I went into my closet the other day and realized that it's almost time for the new spring fashions to hit the stores. Now I have to admit, while I sometimes still worry about looking too big, I have always celebrated the end of the winter wardrobe. I have just never been comfortable hidden under ten layers of clothing and locked inside heavy woolen fabrics. Every year, around the end of January, I start pining to feel the air against my bare arms and the sun warming my face. I count the days until I can hang my puffy down winter coat, wrapped carefully in a burgundy garment bag, in the back of my coat closet and leave my mismatched gloves in the farthest corner of my lowest drawer.

Spring is my season. I love the pastel colors and the scent of things blooming around me. So for me, finding a few great retailers that carry great looking clothes in my plus size is just part of my annual wardrobe renewal. And quite simply, I don't want to be patronized as a "big girl" and forced to wear styles that are - well, style-less. I want to find a few favorite places that I know will always have some great ensembles and where my plus size won't cause some saleswoman to look me up and down and roll her eyes. (Yes, it still happens.)

Like everywhere that we hand our "hard earned" cash over to, none of us want to be without grace or appreciation. And that goes especially for intimate purchases - like clothing. There's no feeling better (or worse) than walking out of the dressing room and seeing yourself in that outfit you just couldn't resist. For the plus size woman, the right salesperson can definitely influence which way that experience will go.

For me, there are three places that I have grown to LOVE as a plus size consumer: Macy's, Nordstrom's, and for my online purchases, Sealed with a Kiss Designs, swakdesigns.com . I have to admit, I love the allure of going into a store, walking around all the new things, trying a few things on, and bringing home my number one favorite in a garment bag. I feel like Maria in West Side Story every single time, twirling in front of my full length mirror and reminding myself that I am the hottest size 16 on the block.

But there's definitely a huge convenience factor to online shopping, and SWAK has gone really far to make the process as simple and painless as possible. Not only do they make sure to always have a great new selection to choose from, but they also have their website categorized by ITEM - you can literally click on "plus size little black dress" and find at least a dozen fabulous choices. Plus size camisoles, plus size split skirts - you name it, this company has a category for it. (I've requested that they add a button called "Spring Fling" just for me!)

The bottom line is this - whatever your size, whatever your style, find a few great retailers that you can stick with time and time again. And if you really love the company, take the time to drop them a note and say that, or mention them in your blog if you have one (be sure to send a copy to the CEO's email address). Make sure that if they have an email newsletter that you sign up for it. Going through the effort to actually build a relationship with your purveyor will go a long way when you need them to honor a return that is far past their policy or exchange something for the third time.

Make no mistake, companies WANT to keep their best customers happy - especially in today's economy - so be sure to let them know that you ARE one of their best clients. After all, spring is only three short months away, and there's a snazzy new wardrobe waiting somewhere just for you!

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