Choosing clothes for a plus-size body shouldn't be any more difficult than choosing clothes for a smaller-size physique. And, while the times are a-changin' with more size options than ever before, some of those clothes out there haven't quite caught up with what the full-figured consumer actually wants.
In the interest of giving you a head start on what works and what doesn't, check out this list of what design elements to avoid. Actually, don't just avoid them. Run as fast as you can away from them, and go put on something fabulous.
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These are a horrible throwback to late-'80s garment production techniques, when any good apparel manufacturer had a special machine that made those smooth-in-the-front, bunched-up-elastic-in-the-back waistbands. They were designed to fit everyone, but they ended up fitting no one. (Isn't that always the way it works?) If you want a baggy derriere, a saggy waistline, and acres of fabric swimming around the back of your thighs, go ahead, and wear the heck out of those babies. A special mention must go to waistbands with elastic stretching around from the back, with just a tiny panel of smooth waistband in front. So much hideousness in just one feature.
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Menswear pieces, like pantsuits, button-downs, hoodies, and crewneck tees can be stunning — when tailored properly for the female shape. Try an actual men's T-shirt, though, and you'll soon see that men's clothing is designed for men's bodies. And, men tend to not have breasts, hips, and bottoms. Okay, technically they do, but they're definitely not the same as ours.
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Some plus-size-department buyers seem to think that what their customers really want in a garment is more — more sparkle, more crinkle, more color, more print — sometimes all on the same item. They gravitate to studs, neon stripes, leopard print, and maybe even some fringe. The end result? A migraine in garment form, hanging in your closet.
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Most designers of plus-size clothing understand fit, often because they themselves are fuller figured. But, some don't. And, those that don't get it will make pieces with strange proportions: never-ending sleeves, baggy crotches, sloppy cuffs, saggy necklines, and droopy shoulders. Even the best tailor can only do so much. A minor tweak is fine, but a major overhaul isn't worth it.
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This really only applies to pieces worn on or near the armpit area. Now, there's nothing wrong with man-made fibers. A bit of stretch can give a great drape or a snug but comfy fit, and a touch of polyester can help avoid wrinkles, stains and fading. But, too much of the synthetic stuff can feel horrible against your skin. It will certainly make you hot and sweaty, and after a while, it can even start to smell. Avoid polyester on your tops, dresses, and other garments worn above the hips, and your closet — and nose — will thank you.
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This rule actually applies to everyone. Straining over the bust, collapsing at the shoulders, and puckering at the armhole are all signs that a piece doesn't fit. The best way to avoid this issue is to try everything on, and get to know your local tailor. Also, keep in mind: If the garment looks bad on the model, it's going to look even worse in real life. If all the pinning, fluffing, and primping that goes on at every photo shoot, runway show, and red-carpet event can't keep a garment from looking terrible on the professional, it's unlikely to look any better on you.
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In other words, if a design is so ugly, you can't imagine it ever being sold in a straight-size, why settle for it in a plus-size? Learn to trust your eye. If a piece looks off, tortured, unbalanced, or trying-too-hard (or not at all), back away from it at high speed. You know there are super-fab pieces out there in your size, so go grab some of those instead — you deserve it.