You've heard the rules before. Wear head-to-toe one color. Keep your arms covered. But the key to looking and feeling good isn't necessarily choosing clothes that hide your body. If you find clothes that accentuate your best parts and let your personal style show, you'll feel much better about yourself.
In this tutorial, I'll suggest some guidelines, but in my opinion style trumps all. If you like it and you feel happy in it, screw the rules!
If you focus on your best assets instead of your worst ones when buying clothes, you'll feel better about yourself ... and have better shopping results. When your sexier parts are displayed to their best advantage, they’ll attract more attention, diverting the eye from the already-disguised not-so-nice parts.
Whatever style of clothes you prefer - or like me, you wear different styles depending on your mood - finding a good fit makes everything work better. Too baggy swallows your shape and makes people think that whole tent of a shirt is full of you. Clothes that cling too much highlight every crevice and dimple. When shopping in a store, always try it on or be prepared to bring it back; when shopping online, always consult the measurements. Also consider fabric. Medium-weight fabrics with a bit of stretch are ideal.
You can stay current with your wardrobe without becoming a fashion victim. Pick and choose the trends that look right on your body, and try one trend at a time. Choose mostly classic, trend-resistant clothes and throw in a few wild accent pieces that can be adopted and abandoned with the seasons … shoes, bags, jewelry, a sexy top.
When you’re shopping, think about what colors flatter your skin tone, hair, and eyes. What shades of makeup do you wear – cool or warm? If you’ve never done it, evaluate your underlying skin tones online or at a department store makeup counter. At the store (or in your closet) hold up different colors against your face to see what looks best. Choose colors that don’t wash you out, overshadow you, or clash with your undertones.
But in the end, the most important rule is to choose clothes that make you feel fabulous. Don't be afraid to try something new or something that doesn't look like your style. It just might be your new favorite thing!
In the Store
Even if you’re a regular shopper at a store, sizes often vary even within the same brand. Plus, what looks good on the hanger might look totally wrong on you. Vice versa is true, too - what looks bad on the hanger might just surprise you.
If you absolutely hate hate hate trying on - or are trying to squeeze a shopping trip into your lunch break, like I do! - go to the store armed with the measurements of your favorite items (see measuring guide in the Online Shopping section below). Carry a miniature tape measure or sewing measuring tape in your purse; then measure key areas - waist, hips, bust - before buying. It's not perfect, but it will give you a fairly accurate idea of what will fit.
These tips will make trying on less of a pain in the butt:
Wear slip-on shoes, if possible ones that go with the sort of outfit you plan to buy. It’s hard to tell what that delicate dress really looks like on you when you’re wearing clunky shoes. Wear a heel that’s about the height you usually wear, or if you're shopping for a specific item (pants in particular) wear the shoes you'll plan to wear with them. Simple kitten-heel mules go with just about everything.
Wear simple clothes that are easy to get on and off. Nothing makes me want to run screaming away from the dressing room more than wearing a complex outfit and shoes that tie.
Before you go into the dressing room, browse the whole store, gathering up anything that looks even slightly appealing. For anything you’re uncertain about – especially bottoms – get a couple of different sizes to try. Be realistic about your size. It will only be depressing if everything you try on is too tight … besides, there’s no shame in a larger size! It’s just a number. If the armload gets heavy, request a saleswoman to start a dressing room for you. (I always have to!)
Go with a similar-size friend and share a dressing room. You’ll be so busy complimenting each other that you won’t have time to feel down on yourself. Plus, she can be an excellent source of honest opinion.
If something doesn’t fit, blame the item, not yourself. Try to use comments like “Ugh, this shirt is cut funny,” instead of self-blaming comments like, “Ugh, my gut looks HUGE in this top.”
My secret to enjoying trying on clothes? Try on the iffy things first, and save your best items for last. That way, you still have cute clothes to look forward to. Try to end the dressing room session with an item you’re pretty certain will fit and look nice on you. Then you can leave the dressing room feeling good about yourself, instead of mopey and thinking about how much weight you need to lose.
If you know your measurements and what flatters you, shopping online can be just as easy as shopping in a store. I personally prefer online shopping because I don't have to deal with salespeople, lines, dressing room lighting, or traffic.
The easiest way to measure for clothes is this: Lay out your favorite, best-fitting clothes and measure them across from seam to seam, then double that. Measure hips, waist, bust and inseam. You might also want to measure arm openings, especially if they are an issue for you.
If you shop at an online store, examine the size charts carefully, but take them with a grain of salt. If I followed the charts exactly at most online stores, I'd buy clothes one to two sizes too big.
My theory is that stores measure the smallest item in their store and go with that on the chart to be safe. At the same time, don’t assume a store will run bigger than it says. Many sites offer a hotline or e-mail address for questions on specific items. You might try a small order of a few basic pieces first to evaluate how their sizes fit, or look for a bargain in their brand of product used or new on eBay.
I prefer shopping at eBay because most plus-size sellers include the actual measurements for the items in their auctions. Besdies, there are so many wonderful plus-size sellers at eBay!
If a seller doesn't include measurements - or a specific measurement you need - don't hesitate to ask. Tip: Asking before the last day of the sale increases your chances of getting your question answered in time. If you don't hear from the seller, resist the impulse to just buy it unless you have worn clothes from that brand before and are pretty certain ... or the item's cheap and you're willing to take a risk.
No matter where you buy online, photos are essential. If you can't see the pictures on an auction - or you need to see bigger pictures - e-mail the seller. Most sellers won't mind at all. You're their customer, and they want to help you any way they can.
If the clothing item is pictured on a model, consider her shape compared with yours and what the clothes emphasize about her body.
Many eBay sellers don't accept returns - and most won't refund the shipping costs - so make sure you're certain before bidding. Impulse buys are fine for the physical store, where you can take them back, but you can waste a lot of money that way online.
Of course, if you don't like it or it doesn't fit, you can always sell it on eBay! :)