Need personalized fashion advice for my unique body shape
March 12, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

I need a source to help me decide best dress shapes and styles for my body.

I have never worn dresses before, only pants and occasionally skirts, but I want to try out dresses now. I am plus-size and there are very few brick-and-morter plus size stores, and the ones there are carry increasingly smaller inventories of styles, especially in dresses (by the way, I'm in a large metropolitan area, but the options are still very limited). I have seen some really nice online sellers of dresses (notably, eShakti), but I don't know where to start with shapes and styles that will flatter my body.

I have searched MetaFilter for previous questions similar to mine, and have seen many references to various websites or blogs with advice on finding styles to suit different body types. But it's frustrating because my body doesn't fall into any one category or is just unlike the body type descriptions included. For example, I might be an "apple" or a "rectangle", but every single description I saw of these noted that these body types have slim or thin legs and arms, so one should dress to flatter those body parts. Well, I don't have thin arms or legs, so very short dresses and sleeveless or very short-sleeve styles don't flatter me. There are other issues as well.

I know that, even with some personalized fashion advice, there will be some trial and error (meaning buying and returning) involved in looking for dresses online, but I need to narrow down the field at least a little.

I'm specifically looking for a source where I could send pictures of my body and perhaps some description of the kinds of styles I like and get some truly personalized advice of flattering shapes? Thanks, all!
posted by primate moon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
i would suggest hitting the brick and mortar stores to find at least one dress that flatters your figure before looking for similar styles online.

also...find a good tailor...advertise on craigslist and mention that you'd like to see pics of their previous work. a good tailor is indispensible for larger and smaller sizes...the reason being that almost all dresses are patterned for a size 8 and then scaled up and down for larger and smaller sizes. this is, unfortunately, not the same way that bodies scale with size, so the proportions are almost always a little off...a little extra investment in making them fit is usually well worth it.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:46 PM on March 12, 2012

The What Not to Wear book might be helpful. They have pictures of women of different sizes, which makes it easier to find a body type that matches yours. They also offer lots of advice on the impact of undergarments, shoes and accessories on the final look. A pretty dress won't be nearly as attractive with the wrong bra, heels when it should have been flats or a necklace that makes your neck look thick.

Try googling personal shopper and personal stylist. Also, Nordstrom and other high-end department stores offer personal shopping services. That would be a good place to start. Finding what works, however, requires trying on lots of different clothes in many styles. Pencil or a-line skirt, empire waist, shirred waist or wrap dress all have their selling points but until you try these looks on, you won't know what works. Lane Bryant or Catherine's can be good for personal assistance if you go at a slow time of day and the sales person has time to work with you.

And, like sexyrobot says, tailoring can make a huge difference. Getting a dress or skirt hemmed to the correct length or adding darts can really improve the look and fit.
posted by shoesietart at 10:11 PM on March 12, 2012

Photo inspiration: The Fatshionist Flickr pool. Maybe scroll through, find women with similar shapes to yours, and see what they're wearing?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:25 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

What Not To Wear has free episodes online too.
posted by fshgrl at 10:34 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm specifically looking for a source where I could send pictures of my body and perhaps some description of the kinds of styles I like and get some truly personalized advice of flattering shapes?

I checked and you're in the US. I don't know much about US plus-size stores, but wouldn't at least a few of them offer a personal shopping service? This would at least address the "personalised" aspect of your question. I have never heard of an online version of this (though would be ALL OVER IT).

I am plus-sized and just tend to buy stuff either on the high street or the internet, see how it looks and give it back if it doesn't work. I have learned through trial and error what works for me (empire-lines, floaty stuff).

You could check out Gok Wan. He has a makeover show called How to Look Good Naked (UK-only link, but probably easily youtube-able). A large part of the show tells you what to wear to address whatever aspect of your body you're not crazy about (this ranges from big boobs, small boobs, big hips, short legs, whatever).

