Fit 101: Learn to work with your curves, not against them
Why are all the cute clothes designed for skinny people? It can sometimes feel like it’s a skinny woman’s world and we’re just lucky to be in it. Most designers use the tiny fit model’s measurements for their clothes, which don’t look good on all women. If you have a difficult time shopping, or you’ve lost all hope in finding clothes that you love and feel confident wearing, you are not alone — more than 50 percent of women in America wear a size 14 or larger.
But you can rise above the fray of cheap fabrics, awful prints, and the ubiquitous plus-sized baby doll tops and empire waist dresses that just add pounds to your frame. Stop thinking that you have to lose weight first; embrace your inner fashionista and start dressing well now. There are good options out there that will flatter your curves instead of just covering them up. In fact, both Prada and Chloe’s fall runways featured plus-sized models, and as more mainstream designers create better-looking, well-made clothes for the fuller figure, you will have more and more choices.
But the full-figured woman needs to follow some basic rules. Avoid busy prints, horizontal stripes, tapered pants and ruffles. Buy for the largest part of your body and then alter to fit the rest (you will have to find a good tailor and spend some money here, but if you embrace the philosophy of having fewer but better pieces, you’ll have leftover money for alterations, which are worth every penny!). For guidance, think of a curvy lady who always looks classy, like Oprah — she is gorgeous because she is full of confidence, and she knows what she can and can’t wear. No stovepipes, crewnecks or empire waists for her.
In our business, we dress women like you every day, and they tell us that once we have improved their wardrobes, people comment on how beautiful they look or inquire if they’ve lost weight. Most importantly, we helped them find clothing that makes them feel great.
First, the architecture: let’s get the undergarments correct. Suck-you-in shapewear has come a long way since the days of the “I can barely breathe, much less concentrate enough to carry on cocktail conversation” girdles of our mothers’ generation. Today, it’s less about heavy-duty sucking in and more about smoothing. If you are still wearing cotton undergarments, they have to go — without manmade fabrics like spandex, your camisoles and panties will stretch out and create more volume and ripples under your clothes. Not attractive.
Read on for some life-changing tips!
PART ONE: UNDERGARMENTS
Start with a back-smoothing bra, such as the one pictured, by Soma (soma.com)
Complete your undergarments with panties that fit (too big or too small are equal offenders) and then put on biker shorts, which work under pants, skirts or dresses. These shorts smooth the tummy, thighs and rear.
Add a camisole. Yes, we’re saying to put one under everything, even T-shirts. Look for camis that are long enough to stay tucked in and have a nice neckline that can peak out from beneath shirts without looking like your underwear is showing.
PART TWO: FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR FALL
These five pieces will be the building blocks of your wardrobe, and you can wear them everywhere.
One: A mid-rise, bootcut gray trouser. It must be bootcut because the fullness around the ankles balances out the hips and shoulders. Be sure you choose a mid-rise fit to pull you in at the waist (if it’s low-rise, you’ll end up with shorter legs and a wider hips). The ones pictured here have a contoured waistband with extended tab closure and are made of 96 percent wool and 4 percent elastane (there’s that friendly spandex again!
Two: A mid-rise, dark-rinse bootcut jean. (No flap pockets or bedazzling on the rear!) Gap’s Long & Lean style goes up to a size 20 and has inseam lengths from petite (30 inches) to tall (37 inches), and they're only $69.95.
Three: V-neck tops. A V-neck draws the eye inward and upward, creating a longer, leaner line, which is especially important for buxom women.
Four: A black structured jacket.
Apply the rule of Goldilocks here: Instead of choosing a voluminous jacket that covers your curves, opt for a structured jacket to show us you have shape (just right). Look for a jacket that cinches in at the waist, with lapels that are neither too large or too small. Make sure the jacket hits just right across your bum, neither too high or too low.
Five: A black patent pump. This is the shoe that goes anywhere, anytime, with anything. From board meting with the grey trouser and black jacket to cocktails with the dark rinse jeans and black jacket, this is the one shoe you must own. Make sure it has an almond-shaped toe and a not-too-chunky heel. Marmi Shoes on the Country Club Plaza specializes in hard-to-find sizes and comfortable yet chic styles, like Vaneli.
Once you have these pieces in place, you can have fun with accessories — they always fit! But there are rules for accessories, too. Keep them in proportion with your frame: no teeny purses and no humongous puffy coats. Also, don’t spend too much because accessories are the first pieces to date you, so you have to be willing to let them go.
Just as the runway is starting to take notice of the real women who will keep them in business during a struggling economy, more online shopping destinations are sprouting up for this market. Check out Madison Plus (madisonplus.com), whose mission is to cater to the previously underserved market for women’s plus size fashion by offering all of her favorite brands in one place.
• Avoid prints: They make you appear larger
• Avoid tapered pants: Choose bootcut to balance out your hips and shoulders
• Avoid double-breasted coats and dresses; they widen your frame
• Avoid crewnecks: They are too manly and make you look overly buxom
• Avoid empire waists and baby doll tops: They create more volume around the widest part of your frame
• If your teenage daughter is wearing it, you probably shouldn’t be (this is especially true for accessories!)