Good things come in small packages, and greater things come in slightly bigger ones! Don’t fret just because you can’t sashay in skinny jeans and a skimpy top. While you sweat it out at the gym and aim to reach your ideal body type, there’s still plenty you can do with your wardrobe without having to look frumpy.
There was a time when plus-sized clothing stores stocked boring, matron-like dresses and men’s shirts. However, things have changed and with more attention given to cuts and silhouettes, one can be big and stylish at the same time.
But nothing comes easy and this does require some effort. Knowing how to dress for your body type doesn’t come to you like nirvana, while sipping coffee and cribbing to your girlfriends. It requires a systematic approach. So stop feeling bad for yourself, get off that chair and spend some time playing 'dress up'. That’s right—we all did it as little girls and some of us still do it. It’s one of the easiest ways to understand what looks you can pull off and what you should avoid like the plague. All the stylists and image consultants do it in swanky offices. Why is your cause lesser than theirs? Even better would be to drag your best friend along—one who means well and is honest. Also, when you see an outfit you like in a store, make sure you try it on. And don’t worry if only three out of ten times, you get something that looks good on you. Those are the odds that most businesses run on.
Dress according to your body type
First things first—understand your body type. Having said that, avoid falling into the trap of equating your body type to all other plus-sized women. Just as we women possess distinctive mood swings and fancies, we also possess distinctive bodies. A thorough knowledge of your body will empower you to highlight your assets and downplay your flaws. If you are pear-shaped, avoid wearing anything constricting at your waist. Wear empire necks, bohemian blouses and peasant tops in georgettes and linens. If you are top-heavy, avoid very low cuts and downplay your bust line with flirty layers in the right fabric. If you want to camouflage your hips, wear a tunic or a top that ends just at the hips—not above them or below them. A V-neck will help accentuate your bust line whereas a high neck line takes attention away from it.
However, you should always avoid a few things such as showing your midriff, vertical stripes, very large prints, mixing two prints, tank tops and halter necks. Do not wear very loose clothes and no matter what anyone says, the muffin top is not a style statement. Leave very tight clothing to the teens. And the baby doll look should be tried only at one's own risk.
To make 'dress up' fun, put on some great music, pull out your clothes and spend some quality time to discover your body and how you can present it the best. Now don’t lose focus, and remember that you need to watch out for a few things.
There are obviously many lengths that one can play with. But we’ll restrict ourselves to knee length, calf length, ankle length and several variations of it, till we motivate ourselves to hit the gym with a vengeance. A personal favorite is between the knee and the calf. Its safe and you can’t go wrong with this one. Skirts come in a variety of cuts—there is the simple A-line, mermaid skirt, pencil skirt, the infamous umbrella skirt, bubble skirt, flared skirt, etc. If you want to experiment with them effectively, team them up with different tops. Try the simple A-line skirt with a tie-up top or wear a pleated skirt (which can be slimming if you choose a neutral color) with a bright shirt. Avoid asymmetrical skirts because the results are often unpredictable. A simple plaid skirt with a solid colored shirt is also a great look. Avoid the bubble, umbrella and super flared skirt—it's just unnecessary volume.
Wear fitted pants but not tight ones. Very loose pants will make you look flabby and sloppy. Tailored cuts often help achieve the right look. Keep the waist medium—neither too high nor too low. The length can vary from your knee to the ankle. Remember that long pants add height and have a slimming effect.
Wear blouses or tops that end mid-way on your butt. Don’t get too brave and wear tops very short. Also, if the top is too long, it will make you look a tad old. A very good way to offset the largeness is by wearing layers. A sheer blouse over a vest is a look you can experiment with. A voluminous top with a fitted bust line and flowy midriff is most forgiving and can be done in almost all fabrics and cuts.
Flowy sleeves, that have a flirty and sexy cut from the shoulder to the wrist, work very well on peasant tops and boho dresses. Avoid sleeveless tops and vests if your arms are flabby. Alternatively, you could team a sleeveless top with a jacket or a shrug. However, do not fall into the trap of wearing a jacket over everything. Fitted three-quarter sleeves and magyar sleeves are cuts you can incorporate generously into your look. The latter especially looks great in a solid colored dress. Another sleeve length that’s ignored is one that ends just above the elbow. If you keep it fitted, it can have a great slimming effect.
Dresses are huge now. Choose small paisley or floral prints for the summer look. Do away with the classic strappy style and opt for cap sleeves. Cotton or wool dresses that end just above the knees, with leggings, is a look not everyone can pull off. Modify this style a little by dropping the hemline so that the dress ends at your knees. Team this with opaque leggings. Try a vintage chic look by wearing slightly flared dresses with lace in playful colors. A good length would be just above the ankles or at the calves. Some can also pull off the floor-length dress well; however, be warned that it can create a boxy effect.
Darker colors are no doubt more slimming. But you don’t have to be stuck with everything in black and brown. Try one item of clothing in earth colors such as a top in brick red or orange. Pastels and neutral colors can also be incorporated sparingly.
Forget what they say about pink, neon and purple being the new black, because black will always be black. It’s the most slimming color. Wear a classic black calf-length dress with pearls or choose a flowy ankle-length vintage dress with lace and puffed sleeves. Another popular look is a long plain black dress with a stole. Don your glasses and you’ve got your very own artist/writer/movie critic look. However, don’t get branded as the 'girl who always wears black'.
Heels, whether they’re kitten or pencil, will add height to your frame and make your legs look longer. But we can’t ignore the adorable flats and pumps that are in vogue. Wear them with an outfit that adds height, like long, fitted pants. Wedges and peep-toe shoes are also great for casual wear. Knee-length boots can also make you look taller and slimmer.
Go crazy with accessories. Wear chunky neck pieces if you are the kind who likes to overdress just a little bit. Beaded necklaces and bracelets with a light colored, boho flowing dress is a nice and playful casual look. Wear just the solitaire with a solid colored knee-length, fitted dress or try classic pearls with a polka-dot dress.
You can take off years from your face by getting a great haircut. Remember that you wear your haircut everyday so loosen those purse strings just a bit and splurge on a trendy and updated style. Flowy tresses that reach the shoulder are very hot now and they can make your face look younger and thinner. A fringe can make or break your look. There are so many different styles of fringes and bangs. Choose a style after consulting with a good stylist. Get layers to frame your face; it’s a trick most people use on those 'my face is so fat' days.
If you like being subtle, opt for one item of clothing that screams while the rest whisper. Try classic black pants and a translucent tunic over a singlet, with a stunning necklace, or a conservative, dark colored skirt in plum, burgundy or maroon, with a psychedelic blouse. Casual jeans with a kaftan or kimono top for your 'away from work' look.
Whatever style or cut you choose, remember that confidence shows in your gait. You will always be confident in something that you know looks good on you. So mix and match, experiment and modify and don’t ever limit yourself to one look. Being a large person does not mean that you can’t evolve your individual sense of style. So while all of us have less-than-perfect bodies and spend a large amount of our lives trying to get that perfect body by running, swimming, going to gyms and counting calories, let us make the journey a stylish and classy one by dressing for the part.