Flattering Styles for Curvy Women
Since taking this position, I’ve been a lot more in tune with what people wear, why they wear it and HOW they wear it. It’s part of why I love people watching so much. Style and fashion reflect the true side of a person’s personality. It’s why you hear statements, such as “The first impression you make is not the words you speak.” In addition, I’ve also learned to be more in tune with my tastes, what looks flattering on me and what looks better on the hanger. It’s taken me decades to become comfortable enough with my body that I can accept that some fabrics, cuts and colors are all WRONG for me and, to help save myself from well, myself, I also add in I am saving money by not buying that item.
Let’s take a look at my own dimensions. I’m 5’6, have shorter legs, a longer torso, a tiny waist, wear a size 4-6 pant (depending on cut), have a butt and hips and have a small chest – this puts me on the small on top, heavier on the bottom category or “curvy”.
According to dictionary.com, curvy, or “curvaceous“, means: (of a woman) having a well-shaped figure with voluptuous curves. Origin: 1935–40, Americanism. It’s no accident that this term was coined then, as fashion went from shapless flapper dresses and other frocks to feminine-flattering silhouettes. Designers used fabrics, designed to hug the body and accentuate the women’s most feminine assets, including waist, hips and bust line. I believe I would have fared well in that era.
But, considering we are still living in a day and age where there is constant scrutiny on not just the dress size but how it looks on a woman, choosing the right outfit becomes more complicated. My constant concerns when I dress include poorly fitting bras that give the appearance of backfat, the appearance of a muffin top (depending on pant) and will my hips stick out TOO much if the clothing is too tight. It doesn’t mean I look like this, it’s just my awareness for such detriments.
Below is a mini guide to what I think works for women like me. I am in no way claiming to be the utmost authority on dressing for your body type however, having had this body for 31 years, I can at least express an opinion.
Fabrics and Cuts
All too often, I see women who head out on the town wearing tight-fitting lycra dresses. According to a statistic I heard years ago, only 2% of the population can actually WEAR spandex. This means that if there are 300 million Americans, only 6,000,000 of us (or 1 in 50) can even entertain that privilege. Still, I am amazed at the staggering number of women that think it is ok. Am I being harsh? Maybe but let’s be real here. No woman, no matter her confidence level, wants to be talked about in a negative manner, EVER. And, what amazes me further is that she will be out with friends who LET her leave the confines of a more solitary environment looking that way. Here are some of the other major “no-nos” of curvaceous women:
1. Tight-fitting pants that have a low waist, “uncomplimented” with a tight top - this equates to muffin top
2. Dresses made for non-curvaceous women that get “hung up” on your buttocks region – this includes any sort of lycra, jersey material, rayon, satin or silk that is not rusched
3. Dresses flattering from the front but the design does not carry to the back, leaving your backside “exposed”
4. Skirts and shorts that are too short – no one likes to cellulite or big legs
5. Short, cuvy women who wear flats almost anywhere, other than on a quick trip out, or within the confines of their own home
6. Skinny jeans
7. T-shirts as long as nightgowns, paired with leggings – you get the same result as number 3
.. and I am sure this list can go on.
Instead, here are my guidelines of what works and HOW you can feel sexy.
1. I cannot say it enough – RUSCHED - it will become your best friend. Women with hips need to EMBRACE this design wonder. Not only will it minimize the appearance of your curves, it also adds a feminine flair to your outfit, deeming you not just “curvaceous” but “sexy” too! The most important thing to note about rusched bottoms is that this particular design needs to be completely around the garment. In a previous post, I talked about a downright flattering skirt from Betsey Johnson. She has taken the rusched design, added a little spanish diagonal flare with ruffle at the bottom voila! The PERFECT skirt!
2. Diagonal cuts (assymetrical). Let’s face it – small top and a larger bottom half is not very symmetrical. Diagonal cuts help compliment this, especially the lower half of your body. I love dresses that remind me of the show Tarzan. A miniskirt-length on one side and a cocktail-length on the other shows elegance, class and sexiness. The same can go for assymetrical tops too – bearing one shoulder more than the other is never a bad thing. It helps take the focus away from some of your “assets”.
3. Ballooned skirts and dresses. The good news is that this style is flattering on no one but everyone can wear it. In my previous post about shopping for work wear, I bought a work dress that is comprised of a white workblouse, white cotton camisole, black elastic wasitband and a grey pocketed skirt. It all but HID all the assests I’m still trying to be proud of AND it was comfortable.
