Plus Size Styling Basics: Classic Black Tee

By Natalie Ann Valentine

Some of you mentioned you would like to see some tips re: how to style some plus size basics. For this round, I picked Ori’s black tee in the classic length.

Besides my cats, I’m pretty sure it’s the softest thing I own. The fabric has just the right weight to feel substantial but not heavy and thin but not like it’s going to shred the first time you wash it.

As certain as the sun rises in the east (or is it west?), when I try and think of what to wear, I forget what clothes are. I am certain that I have definitely never worn “clothes”. In fact, what even are clothes?

I’m sure you can relate*.

Anyway. Speaking of a good old fashioned existential crisis, I think a lot about what my personal sense of style is communicating about who I am. I get weirdly anxious if I feel like what I’m wearing doesn’t reflect something about me.

I have absolutely emotionally tied patterns to my soul. So styling a plain black t-shirt was surprisingly hard for me! Again: what even are clothes?

I’ve got two outfits for you today, plus my secret Natalie tip to level up any outfit centered around a plain t-shirt.

One outfit is pretty casual and the second is a bit more dressed up, and both feature the Ori shirt. I tend to push back against the idea that any one item of clothing is necessarily too casual. It’s an idea that’s rooted in classism, and hinges on some people not being able to afford what is considered “nice”. Which is why I’ve taken this single item and styled it for a few different occasions!

Honestly, the main insight I’ve learned here is that it’s all about layers and statement necklaces. Which: isn’t everything!?

Something I like to do with basic pieces: switch up the shape! I wear a lot of t-shirts, and I almost always tuck them into higher-waisted bottoms with a belt or even suspenders if I’m feeling particularly punk rock. I didn’t end up doing this in either of these two outfits, but I also roll up the front of t-shirts into a knot at the waist.

A note: I apologize for my poses (?) in these photos. Much like I occasionally forget what clothes are when I try to dress myself, sometimes I am suddenly struck with uncertainty about what bodies are meant to do when someone tries to take a picture of me.

(Thanks also to my favorite husband, Michael, and also my mom, who were both patient and loving during the multiple existential crises I experienced during this process.)


FIRST UP: Casual. (I guess. I am not sure there is anything casual about this pose.)

I wore this to have lunch with my mom and my aunt! I ate a lot of pasta and bread and looked cute while doing it. What’s not to love?

And, as always, I accessorized with a lot of cat hair. My gray tabby, Maybelle, is particularly talented at helping me with this endeavor. Porter helped, too, but this time his assistance is a little more on the secret side, since he’s my little black Halloween cat. I am absolutely certain that next time I do this with a lighter fabric color, his help will be magnificently obvious.

You could wear this with any jeans you love, and it still manages to look Adult and Well Put Together and like you Put Some Thought Into This Outfit.

This shirt is great, y’all. I feel like I’m sort of coming around to basics ... ?


SECOND UP: Elevated.

I wore this to … stand in the yard and take pictures for you lovely folks!

The shirt isn’t really the focus here, but it looks great with or without the blazer. It’s all about the drape of this shirt, y’all. And the plain black lets other items shine.

Plus, I don’t need to worry about spilling my hunched-over-the-keyboard work-from-home lunch on this shirt because it will just disappear into the well-draped ether. Which is something I look for in clothing. (Gross? Maybe. Whoops!) 


(And maybe this is just me.)

I wear a folded handkerchief around my neck with plain t-shirts all the time. Partially because I want to be as much like Antoni from Queer Eye as possible, and partially because I also wear them as headbands and sometimes they just end up around my neck.

I have over a dozen in various different colors and patterns at this point. It’s just enough of a color pop to give my outfit that something extra that makes me feel like me. And, y’all, it’s such a cute look. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a scout leader but definitely the most stylish one ever.

^ (This isn’t me. But it is how I imagine myself looking in bandanas.)

What are your go-to ways to elevate a basic item? How do you combat the wall of What Even Are Clothes when you’re figuring out what to wear? I wanna hear from you! 



*Actually, I’m not sure. I bet a bunch of you are pretty good at remembering what clothes are. 


By Natalie Ann Valentine
Natalie is a playwright, freelance writer, actor, mental health activist, burlesque artist, cat lover, and all around weirdo located just outside of Washington, D.C.
Find Natalie on Twitter @NAVplaywright and on Instagram @natalie.ann.valentine.

1 comment

This is great. :) Love your voice and the style tips in this.

Shelley October 21, 2019

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