I love being a personal shopper! I did this in college and it is super fun. Even now some people ask me to go look for stuff for them and I still love it.
There are plenty of plus-size stores available and plenty of tricks anyway to disguise extra pounds.
I’m not sure that there will be places selling clothes in her size and appropriate for Cancun weather before she actually leaves, however. Most clothing stores are selling winter clothes now.
However, after the new year or so is when stores begin to get ready for springtime, so…if she isn’t going until late February or something, she might be able to find some great stuff.
In the meantime, would she consider online shopping? For instance, www.alight.com offers clothing from size 12-28, I think. And they sell clothing in a variety of seasons. I just checked and they have plenty of spring/summer apparel that is for sale right now. How old is your friend? Most of their clothing is geared toward teens or young adult women, but she still might find something she likes. Also, there is not physical store, it’s just a warehouse site.
lanebryant.com is a plus-size store in sizes 12-30. They are owned by the Limited and tend to be very updated, as opposed to most plus-sized stores that sell ill-fitting and cheapy items that aren’t quality. Any age woman can usally find plenty she likes there. This is a store she can visit, not just a website. Also, Lane Bryant has a plus size lingerie portion of their store, so she can look for good-fitting bras. (Please have her get sized so she knows she’s actually buying the right fit.)
lanebryantcatalog.com is a site and catalog for the overweight to extremely obese population (sz 12-44). Check the sizing chart before she orders. They are not overly stylish but they have very loose, flowing styles that are simple in nature and might make her less body conscious. I clicked around the site just a moment ago to look, and they do have items she could wear in Cancun. This is not a store she can visit, it’s only a website and catalog company.
avenue.com is a national store that carries plus size clothing up to size 32, I believe. This is a physical store she can actually visit. They also have a huge clearance section that seems to constantly have clothing for the entire year available. (Clearance is hard to work with as there is not every size available.)
sizeappeal.com is also geared towards the younger plus-sized crowd and attempts to make most of their clothing sexy in nature. However, I have bought dresses off there before for someone in her 40s who wanted to have a second honeymoon with her husband. (Given this is a trip with her husband, maybe that’s what she’s going for.) They carry lots of dresses. Some are off the shoulder or strappy. Remind her that she can buy strappy and then put a lightweight wrap or cardigan or shawl over it. (You might even take her to a fabric store and then she or the store can hem the sides of a chiffon piece of fabric. Works really easily as a cheap but cute way to disguise arms. She can also make her own sarong this way.) Anyway, they size up to 4x I believe.
cyberswim.com is a company that makes swimsuits for women of all sizes, from 0-24. They have some sort of spandexy, tight material that they use (called miracle suit). It actually works. I’ve seen a woman who was a sz 20 put on one of their suits and look thin. They also have sarongs and coverups. Here is a direct link to the women’s selection: shop.cyberswim.com/miracle/main.cfm/SC/customfit/fitcode/WS/csheader/custom_womens
If she is an apple shape, the point should be to draw attention away from her midsection. If it’s totally out of proportion with the rest of her, it actually might be better to stick to skirts with tops so as to not emphasize the thickness in her middle. It will break her up that way. However, if the dress has an empire waist then she should definitely go with that! It will help skim over her belly and draw the focus upward. She could also do loose-fitting capris with a tank or short-sleeved shirt and a light cardigan to feel covered. Solid-colored, tailored short-sleeved shirts worn open with a white tank or short sleeved shirt and a solid or print fitted skirt can be slimming. Stay away from full-body prints. Smaller prints are much better than big prints. Stay away from horizontal stripes (but you probably knew that). Also, if she wears a loose flowy skirt, her shirt should be more fitted. Same with the opposite. Flowy shirt, fitted pants or skirt. That way she won’t look indiscernible under her clothes.