Help me shop, please
February 28, 2011 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm female, US ~size 12, ample in chest and hip area, relatively smaller waist, and I want to shop for clothes that are flattering and professional.

I need to get more flattering and professional clothing.

Some problems I have:

- I get flustered spending more than a half hour in a crowded store trying on clothes

-it's hard to find shirts that fit both on the top and around the waist (I don't want to wear baggy shirts or be spilling out of my top)

-I don't like heeled shoes but want to find some dressy and comfortable shoes (I like boots and flat shoes)

-I am not based in US but do have access to some Western brands: H & M (where I usually go); Zara, and a few others, but not many American brands. However, I can get stuff on trips to the US if you want to suggest some US clothing stores.

-Also, what kinds of cuts are flattering and professional for my body type? How do I determine what clothing items are office-wearable?

posted by bearette to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure you are going to find the perfect store for your body type. The key to getting the clothes that fit you perfectly is tailoring. Honestly, that's the best answer you are going to get. Find clothes that fit the largest parts of you and get them taken in the fit the smallest.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Basically: get better-quality clothes, buy them to fit your largest part (breasts for tops, hips/butt for bottoms), and get them tailored. It is very very hard to find clothes that will fit anyone off the rack, people are very different. Getting your clothes tailored will make you happier person.
posted by brainmouse at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

(bah, beaten! but it's true)
posted by brainmouse at 8:23 PM on February 28, 2011

Buying womens clothes can be so frustrating. I have the exact. same. problem. I also hate crowded shopping, it flusters me. So, I go in with a specific item in mind, like a shirt or a pant suit (suits are the hardest, expert level). If you can, try to forget about how much it costs. I seriously try everything on, seeing what is working and what is most definitely not. For shirts, I always get the fit right on the arms and the length, if it doesn't fit right in the chest, I opt to go bigger for the room. Then, here's the secret... I take it to a tailor and for an extra $10 I get an amazing shirt that fits me like a dream. Tailoring is really key for me. I do the same thing for pants, buy them to fit hips, booty and thighs and have the waist taken in. BTW, a great fitting pair of jeans makes you feel like a rock star, seriously, you will strut. Pants have become such a hassle to buy that I usually wear skirts or dresses in the office.

As for determining if clothes are office wearable, you need to move around. Use that little dressing room for some mild calisthenics. Sit down, cross your legs (or sit in your normal fashion), act like you are reaching across a table, stand up and lean over and reach up, cross your arms. I mean these suggestions may seem like an exaggeration, but these are typical daily movements, they will reveal if you need to tuck in the shirt every time you move, or if a jacket restricts your arm movement.

Also, I have recently just learned that properly fitting underwear will completely change the way clothes look on you (for the better). I have stocked up on properly fitting bras, see ukdanae's comments on the matter here and here, and it has changed the way I wear my clothes.
posted by Term of Art at 8:27 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Belted or wrap dresses (like this and this) would be a way to address some of your issues with finding pieces that fit all over. Also, I'm a similar shape and find that A-line shapes look much better on me that straight skirts.

For shoes, I've had great luck with Aerosoles. I don't know if you mean you want heels but think they're uncomfortable, or that you don't want heels, but I have a pair similar to this and they're shockingly comfortable.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:31 PM on February 28, 2011

Can you say where you are? There might be some people who can recommend specific brands in your country.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:35 PM on February 28, 2011

I got a lot of use out of the books put out by the What Not To Wear people, both the US and UK versions, on how to dress your body type. As others have said above, you want to fit your widest part, and then tailor in the rest. I get nearly everything tailored as I'm 5'3", have wide shoulders, short arms and short legs. Even lots of petite clothing doesn't fit well on me straight off the rack.

For what it's worth, I'm a comfortable US 10, and my work wear is skirt suits, pant suits, or on more casual days A-line skirts/straight-leg trouser pants with a cami/cardigan. I've completely given up on the 2.5"-3.5" heels that I used to wear and am very happy with kitten heel shoes. This look sounds kind of dowdy in plain print, I admit. However, I'm learning how to accessorize, and have gotten some surprising compliments from younger, much trendier co-workers. One of them even said she aspired to look as pulled together as I do every day. Wha????! I'm 98% sure that she was being totally sincere.

