3 silhouette hacks for women sizes 44 and up!
Do you think of yourself as plus size, big, or curvy? Check out my 3 outfit styling tips that will take your wardrobe to the next level, make the mirror your best friend, and inspire you to be every shade of fabulous! Read through to the end to catch my tips for plus size shopping in stores in Brussels and online!
I hate the title of this post! Seriously, as Stylist and Personal Shopper, it does NOT represent the way I think about women and their bodies at all. But I needed to get your attention so you’d read what I’m about to say. Besides, I promised a lot of female clients and friends I’d be writing something about “plus size” fashion, so there you have it:)
Ladies, there is no such thing as a specific set of outfit styling hacks for “curvy” women only! I have developed my very own look books with modern-day silhouettes for every type of body shape, like apple, pear, rectangle, hourglass, and inversed triangle. But I do not have a separate look book for women size 44 and up.
Why not? Because think about it: that would be totally absurd!
First of all, what is “curvy”? Yeah, go ahead, define it for me please. Is a woman “curvy” beyond size 40, 44, or 48 (Belgian sizing)? And who’s to say? Who’s gonna be the judge of that? Anna Wintour, Instagram? Better not… That is why I’ll be using quotation marks all throughout this blog post when I refer to “bigger”, “curvy” and “plus size”.
Secondly, the right outfit for your silhouette is not about size, but about proportion. Every one of us, whether skinny, robust, curvy, tall or petite, has a unique body shape, a unique distribution of body weight, volume and curves. That specific proportion, and not our weight, is what ultimately determines what silhouettes bring out our true wow-factor.
I remember Joanna (fictitious name to protect her privacy). When we first talked about what sessions to add to her styling journey, she felt she wouldn’t be needing body shape analysis. “I guess that’s more for women who are overweight, right?”, she said. Ironically, of all people, it was Joanna who turned out to have her biggest aha-moment when I insisted on a different shape of trousers to visually balance out her silhouette. You see, the eye always looks for balance. That is how we are naturally wired to perceive beauty. Not only bigger, but also smaller-sized bodies benefit from a little balancing effort.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to share with you 3 outfit styling tips that will take every woman’s wardrobe to the next level. They are valid for all women, of all shapes and sizes. However, in honour of all my gorgeous, self-proclaimed “plus size” clients and friends, I’ll only be using “curvy” photos in this blog post to illustrate my point.
1. A pear is not an apple!
In my professional experience, most of the time, “bigger” women automatically categorize themselves in the apple body shape category. They see my prototype pictures with rounder, fuller shapes and they instantly go “oh yeah, that’s me right there!”.
Now ladies, even though it is perfectly possibly that you fall into the apple category, you could just as well be any of the other silhouettes, such as hourglass, inverted triangle, or pear. Again, it is about how your weight is distributed, not about the weight itself.
The problem is, if you wear the outfits that are most appropriate for an apple-shaped body, while you are pear-shaped (just to name a common mistake), you’re likely doing the exact opposite of what is right for you.
Take my client Flora (fictitious name again). When I first saw her, she looked apple-shaped. Size 46-48, she was wearing long, O-shaped, tent-like layers in an attempt to cover up and hide herself. But with a pear silhouette underneath, she really only ended up looking bigger and bulkier all-round.
Just to prove my point, let me show you a couple of things that pear-shaped women should be doing differently than their apple-shaped girlfriends.
Case in point 1: Pear-shaped women look fabulous in short wrap-tops or tops with a high-waist definition that sit on the hipbone, showing the beautiful curvy hips underneath.
The same tops are very unflattering on apple-shaped bodies, emphasizing the tummy area, while making the hips look disproportionately thin in comparison.
Apple-shaped women look a lot better in all sorts of longer tops that lightly skim the tummy area and give extra volume right where it’s needed around the hips and buttocks. A-line shapes, wrap-tops, and peplum waists are great for that, just to name a few.
Case in point 2: The most flattering trousers for pear-shaped women are very high-waist trousers, with a top tucked inside. They lengthen the legs for a long, lean silhouette, show off the waist at its tiniest point (usually right underneath the bust), and embrace all your lovely curves.
If you try to do the same on apple-shaped women, it doesn’t work. High-rise trousers with a top tucked inside make the tummy stand out, flatten out the buttocks, and emphasize the lack of curves around the hips.
