Tshirts and tops when short and curvy - how?
October 19, 2012 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Tshirts and tops when short and curvy - how?

I'm short, and curvy, with hips. Think 36/26/39, and 5'3".

Common problems:
- Tshirt hangs too low - half my bra is visible in the neckline. Hi, being short.
- Tshirt rides up over hips or is very tight over hips and looks terrible. For buttoned shirts, often I can't do the lowest buttons up. Hi, I have hips.
- If I pick a tshirt that fits my hips, it looks like a bag. Belts aren't practical or comfortable.
- The semi-dress tshirts (gathers around the waist, then hangs like a skirt) are generally not made out of comfortable/long-lasting fabric

I probably don't live in (or anywhere near) your country. I'd rather not shop online until I figure out how to adjust things - a tshirt that is my 'size' has about a 1/10 chance of even semi-fitting. Brand reccomendations are welcome, but advice on what features to look for in the local brands or how to make/adjust things myself is preferred.

I want to be able to wear fitted tees (and most jumpers/jackets) and have them fit!
posted by Ashlyth to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 5'2" and have similar dimensions, same issues with t's and tops never fitting right. Don't get me started on shoes, boots, and skinny pants - my calves are also curvy. I've found tailoring and Victoria's Secret have worked well for me. Victoria's Secret makes all their clothes for curvy, busty women, unlike the high fashion lines that tend to make clothes for tall, uncurvy women. I've had good luck with them.

Tailoring opens up a whole new world. Buy your cute shirt and depending on fabric type and print, a tailor should be able to take in the sides, shorten the length and even bring in the sleeves appropriately. They shouldn't charge much (depending on where you are), but having clothes that fit will make you look and feel like a million bucks.
posted by getmetoSF at 5:51 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a similar shape and just a couple inches bigger. For stretchy things I like petite sizes, they help with the length problems (not just at the hem, at the shoulder too). I especially like Ann Taylor Loft (a US store) t-shirts. For jackets and button-down shirts, things are tougher. I buy a lot from UK specialist big boob store Pepperberry, but until they start making petites, nothing there will be perfect for me. We have a very hard body type to fit off the rack.

When I had the time I made or substantially altered a lot of my own clothes and my best ever jacket was custom made for me. Altering a t-shirt can be fairly simple if it fits in the shoulders and hips to start, but some of the alterations you're talking about needing are so complicated you're essentially making a whole new garment. Here's a brief guide to what you might need to do:

- Tshirt hangs too low - half my bra is visible in the neckline. Hi, being short.
If it's sleeveless you can hike up the shoulders and resew the straps, but with sleeves there's basically nothing to be done. Try a camisole under? :(

- Tshirt rides up over hips or is very tight over hips and looks terrible. For buttoned shirts, often I can't do the lowest buttons up. Hi, I have hips.
This is really just a length issue. Easy! Take up the hem until it sits above the widest part of your hips. This will be more flattering too, it's where it was designed to hit on a taller person.

- If I pick a tshirt that fits my hips, it looks like a bag. Belts aren't practical or comfortable.
Do you mean through the shoulders, or just through the waist? Shoulders you are basically out of luck, but if it's the waist try putting the tee on inside out and pinning and sewing a new fitted side seam (basically pinching it to be closer to your shape)

- The semi-dress tshirts (gathers around the waist, then hangs like a skirt) are generally not made out of comfortable/long-lasting fabric
I'm not sure what you mean here, sorry. Could you post a link maybe?

Once you know roughly what you're trying to do and if it's possible (that's the big sticking point) there are lots of online guides to how to do the alteration.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:58 PM on October 19, 2012

I think that there are a lot of people with unique body shapes who take to altering their own clothes. There are a lot of DIY sites with tips on how to get started with this and most of it seems straightforward and simple. Is that something you might be interested in?
posted by jumelle at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2012

Tailoring is magic that you can buy with money!

I have no hips but I am 5'1" with a 44" overbust 32" underbust.

A couple tricks:

-Layers. Get long, thin tops (neckline is irrelevant) that fit around your hips for coverage but can compress at your waist. Then, wear something much shorter in the torso on top that has the neckline you want. Or, wear a camisole for the neckline with a longer top. This all keeps you really warm, so if you're in a hot climate it's kind of a pain in the butt.

-Boatnecks. Basically look for tops where the neckline is a straight line across where your clavicles are. Common wisdom says that curvy ladies look best in v-necks, but that is just LIES. A boatneck is highly effective at diminishing one's perceived cup size while allowing the neck to be featured.

-Buttondown = SADNESS. There are online stores that sell buttondowns specifically made for curvy women; I'm sure someone will link to them soon. I've never ordered from them. I have a couple of buttondown tops that have gathered elastic at the small of my back, that I will wear with the top few buttons undone and a camisole underneath. Basically every time I go shopping I stand and look at the buttondowns sadly and then force myself to move on.

