Mae West in Go West Young Man, 1936.
Glam Gal Michelle wrote to me a few days ago, saying:
"I love reading your posts on shoes and bags, but as a plus sized woman I wondered if you could give some tips on how women who aren't stick thin can be glamorous and wear the latest trends without looking awkward." (quoted with permission)
Thanks for writing Michelle. People come in all shapes and sizes, and I believe you can be glam at any size. It seems most of the designers don't agree — from what I've seen, women who are size 16 and above are, for the most part, being ignored. Beautiful clothes in flattering styles are hard to find, and when found, devilishly pricey. We can only hope that this will change.
I'll run through my basic tips and then post specific Glam Clothes for "women who aren't stick thin." You most likely know most or all of these already, so please don't feel I'm trying to be patronizing, and skip ahead.
I've dressed many plus sized women and I have a few guidelines I follow. They are not rules as such, and different things work on different people, but the basic things to keep in mind are:
1. Shapeless Bad, Tailored Good:
The basic T-shape is not forgiving on most. Choose clothes which are cut in such a way as to accentuate or give an illusion of a waist and the hourglass shape. Other good shapes are the empire waist, the faux-wrap waist, and some (if not all) belted clothes.
Again, avoid the basic round T-shirt neckline. At all costs, avoid turtlenecks. Square neck, V-neck, and Scoop neck are better options. A good scarf under your coat will serve for the same warmth as a turtleneck.
3. Sleeve Types: Most of the time, unless your arms are toned, sleeveless is not the best choice. A cap-sleeve can be even more tricky. I remember Susannah from the BBC version of What Not to Wear once referring to it as "a cap on your fat" — rude, but poignant (I stopped wearing cap sleeves right then and there). I think the cap sleeve looks smashing on twigs and tennis champions, but that's about it. Any of the Fall 2007 sleeves that are not too tight and are elbow-length or longer will look much better.
4. Tapered bad, Straight Good.
In pants, avoid tapered legs, because they accentuate hips; bell-bottoms can give a general impression of wideness. Straight-leg trousers and jeans look best. Choose pants without front pleating (optimally no front pockets either) to keep from adding volume around the tummy area. Also, avoid cuffed pants if you are shorter.
5. Flats Bad, Heels Good:
Always wear a heel, even the smallest bit of heel. I'm not saying you have to wear 4" stilettos — wear 1.5" wide heels even, or wedges. Heels always elongate the whole line of sight and make you look thinner, no matter what your weight.
6. Prints and colors:
Yes, black is slimming, it's a fact, but few of us can wear black 24/7 and not get bored. In colors, keep away from pastels — all pastels. "Baby colors" are a No. Strong, bright colors are great, as are many of the earth tones. In prints, don't go too large, too colorful, too loud. Small patterns can be great — judge on a case by case basis. Never ever touch anything with a horizontal stripe — the optical illusion makes anything inside a horiz stripe appear wider.
7. Materials / Fabrics:
Try to avoid man-made materials as much as possible. Polyester has a tendency to cling. Also, careful with jersey materials — they can easily go shapeless and stretch, neither of which is good. Try to be careful with anything shiny — if you want to go metallic, opt for a darker sheen like gunmetal or bronze over light silvers and golds. Same with satiny fabrics. A great way to go metallic with the fall trends is to have a pretty neutral canvas in clothes, and opt for metallic accessories, jewelry, handbags, shoes.
OK, let's get to the actual clothes. These picks are all from Macy's, Nordstrom's, Bloomingdale's, Saks, and Neiman's, but you can apply the basic principles to any store you like to shop.