SeniorsSkiing.com’s Correspondent Yvette Cardozo Tells Where To Get Decent Clothing For Plus-Size Women.

Correspondent Yvette Cardozo decked out in Obermeyer plus size ski wear at the top of Mammoth Mountain's expert runs, ready to put the technical skiwear through its paces. Credit: Yvette Cardozo
Correspondent Yvette Cardozo decked out in Obermeyer plus-size ski wear at the top of Mammoth Mountain’s expert runs, ready to put the technical skiwear through its paces.
Credit: Yvette Cardozo

This is a story of success and failure. And progress. Sort of.

I am not svelte by anyone’s measure. But I ski. I cycle. I scuba dive.  And I once rode my bike across the state of Florida … 174 miles in one day. The average temperature was 95, by the way.

 Many, many years ago when I got into serious cycling and wanted shorts, I was laughed out of the shop and resorted to cutting off polyester pants. Those of you of a certain age will remember those pants. They had a hideous seam down the front and stretched horribly when wet.

 Sadly, it rains a lot in South Florida, where I was living at the time.

 My ski wear consisted of men’s very large sizes tailored to fit. Eventually, someone came out with skiwear for “fat ladies.” The coat was neon pink. Be real guys. Nobody that size is gonna wear something that makes them look like Lake Superior. And it had hardly any pockets.

Women’s sportswear back then was notorious for not being technical. Fat women’s sportswear? You can imagine.

Enter Obermeyer. Go to the company website, click on women, then plus size and you actually get a choice. Mine that season boiled down to a pant called the Birmingham with all sorts of nice techie add-ons…fleece lining, storm flaps, high back, scuff guards, sturdy zippers, pockets. POCKETS!

By the time I decided to get them, the only color left in a size 20, yes, I am a size 20, was white. That is not a color someone my size EVER wants to wear in public. Sigh.

But they arrived, and they were four inches too large. I put them on, held them at the waist, let go and they fell to the floor by themselves.

Which is when I discovered another thing about clothing. The more expensive the clothes, the smaller the claimed size at a particular measurement. In other words, two pants that measure the same might be a 20 in something less expensive, an 18 in a mid-range and maybe even a 16 if it’s REALLY spendy.

Being rich, I guess, means you never have to admit to one of those embarrassing fat sizes.

There were none of my first choice left, but in my next choice, I was a size 18. Yay.

These things have style. They have pockets … lots of pockets. They fit. I could actually bend and squat in them while still managing to breathe.

Then, off I went to Mammoth Mountain in California to put the pants through their paces.  And yes, they did the job. Our first day, despite the April date, it was still full on winter with enough wind to close the top of the mountain. I wondered if it was possible to get frostbite on your tongue (you pant a lot at 11,000 feet).  But the pants survived and kept me toasty.

Then the next day, spring arrived, with 50 degree temps. I expected to sweat my knees off. But, oddly, I did not. Somehow, I stayed cool while diving into Mammoth’s famous Cornice Bowl.

I finally have a smart, technical pair of ski pants.

Now all I need is a jacket.

With lots of pockets.

Editor’s Note: Sourcing athletic, technical clothing for plus-size women is a real problem.  A recent Washington Post article describes the frustration and discouragement women feel when they can’t get decent, well-made technical clothing for sports or business wear.  What is available is not stylish, ill-fitting or wildly expensive.  We thank our new correspondent Yvette Cardozo for telling us, with humor, about what must have been a exasperating search for competent clothing. Have you ever experienced this? What is your solution? Are you a retailer or manufacturer? What’s going on?

6 Comments

  1. Michael Maginn says:

    Here’s more from Yvette about other places to buy plus-sized clothing:

    ——————————————————————-
    Aero Tech Designs … http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/
    carries a nice selection of plus size cycling clothes, though no ski wear.
    http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/plus-women-cycling-clothes.html

    Columbia Sportswear DOES have a special page for plus sizes, men’s and womens. Women’s is called ‘plus sizes.’
    http://www.columbia.com/womens-plus-size-clothing/

    men’s is under ‘big and tall’:
    http://www.columbia.com/mens-big-tall/

    I did recently find a jacket that fits very nicely in a color I like with nearly enough pockets through Columbia (had some pockets added)

  2. mike dowling says:

