It seems simple to classify clothing as either straight- or plus-size. One refers to styles available in sizes below a 16, as plus-size clothing designer and pattern-maker Trudy Hanson explains, and the other covers those above. It's placing actual women under those umbrella terms that just doesn't work for us, and with the plus-purchasing population dominating 67% of the market in 2013, according to Business Insider, there's no way that group can be defined by a single physical descriptor.
So, we’re tossing it aside, in favor of full-figure style tips that take women’s unique sets of curves into account.
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The task of dressing for your body type — pear or hourglass, for example — requires a slightly different approach when it comes to styling from the plus-size department. “For us, it is about choice,” Evans’ head of design Rebecca Vann Reicher says. “If you are plus-size you still want to follow trends.” With her help, doing so is as easy as finding flattering silhouettes and styling tricks tailored to your type.
In the spirit of offering as many sartorial choices as possible, we’ve also plotted out three different approaches for every curvy shape. “It's fine and dandy to know and use the classic dressing tricks, which are all really designed to give the wearer a more traditional hourglass silhouette,” Hanson adds, "but the 21st-century girl often wants to dress in a more directional, high-fashion, or personal way." With this in mind, we separated style moves into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels — creating more daring choices along with a few easy and personalized ways to flaunt your shape.
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Hourglass
The hourglass woman's hips and bust are full, and her waist is naturally slimmer. Along with pear, this is one of the most common plus-size body types, Vann Reicher tells us.
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Beginner
As Hanson explains, hourglass-shaped women “tend to go for a retro look,” which makes perfect sense. As with a fit-and-flare dress, the silhouette exactly mimics yours. There is full coverage for your curves, and a subtle accent at the waist for definition.
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Intermediate
Further emphasize your curves in a peplum top. The flared waistline will enhance the proportions between your slim waist and more ample hips.
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Advanced
For the most enhanced version of your shape, go for a sexy, body-hugging option. “If you are an hourglass shape you can totally wear body-con this party season,” Vann Reicher says. “It accentuates the hips and bust.” We love the hourglass shape of this design; it will take your own to epic proportions.
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Busty
Just like the straight-size version, a plus-size busty woman’s largest measurement is across her chest. Her hips and midsection may be curvy, but on a smaller scale.
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The Beginner
The V-neck top can be daring or demure, depending on how low you dip. Either way, it's a busty girl's staple. At its most extreme it can be a cleavage-boosting cut, but a small V can also help elongate your neckline and actually minimize your top.
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The Intermediate
Busty women often have to deal with the sack-of-potatoes problem (clothing that fits in the bust and hangs loose everywhere else). This waist-cinching dress will help highlight your upper body by slimming the middle with its knotted detail.
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The Advanced
Vann Reicher suggests that high necklines will draw the attention upward on a busty frame, so take it to the extreme and opt for a turtleneck. In general, this style will emphasize your top; this specific one does that double-time with the V-shaped zipper detail.
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The Apple
Like its namesake fruit, the apple body type's widest measurement is in the middle. Her shoulders, hips, and legs are slimmer in proportion.
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The Beginner
The tunic top is an easy choice for anyone who wants something that won't cling to her middle. For the apple-shaped who prefer to minimize, it’s an essential.
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The Intermediate
Short sheath dresses work amazingly for a figure like yours. While the straight-lined cut plays down the proportions of your middle, the short (like, short) hemline also brings the spotlight to your great legs.
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The Advanced
If you’re looking to truly emphasize your apple shape, go with a slim pant. Pair it with an extremely oversized tunic — one even more dramatic than the beginner move. This kind of dramatic juxtaposition plays up your proportions in a more editorial way, Hanson recommends.
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The Pear
“The pear shape is a classic plus-size shape,” Hanson tells us. As your most prominent physical attributes are your hips and butt, you have the option to balance your derrière with the rest of your bod or truly flaunt what ya got. Both options, ahead.
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The Beginner
“Jeans can be tricky, as a true Pear could be a U.S. size 12 on the waist but a 14 on the hip,” explains Evans' head designer. While she recommends her own brand of denim that “sits higher on the waist and are more generous around the hips and thighs,” keep your eyes open for similar styles that provide support and stretch around your largest measurements.
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The Intermediate
Sometimes dressing for your body type is not about minimizing your largest proportion, but playing up your smallest one. In this case, the boxy top will give your smaller upper body a bit of a boost without minimizing the appearance of your bottom.
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The Advanced
“You could go A-line,” Hanson says in terms of skirt shapes, “or screw that and go for a HUGE skirt.” In this case, we choose the latter.
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The Rectangle
Similar to The Ruler in our straight-size body-type guides, the rectangle has no obviously defined curves. In other words, there is not much distinction between her bust, waist, and hips.
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The Beginner
For creating more dimension along the body, Vann Reicher recommends the shift dress. “[They’re] really great at creating a fuller silhouette,” she says, “and statement necklaces or clever accessories draw the attention up.” Here, we opted for a high neck to do the same.
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The Intermediate
The boxy top of this jumpsuit plays up your natural, angular shape. But, with its layered waist and colorblocking, it will also create some subtle definition at your waistline.
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The Advanced
If you'd rather play up your straight-lined frame, choose a silhouette that’s shaped the same way. Namely, the boyfriend jean. On most figures, these bottoms would hide curve definition — on you, it’s next-level. Pair with a tighter top for a balanced look, or an oversized bomber to match boxy with boxy.
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Carrot
“The terms apple, pear, busty, and hourglass have been in the public consciousness for a while now, but we are seeing some other shapes emerge. In particular, carrot,” says Vann Reicher. She describes this shape as one characterized by “wider shoulders and slimmer legs.”
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The Beginner
For this figure,Vann Reicher recommends a full skirt, for starters. The flared hem will automatically give your lower body more volume, creating balance head to toe.
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The Intermediate
If you’re not into drawing attention away from your upper half, bring some flash to it. A statement bomber will highlight your torso, while the soft, raglan sleeves will downplay the width of your shoulders.
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The Advanced
Finally, here’s a moment for your power-shoulders to shine. Hanson boldly recommends an embellished shoulder that will play up your own. “[Keep] everything else really skinny,” she says of skirts and pants, if you want to create the most drama.
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