Styling for Plus Sized Women
I am going to be completely open here, and admit right off that bat that Tim Gunn has got to be my number hero in the fashion industry. Going all the way back to my senior year of high school and watching him on the very first season of Project Runway, I was hooked. He was so down to Earth, and intelligent, and knew what the hell he was talking about all the time. At least that was my teenage awestruck impression of him. Fast forward a decade later, and he was making splashes in the fashion industry for having the audacity to call out industry leaders for not having good enough options for women larger than a size 12. The initial reaction from the industry might have been a lot of eyerolling, but the truth was he was right, and my size 14 butt knew it. While the industry took its sweet time in finally getting around to doing something about it, I was busy eating up any and all tips he had to dressing my body up to be as stylish as I could be, and here are some of the take-aways that I still use today:
The goal here is draw the eye up vertically to make the body appear taller. You can do this by either literally putting on a vertical line pattern, or you can use layering and color continuation to trick the eye to see vertically. Suits are a great way to do this, and can be done with pants or skirts. The continuation of the single color from the bottom to the top makes the eye focus vertically. You can also accentuate this effect by leaving the top blazer open and leaving your undershirt as a literal line from your waist to your neckline. And if you are going with a skirt, you can extend beyond the hemline by pairing with similar colored tights/nylons and shoes. Don’t make yourself one color block blob though, ensure you are breaking some of the color up with accessories, patterns, and textures. Which brings us to:
Don’t be afraid to stray away from black. As larger women we are often bombarded with reminders that black is thinning, but while that may be true, it can also be very boring. Don’t be afraid of colors and patterns, especially jewel colors, as Mr. Gunn likes to point out that too much pastel can easily make you appear washed out. Also, by mindful of the size of the pattern. You don’t want it to be too small or too large. You want something fun without looking childish or like a piece of furniture as Mr. Gunn would say.
Also, don’t be afraid of horizontal line patterns either. There are ways to wear any design in flattering ways by being mindful of how it’s fitting with other pieces, draping your body, and the overall proportion it is of your whole outfit.
And speaking of proportions, you need to be very careful of where lines and cuts in your outfit are actually landing on your body. I personally go for either a cut below or above the hips, as I have found that wearing an outfit that cuts my body in half also tends to draw the eye out horizontally, and completely interrupts any vertical illusions I am trying to make happen. I like to think about my body in thirds, and make outfit choices around how everything is going to hit and fit for each third of my body.
My final tip is to always accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! Obviously, there is a limit to everything, but the more glam and interest you can add to an outfit, the better. Not only does it make the outfit look finished and purposefully put together, but by having other things to catch your eye, you automatically end up drawing attention away from your least favorite areas.
And after all that it’s important to remember that you can break any rule you want. The goal is look good and feel good, so any rule you need to break or bend to get there is totally okay, and what makes you unique!