Hey, babes! I was all set to write this post last week and then this bitch named Irma came and knocked out my power and internet for days (and Lindsey and I are so grateful to be safe and our hearts go out to those who lost so much more in this storm). I was so ready, though, because this is an installment of Ask RBF, and WE LOVE GETTING QUESTIONS FROM Y’ALL.
This particular question comes to us from our lovely reader Erica, who reached out to us on our Facebook page:
Okay, here is something I would like to see..I would like to see a realistic post about how to dress to flatter different body types. I’m a fat early 30s lady and mostly dress really casually but occasionally need to dress nicer. What is comfortable is not always flattering, and vice versa. I would be interested in ideas on what cuts/types of clothes look flattering on real bodies. I feel like most the stuff you see about this online is based around very thin women, with one slightly larger area to “avoid” but they honestly are going to look pretty thin no matter what.
Before I get into answering this question, I want to acknowledge how broad it is and how there’s no way I can give you a complete answer that doesn’t lack some form of nuance. For starters, there’s a problem with this idea we’re sold that not only are fat bodies abnormal, they’re a monolith–as though there isn’t just as much variation in fat women’s bodies as in thin or standard-size women’s bodies. There are fat women with small breasts, fat women with large breasts, fat women who are curvy and fat women who aren’t, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. For that matter, there are women who wear standard sizes but carry extra weight in certain places and don’t look like a catalogue size eight.
My point is, there are an infinite number of angles to this question, and while I know the phrase “real bodies” can be loaded (because all bodies are real), I understand the frustration of feeling like there’s no set of guidelines for a person who lives an actual life in a body that has actual idiosyncrasies.
One aspect of this problem, I think, is what you mentioned about “avoiding.” I think any time you’re advised to dress in a way that “camouflages” or “disguises” or “minimizes” a certain supposedly undesirable feature, you’re getting shitty advice. Why? Because that means that whatever you’re wearing revolves entirely around what you don’t like instead of celebrating what you do. And of course you’re going to be uncomfortable if you’re feeling like the best you can do is hide. In short: fuck that.
Instead, what’s something you like about your body? Maybe you have a fantastic rack. Maybe your shoulders have a pleasing slope. Maybe you’ve got great legs, or a bangin’ waist-to-hip ratio. Maybe you struggle to love any part of your body but you know you have beautiful eyes or great hair. Identifying what you like about yourself is the first step to dressing in a way that makes you feel good, in my opinion.
The other thing to consider is that, as you say, what is flattering is not always comfortable–although I maintain that you get to decide for yourself what is flattering. However, I find that if I feel like myself, it goes a long way to alleviating any discomfort I might feel being dressed up. (An example: I’m not a dress gal. If I’m wearing a dress, it’s hard for me to feel confident. A jumpsuit, on the other hand? A sharp-shouldered blazer? Girl. I’m ready for anything.) So if you’re also not a dress gal, you can look professional in pants. And if you are, GO FOR IT.
So with all of that said, here are a couple Polyvore sets I put together, and I’ll talk about how to vary each depending on body type:
This is simple and basically goofproof. A V-neck under a drapey blazer always looks classic, and the pants are fitted but not skintight, in order to balance out the drapiness of the blazer. The print on the pants and metallic (but flat, because comfort!) shoes make this feel bright and fresh even though you’re not showing any skin. Variations: if you don’t like a V-neck, a scoop or boat neck works just as well. More comfortable accentuating your top half? Choose a blazer that nips in at the waist or is cropped and fitted and wide-leg trousers instead.
Again, classic and endlessly variable. I like this cut because it’s slightly fitted at the waist but isn’t skintight. However, this cut tends to work best on people whose shoulders and hips are roughly proportional, or who carry their weight around the middle. (Incidentally, this isn’t me–I love a sheath but just can’t wear them.) If you’re broad in the shoulders, a fitted waist with a flared skirt can balance out those proportions. If you’re broader in the hips, something with a body-conscious cut that hugs or gently skims your hips might work best. If you’ve got cleavage you want to show off (tastefully, of course, since we’re keeping it profesh), look for a V or scoop neck. If you want to add a cardigan or jacket to the mix, and you’ve got hips, make sure it hits right at your natural waist. You might go for something longer if you’re less curvy.
And really, that’s it. As you now know, we’re big on templates, and these are really the two basics for dressing professionally, particularly if you don’t have to do it all that often. But before I go, I want to explicitly say that there aren’t really separate rules for fat bodies. That’s a lie. You’re allowed to decide what you like and what you don’t whether you’re fat or not. You’re allowed to experiment, and take risks, and be visible. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated for you than it is for thin women. This hasn’t always been true, but for the first time in maybe ever, most trends are available in plus-sizes, and you have some (although it’s still comparably limited) freedom to be creative. So start with these guidelines and find what works for you. Trust yourself; most people actually do have thoughts and opinions and preferences about clothing, but just haven’t asked themselves the relevant questions yet.
Finally, I’d like to point you in the direction of three places where you can buy cool plus-size clothes that are actually interesting:
Happy shopping! And thank you so much for writing to us, Erica. We hope this helped.
Got any burning questions for us? Know a great place to shop for plus-size clothes? Let us know on Facebook? We love you, and we’ll C U Next Tuesday!