Paris has long held the reputation as the fashion capital of the world. Visitors cannot help but remark at how well turned-out Parisians are, with their innate sense of fashion and ability to create many looks with just a few wardrobe pieces. A well-pressed pair of jeans, a sparkling white t-shirt peeking out from under a navy blue blazer (cuffs turned up just so); a colorful scarf expertly tied and impeccably-shined shoes… you can tell a Parisian anywhere in the world by their dress code. Where can we go to outfit ourselves like a Parisian, even if we don’t have that lithe French figure? Which shops carry sizes over a 12 (French size 42) in this city where so many women seem to be petite and lean?
While there are a few specialized larger-size stores in Paris – and remember, larger sizes here start at size 10 (Crazy, I know!) -I’d avoid these unless you enjoy the shapeless frump look. For some reason, perhaps because there is less of a market here, some European plus-size designers are still turning out fashions that rely on polyester and feature large animal prints. So avoid these stand-alone shops and head to the following mainstream stores. You'll find reasonably-priced and good quality clothing that looks good too!
My favorite place to shop right now is Mango. The brand is Spanish in origin and the collections, which change frequently, are wearable whether you are a teenager or well into middle age. Many of their pieces are based on classic lines, and they knock off Courrèges and the Jackie O style beautifully. They generally fit up to a size 44 (U.S. size 14), and for sizes 40 to 52 (U.S. sizes 10 to 22), they rolled out a special line last year called Violeta. Violeta is not available in all Mango stores—it is mostly mail order—but they do have a physical store at 54, boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.
I was surprised to see sizes up to 48 (U.S. 18) in Monoprix, of all places. Monoprix is known mostly as an upscale supermarket, but they also carry clothing (as well as house wares; in fact it’s a bit like a French Target). The quality is decent, the design is very French and the prices are reasonable. If you just want to pick up a little something that will make you feel Parisian and not break the bank, Monoprix is an excellent place to clothing shop and worth checking out, especially when they bring out their collections at the start of the season when the stock is ample. Once the item sells, Monoprix doesn’t re-order and pickings can be slim if you don’t get in there right away. Monoprix sells through mail order as well.
H & M carries up to a size 44 (U.S. size 14) in most of their physical shops, but two of their shops in Paris carry sizes up to 20. The H&M at the Beaugrenelle shopping center in the 15th arrondissement has a tiny extended size department as does the H & M at 88 rue de Rivoli in the 4th arrondissement. Their clothing falls into the cheap and cheerful category. Quality is fine and the designs are fun and original. H & M does mail order, too.
C & A carries up to size 52 (U.S. size 22) in all their stores, with five large shops in Paris. They carry loads of stock; the style is nothing outrageous or cutting edge but you can always find a good cardigan here. They also sell pretty, inexpensive lingerie for those who wear over a size 10. C & A is originally Dutch but you can easily put together an outfit here that will let you pass for a Parisian.
More youthful than C & A is the British brand New Look. With three shops in Paris as well as a mail order service, New Look carries up to size 48 (U.S. 18) in stores, and up to size 26 by mail order. This is another shop where you won’t spend a lot to put together your Parisian chic. Much of their clothing is geared towards a younger clientele, but it is worthwhile to go through their racks; I always find something cute when doing a little retail therapy here. New items arrive weekly, and they even carry wide-fit shoes which can be very difficult to find in Paris!
(Image Credits: Hannah Wilson)