Plus Size Business Casual:
Critical Women’s Clothing “Know-How”

Plus size business casual dressing can make the difference between a woman with a full-figure getting a job, raise, or promotion and her not getting it, especially if her supervisor is female.

* If you wear plus size women's business casual clothing in your workplace, please be sure to read the rest of this article carefully.



John T. Molloy conducted research to evaluate the effect of business casual dress codes on a variety of things, including employee attitude. Molloy's researchers went into company offices and asked the managers to share their opinions about the way their staff and the people who visited their offices were dressed.

Researchers also asked follow-up questions about the business casual attire the people wore.



Same, Not Equal, Plus Size Business Casual Clothing?

Researchers were surprised to find that bosses, especially female supervisors, “described heavy women’s casual outfits” in negative terms, “even when they were wearing the same outfits as their thinner” female colleagues.

Even after researchers pointed out the similarity to managers, “They said that heavy women should wear women’s clothing that camouflaged their weight.” Most of the managers couldn’t even describe what plus sized business casual clothing would be appropriate. However, they made it clear that knowing what was appropriate plus size business clothing for larger women “was not their problem.”

Full-figured women in conservative offices don’t face this challenge to the same degree due to the authority and professionalism that well-chosen traditional business clothing exudes.

Molloy believed that many women who wore plus sizes who couldn’t, or I add, don’t choose to, lose weight, and who work in a business casual office, “face an insolvable problem.”

Solutions for Avoiding the Plus Size Business Casual Trap

But is it really an impossible situation? Considering all of Molloy’s findings and what I know about women’s clothes, I say "no." There are solutions.

They may not be fair...but they may help prevent a woman from being overlooked just because of the casual business clothes she wears to work.

Know How Women’s Business Casual Dress Attire Reads

First, let’s talk about some of Molloy’s other findings. He suggests that women who dress more conservatively in a business casual environment have an advantage.

This includes understanding strategic color and fabric selection (e.g., muted colors and high quality fabrics read as “upper class” and “traditional” and as a result are often seen as “more professional” than vibrant colors and synthetic fabrics).

So, if you think Molloy’s findings have merit, and you can’t get around the business casual dress code requirement by wearing women’s traditional business clothing, like business suits for women...

...be business casual, but be the best dressed business casual woman in your position who also dresses for the position into which she plans to move.

Know What Women’s Clothing Looks Best on Your Body Shape

Second, know your body shape and how to dress it well in women’s clothing to your full-advantage (e.g., balance your proportions) and how to dress business casual successfully.

Be advised, business casual wear for women that looks good on someone who’s a size 1 might not be the best option for woman who wears a size 20...nor will business casual dress that works for a full-figured pear shaped body necessarily work for a voluptuous apple or banana body shape.

Just like petite or tall frames can be flattered, so can plus-size figures, we just have to be a bit more strategic and artistic...because we often fall outside of the silhouette guidelines used to design and manufacture a lot of women’s clothing.

Visit our Plus Size Womans Clothing Hot Spots to Shop & Save page to find designers and stores who design and buy with you in mind.

Business Casual Wear for Women:
Lines & Illusions

Third, you can strategically slenderize the appearance of your frame, if you choose to, without loosing a single pound. How? Learn how to direct an on-looker’s eyes, up and down your body, more so than around it.

For example, dressing monochromatically (not boringly...vary textures and shades of the color) and know how to work your lines for elongation (vertical, unbroken lines carry the eyes up and down the body) and attention-getting where you want it (e.g., a light color around the neckline of a darker dress will draw the eyes towards the face...a lighter color around the hem of a dark dress will draw the eyes to the legs).

Wildcard Solution

You also have a fourth option, keep doing what you’re doing, if you’re satisfied with the results that you’re getting on your job.

Or, if you’re not...and you’ve maximized your plus size business casual women’s clothing profile and aren’t pleased with the results, consider finding a new gig in a new business environment with a traditional or classic business dress code...Molloy contends that it can be a field-leveler for women.

You might also consider a position that allows you to work from home in these virtual times or maybe it’s a good time to start an online business or any business that you’ve been envisioning. Just be prepared to dress for success when you do have to go out and meet with people face to face.

The Bottom Line on Plus Size Business Casual

Here’s the bottom-line, none of us, regardless of body shape or size, have to fall into the business casual trap...there are always alternative solutions. Here's to the artistry and strategy of authentically dressing well!

Visit Women’s Clothing homepage from Plus Size Business Casual page.