I'm in Canada and shop for my work clothes mainly at Mexx and Banana Republic.

Good luck!
posted by sillymama at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2011

I have a body shape similar to yours. My favorite dresses are all similar to the second one Meg_Murry linked to: knit wrap dresses with A-line skirts. The wrap lets you cinch in the waist as much as you need to while the knit fabric stretches to accommodate bust/hips. Add a hidden safety pin (or get a tailor to put in a snap or hook-and-eye) over your sternum to make sure the wrap top doesn't slide further open during the day.

For tops, I wear close-cut knits almost exclusively, usually with a deep V or scoop neck. I like the way a fine-knit sweater or a T-shirt with a little spandex in the blend "clings" around the waist (but not skin-tightly): sorta like these. Woven shirts almost always feel baggy on me (while gapping at the buttons), probably because I don't bother to get them altered.
posted by Orinda at 9:06 PM on February 28, 2011

I'm a larger size than you, but roughly the same proportion - large chest and hips, narrower waist. I have a few rules for my wardrobe:
  • Don't wear a round neck or a square neck - round necks don't go well with a large bust and square necks make me look like a milkmaid
  • Wear v-necks, cowl necks, and boat/bateau/slash necks -- all of these necklines flatter a larger bust
  • Wear wrap dresses - which other people have covered!
  • Or, wear shift dresses and cinch them in with a belt - I have a whole closet full of shift dresses that i wear with tights, boots, a belt, and maybe a cardigan if I need to.
  • Buy a sweater clip! -- buttoning cardigans, over my chest is always going to look a bit uncomfortable, so i have a cute vintage sweater clip that keeps everything looking neat
I can't help with trousers since I don't wear them anymore - I wear dresses all the time now, since i worked out that they suited my figure best.
posted by ukdanae at 12:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think an American size 12W could work really well, especially for the hip/waist issue. Talbots and Jones New York have this size, and there are a few other brands, but I don't know them. (The letter size equivalent is "x" for Talbots and "ox" for Jones.) Talbots has its own stores, but not all have the plus size "Woman" line. Jones is at Macy's, but I think that size flies out pretty quickly.
posted by jgirl at 4:37 AM on March 1, 2011

I'm an hourglass too (with A LOT of chest) and it's endlessly frustrating that high streets only seem to cater for more straight-up-and-down types, but I have had some success, surprisingly with tops and dresses from Oasis. Next is good for work trousers but you have to try a few pairs on as the cuts aren't always consistent across styles.

I've also bought a couple of tops and dresses from Bravissimo. They aren't great in terms of fabric and can be a bit expensive for what they are but the cuts are usually flattering, and they do mail order with free returns.

Re: shopping - I hate trying clothes on too, so now I only shop when stores will be quiet. I live in London and shops are often open til 7/8 on weeknights, ideal to pop in after work, but when I was in Yorkshire I would take a day off once a year specifically to shop for work clothes.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:12 AM on March 1, 2011

You need to go to a nice-ish department store and make a relationship with one of their personal shoppers. They will help you the first couple times to find out the right colors and styles both for your body and your preferences, then keep you up to date on products that come in. I know this is a service in the US, and assume you can get it in European department stores.

Alternatively, make an appointment for a style consultant. A half day of hell trying things on and being criticized about your current choices, in exchange for a book on your best colors, patterns, and cuts. I have one I used in Houston if that is a place you pass through.

Otherwise, tailoring is the right answer. You say you can get stuff on trips to the US, so go the extra mile (literally) and take a trip somewhere tailoring is quality and still affordable: Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have great reputations for this. I was also happy with some things I saw in Peru and am thinking about making that part of my next trip. These are all places I would visit anyway but to buy something made for me there at the price I would buy an off-the-rack item in the States is a great bonus.
posted by whatzit at 6:32 AM on March 1, 2011

I'm busty and wear a lot of V-necks (sweaters and sometimes dresses). If they're a little low cut for my taste, I wear a tank top underneath for modesty. It preserves the vertical line and might help if you want to keep the skin you show in the office to a minimum.
posted by immlass at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2011

Stay away from traditional shirts, stretch tops with v necks are your friend...and nice knitwear. And dresses, wrap or something that can be chinched in at the waste. A line skirts should also work.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:05 PM on March 1, 2011

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