I think very few people have "classic" apple/pear etc shapes, and the thing that I always end up taking away from HTLGN, What Not to Wear and similar programmes is "I could try that" and not "Oh yeah that's definitely going to suit me".
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:05 AM on March 13, 2012

I would also say it might be best to start at a brick and mortar store like Nordstoms. I used to work in an old-fashioned department store and the salespeople there were helpful and had a good eye for what works for all sizes and styles. They would also bring things to the dressing room for you to try on, sometimes things you would have passed over on the rack, but which look great on. The opposite of course is true as well, which is why you should always try on before buying.

Even if a high end store is out of your league, you can still get an idea of what works and what does not, and maybe get one wonderful outfit, then look for similar things online. Also do get advice about the right undergarments, shoes, accessories to complete the outfit. Any size woman can look stylish with the right clothes. I wore a plus size for years, and always was able to find nice things by looking carefully and trying on.

Another tip, look for other women your shape and size in the real world, and notice what looks good and what does not. Good luck with shopping!
posted by mermayd at 4:13 AM on March 13, 2012

Possible derail (sorry): There is at least one online store (Sway Clothing) that caters specifically to plus-sized women. US size 16 and up. The selection is limited, but it's a start. I have two of their dresses, and they're gorgeous.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2012

Dressbarn! So many plus size dresses! This is my fav dress shop. Also lane bryant and avenue offer dresses as well. Where in the us are you? Id be willing to help you figure out what looks good on you cut wise. I am currently a 16/18 although have been as high as a 22/24 before and have always found dresses. I have to get stuff tailored a lot bc i have smaller breasts and most plus size dresses are cut for those with more boobies. :/how i am in DC but will be happy to do this over email exchange in you are not local or i can pop over for a visit next time i am in your area as i travel a lot. Let me know.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:27 AM on March 13, 2012

Go to Nordstrom or a similar department store and ask someone in the women's section to help you. They know what they are talking about. If for some reason they don't, ask to speak with a personal shopper at the store. They will help you. For free.

Or, find a boutique. If it's a good one, the owner will have dresses in a variety of sizes and will be able to help you. I have been in multiple such stores where the owner says "no, I cannot let you buy that. If I let you buy that I would not be doing my job." You pay more, but it's worth it, at least for the first couple dresses. Then you can find things like that online or in cheaper stores.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:55 AM on March 13, 2012

Here's my tip for apple/rectangle/other waist-challenged folks, esp. those looking at plus sizes: get yourself fitted for a longline bra. The right one will be very supportive and comfortable, and will gently rearrange your midsection so that plackets button and waistlines sit where they should. I had never even seen one before, but needed one for a bridesmaid's dress and it changed my life.
posted by apparently at 8:28 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I don't have thin arms or legs, so very short dresses and sleeveless or very short-sleeve styles don't flatter me.

I don't have thin arms or legs either, and I still wear cap sleeve and sleeveless dresses in the summer because I want to. People will just have to deal with my fat arms. Dress length, however, is a bigger deal and I agree with you about very short dresses. I find most plus-size dresses are actually too long for me and look frumpy, but a tailor can fix that.

Also don't forget that you can always put a cardigan over a sleeveless dress, and you can always wear a shorter-than-ideal dress with leggings and boots (for example). So, if the dress is otherwise flattering you can work around something like sleeve length.
posted by cabingirl at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Once you have figured out your best styles, you might try - they will custom make any of their dresses to your measurements for a small upcharge. They fit my odd pear-shaped, plus-size body quite well - and were still quite reasonable, even with the custom-fit charge.
posted by sarajane at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2012

Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style uses letters to designate body shapes and encourages readers to think realistically and not to try to force their whole body into one shape when deciding what to wear. That is, your upper body can have the attributes of one body shape, while your lower body can have the attributes of a different body shape.

Here are her posts explaining the body shapes, and this is a post on what bodily features to look for when you're figuring out your body shape.
posted by virago at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Imogen Lamport. One of her strengths is that she's very upfront about the limitations of any such categorization system. She'll also help you out if you send her a picture.
posted by tangerine at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2012

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