From hour-glass to pear-shaped. Need fashion advice. Thanks
September 16, 2011 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I've lost some weight recently - all above my waist. Now my shirts don't fit! I've searched teh interwebs for advice on shirts but mostly what I get is vague or styled for a much younger (or slimmer) crowd. So I put it to y'all. How do I shop for a now pear-shaped body when I've been hour-glass most of my life?

Here's the thing. I'm 45, about 5'6" tall, and weigh roughly 195-200 pounds. Up top, I'm now a large (14-16) but my bottom is still an XL to XXL (18-20 to 22-24) when it comes to shirts that go below the waist. Essentially, my hips are a good ten inches bigger than my waist (I have a built-in bustle too, or as they say a lot of junk in the trunk). So if I buy shirts that fit my hips, they fall off my shoulders or the neckline is way too low. The size descrepency is too much for tailoring in most cases; any alterations would ruin the cut of the shirt. I've asked.

It hasn't really been a problem these past years because I've been a student in college - so mostly t-shirts and jeans. However, this is my last semester and I need to start updating my wardrobe to what a teacher would wear. I have the pants and skirts down. I just cannot find shirts to fit! They are either too tight over the hips or falling off my shoulders. I've taken to wearing sports bras under everything so I'm not flashing the world whenever I wear anything but tshirts.

Some points:
Button ups are not good because of the arthritis in my fingers (when it's bad - it's bad).
My arms are on on the short side - whenever I sew shirts I have to take in the sleeves a good inch.
Shoulder pads look ridiculous on me. They often slip to either to the front or the back. I take them out if they're ever included.
I wear long, ankle-length, fullish skirts exclusively - I need shirts that can be worn with those as well as with slacks (which are mostly boot cut jeans or straight legged slacks).

I know I'm not the only person in the world with this problem. There has to be some style of shirt out there that I can wear which won't make my bustle look ginormous. Help?
posted by patheral to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a somewhat different body type than you, but I'm also pear shaped. I think you need shirts that are either shorter than what you're trying now (i.e. that hit above the hip and are somewhat loose-fitting) or long, tunic-type shirts that can go over your skirts and pants (either with a belt, or without, whatever you prefer.)

Other idea - sleeveless dresses that are tighter on the top and more forgiving on the bottom, so that they really only need to "fit" you at the bust. Then cardigans or jackets over them, at a length that doesn't stop right at the butt.

Or, give up shirts entirely. With skirts or pants, wear a tank top or shell or nice T, and over that, a nice long cardigan or sweater coat that's drapey and flowy.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:59 AM on September 16, 2011

And because my answer might have been hard to picture - by a shorter, lose fitting blouse I mean something sort of like this. And here's a tunic top.

A long dress shaped somewhat like this will take care of the problem of it being way too big in the shoulder area, and you can cover up your arms if you want with something that opens at the front so is more flexible in terms of the way it fits you.

And long sweatercoats are great because they hide everything. If you're in a warmer climate, you can get them in much lighter fabrics.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:16 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: Okay, well first, try shirts that don't come down over your hips, or shirts that are cut loose if they're long (like tunics). Not a t-shirt or tank-top style shirt or blouse, which is tube-shaped and not very forgiving.

If you want to balance out your lower half then you want to raise your waistline and make your shoulders and bust look proportionate to your bum and hips. So look for more empire-waisted/high-waisted cuts, lower open necklines (high tight necklines, like a crew-neck t-shirt, will emphasize your shoulders/bust being much smaller than your hips), and wide loose sleeves. (Try, for example, an empire-waisted kimono-cut top.) Try busy details on the front like ruffles or gathers which will help visually "fill you out". Off-the-shoulder cuts with something underneath actually is not a bad idea; boatnecks and off-the-shoulder sweaters will widen your shoulders visually. Try wearing a belt higher than your waist or a shirt that ties or belts higher than your waist.

Try layering a open drape cardigan (the kind that sort of "waterfalls" down the sides instead of buttoning shut down the middle) over a thinner shorter shirt, which will smooth out and disguise the smaller waistline in proportion to the larger hipline.

Wear jackets and blazers that are structured and stiff over your t-shirts - this will "fill out" your upper half. They shouldn't end on the middle of your hips because it'll create a line across your widest part; try a higher cut.

On your long skirts, try asymmetrical/handkerchief hems to balance out your hips.
posted by flex at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2011

Try to find tops that flare or have slits, to allow for more ease. Eshakti Has a lot of tops that look like they might work. They will also do custom fits.

caveat: I haven't ordered from them yet, but am planning to soon.
posted by annsunny at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2011

Oh, and I wonder if you have tried something with a raglan sleeve, because that might help, with the too-large fit around the neck and shoulders.
posted by annsunny at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2011

I'm pear-shaped as well, though my weight tends to be in front, and I'm about your size. Lately I've been shopping at Eddie Bauer outlets for shirts like this; they hit a bit below the hips, so don't add bulk to my already-bulky areas. I think it's a really flattering look. I keep them buttoned all the time and slip them over my head.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience, how you handle this depends on the size difference between your top and bottom; if there's a big difference, wearing something that's big enough to go over your butt will give you a lot of bulk up top, making you look heavy. I would stick with separates, avoid anything that ends at the waist or "high hip" and go for shirts that are just a bit longer, more "mid hip." Again, Eddie Bauer seems to have a lot of shirts like this.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: I've been pear-shaped all my life, with a size difference of 2-3 sizes depending on the manufacturer. What looks good on me:

--things that highlight my bust
--low necklines
--empire waists (I was SO HAPPY when that style came in a few years back)
--dresses and skirt/shirt outfits that are structured or fitted on the top and flowing on the bottom (I sometimes have to get the bust area taken in)
--wrap dresses with flowing skirts
--flare-leg pants and jeans, rather than skinny-leg, as it keeps the eye from going "Wow your butt is big and your ankles teeny!"
--skinny skirts that taper as they go down like this. This seems opposite from the pants thing, and I have no idea why that is, but that's what looks good. Straight and A-line skirts don't work, because it's like a giant column of fabric, but flowing skirts with movement do work.

