Plus-size women can do bolds and prints

Chanea Davis is the owner of BellaNor Boutique, a plus-size woman's store in Germantown on Germantown Ave. The mannequin is wearing an orange Nakimuli cardigan, $78; with a Kiyonna tee, $25 and a Saako scarfless, $65; and jeans by Silver Jeans, $77. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
Chanea Davis is the owner of BellaNor Boutique, a plus-size woman's store in Germantown on Germantown Ave. The mannequin is wearing an orange Nakimuli cardigan, $78; with a Kiyonna tee, $25 and a Saako scarfless, $65; and jeans by Silver Jeans, $77. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
Posted: March 28, 2012

With so many bright solids, bold prints, and slim silhouettes dominating spring fashion, what's a plus-size woman to do?

Wear it all and wear it well, says Chanea Davis, owner of the six-month-old Germantown Avenue clothing boutique BellaNOR.

The 32-year-old fashion entrepreneur doesn't believe in silly fashion rules that apply only to plus-size women. ("Don't wear color on your bottom. Never do horizontal stripes.") Her pear-scented, 1,000-square-foot space is generously stocked with one-shouldered and ruched frocks in pretty oranges, yellows, and mint greens.

Her collection also includes roomy, wraparound sweaters in pastels and trimmed in ruffles. There is a diva-approved selection of sparkling satiny, banded sheaths and just-below-the-knee dresses in coffee-colored lace.

In the front of the store sits a table with dark-wash jeans. Some are boot-cut and others are, gasp, slim. The labels - Not Your Daughter's Jeans, Silver, and Svoboda - are coveted in the full-figured fashionista world.

Davis is even thinking about carrying colored denim, sizes 14 to 24. Maybe cobalt blue or purple? Why not?

"The No. 1 thing women say when they come into my store is that they want color," Davis said. "There is no reason for people to be afraid of bold colors and clothing that fits their curves if they are plus-size."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

People often want to share with me their small-minded beliefs about what folks should or shouldn't be wearing. I hear it all: Uggs are no-nos with summer dresses, flip-flops are inappropriate at upscale restaurants, and my favorite, "Why don't you write an article telling young black men to pull up their pants?"

But women larger than, say, size 16, get the most hate, especially in summertime. The vitriol is especially bitter now because of the in-your-face color palette.

After I wrote about colored jeans' being all the rage, people pulled me aside expressing fear that our ample-bottomed sisters are going to abuse - as in, offend the rest of us - aqua jeans. Some of these women, sadly, are plus-size themselves.

That is why I particularly like Davis' store. A lot of times plus-size boutiques are rather hokey, with clothes in sloppy shapes that feature way too much beading. But her carefully selected options let curvy girls take a fashion chance. Why should women hide themselves in sacks when there are so many great clothes out there to choose from? Davis also recommends silhouettes that less-than-lithe women often fear: tulip-hemmed pencil skirts and peplumlike detailing.

"The biggest mistake plus-size women make is trying to hide their figure," Davis said. "That just makes women look bigger. It's not about hiding the curves; it's about accentuating."

Davis, who grew up in West Oak Lane, came to fashion from the world of IT marketing. A size 6, she says she has always enjoyed helping her friends figure out what they look best in. And, she says, she was especially good at helping her shapely pals choose the best styles.

Six years ago, Davis decided to open her own store. She began combing plus-size fashion blogs and learned about fashion haunts in New York where they sold plus-size clothing wholesale.

Then life happened.

Davis had a baby. She got divorced. A recession hit.

Seven months ago she lucked out finding her Germantown location and began stocking her store with clothing and accessories. In all, she invested $40,000.

The first few months of business were tough, Davis says. Plus-size women shop for themselves, so there wasn't too much business during the holiday season.

However, the recent spate of warmer-than-usual weather and the popularity of bright colors have brought Davis her clientele. She hasn't turned a profit yet, but she expects to by the end of the year.

Best advice for curvy girls this spring? Rock the color, but make sure you wear the right foundation garments. Smooth lines are key when the skirt is a floral print.

Says Davis: "Be bold. Be brave."


BellaNOR is at 7117 Germantown Ave., 215-704-1740.

Contact Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ewellingtonphl. Read her blog, "Mirror Image," at philly.com/mirrorimage.

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