-Your semi-dress tshirts seem to work pretty well for me (if I can find one with a neckline that isn't just a frame for my cleavage). I wash them the same way I wash my bras, which is to say in cold water on the gentle cycle and then hang to air dry. The dryer really is the thing that ruins cheap clothes. If you treat them like they're fragile (which they ARE, just not because they're made out of handcrochet lace, but because they're kinda crappy), they'll last a lot longer.
posted by Mizu at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Feel your pain, similar body type, and will second Ann Taylor/LOFT to start. Check out petites sections in general if they are available to you--I still haven't pinpointed what EXACTLY the difference is but the stuff just...fits differently! As far as brands, I would recommend any that have a petite line--I know Ann Taylor and Banana Republic do, and I'm pretty sure Gap does. Also, major department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom do too--granted those are American but you can order online (which I know you are avoiding but Nordstrom in particular is VERY cooperative about returns).

One thing that has really helped me a lot--and I am assuming you don't do this just because of the way your question is worded--is going for high-waisted bottoms (shorts, skirts, and pants) and tucking stuff in. Not only is this flattering for shorter people (it elongates the legs) it's something to really take advantage of if you have a tiny waist! You weren't asking about this but I had to point it out because I had a bunch of tops I was about to get rid of because they were too short or too baggy or rode up or looked weird if I tried to pull them over the top of my pants for the reasons you describe, and then I got a pair of cute (Ann Taylor!) high-waisted jeans and a bunch of those tops totally work with them because I just tuck them in--so who cares how they looks at the bottom? I hope I am not misunderstanding what you are describing but I think this might really make a difference.

And yes--I have lots of items altered. What I've actually taken to doing is buying things of higher quality at second-hand stores, then having them altered. I figure that the cheaper price + cost of altering = what I would spend on a new high-quality item, only the thing I'm getting for that amount of money actually fits me like it's supposed to.
posted by lovableiago at 6:37 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out Second Base. They have "demi-camis" that essentially go over your bra and give you a demure neckline under any of those droopy shirts. They're a small company and will ship anywhere if you email them to arrange it. They also have long and extra-long camis; those are helpful as a base that goes over the hips. Then you can wear a shorter shirt over the long cami.
posted by xo at 6:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would suggest not buying t-shirts that fit your hips, because of the waist bagginess you describe. Instead, go with layers, such as a very thin camisole or other shirt that is longer, with a t-shirt that hits above the hips over it. This is pretty much all I wear. Also look for stretchier t-shirts that will fit trimly at your waist and stretch a bit for everything else. Jersey is a good fabric for this.
posted by Red Desk at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have very similar measurements, am a little taller but still firmly in between regular and petite sizing and most teeshirts don't come in height-based sizing anyway. I aim for a slightly smaller teeshirt, one with very stretchy fabric so it doesn't bind at the armholes and doesn't leave too much of a noticeable stretch across the bust. J. Crew makes pretty good ones and I am on their mailing list so I can be aware of when they're going on sale, and when the clearance stuff is being marked down to move (sometimes you can get shirts for $5 or so that way).

I have learned some pretty amazing tailoring skillz to accommodate button down shirts, for the same reason, although sometimes I find a great buttondown with a bit of stretch and fitting that works well--Ann Taylor, Talbots, and sometimes Gap and Banana are good for these.
posted by padraigin at 7:23 PM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: - Layering and camisoles:
I do this in winter, but it's 40+ degrees Celsius (or ~105+ Fahrenheit) for most of the summer, here. The more layers you wear, the warmer you are - even if it's very thin layers!

I do like the demi-camisoles someone linked, though. Might even be worth making a few of those myself, as it's a simple enough pattern.

- High waisted stuff:
Come to think of it, a lot of my newer clothes are high waisted. I don't really like how tucking stuff in looks, but... hmm. I'll think about that.

- Buttondown tops:
A mention of shops that sell buttondown tops for curvy women - this exists? Link!

- Alterations:
If I have some idea of what to do, I'm perfectly capable of altering my own clothes. Sewing things is easy, knowing where to alter things isn't. Once I'm slightly better funded (should be working fulltime next year) paying for alterations should also be possible.

Thanks for the answers so far! It's given me quite a few ideas already!
posted by Ashlyth at 8:34 PM on October 19, 2012

I have similar measurements (well, with a bit more of a belly). It feels a bit goofy, but microfiber sportsbras like these are great for adding a non-bra layer without adding much bulk or warmth.

