Q: I am 5' 5" and 200 pounds. I have been living in jeans and t-shirts for 18 years. I want to make a change but I don't know what looks good on me. I can't afford to buy a whole new wardrobe, so I would need to add it piece by piece. I also hate to iron, so I am always looking for 50/50 poly/cotton blend shirts. Is there any hope for me? - C
A: Dearest C - How loudly can I say, "I'VE BEEN THERE!!" In fact, until last year, I was a little heavier than you. Then I found this
, and lost 85 pounds. But before that, I spent 20 years working to flatter a plus size shape. I could write a book about what did and didn't work for me. And yes, there are PLENTY of options beyond jeans and t-shirts. In the interest of clear, concise blog posts, instead of a lengthy novel, I will dole this advice out in a series. Today, I'll hit on which items I think are your best places to start. And I'll share a few helpful links with you of other resources for brilliant advice.
Now, everybody carries their weight differently. I tended to carry mine somewhat evenly all over, but with a frustratingly larger portion around my hips. But a few general rules definitely apply to any woman trying to flatter a fuller frame. Let's look at those rules.
1. Highlight your smallest/narrowest area.
For me, that area was the high waist; above my belly button and below my bust. The absolutely MOST flattering item I ever wore was a wrap dress. Such as this.
It perfectly highlighted the narrowest part of my body, the v-neckline lengthened and slimmed and brought attention up to my face. And below the waist ties, it skimmed and floated over my worst trouble spots. If I could recommend ANYTHING, it would be to immediately go out and invest in a couple matte jersey wrap dresses. As a nice bonus, they adjust with your weight. At my heaviest, I put a camisole under them and tied them a little more loosely. As I lost weight, I ditched the camisole and cinched them tighter.
(The matte jersey is also perfect because it's iron free!)
Try to get TRUE wrap dresses. Meaning, the dress opens fully, not a faux wrap dress that is sewn shut, has a v-neckline but the waist ties don't do much. These can sometimes work fine, but they don't have very much "adjustability."
Here are a couple other dress options that would also flatter in a similar way...
Don't be afraid of belts, as pictured below. They can do a lot to highlight, draw attention to where you want it, and lengthen. Just look how long she looks from the belt down! Longer = Leaner. Just don't cinch too tight. You want to avoid the tied-sausage look.
Our next guideline is...
2. Skim, don't squeeze.
And my next suggestion for you is a pair of wide-leg black trousers. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to iron these, but it'll be worth it! (Actually, take them out of the dryer when they're still a titch damp and hang them by the ankles. The weight of the top of the pants will help them dry straight and you may be able to avoid the iron completely.)
Take a look at the trousers vs the leggings. It's the perfect illustration of why skim instead of squeeze is so flattering.
Even with the heels and the most flattering picture they could conjure, there's just no denying the drastic difference. The hips and thighs in the trousers looks SO much leaner. No squeezed sausage.
Choose trousers that fall straight down from the widest part of your hips. If the waist gaps, have it tailored. That small adjustment is rather inexpensive.
The final guideline for the day is...
3. Too much volume amplifies, instead of camouflages.
Technically, both tops skim. The black detail in A and print in B are both flattering. But the extreme volume of the bottom blouse is overwhelming. This is the same model and look how much wider she looks in the bottom picture? They even had to pull back a bit in the photo. So my final suggestion for the day is to look for tops with interesting detail to step up a notch from your t-shirts. I loved jersey knit tops like the pink one, with an empire waist without too much pleating or gathering below (didn't want to look pregnant.) We'll tackle some plus-size style myths in the next post. And I'd like to direct you to Inside Out Style for some more great information on how to flatter your figure. Click the name back there and I've directed you straight to her section on plus-size fashion. Imogen is a fantastic image consultant out of Australia.