    Great way to start a Friday! We enjoyed your review and can identify with the frustration. My wife is 6″ and no longer svelte, too, but enjoys skiing immensely. It is always a challenge to find good gear for coping with Jay Peak’s frigid air but deep powder. I, too, at 6’4″ have had issues with finding good stuff for a tall male. Marker used to make longer sleeves and bodies in coats and bib breathable pants. Our ski shop says only Obermeyer ships tall coats now. Hopefully things will improve as baby-boomers age and market responds. We will try Columbia stuff too, though I have not found their gear in the past o be equipped with armpit zips, power-skirt snaps, and tall fit. If I find what fits each of us we but it on the spot and keep it for years. 38F in Jay this morning. Won’t be long…

  3. Here is what I would like to share based on my experience in the ski industry.

    1 – Fera makes decent ski pants (for years) which will not brake your bank in sizes up to 20. They even have pants in long, regular and short length.
    http://www.ferastyle.com/women/bottoms/ski-pants.html?size=374
    2 – dare2be is a British brand, which is relatively new for the US. The quality/price ratio is very high. Sizes go up to 20 (though may run a little smaller).
    http://www.dare2b.com/activity/ski-wear/womens/pants-salopettes
    3 – Well known brands like Patagonia, Marmot, TNF, HH, Arc’teryx also have pants in larger sizes, though they are marked XL, XXL which is not easy to match to sizes 16, 18, 20…
    4 – If you need something technical (with Gore-tex or similar membrane) in big sizes – stick with the North American Brands (practically all French/Swiss brands run smaller) and shop early. You can always try to do a special order through an official distributor in early fall, but make sure the size is right. Or shop the leftovers in spring and summer, I see a lot of XL pants for women online. I would still recommend shopping at ski shops rather than online.
    5 – I love jackets with a lot of pockets, if you can’t find one, use a vest with pockets under a ski jacket (most ski jackets these days have at least 4-5 pockets – 2-3 outside and 2 inside).
    Happy shopping and skiing!

  4. Yvette Cardozo says:

    Funny and ironic that it was an Obermeyer designer I had an argument with so very long ago. At the time, I was buying men’s XXL pants and having them shortened in legs and made smaller in the waist…a huge, expensive pain. She said it was simply no use to try and deal with the vast shape differences in ‘fat’ women. After reading the Washington Post piece, I now realize what she really meant was if you don’t have the figure of Twiiggy, we can’t be bothered. At some point, also very long ago, I finally got pants for some sport or another (can’t recall now) and the problem was they simply figured all large women had huge stomaches. I don’t. My stomach is flat but my hips are another matter. It was gratifying to see that it was Obermeyer that finally got the message right.

  5. Hi Yvette,
    My company is Andie’s Undies LLC. I make up to size 24, and they are true to size. These are not just for skiing, but for any outdoor activity any time of year. The pants and shorts are our signature product. They stay up when bending over, no bunching at the knee, slender from the calf to the ankle and won’t twist or slide up the leg or chaff. A hidden pocket for tissue, keys or credit card. Those are all added benefits but what makes us different? So imagine, a lady is hiking in the rain forest or cross country skiing in Colorado (because it’s where I live) and she’s ‘gottta-go’ AND there are men around. With her Andie’s Undies on she doesn’t walk a ¼ mile to have privacy, instead, she just finds a bit of seclusion, pull her outer layer down, goes into a squat position, the 2 piece panel in the crotch opens hands free front to back, then closes as she stands. Her dignity intact . She now enjoys the same liberty that men have.

    http://www.andiesundies.com

  6. Hello Yvette,
    I just stumbled upon this article and wanted to respond, even though the article is several years old. I am from the NW (Seattle and Portland) and started a snow apparel business many years ago. It has evolved over the years, to now focus primarily on Plus Size womens and Big and Tall men. We sell ski pants, ski jackets, snowsuits, etc in womens sizes 1X-6X. (16-34) Our jackets and pants are highly technical, but priced reasonably. We just launched a new line (Snow Country Outerwear) that will be online in the next month or two. Some items have already arrived. We also feature ski coats and pants by Pulse, in size 1X-6X. You can view our fabulous assortment at http://www.snowcountryouterwear.com or http://www.nwsalesconnection.com Also, our items are REAL plus size items, sized in true US sizing. Thanks! Colleen

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