They seem cheaper than those demi-camis, too

I have no idea if it fits with your style, but something I've been into lately is lagenlook--German for "layered look." This site has good examples. It's all about mixing looser lightweight layers with fitted pieces--say, leggings, a t-shirt, and a loose overtunic. Because the layers are loose, you can buy a size that's actually comfortable (so, one that doesn't roll up around your hips), but the loose layers are usually balanced with a belt or a sash at your natural waist, which gives a more fitted look. I'm not entirely sure why belts aren't practical or comfortable--I understand that a leather belt can be hot and constricting but a wide fabric belt should feel okay, as should a skinny finished belt. Either can add a lot of structure or finish to your look.

Oh, and just a note that you should make sure your bra is well-fitted. If you're wearing low-cut t-shirts, you want a demi-cup bra.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have nearly the same measurements you do. Aiming for a certain size or length of tshirts is useless without knowing ahead of time how the fabric behaves. I'm sure someone else here knows these terms, but I only know it by intuition: knitted material that has a bit of give between the weave is made for dressing bodies like ours.

What does that mean? Flimsy, thin fabric without any stretch (I don't necessarily mean Lycra, just that when you pull a small section in opposite directions) is going to hang weird, making you look like a potato sack. Fabric that has give is going to cling to wear your curves are and then drape inward all around the curves.

Similarly, look for tops that have stitching intended to define a better shape, such as ruching, darts, and "princess" seaming. Also, built in draping like peplums and wrap waists are your friends.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:24 AM on October 20, 2012

I forgot: yes, you will look amazing just by tucking in your top for certain outfits, especially if you're wearing a high-waisted a-line or full skirt.

One last thing: most stuff in fashion mags since about the 1960s isn't really intended for our body type. So if you're trying to fit a Joan Holloway silhouette into some American Apparel idea of what you should be wearing, stop. The clothes themselves are the problem.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:29 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Button down tops for curvy women (I'm assuming this is what "button down shirts" are... it's not a phrase I'm familiar with). This is from Bravissimo's Pepperberry range, which I think someone mentioned above. I think there's also a "shop by body shape" option on there somewhere which you might find useful.
posted by penguin pie at 3:19 AM on October 20, 2012

I'm very close to your measurements, haaate layering, and have this problem a lot. I've liked Land's End for button-down oxfords. Their stuff is very conservative and would look kind of old-ladyish in a casual context, but man is it crisp and fitted for work. And they cut for boobs. No gapping between the buttons.

I stay away from any T-shirt that advertises itself as cut long and meant to go over hips, because I know it won't go over my hips or will look awful if it does. Instead, I keep an eye out for shorter T-shirts that hit right at the top of my hips. American Apparel T-shirts (especially the 50/50 ones) actually work for me, if you don't mind being a little boobtastic.

For winter, sweaters! Sweaters just work on this body type. A thinner, short-sleeved sweater (I had some great ones from Ann Taylor) is a great T-shirt substitute even into the spring and fall.

Also, this has saved me time and again when I want a shirt to be more fitted at my waist but don't want the look of tucking it in:

1. Put on a T-shirt that fits in the shoulders and bust but hangs loosely and unflatteringly around your waist.

2. Grab a bit of the bottom hem at the middle of your back and twist until you've formed a twisted "shirttail" and the T-shirt is as fitted as you like around your waist.

3. Tuck the "shirttail" into the back of your pants. Leave everything else untucked.
posted by ostro at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2012

I disliked tucked in for a long time too, but I'm slowly starting to rock it again (I'm 40-30-43 and 5'4") and I am digging mens shirts over skinny jeans. I've got really narrow shoulders as well so men's shirts tend to drape through the chest area as opposed to cling the way women's do (and are higher cut in the neck too).

Converse to popular opinion, I love draped stuff on my upper half too - I made this dress a few weeks back and I'm loving it, even though it's the exact opposite to what fashionistas tell curvy women to wear. I pull it up and wear it as a shirt as well. I have a similarly 'shapeless' batwing shirt that I adore as well, and again it is great to wear. I find batwing tops have to have the band at the bottom though, otherwise they look odd on me.

So basically I've given up on real fitted shirts - I wear the too tight/too short under high waisted stuff (or a jacket/cardi) and rock the less tight and occasionally shapeless. My partner once pointed out that the classically shapeless clothes become magically shapely when stuff on a body like mine - it may not be the way that piece is supposed to look or be worn, but id it looks good who cares?

I have to say that I am increasingly irritated with retro styling - I don't actually want want to have my secondary sexual characteristics being the primary focus of my outfit and it's not something that can really be done casually.

Also, modding shirts is difficult. I've had some minor success turning t-shirts into boatneck but it isn't really an answer because they never look terribly good (neck binding is difficult AND finding something to match properly is hard).
posted by geek anachronism at 4:38 PM on October 20, 2012

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