This is for all the women who are blessed with considerable assets. Shopping for and then styling a plus size body is trickier than it is for our size four sisters. We plus size shoppers have a harder time finding good-quality basics like attractive, properly cut plus size T-shirts and plus size jeans as well as special pieces like cocktail dresses and trendy pieces.
Then there is the worry. Running through your mind is the litany of all the things that have been pushed into your head by society or women's magazines: Does this look okay? Is this too short? Will people stare? Can I pull this off? Luckily, we can start you off with some basic tips that will help you embrace your body and its curves. The only stares you'll get will be ones of admiration!
Just because you can get your body into something doesn't mean it fits. Leave vanity at the dressing room door and remind yourself that women's sizes are so far from standardized it's an industry joke. Pay no attention to the number on the tag and select only garments that fit you properly. Your plus size blouse must not gap at the bust and jackets must button without pulling, even if your style is to wear it open. T-shirts should cover your hips when you sit and pants pockets and zippers need to lie flat. The size inside the piece isn't important; how it looks on your body is.
Fighting your frame and figure is a losing battle. You are who you are and you look how you look. Even of you'd like to change that, you need to work in the now and enjoy your life and your body as it exists in the moment. If you carry your weight around your middle, you probably have slender arms and legs—work with that! If, like me, you're all bosom and bottom, celebrate that! An hourglass figure is beautiful even if it has extra sand! Work with instead of against your shape.
What's your favorite feature? Your face? Your décolletage? Your legs? Concentrate on what you love about your body and dress to call attention to that. For example, body-wise, my best feature is my bosom, so I wear deep V or scoop-neck shirts almost exclusively. They call attention to a great feature and frame my face prettily. The inverse of this is to accept it if you have a feature you're just not happy with and want to downplay. I carry a lot of weight in my thighs so I stick to jeans and plus size dresses. Thin dress pants emphasize the feature I dislike on my body, so I just don't wear them. This isn't limiting or cowardice, it's making sure I feel great in the clothing I work so hard to find and style. Now, these are my personal hang-ups. You need to dig deep, self-reflect and decide for yourself what you want to show off or camouflage.
Clothes need shapewear. YOU don't need shapewear, clothes need shapewear. Don't get me wrong. No one expects anyone to wear a shaper or compression garment every day. Jeans and a sweater, or plus size leggings and a plus size long tunic that you're wearing out to the movies or to run errands absolutely do not require a compression garment. But lots of dresses and skirts do! If you have a pretty figure, no matter its size, and want to show it off in a form-fitting dress, shapewear is a necessity. Think of it like priming a canvas for your art. You carefully selected a dress or a pencil skirt and want it to look just right—a foundation garment makes sure it lies smoothly on your body. Personally, I wear high-waist mid-thigh shapers literally every time I wear a dress, from the fanciest cocktail dress to my oldest sundresses. Sure, my middle looks trimmer and I stand straighter, but more importantly, I am guarded against the dreaded thigh-chafing, and my privacy is protected even if I hop on a bike or have to climb into a car.
You will see, over and over again, that plus size women are advised to accentuate their waist. Well, not every plus size woman has a waist in the traditional sense. Of course, every single human has a waist—bend over and wherever your middle creases is your waist. At the same time, if you carry weight in your middle, if might feel like you just don't have one. A better way to frame this is: Accentuate the narrowest part of your torso. If that is a small waist in the middle of an hourglass figure, lovely! If it is closer to your ribcage because you have a pooch, wear a full skirt over that pooch and a cute belt closet to your ribcage. Or take a cue from plus-size celebrity Chrissy Metz and lean into the empire waist. She consistently wears empire dresses that feature her bosom and the narrow space just under her bustline. Figure out where the narrowest point of your torso lies, and that is what to emphasize.
Use your clothing to achieve balance for your figure. If you're busty, wear a form-fitting top with a full skirt; if you carry a lot of junk in your trunk, wear skinny jeans with a voluminous top. Take every opportunity to balance your top half and bottom half—eye-catching shoes? Try big hair or a statement necklace. Pencil skirt showing off your assets? A trim tee and a denim jacket or blazer will balance that perfectly. Consider the proportion and balance of every ensemble you create.
Even when you purchase good-quality clothing, because each plus size woman carries weight uniquely, sometimes a little tuck here or there can make the difference between "okay" and "wow!" Make sure your sleeves are the right length—avoid sloppiness at all costs! A good tailor can take in waists, shorten straps. . .you name it. In one particularly heroic moment, my extremely talented tailor built new sleeves for a dress I loved but had very narrow sleeves. You can take on the clothing world with a great tailor. If budget is a consideration for you, you can learn the basics of home sewing and do your simple alterations yourself. Hemming is pretty simple, and there are videos all over the internet to teach you how.
Plus-size shoppers hear "keep it simple" and "wear darker tones" over and over and over. It's tiresome and unfair. If you wear dark navy blue from head to toe, maybe, just maybe, you'll look the proverbial five pounds slimmer. Five pounds?! Who cares? Wear colors that make you look and feel your best. Wear colors you love. Wear colors that work for you. Love neon? Try some! Hot pink your very favorite? Wear it head to toe! Want to attract the attention of a man? Wear red—that's its own psychological study; I read it so you can just take it as a tip from me to you. Color is fun and beautiful and can affect your mood. Wear what you love with impunity.
What the fashion industry can't deliver, make up with accessories. We can't always try the latest trend in jeans or rompers or crop tops, often from unavailability. Accessories don't have those limits. We advise you to pay attention to your proportions and know what scale of accessories look good on you, but this is a place where you can lean in to tassels, or scarves, or sequins with ease. Try trending colors or patterns with your ensemble add-ons. The "It" bag is for everyone. Smoking slippers are hot right now, and shoes always fit. Accessories can also help you cheat your proportions, too. A very long necklace can create a long line to help you appear taller. Long, slim earrings help your neck look longer. A chunky or sparkly bracelet calls attention to pretty hands. Accessories complete your look and can turn basics into an outfit.
Plus-size women spend a lot of time inundated with messages of unworthiness. You can wear a bathing suit/find love/take that vacation/get that job when you lose a few pounds. You are worthy NOW. You deserve a life full of fun NOW. Body acceptance is not the glorification of unhealthy lifestyles; it is about realizing that there is a human being inside every body, and that human being deserves basic decency. Every human being deserves respect and love. Every human being deserves to experience fun and joy. So flaunt it in bright yellow or emerald green. Try the hoop earrings or the "boyfriend" jeans. Fashion is for everybody and every body!
Trying our tips for styling curves might not happen all at once for you. If you have struggled with your body image, if you were particularly ground down by the messaging you received regarding your looks or frame or figure, you might have to move a little more gingerly. Try one thing at a time. Consider online shopping if the dressing room is too anxiety-inducing. Shopping from home is easier than ever, just make sure you select an online retailer with a liberal return policy. The next time you have to go to the local big box store for paper towels or dog treats, pick up a pair of earrings that catches your eye—don't overthink it, just grab—and see what you can wear them with for a bit of flair. Keep at it, remember our tips for styling curves and have a blast!