Rummaging with Deb Malkin of Re/Dress
This store owner digs up fashionable wares-and dispenses style advice- for plus-size ladies.
Thu Feb 5 2009
Photographs: Roxana Marroquin
Owner of Re/Dress (redressnyc.com), the city’s first plus-size vintage and resale shop where big gals can buy, trade and sell their contemporary and vintage threads, Malkin is determined to put such longing-filled excursions to an end: “Shopping should be like falling in love over and over again.” A Red Hook resident and lifelong plus-size shopper, she is a pioneer for women traumatized by the teeny dressing rooms of Old Navy and the frumpy-dumpy frocks at Avenue. In her early “fatshionista” days, Malkin helped start the Fat Girl Flea Market (fatgirlfleamarket.com)—returning this April for its eighth year—a smorgasbord of large-size clothes.
1. JOHN FLUEVOG
250 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-431-4484)
“When you wear Fluevog, you feel like you’re in an exclusive club,” says Malkin, who rarely leaves home without putting on one of the four pairs of John Fluevog shoes she owns. His stylish ankle boots are perfect for large calves and look great with dresses and skirts. Malkin falls for a brown-and-lime-green pair with bow detailing ($335). The price might seem steep, but they’re worth the investment. “With this nice, chunky heel, you can wear these all day and night and it will never, ever hurt your feet,” she says.
109 Boerum Pl between Dean and Pacific Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-522-7962)
At her Carroll Gardens shop, vintage reigns supreme. “Our main rule is to try everything on here. With vintage you don’t know how it is going to fit.” Fortunately, Malkin has made the process easy. Her colorful store boasts dressing rooms bigger than some studio apartments, where women can grab armloads of 1950s winter coats ($50--$200) and nostalgia-inspiring frocks ($30--$200). “This is a 1960s one from Lane Bryant and it’s completely darling,” says Malkin. “It’s a super Barbra Streisand On a Clear Day You Can See Forever coat.”
3. MONIF C. PLUS SIZES
325 W 38th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves, tenth floor (212-842-1641)
For something racy, Malkin heads to Monif C. Plus Sizes showroom, which is open to the public. Malkin likes this three-year-old label, worn by big and lovely celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique and Kim Coles, because its designer “is always thinking about how women wear clothes, but she pushes them to do something sexier.” Malkin tries on an electric-blue zipper dress ($135) and admires the one-piece swimsuits ($75--115), which come fully lined with extra tummy coverage.
4. ABBY Z.
57 Greene St between Broome and Spring Sts (212-219-8562)
Even for the average-size person, shopping in Soho can be intimidating. Enter Abby Z. “Abby brings a lot of color and a West Coast feel to her clothes. And she’s totally nailed the idea of separates,” says Malkin. The label maintains a cult following for its signature formfitting, dark-wash jeans with a contoured waistband ($125), called “sit-down jeans” by customers because they don’t gap in the back. Malkin recommends pairing these with a silk charmeuse kimono-sleeve top ($100) for a casual-cool style.
5. LEE LEE'S VALISE
368 Court St at President St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-246-5337)
For a contemporary look, Malkin visits this high-end boutique, which offers exclusive designer dresses in bigger sizes. The Moschino-inspired maxi ($198) and flattering wrap dress ($148) are popular sellers, and will endure well beyond a single season. Lee Lee’s stocks accessories too, like extra-long belts ($60--$128) with no holes and round buckles that, Malkin notes, “don’t dig into your tummy when seated.”
REQUIRED READING: FATSHIONISTA
Despite a surge in shops catering to larger ladies, stylish duds for plus-size folks are still viewed as a nonpriority by mainstream clothiers and media. Enter Fatshionista (fatshionista.com), an online hub that includes a collaborative blog and both Flickr and LiveJournal communities devoted to the topics of fashion, fat-acceptance and body positivity. The blog often skews toward the political—recent posts have discussed the place of “diet talk” in fat acceptance circles, and ways to subvert expectations of fat folks—while the LiveJournal community is the Internet equivalent of an awesome flea market that caters only to plus-size style hounds. Members compare reviews of brands and stores, sell gently-used clothing and post photos of their outfits, which serve as fashion inspiration in their creativity and resourcefulness (many members make their own clothes, or play with vintage and thrifted finds). The best part is that since the community is all about body positivity, negative self-talk is banned.—Amy Plitt