I've written before about the difficulties I've encountered finding good rain gear and winter coats in extended plus sizes. It's a problem that frustrates me no end. I'm a chronically cold person (even when my hypothyroidism is well-controlled), and I get cold far more easily than anyone around me. I need good warm clothing, sweaters, raincoats, and winter coats.
We discussed before that my best sources so far were Junonia (women's sizes to 4x, sometimes 5-6x), and sometimes Land's End (women's sizes to 3x, men's sizes to some 4-5x) and L.L. Bean (some women's sizes to 3x, men's sizes mostly to 2x but a few 3x). I can sometimes get outstanding stuff in these companies, but not always.
The quality at Junonia really varies; some stuff is great, and some stuff isn't, either in fit or in quality. I got a ski jacket from them that was a huge disappointment, and a fleece jacket that was only so-so. And while they have some of the QuickWik-type materials and some ski wear, the stuff I've gotten from them in these have not been of the quality my kids get at REI or other major sports labels. There's really a noticeable difference in terms of high-tech gear that helps wick away moisture or helps hold in the heat etc. And as I see my kids with the really good stuff, I think ─ why can't I have that stuff too?
Land's End and L.L. Bean usually have some good stuff, and I got a couple of really great moderate-cold coats from them last year. I also got a great wool sweater (not scratchy at all) from L.L. Bean that I use for keeping warm inside. But the problem is that LL Bean stuff typically only goes up to a 2x in men's. Both LL Bean and Land's End only go to 3x in women's (not quite big enough in the boobs for me). So, not always the best match for me.
Well, now I have a new source: Columbia Sportswear. I knew about this company before, but last time I checked they didn't have women's coats anywhere close to my size. My husband bought me a men's extended size coat from them 12 years ago, but it wasn't that great. So I never really considered shopping for myself there.
But recently, a friend of mine gave me a "friends and family" pass (major discounts!) to Columbia's online store. My oldest son needed a bigger ski jacket, so I was hoping to use the pass to get a really good ski jacket for him at a halfway decent price.
When I went online to shop, though, I discovered that Columbia now carries extended sizes. Score!!!
As is so typical these days, they only carry women's sizes to a 3x, which is almost but not quite enough for me....BUT they had men's sizes to 4x and 5x at times. Whoohooo!
While it ticks me off majorly that more accommodation is made for men of size than for women of size (i.e., men are "allowed" to be fatter than women, and "allowed" to have more functional and quality clothing in extended sizes), I had to take a deep breath and move on. At least they had some stuff in 4x, and I hoped the men's 4x might fit me. (Men's plus sizes are shaped differently ─ bigger in the belly and smaller in the chest and hips than I am ─ so it wasn't a sure thing).
Because I had this one-time pass for a major discount, I took a risk and ordered a whole BUNCH of things from Columbia.com in 4x, crossing my fingers that they would work.
Well, I got my package this week and IT WORKED!!! I am so stoked. I got a moisture-wicking shirt for workouts, a couple of full-zip or half-zip light jackets/fleeces, a high-tech wicking half-zip for layering warmth, a rain jacket (with special lining for more warmth), a soft-shell jacket (fleece on the inside, waterproof on the outside), and a full-on ski parka.
I tried them all on and they all worked. And the quality was way better than the stuff I ordered via Junonia, Land's End, or L.L. Bean. Whoohooo!
I almost bought a pair of hiking pants too, but I decided not to risk buying pants at this point. Men and women's shapes are too different and I've not had good luck buying men's pants in the past, so I didn't want to waste money on something I couldn't try on in person.
But to get such ultra-warm, high-quality coats in my size? Freakin' awesome when you consider I've been looking for years for quality stuff like this.
Oh, and my son? Got an AMAZING ski jacket ($260 retail!) for $90, plus some fitness shirts, hiking shirts, rain pants, and ski pants. All very high-quality materials and workmanship, and they will keep him well-equipped for skiing, snow caving, wilderness survival, fencing, and Boy Scout hikes.
I'm way poor now but it was worth it! All in all, an excellent find! http://www.columbia.com/. They don't go to 4-5x in everything, alas, and they are quite pricey without the discount pass ─ but they had quite a few choices in coats, at far better quality than most other sources. Worth the price if you are needing a really good winter coat.