What does not work:

-- sleeveless anything, as it makes my top look even smaller (I have several shrugs that I wear with sleeveless things I own) and highlights my fat arms, which I'm self-conscious about (if you do not have this problem, try stuff on and see for yourself).
-- anything that does not have a waistline - if it fits my butt, my top looks like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom's clothes
-- drop waists
-- tops with a band at the bottom
-- tops that stop exactly at the widest point of my hips
-- as I am short, clothing with normally-placed waists as they tend to hit my butt. You may not have that problem.

For a visual aid, most of the shirt and dress styles that Kiyonna carries work well on my body (not the ruched ones that hug the hips, but if it were only 1 size difference, I'd give them a try).
posted by telophase at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, Patheral. You are me, 15 lbs earlier in my weight loss. My current measurements are 40-34-48, and I'm about a 12-14 on top and an 18 on the bottom. If you do not yet shop at Roamans and Woman Within, I suggest you check them out. Woman Within is hit or miss as far as quality, but it's worth checking out. They both offer a lot of empire-waisted or trapeze styles that I think work well for the pear-a-licous, along with hanky-hem, asymmetric, hi-low--all of which are pretty loose in the hips and should allow you to chose the size based on your bust and not your waist.

Beware of their sizing--both use a non-standard system where M = 14-16, L = 18-20, and 1X = 22-24.
posted by drlith at 2:32 PM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: So, the answer might be shorter shirts... I've avoided them in the past because they emphasized my already large to area (I used to be big-busted, now I'm about average). My hip area hasn't gotten any bigger than it was, but it certainly *looks* bigger. O_o Thank goodness for tape measures.

Layering probably isn't a great idea at this point in time because it is still hot and humid here in MS... but I've done this before successfully and I'm sure I can pull it off again. I just need to buy undershirts that fit better and are shorter than mid-thigh, right? (not as in underwear, but the shirts under the overshirts/sweaters).

It's hard to change styles mid-life. Blouses and shirts that fit me a few years ago just look ridiculous on me now. Also, isn't the whole off the shoulder thing more for younger people? I'm not trying to be a hip granny (I am a grandmother). I just want my shirts to fit.

Someone mentioned lower necklines, but won't that give me the same problem with the shoulders falling off one way or another? I've been having this problem with low-cut neckines -- they start creeping up and up and up *then* go off one shoulder or just look odd. I'm constantly re-adjusting the neckline of my shirts (unless they are t-shirts)- every. damned. day.

Oh! what about peasant blouses? I used to love those when I was younger
posted by patheral at 3:29 PM on September 16, 2011

Off-the-shoulder doesn't have to be Flashdance! I think of a wide cowl or a wide off-the-shoulder rib, which seems quite a mature look to me. Or something like this shirt which is a bit peasant-style but more polished. Or really even drawstring or elastic-neck peasant-style pulled wide. (I myself would more likely wear a tank top under an off-the-shoulder shirt - or one already cut that way - than I would wear a strapless bra but YMMV.)

You can also fake the off-the-shoulder idea with a wide neckline and some kind of detail that broadens across the shoulders, like this.

As for lower necklines that creep:
1) wear a thin layer under them (a tight tank top, camisole, or a thin t-shirt) in a pale color, like here - not only does that keep your cleavage covered but it gives the fabric of the top shirt something to cling to so it doesn't slide as much
2) wear a thin/sheer top over a solid top - either something like this loose-sleeve v-neck (provides the low neckline but doesn't matter if it slides) or this lace poncho top (higher neckline layered over a low open neckline)
3) fashion tape!
4) secure the neckline to your bra straps somehow (little ribbons with snaps; safety pins)
5) wear a lower neckline that can't slide off your shoulders, like here or here or here (all of these have shorter lengths and empire-waist detailing as well)

Here are a few more idea examples I pulled:
*kimono-style top with a busy and striped print that makes the shoulders and bust look bigger
*sweetheart ruffle top may be too clingy down the middle but the cut of the neckline and wide-set cap sleeves expand the shoulders
*ruched V-neck top: loose, short length, even though it's sleeveless the shoulder caps are very wide and stick out a bit so they make the shoulders look wider; the detail under the neckline raises the waistline
posted by flex at 8:26 PM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I went through my closet and purged my wardrobe of all of the shirts that just don't fit. Surprisingly, there are quite a few that do fit the criteria mentioned above, so I didn't have to go out and buy a bunch of new things. I will have to do the same with my winter clothes soon, but at least the summer stuff is in the bag (and ready for donation).
posted by patheral at 12:21 PM on October 8, 2011

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