Review: Silk Loungewear for Small Plus Size Bodies
Disclaimer: These items were purchased by The Lingerie Addict for review. All opinions are my own.
During the more temperate months, I live in silk nightgowns. They’re just the right amount of breezy and breathable, and you can’t beat a floaty silk gown for work-from-home drama. However, silk loungewear and lingerie in plus sizes is hard to find, either at budget or luxury prices.
In the past I’ve ordered from now-closed Winter Silks. For this review, I was excited to try three new-to-me companies that offer silk loungewear and lingerie up to size XXL or higher. While I’m on the upper end (or above) all of their size ranges, these offer decent options to those on the higher end of the straight size range or lower end of the plus size range.
Julianna Rae offers loungewear and lingerie in silk and cotton. I noticed a particularly broad selection of robes, short and long, in many colors and prints. Their prices don’t quite hit luxury levels but aren’t cheap: starting around $110 for a camisole or $230 for a robe.
Lilysilk differentiates itself from competitors by emphasizing their direct connection to silk weavers in China. They carry the broadest range of items of the three, including clothing and sleepwear for men, women, and children; women’s and men’s lingerie; and bedding and pillowcases. You can find a few more budget items at Lilysilk than Julianna Rae. Their camisoles are around $60-70, for instance, while robes are priced around $250.
British company Sulis Silks carries lingerie, loungewear, and silk thermal base layers, in men’s and women’s styles. Their selection is small and more classic than trendy. Their price range is a bit lower than the other two (depending on the exchange rate of the GBP, of course), around $60-70 for a camisole or $150 for a robe.
I chose different garments from each shop, partially because I love a little variety in my wardrobe but also to try to maximize the possibility of getting something that fit with the constraints of size charts.
Of the three companies, Julianna Rae has the most limited size chart, offering some items up to an XXL, equivalent to a 47” bust and 49” hip. Because my measurements actually place me outside of that range, I decided to go for a robe, hoping that the flexibility offered by a wrap style would work on my body.
I chose the Paradise Found Silk Short Robe in Calista, a bronze-y olive color trimmed with maroon piping, in size XXL ($258, sizes XS-XXL). The robe features long sleeves with cuffs, in-seam pockets, and a waist sash with internal ties. I was quite drawn to this color, which is unlike anything in my wardrobe and feels unusual for lingerie.
Sulis Silks carries a limited selection of styles, and fewer than a dozen items are available in “plus” sizes, up to an XXL/US 20/UK 24, equivalent to a 48” bust and 50” hip. I’m also outside of this size range. Based on the model images and descriptions of the amount of ease included, I decided to risk it and try more fitted items.
I chose the Classic Camisole in a UK 24 (UK 8-24, £42) and French Knickers in XXL (XS-XXL, £43), both in Navy. While Sulis also carries a basic bias-cut camisole, I was intrigued by the styling of the Classic Camisole, which is constructed from size bias-cut panels to create a more curved shape. The French knickers have a loose fit, slightly angled hem, and elastic waist.
Silk clothing and homewares company Lilysilk carries the widest range of products, including lingerie, loungewear, clothing, bedding, and sleep caps. They also carry some products in what I would consider actual plus sizes – up to a 3X/US 26-28, equivalent to a 56” bust and 58.5” hip.
I was excited to try something in my actual size, intended to fit my whole body! From Lilysilk, I selected the 22 Momme Deep Scoop Back Silk Nightgown, size 2X, in Dark Teal (XS-3X, $265). 22 momme refers to the weight of the silk, a light-to-mid weight. The gown is cut on the bias with a bias-bound neckline and thin straps, and hits at mid-calf.
Of the three companies, Julianna Rae has the most polished website and ordering experience. It’s easy to filter by size, color, and price. All items are pictured on models – but only thin, white models. My robe arrived in just a few days, neatly wrapped in tissue and packaged in a basic gift box.
Sulis Silks took a little longer to arrive, coming from the UK, though not as long as I feared! Their website design is pretty outdated and less intuitive and functional than we’re used to at this point. However, they do include a plus size section that you don’t have to hunt for, which I appreciate.
The website for Lilysilk feels a little overwhelming due to the volume of items available. While you can select clothing by type, there is not option to filter by size. Because only some of the items are available up to 3X, you waste time clicking around trying to see if the things you want come in your size.
