by Nicola Fulstow
Please note, this is an excerpt from Nicola's Book 'Nothing to Wear' available to download as an eBook from Amazon for just £4.99 where you'll find lots more invaluable hints and tips.
In my experience a lot of plus size women often make one of two mistakes and that is either wearing clothes that are too tight (because they don’t want to see themselves in the next size up) or too baggy because they are trying to cover up their body. Both of these strategies means that the body then looks bigger than it actually is and worst still, because you are seeing your body dressed in clothes that make you look bigger, you feel worse about your body image and this dramatically impacts on your self-esteem.
Don’t be tempted to cover up
You see a third of UK women are a size 16 or over yet so many women in this category feel like they are alone when it comes to frustrating shopping trips, lack of choice and feeling frumpy. It really doesn’t have to be this way – there are lots and lots of great options for you on the high street to cater for a range of budgets, you may have just never heard of, tried or considered them.
The high street is starting to realise that they need to cater more for the curvier lady now with body shapes in the UK changing and are realising that plus size collections need to be “celebratory rather than apologetic” in the words of plus size designer Anna Scholz. That is why we are seeing Bet Ditto, lead singer from top band Gossip, designing a twenty-two piece range for Evans this year for sizes 14 – 32 which includes bold prints, brave lengths and lots of colour. We are also seeing supermarkets catering for the larger lady with Sainsbury’s introducing their Grace range and Tesco’s Florence & Fred’s True collection.
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Firstly you want to look at your foundations, and by this I mean your underwear. None of us mere mortals have a body like Elle Macpherson under our clothes but the state of our undies can improve or worsen this situation. You see clothes are actually your best friend as they allow us to take more control over what we want the mirror to reflect back to us, however if you haven’t got the best scaffolding going on under your outfit, it’s going to be like building a house on sand. The end result isn’t going to look pretty!
So first step is to get properly fitted for a bra. Personally I would recommend Bravissimo for larger busted ladies and John Lewis, however every woman should understand before her fitting what a good bra should look and feel like. The service is free and when you are fitted with the right size and style of bra for your figure, it will knock at least a size off your waist, improve your posture and make your bust look more toned and younger!! Yes a bra really can transform your body that much. Trust me, I have done it a million times with my clients and I love how they can’t stop checking themselves out in the mirror afterwards. Read my Guide to Trying On Bras to get to grips with what you should be looking for.
Don’t forget that style of bra is important too and for many larger busted ladies, I often recommend a balconette style bra which lifts and separates the bust, giving the appearance of a slimmer waist and flatter stomach and providing a fabulous hourglass figure to die for. Good bra brands to try are Fantasie, Freya and Prima Donna.
Also, if you have a generous bust, ensure your bra doesn’t show underneath your clothing by wearing a beige coloured bra as this will blend with any skin tone from alabaster to black skin tones and ensure that you can’t see your under garments. Not only does it look neater but when you see a white bra under a white top, it’s like two shining beacons that draws the eye straight to them and will automatically make your bust look bigger.
We also have a great variety of shape-wear available to us now so we can fake it until we make it! How good is that?! Shave an inch off the waist and not have to decline every lunch or dinner invitation all year. Yes please.
I advise my clients to wear shape-wear daily if it makes them look and feel better about their bodies, because it helps to build confidence and self-esteem and I have found that women tend to save it for “best”. This makes no sense to me as I want to feel by best most of the time, as opposed to only on special occasions.
Lots of women find the control shorts a bit too hot so opt for skirts, bodies, waist whittlers and control dresses so they have options for a variety of clothing options. Check out my range of My Style Companion shape-wear on the online shop. Trust me, by combining a new well fitting bra and shape-wear, your friends will be asking you which gym you’ve joined!! Back to top
Plus size ladies should avoid heavier fabrics, textured fabrics and shiny materials as these will all make you look larger than you actually are. Avoid thick chunky knits, angora, tweeds and satin for example as they will add pounds.
In general you want to opt for darker colours as they are often more slimming but please don’t just wear all black!!! Add accessories in bright colours to add interest to your outfits and draw the eye to parts of your body which you like for example, brightly coloured cocktail rings and bangles draw attention away from the tops of the arms if this is a problem area for you. Earrings and necklaces draw the eye up to the face and away from the bust or tummy. YOU take control by where you place your accessories of where you want the eye to go to. Back to top
Patterns are often a source of debate with some stylists saying that plus size ladies should go for larger patterns and avoid small prints and vice versa. I personally think that any pattern can be worn as long it is worn in a way that will work for your figure and this is how a Style Companion can help you. The advice they give you can stop all the confusion you usually experience by giving you bespoke guidelines of what to go for and what to avoid. However some general advice would be: -
Wider horizontal stripes will draw the eye across the body width-ways therefore can give the illusion of a wider body, however thin stripes can have the opposite effect and be very slimming. Even better, mix wider stripes across the bust and shoulders with thinner strips around the waist and stomach and this will give a great hourglass effect! This usually works with most patterns if you have the larger print at the top and bottom with it thinning into a smaller print in the middle.
