instagram account, Hage recently announced that she is collaborating with Cool Girl Blue, a Florida-based online plus-size boutique, on her own line of clothing.
If there were more — any — boutiques in Dallas that even hinted at being interested in offering plus-size fashion, stylish plus-size women like Hage would be able to provide insight into what plus-size women in Dallas would buy. Clearly, these boutiques are just making too much money. That has to be the case when you consider the sheer number of women whose dollars are being flatly ignored.
This is not a problem that is limited to Dallas, but most other major cities have at least one haven for fat women who prefer something a little trendier than the Dorothy Zbornak-era Bea Arthur (God rest her soul) aesthetic. Dallas doesn’t have that yet, but the fashionable plus-size women who live, work and buy clothes here deserve at least a few options in their own backyard.