In 1960, the average American woman weighed 142.2lbs. In 2010, she weighed 166.2lbs. Following the trend, sizes have also upsized in clothing and downsized in the numbers. Marilyn Monroe, commonly quoted as a size 14, was more likely to have been a current size 0-4. She was tiny, with a 22” waist. Although we all know that our generously over-carbed national diet has caused the 26lbs average increase, my clients are mourning their youthful figures. No problem at all: Image consultants can do wonders with optical illusions of camouflage dressing. Here are some style tips to bring back your shape!
Don’t get attached to a size number.
Since standard sizes are non-existent in the fashion world, you will no doubt fit a range of sizes depending on the manufacturer. Clothes that are too large can add bulk to your figure, while clothes that are too small can pull and tug in unflattering and inappropriate places, such as the “smile” at the crotch. I teach my clients that clothing is only 75-80% there when you buy it off the rack.
It needs to go to the alteration expert for nips and tucks and be sure to cut out the size label in all garments to avoid “number obsession.”
Buy items that fit the largest part of your body and get the rest tailored.
Two common situations for plus size women are that pants may fit in the thigh but are loose in the waist, or shirts may fit in the waist but be tight in the bust area. Take time to find the garment that glides over your widest parts and alter the rest. It may add to the cost of the clothing, but correct fit shaves off pounds and the garment will last longer as wear and tear on the seams and fabric will be reduced. Not only that, but it also makes the garment look much more expensive.
Discover the labels that design for your shape.
Some designers use one pattern and manufacture it from petite to plus size. Invariably that approach doesn’t take into account that the curves and proportions of plus size women are different than their smaller counterparts. There are several online retailers that provide multiple fit options for their clients, or even the ability to provide custom measurements. Some of our favorites include:
Campbell & Kate – provides dress shirts for women with large busts in a matrix of sizes. With thoughtful details such as buttons closer together to prevent puckering and extra darts to accentuate your waist, these blouses will be a staple in any woman’s wardrobe.
Igigi, Eloquii & City Chic – these sites are filled with stylish clothes for women size 14 and up. Hundreds of dresses, separates from classic to trendy without being frumpy.
eShakti – similar to the above, with lots of styles to choose from, with the added benefit of being able to provide your own measurements for a custom garment for only an additional $7.50 per piece.
Jones of New York designs for all but especially curvy ladies. Every season, they offer a tailored look for work with a curved construction and a small spandex content in their non-creasing polyester Triacetate fabric. Hooray for spandex!
Chico’s does wonderful travel-wear and separates in forgiving jersey. Be sure to avoid any of their square cut jackets, which will make you look too boxy.
Boston Proper, owned by Chico’s, makes alluring dresses, well-fitting jeans, yoga and travel clothes, and a variety of stretch jersey tops, cunningly draped, ruched and gathered to slide over the curves.
Not Your Daughters Jeans fit curves well and some styles help to lift the bottom, making your legs look longer.
When dressing the curves, think drape and length.
The best fabrics for plus sized ladies are those which drape and skim, not those which are thick or stiff. Think jersey, rayon, polyester, chiffon and drifty silks. Some wools, like crepe, are lovely as they already have a natural curl woven into the fabric, which bends and flexes comfortably. Any flexible fabric, such as fine gauge knitwear, will be heaven to wear as will anything with 2-3% spandex, Elastane or Lycra. Try long-line waterfall cardigans over slim leg pants and watch the silhouette look slimmer.
Best styles include surplice (cross-over) bodices, wrap dresses, draped and cowl necklines. A sheath dress that accentuates your waist will be more flattering than a mu-mu. Tailored, slim sleeves to the wrist bone or elbow are wonderful to reduce hip width. The best hairstyles are mid-length and full, not extremely short or below collar-bone length. Exposing your neck and chest by choosing necklines as deep as your face is long will be more slenderizing than a high neckline.
Color-blocking in darker panels down the sides of the dress or bathing suit visually elongates and slenderizes. All skirts, tops, dresses and pants need to be slightly longer than your petite counterparts might wear. This added length, together with a heel not only helps you look taller but also allow the fabric to drape and accommodate the curves with more elegance. Dresses that cover the back of the knee and pants which graze the front of the shoe are all flattering to elongate, not widen.
Choose appropriate undergarments.
Just as wearing the right size clothes will make you look slimmer, correctly fitting undergarments radically improve your shape. Not only will a well-fitting bra help reduce back and neck strain, but it will also smooth your figure and help your clothes drape and fit more elegantly. Many women with generous busts are wearing the balcony bras. Sexy for a low evening neckline, the cups are too small for normal wear and you end up with four bosoms, which look like “puppies in a basket,” to quote our UK Master trainer, Rosemarie Williams. If you can, visit a professional bra fitter near you and get measured. If you can’t go in person, visit a site like www.brastop.com or www.bravissimo.com, and read their fitting tips. Shapewear is a wonderful invention but can feel like medieval battle gear in hot weather. Still, for that special occasion try shapewear to streamline your shape.