The key to wearing patterns and prints is to use layers and mix with block colour garments. Add a tailored jacket to break up patterns and cinch in your waist or use a long cardigan to draw the eye vertically down the body making you appear longer and slimmer. Just bear in mind if you wear a lot of any pattern, it will always add more volume to your body so it’s a good idea to break it up. Back to top
GENEROUS BUST: Ensure patterned tops have an open v neck e.g. wrap styles, halter-necks, v-necks.
PEAR SHAPE: Wear patterns and prints up top and keep the bottom half plain.
TUMMIES: Longer tops can make the tummy appear larger all over! Keep printed tops mid-belly (just below belly button) length which will 'cut' the tummy in half and minimise it.
Remember where you put a pattern on your body will attract the eye but also always consider the shape, style and fabric of a garment AND what you wear it with, as this will determine whether the outfit makes you sizes slimmer (or bigger). Back to top
Styles of Garments to Choose
TOPS & JACKETS FOR PLUS SIZE WOMEN
For any shape or size woman, if there is an area of the body that is less toned or shapely we look for garments that add structure and shape to that part of the body, so opt for well fitting tailoring and jackets which give you a waist.
¾ length cropped cardigans can be great little cover up if you don’t like your arms as they will cover the tops of your arms whilst the ¾ length sleeve and length of the garment will highlight your waist.
Look for garments that lengthen, slim and elongate your body such as v-necks, low scoop necks, vertical paneling, ruching at the waist, long trousers that fit well yet skim the leg and iron a crease down the front which will slim and lengthen your leg. Wrap dresses and tops offer a perfect solution.
Sheer sleeves and loose flowing sleeve styles such as bell sleeves will help to disguise and slim heavier arms. Sheer fabric is a great option for spring / summer and for evening-wear as it offers coverage yet still looks soft, feminine and sexy. Back to top
With a fuller bust, look for neck lines that are more open and that elongate the torso. V-necks and halternecks are always winning styles on bustier ladies, however use necklaces and scarves to break up the bust were higher necklines are involved. When looking at jackets, avoid double breasted as this will make you look wider. If you have problems getting shirts to fit you and avoid that all embarrassing “popping” of buttons, then wear a good quality cami or vest underneath the shirt in a plain colour such as white or black and just button the shirt half way. That way you will still be able to control your curves whilst looking smart and professional. Zara do a great range of high quality basic tops for less that £10 every season in every colour imaginable. They wash like a dream and are a great staple for any gals with a full bosom.
DRESSING THE LEG FOR PLUS SIZE WOMEN
Trousers should balance the fullness of the upper body if you have a generous bust therefore look for bootleg styles which will create balance in the body. Avoid square or too round toes which will stunt your legs and opt for a longer more pointed top or open shoe that reveals more of the foot. Chunkier heels, platforms and wedges will work better for you as they will be far more slimming on the leg in comparison to stilettos so steer clear from teetering about on thin heels.
Feminine styles and shapes that are 50’s inspired tend to work well for curvier figures so great pieces for your wardrobe include pencil skirts and tailored jackets. If you are a boxier sturdier shape, opt for softer fabrics and flowing lines that elongate and soften your body were as if you are more rounded look for more structured styles that will define your shape.Back to top
Fit of Clothing
Don’t beat yourself up if a garment doesn’t fit you perfectly. No matter what size women are it’s very rare that they can nip in to a shop and find something that looks like it was made to measure so don’t start blaming yourself and saying it’s because your “fat”, get defeated and storm out the shop. Simply try the next size up and if that is a little bid, take it to a tailor who will advise if it can be adjusted to fit you better. It’s far better to buy something a little big and get it made to measure rather than wearing something that looks and feels to tight.
Oversized handbags are often a great addition to a plus size wardrobe and look far better than a small insignificant bag that may look lost, so go for a bright coloured statement shopper or maxi clutch. Back to top
Plus Size Collections
I have often found these days that a lot of plus size women don’t like to spend a lot on new clothes always having in mind that they won’t be wearing them for very long because they are determined to lose weight, but consider if you have been a similar size for a few years of investing in some key capsule pieces for your wardrobe. To wear a lot of cheap fabric will cheapen your image and not to mention that cheaper materials will probably not skim or fit your body as nicely and may cling to those bits you’d rather disguise.
If you lose weight, great! You can always have your key pieces adjusted to fit your figure so there’s no point worrying about this in advance. You are better off starting to feel better about your wardrobe and image now, rather than making do until you reach your target weight, as I know so many women who have put looking and feeling good on hold for so many years, that they have forgotten how it feels to be a goddess. You deserve to feel that way so start investing in yourself.