Indeed, apple shaped women look much better in medium- to low-rise trousers, skinny or straight, combined with an A-line top or cardigan that falls below the hipline. It’s a great way to add volume and curves around the hips and buttocks.
You see? These are just 2 examples of how crucially different your outfit choices will be depending on your morphology. Girlfriends, you really want to take a good look in that mirror and ask yourself how to best balance out your shape.
Careful though, I gave the example of apples and pears here, but plenty of you are neither. You could be hourglass, inverted triangle, rectangle, or anywhere in between. Each body type comes with it's specific set of do's and don'ts. If you need my help, you’ll know where to find me:)
2. Stop hiding your flaws! Focus on your assets instead!
Sometimes we get so obsessed about one or other part of our body, that we forget about all the good bits. All that time and energy spent on trying to hide our flaws, when all we have to do is play up our assets.
So ladies, you have a bit of a tummy? Self-conscious about your curvy hips? How about showing off your fabulous legs, your amazing skin, your sassy cleavage (a little bit goes a long way ladies…), your small waist, your slender arms, or your beautiful neckline?
Seriously, just attract my eye’s attention elsewhere, and stop fretting about the rest. Believe me, it’s a great way to start the day on a positive note!
3. Stripes are not the only way to lengthen your silhouette!
Chances are, if you consider yourself “plus size”, you don’t mind the idea of outfits that give you a longer, leaner silhouette. Without becoming overly obsessed about this, you can easily adopt a trick or two that will instantly lengthen your look.
I’m pretty sure you are all familiar with the effect of vertical stripes as opposed to horizontal ones. Horizontal stripes accentuate your width, while vertical ones accentuate your length. Obviously, we like the latter ones.
But let’s take this concept a notch up. It’s not just stripes that create verticality. You can very easily create a vertical lengthening and slimming effect through smart layering.
If you wear a top-to-bottom, single-colour outfit underneath an open cardigan, blazer, kimono, or shirt, your outfit will be made of vertical lines. It can be as simple as that!
Voilà les filles, those where my 3 outfit tips for today. I’ve clearly got plenty more where that’s coming from, but let’s take it one step at a time. This should give you a head-start at styling your outfits better with your unique body type in mind.
I know what some of you are thinking though. You’re thinking "This is all well and good, but where do I shop for my size?"
I want to add a quick word about that, because let’s be honest, Brussels is not exactly the most inclusive shopping experience, is it?
Personally, for anything size 44 and up, I like to take my clients to H&M. They go up to size 48 in stores, but you can scan the item and order up to size XXL or 50 in the standard collection. Unfortunately, their curvy collection is only available online, up to size 4XL / 58. And with H&M’s typical hit and miss sizing, that can be quite the endeavour.
COS sizing is a bit better, and they have great customer service, but their oversized scandi silhouettes are not for everyone. I love Monki’s inclusive jeans collection, in stores up to size 40. And Femme Like You is my go-to reference for inclusive lingerie in all styles and prices in Brussels.
Other than that, depending on the type of garment, you may find your fit in Uniqlo, Esprit, and Mango, but it’s not guaranteed. Kiabi and C&A go into the higher size ranges, but their styles tend to be grandma-like and cheap-looking. More up-scale and high-end, there is Mayerline, Gerard Darel, and Marina Rinaldi.
And sadly, that's it. That’s about as far as “plus size” shopping goes in stores in Brussels.
Online, I mostly recommend Bonprix, La Redoute, and Zalando (with brands like Only, Zizzi, Mango, Vero Moda, MS mode, and Kaffe Curve). For higher-end, I LOVE Reformation and Riani Fashion. UK brands tailor to “plus size” ten times better than their European counterparts, but with Brexit there is always that doubt about customs. My personal favourites are ASOS, Evans, Yours Clothing, Lovedrobe, and Navabi (you can order from their German site).
It is obvious to me that every store should cater to every woman. Perhaps one day they will. In the meantime, even though I am a size 36, I am just as offended and frustrated about this as you are. But girlfriends, don’t let it get to you, and always remember: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE FABULOUS!
Last but not least, if you can't figure out what cuts and silhouettes are best for you, I can help! I can be your Style Coach and Personal Shopper in Brussels.
I offer a whole range of hands-on styling sessions to help you explore, test new grounds, and surprise yourself. It’s such a powerful, hands-on way of embracing your beauty, getting rid of self-limiting beliefs, and standing up for yourself.