Big Business Wear

She couldn't find anything at the mall that fit her either.

She couldn't find anything at the mall that fit her either.

Note: This post originally appeared on WorkHerWay.com

It's no secret that clothing options are limited for women who wear size 14 and over. But you don't have to let that keep you from looking your most professional and fashionable at the office. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a meeting wearing something that isn't quite right for the occasion, simply because it was the only thing in the closet that fit. I've been there myself, so learn from my mistakes and save yourselves.

Think you're above fashion? Wearing stylish, appropriate, well-fitting clothes to the office projects an air of intelligence and competence. Don't believe me? Remember the last person you saw with a muffin top caused by too-tight pants, or a beaded sweater better suited to a holiday party than the workplace? You probably wondered what they'd been thinking leaving the house dressed like that. If you're not confident in their ability to dress themselves, why would you entrust them with an important task?

For suit wearers, the solution is fairly straightforward. Buy suits in your size, don't forget to have them tailored to fit you impeccably, and your closet is full of outfits you can throw on during your morning routine.

But if your dress code fits into the wilderness between business casual and full-on corporate, things get a little more complicated. It's hard enough to find clothes that fit your company's sartorial niche. Finding them in plus sizes can be almost impossible. A trip to the mall is likely to leave you tired, cranky and in possession of approximately one-third of the garments you had hoped to buy. 

Shopping in catalogs or online improves your chances of finding the perfect work outfit, but does take some effort. I can hear you complaining about the shipping and handling costs, but you'd probably spend the same amount of money at Cinnabon after four hours of shopping that have left you with precisely one top. The savings in time and frustration alone are worth a few postage charges.

Since you'll be buying clothes without having tried them on, it's a bit of a gamble, but most retailers accept returns. Once you've figured out what size you take at each online store, you'll be able to order with confidence. Even then, you'll still probably need a trip to the tailor, but you should be doing that with mall-bought outfits too. Yes, it's cheaper to wear hems that dowdily hit you at the top of the calf rather than at the knee, but you'll look so much more put together once you have them fixed.

Follow fatshion blogs to find out about sale codes and retailers that you may not have heard of. For inspiration on what separates to get and how to put them all together, take a look at the fatshionista group, which displays photos of plus sized women wearing their latest fabulous outfit, many of them office appropriate.

No, it isn't fair that your thinner co-workers can build a work wardrobe with hardly any money, time or effort. But you can do it too, with much less aggravation than you expect.

Mentoring is All Around Us

A coach mentors a player, just like anyone can mentor you in your career. It's how I got budged into becoming a freelance writer. 

Mentors just kind of sneak up on you. No one ever says, "Hey buddy, want a mentor?" And even though I've heard the advice to come right out and ask someone to mentor you, I can't imagine people actually having that conversation. 

In reality, mentoring usually comes in the form of unsolicited advice. You'll be having a conversation and someone will just lay some mentorship on you. So you should be ready for it.  

Early in my career as a technical writer for a software company, I was actually doing the job of a systems analyst - designing the system interface instead of writing a user guide explaining how to use the system. Long before I made the move to become a systems analyst myself, I said to one of the bigwigs something about how I should probably learn to program. He said, "Why would you want to do that?" so quickly that I knew he didn't even stop to think - it was a gut reaction. I explained that I thought analysts should know how to program and he said no, they didn't.

Now, if I were really as stubborn in my opinions as some people seem to think I am (Mom) then I would've thought, "well, that's his opinion, but I'm going to do it anyway." And then I would've spent years making myself miserable trying to learn to code. I tried to teach myself in high school and gave up the first time I had to find a bug. I really didn't care enough about it to work at it for fun, so doing it for work would've been agony. 

And he was right. It's possible to be a systems analyst without knowing how to code. I did it for years and I was pretty damned good at it.

Now, if I'd wanted to be a programmer, that bigwig might've encouraged me. Or I might have ignored his advice. But I was open enough to consider it. 

Years later, I was working at a company that I refer to as The Evil Place because it was so bad that one of my friends/co-workers can't stand to hear the real name of the company. At one point, my manager took me aside and told me that I didn't really have a future with the company (or even hope of getting a promised performance-based bonus) because certain people had developed a negative opinion of me. I began to object, but then she told me that it didn't matter what these people thought of me. We'd worked together at other companies, so she knew that I wasn't the cause of the problem. But she also knew that I was powerless to fix it. After all, I'm not the one who nicknamed it The Evil Place - it wasn't just me.

Again, if I hadn't been open to the advice, my natural need to please everyone would've kicked in and I would still be working there a decade plus later, trying to do such a great job that they had no choice but to acknowledge that I had great technical and people skills. Instead, I accepted that I wasn't going to get anywhere with these people, and got another job.

Even my decision to stop being a techie and become a freelance writer was triggered by some random advice. A co-worker mentioned to me (while we were at the theater waiting for a show to start) that I didn't seem to enjoy working in an office. That nudge set me towards using my technical knowledge and writing skill to write website copy and blog posts, among other things.

I'm not saying that all the advice you get is going to be good. I've gotten some monumentally bad advice over the years and I've even taken it on occasion. But if you refuse to really listen and consider that someone is handing you some primo mentorship, then you're going to miss out.