Today’s post is written by Tina Adams of Tina+Rebecca Wardrobe Consultants.


Are you more Marilyn Monroe curvaceous than Slavic model super-skinny?  More cellulite under your white jeans than slinky smooth legs?  Oh good!  You’re a real person!

fashion for the average sized woman

You are about to discover some really great news and receive some life-changing tips for how to dress as a plus-sized, full-figured woman.  First the good news.  You are normal.  Let’s be frank.  The average fashion model is 5′ 10″, 115 pounds and at most a size a 4.  This is why you have a difficult time finding clothes that fit when you shop. Keep reading…

The average American woman is 5′ 4″, 164 pounds, and a size 14.  In fact, over 50% of women in this country wear a size 14 or larger.

fashion for the average sized woman

Ava Gardner, what a beautiful woman whose curves were embraced by both the men and women of her day.

So why do you have such a hard time finding clothes that fit you?  Because most designers use the fit model’s measurements for their clothes, which, not coincidentally, do not look good on most women.  You, as well, know they don’t, and have likley all but lost hope in finding clothes you love that you feel confident wearing.  Well, we are here to tell you that in our business, we dress women like you every day!  And they tell us that once we have changed their wardrobes, people inevitably bombard them with comments like, “have you lost weight” and “you look so beautiful.”

The Queen of the Everyday Woman, Oprah.

What is our secret? Create balance and proportion with your clothes to give you the hourglass shape nature may not have given you.

First, the architecture: let’s get the undergarments correct.  Suck-you-in shapewear has come a long way since the days of the “I can barely breathe, much less concentrate enough to carry on cocktail conversation” girdles of our mothers’ generation. Today it is less about heavy-duty sucking in and more about smoothing.  If you are still wearing cotton undergarments, we hate to break it to you, but they have to go.  Without man-made fabrics like spandex and lycra, your camisoles and panties will stretch out and create more volume and ripples under your clothes.  Not attractive.

So, start with a back-smoothing bra.  Soma makes a good one:

fashion for the average sized woman

So does Shapeeze:

Next, add a  camisole. Under everything, even t-shirts. Yes, we’re saying put on a bra, then a cami (without a shelf bra), then your top or sweater, etc. Rebecca and I love the camisoles from Blush Boutique in Nashville (The Hill Place – Belle Meade). They are long enough to stay tucked in plus they have a nice neckline that can peak out from beneath shirts and not look like your underwear is showing.

Then move on to biker shorts, which work under pants, skirts or dresses. Bare Necessities makes a great one that smoothes the tummy and rear, plus no more chaffing thighs under dresses!


We also like Magic Knickers.

Now, let’s move on the the right clothes:  If you are top-heavy (broad shoulders, buxom, no bum), then your best friend is a deep v-neck to draw the eye inward, and a full skirt (but not too full) to balance the shoulders.  Avoid double-breasted tops like the plague.

Ruth Jones wearing a plunging neckline (with a brilliant fabric insert to hide cleavage) and full skirt – this is a perfect choice to accentuate her waist and balance her shoulders. No ruffles at the neck or shoulders – it will overpower your bust!

A high neck and cut-away shoulders are never good choices if you are top-heavy.

If you are full-figured with a thick waist, your best friend is a defined waistline to create an hourglass. Similar to our double-breasted caveat, also avoid empire waists, long skirts and long dresses like the plague. We need to see that you have legs and ankles! The next two photos of Queen Latifah are perfect examples of what we’re talking about.

Queen Latifah – The dress is cinched in at her natural waist, defining an hourglass shape. She is showing skin in all the right places (i.e. her clavicle, forearms, and legs) without being inappropriate for her age or shape.

Queen Latifah – This dress does not work because she appears to have no waist, a disproportionate bust line and no legs!

If you are bottom-heavy, keep the line long by choosing a monochrome tone (i.e. all one color with slim-cut pieces) to elongate and slim your frame.  Choose fitted jackets with peplums that hit well above your widest point.  You can choose structured shoulders and slightly puffy sleeves to balance out your larger bottom half.  Your best friend is a bootcut pant.  And another caution: avoid tapered pants like the plague.

Best Tip: buy for the largest/hardest to fit part of your body, then ALTER to fit the rest.

(Note: the following suggestions do not have links for purchase. They are merely suggestions of the types of clothing to buy or avoid.)

This Tahari suit is well-proportioned for the average sized woman.

You can wear white pants! Even though this breaks the rule we just gave you (to wear monotone), this works! Love the color blocking (very on-trend) and the longish top with white (gasp!) pants on a plus size woman! What makes it work is that the top is belted at the waist and the pants are fitted through the hip and thigh, and wider at the ankles.

This would be a noooo – pleats at the waist add volume at the, you guessed it, waist. Plus they’re tackis, I mean khakis!

This is a great choice – a wrap top that hits at the waist, with cap sleeves. If you have flabby arms, putting a full sleeve over them makes them appear fuller. Banana Republic often stocks wrap blouses.

Not only does the huge pattern enlarge her frame overall, but the full sleeves and full bodice do too.

If you don’t like to show your arms, choose a tank top with a lightweight sweater over it for the hot summer. Eileen Fisher makes great lightweight summer sweaters.

A feminine A-Line skirt for the summer balances your wider berth. Just make sure the waistline hits at your waist, not your hips.

The biggest mistake we see is this:  in an effort to hide features women are self-conscious about, they add volume and layers.  Case in point: big stomach + baby-doll or empire tops = bigger belly.

This is not a good choice because the empire blouse hits at the ribcage, creating a long torso, and the skirt creates a large rectangle with no waist, no shape.

Best Tip: buy for the largest/hardest to fit part of your body, then ALTER to fit the rest.

Best hot weather outfit = v neck tee in a body skimming fabric (not clingy) and either Bermuda shorts or a knee-length skirt fitted through the hips and with a slight flounce around the knees, or a bias cut.

J.McLaughlin, Hill Center – Green Hills, has great Bermuda shorts and skirts.  You can also try – just make sure they aren’t too juvenile!

Now, I just have to throw this outfit in – as it’s wrong in every way – and many fall into this outfit trap:

Wrong in every way: the puffy sleeve, the capri, the ankle strap.

Now, for a game of Who’s Wearing it Best?

Well, I think it’s clear who the winner is here.  Sorry Emma, Angie and Hil…the winner is Jessica Biel, in the bootcut pants (second from left), which are both leg-lengthening AND slimming. We know this is a shocker if you’re new to our Tina + Rebecca philosophy, what with the skinny pant and the scrunched-up ankle pant all the rage this season. If you read our T + R blog, you’re probably rolling your eyes because we are preaching the wonders AGAIN of the white bootcut jean. What can we say? They are simply the chicest choice for anyone, no matter your age or shape.

Now, for the fail-proof outfit, the wrap dress.

A few more pointers:

  • big bum:  choose pants without pocket details (no flap pockets, no bedazzling, no contrasting stitching) and with a slanted yoke
  • big tummy:  choose mid-rise or high-rise pant,  plus extra-wide waistband to prevent muffin top
  • no whiskering on your jeans (widens thighs)
  • no cuffs on your pants (shortens legs)
  • no cargo pockets (adds volume)
  • And, for those who always ask, the best swimsuit for a full-figured woman is a swimdress.

The Carol Wior Twist Front Bandeau swim dress: dark color, sweetheart neckline, ruching across the waist and stomach, skirt

For another great option click here: also try and for great suits.

Thanks, Tina!  


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