5 Career Tips For Plus-Size Professionals

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Actress Melissa McCarthy's recent revelation that she was rejected by top fashion designers when she needed an Oscar dress for the 2012 awards has unleashed the usual fat-shaming trolls. But it also unleashed a powerful and ticked-off tribe: the plus size community. The fury over this scandal highlights the challenges career women size 14+ face when trying to find polished and professional styles for the workplace and beyond.

(Click to join the lively conversation)

For advice, AOL Jobs turned to Career Coach, Michelle Merritt, who specializes in "Big Girl Big Career" coaching. A recent speaker at the Body Love Conference, she understands the disappointment McCarthy said she experienced.

"Any woman over a size 16 who has worked in the business world or attended a black tie event knows the struggle it is to find quality fashion to fit her body," Merritt says. "Until recently the options were matronly, poorly made, or resembled a tent. It's only been in the last few years that designers like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren have added a plus size selection. They're still only carried in limited stores and 'specialty' departments.

"Sadly, the available options are on opposite ends of the spectrum today," she adds. "They're either Walmart quality or they're designer labels that are priced outside of the average woman's budget. As the average dress size increases so does the need for quality career-appropriate fashion that fits in the average professional woman's budget, rather than the CEO budget."

Michelle's Tips for Plus Size Professionals:

1. Take the time to shop for clothing that fits

This may be true for everyone, but is even more important for plus size women in the workplace. Career clothing that is too tight or too loose/sloppy will make people assume you're sloppy or slutty. (See Summer Dress Code advice) These stereotypes can sabotage that crucial first impression. So make sure your clothing fits properly.

2. Invest in a good tailor

I often buy a size or two up and have items tailored to fit. Investing in a good seamstress will help you find the right fit for your body. A qualified seamstress can make almost anything look like it was custom made for you.

3. Your body language speaks volumes

No article of clothing can take you as far as self confidence can in the workplace. Approach all you do with the confidence that you have the job because you're the expert (this is how men think). You were hired because you are the right person for the job. Keeping your head up, sitting up straight, looking people in the eye, and a firm handshake will take you just as far as a great wardrobe.

4. Present yourself appropriately for your industry

Know your industry and respect the guidelines. Attorneys and Corporate Finance professionals will likely still wear suits to work while a freelance writer may opt for business casual. No matter what industry you're in, dress like you care about your career.

5. Accessories are the plus size woman's BFF.

Even the simplest, well fitting piece of clothing can become something special when accessorized properly. Jewelry should fit the size of the person so for me that means big jewels. Have a little fun with it. I love a bold cocktail ring on well manicured fingers or a group of layered necklaces. Just remember, the Coco Chanel rule to remove one piece before you leave the house to avoid overdoing it.
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