4. Pants. One of the most evil things to shop for. My inseam is a 30″, meaning I’m too tall for petites and too short for regular sizes. My tailor is my best friend. I tend to go for cool, breathable fabrics that accentuate the right areas and fall to my shoes in a flattering way. For those with hips and a smaller waist, I suggest high-waisted pants in a polyester/rayon blend (those at affordable prices) or silk (at higher prices). Buying cotton fabrics tend to look like leggings and at work, it’s unacceptable. Or, if you are more comfortable with a lower waist, make sure they sit at your hips. Go with the smaller inseam but make sure to get fit that does not give you the appearance of a muffin top – that little pudge that will appear when the waistband is too tight. This is a great style for wool or tweed. Also, pay attention to your back side. The most flattering pants do not sag in the butt region but are not so tight that the seam is hanging on for dear life. A way to measure is that right where your backside meets your thigh, there should be a crease in the pant when you walk. When standing, the pants should hang straight down around your thighs, not bulging like tights.
As for pant legs – think about a wider flare leg. Women that get peg-legged or stovepipe pants have given up – it’s not an appropriate style. Ever. Wider flare legs give a little more motion to your pants and take away from the curvy areas. Or, if you choose, go for a bootcut pant. When I went on my recent shopping trip – I bought one of each.
5. Jeans. This is my second worst thing to try on. It took me YEARS to find the right designer that suited me. Jeans have become a statement and with so many choices, it’s downright difficult. I, personally, never skimp on price with the right jeans. I stay true to True Religion (Joey) and Hudson. Both have flattering pockets that are just the right size and they literally will give the appearance of a smaller backside. I can’t say they are both the greatest on reducing the appearance of “muffin tops” but for number 6, you will see how to reduce that. As far as size, both are in Euro sizes. I am a 28 and am not ashamed of it – remember to get something that is just a wee bit too tight at first because we all know that once you break them in, they will stretch just enough that they might be too big. But, with all this in mind…. stick with a leg that FLARES towards the bottom.
6. Tops – Depending on how I feel, I tend to go for something a bit more loose more days of the week. This does not mean I’m wearing bags – it just simply means that if I feel bloated, I tend to hide it. Within the last year, I’ve seen too many designers opt for creating long tees that do not look good on anyone other than skinny women (from all angles). For us, we need to stick with tops that minimize. Therefore, rusched designs that are tight enough in the right areas can be acceptable, if the length is complimentary to the ratio between your torso and your hips or ruffled designs that minimize a pooch in the front and fall just above your derriere in the back. I also like the babydoll top, or any other top that flares or balloons, ever so slightly around your mid-region. Pairing it with a slightly hugging sweater and you have a winner of an outfit!
7. Shoes – at my height, flats are bad. At 5’8 and above – not so bad. If you have ever seen a regular, curvy person in flats, skinny jeans and an elongated tee, it shows everything wrong with what styles are being produced today. And, it shows every “curve” on that person’s body. I love a good heel – pumps, open-toed or gladiators. Heels add a good 3-4 inches on you, giving you the appearance of longer, leaner legs.
8. Belting it out – Should you be so inclined to show off some of your curves – work with belts. No, I’m not talking about plain old boring belts. There are only two kinds women like us can work with: skinny and thick. Also, there are only two ways to wear them – on the highest part of the waist or way low on the hip. Placing the belt at the right level is important, as it accentuates two entirely different areas of the body.
Another important factor to wearing the right outfit is color. I have olive skin that becomes fairer in the winter, dark eyes/eyebrows and dark hair. The colors that look best on me are black, white, olive, deep purple, royal blue, hot pink, salmon, mustard yellow (as I just found out), brown and a camel color of sorts. The only way to truly know your colors is to shop with a friend, pick the colors you think would work (and then some that are outside of your comfort zone) and get a second opinion. Chances are, they will know better than you.
Pattered fabrics can get tricky – especially in the case of dresses, such as Diane von Furstenberg’s. Some color palettes may have some complimentary colors paired with uncomplimentary colors – it’s all in what the dominant color is. I tend to love a gray and white or black and white pinstripe or large black and white print. I stay away from flowers, paisleys or anything that looks like it came from a rorsach test or gives others a headache. And remember – horizontal stripes are NEVER ok.
Invest in restrictive undergarments. It doesn’t necessarily have to be SPANX, which I find cuts off too much at the waist. They’ve become a large part of the intimates departments in all department stores.
Lastly – NEVER and I mean NEVER buy something a size too small because you have a goal to lose that weight. It’s money lost and you will never feelt good about it. Go with what is flattering now – there will always be opportunities in the future to shop again :)
I hope this mini guide has been helpful in some way. Below are some complete (quite basic) outfits to put together, that I think work for curvaceous women. Happy shopping!
1. Black rusched skirt (should sit higher on your waist line), white cotton tank top (or any color) tucked into the skirt, chunky necklace that falls below bust line, small earring studs, complimentary heels, cocktail ring
2. Flared-leg jeans, ruffled top, fitted cardigan, heels/boots, single long-chained necklace, chandelier earrings
3. Black pants, men’s work shirt (women cut), large belt at higher spot on waist line, complimentary heels
4. Pinstripe pants, plain tank/tee, fitted cardigan, skinny belt (goes over tank/tee, not cardigan), complimentary heels