Lilysilk ships from China; my package took just over two weeks to arrive. While this is quite a bit longer than their estimate of 3-6 business days, I assume it was at least partially impacted by delays due to COVID19. My nightgown came folded in tissue in a sturdy branded box that I will certainly repurpose!
Quality and Construction
All of the items I chose were made of silk charmeuse, a lightweight satin-weave fabric where one side has a glossy sheen and the other side is matte. The Lilysilk nightgown and Sulis Silks cami and knickers are of a similar weight, while the Julianna Rae robe is just a touch heavier. The slightly denser weave of the Julianna Rae robe gives it a richness and heft that makes it feel more in the luxury lingerie category than the other two.
Appropriately, the Julianna Rae robe is also well-constructed using more labor-intensive techniques such as French seams. It is embellished with contrast flat piping around the front and on the cuffs, which is very neatly sewn. The pocket seams are also enclosed, a technique that requires precision sewing and a number of steps.
The Lilysilk nightgown is constructed of two large bias-cut panels, front and back, with wedges pieced in at the hem to reach the mid-calf length. It is fully constructed with French seams, which are even and narrow, a difficult task on bias-cut fabric. The neckline is finished with a narrow bias binding that is neatly sewn.
The Sulis Silks pieces have less time-consuming, and therefore less expensive finishes. Interior seams are stitched and finished at once with a single serger stitch. Given that the camisole from Sulis Silks is the most form-fitting item I selected, finishing the curvy princess seams over the bust with a serger makes sense. A serged stitch has more give and flexibility than a French seam, for instance.
However, using a serger to construct and finish in one stitch surprised me. While this cuts down sewing time significantly, it also runs the risk of unraveling if one of the threads in the serger stitch catches or rips, as there is not a straight construction stitch as a backup. This represents a significant step down in quality from either of the other two companies.
Fit and Wear
Okay, so I’ve already confessed to buying items that I’m outside the size range for. I have no doubt this gamble is familiar to our plus size readers! Did it pay off? Eh, sort of.
As expected, the Julianna Rae robe does go on my body in a wearable way. However, it clearly does not overlap in the front as designed. I can only just tie the inner ties, and there is a bit of tightness across the shoulders when I move my arms. However, as a lightweight robe – or even a daytime duster – it works. I do enjoy wearing it, mostly due to the luxuriousness of the silk and the gleaming golden color.
The Sulis Silks camisole fits really nicely over my bust, the six bias-cut panels offering a very curvy shape. It does come up a bit shorter than expected, as the stretch of the bias is used to cover my chest, which is outside of the intended measurements. Unfortunately, the matching French knickers just fit on my body but are a bit too tight and binding over the thighs to comfortably wear and move in.
However, the Lilysilk gown fits beautifully. It’s true to size, skimming over my body without binding up or gaping anywhere. For a snugger, more form-fitting effect, I likely could go down to a 1X, but this is perfect for lounging. I’ve worn it at least a few evenings a week (and a good few days) over the past few months, and it’s withstood that wear very well.
I'll admit that I'm not very precious or careful with my loungewear. For silk items like this that do not have delicate decoration, I generally use a cold delicates cycle in my washing machine, then lay flat to dry. To bring back the luster and softness of the silk, I lightly iron with steam on a medium-high heat from the back. Washing does remove some of the gleaming finish of the Julianna Rae robe, which is not fully restored by ironing. The rest of the items wash up just fine.
So, is affordable silk loungewear in plus sizes available? Yes – sort of. I would recommend Lilysilk and will order from them again myself. However, they do only go up to a 3X and finding the items carried in 1X-3X on the website is a challenge. Neither Julianna Rae nor Sulis Silks really represent plus sizes, in my opinion, but could be good options for straight sizes and in-betweenies.
It’s neither affordable nor ethical to offer silk loungewear at super-budget prices. It’s a resource- and labor-intensive textile to make and time-consuming to sew. Given many popular attitudes about how cheap lingerie “should” be, it’s not surprising that many designers choose not to work in silk.
However, I also think that many of the preconceptions about the plus size market also stop designers who work in silk from making more inclusive size ranges. The idea that plus size shoppers don’t buy expensive items, that we don’t “treat” ourselves to nice items in the hopes that our bodies will shrink, or simply that we don’t have the confidence, sex appeal, or desire to wear something associated with decadence and sexuality are endemic to the fashion world.
As someone who loves the glide of silk surrounding all the fleshy rolls of my body and who doesn’t mind saving up for a special item or two, I hope more designers reconsider those preconceptions.