Anyone got a number for the Fairy Godmother?
July 7, 2014 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I have to go to a family party in two weeks and I have a wardrobe full of rags. All my impossibly tall, willowy and well-dressed cousins will be there and for once I'd like to not feel like post-midnight Cinderella. Can you give me suggestions for styles that would suit me and also not cost one million pounds? Shops, blogs, personal anecdotes of outfits you have rocked...anything. Fashion-frustrating snowflakes within.

I've put on weight recently for a variety of reasons, and my go-to outfits no longer fit me. My difficulties in finding something new are:

- I can't wear heels as I have a bad back, at best I could probably risk a low wedge.
- I don't want to show my upper arms because bingo wings.
- I don't want to show my legs because chunky thighs and cankles.
- Flats with jeans/fitted trousers make my legs look weird as they're short for my height and also again with the cankles.

Trying to find the good points:

- I'm not top heavy but I have a decent cleavage.
- I'm tallish (5'6).
- I have a small waist (relative to my butt anyway).

It's summer so while the other women will be wafting around in floaty minidresses I don't want to turn up wearing a full length black shroud (although that's what I feel like doing...)

So if you're a fellow chunky pear-shape who has found a killer dress, or you're good at putting outfits together and you can think of what would work, then I welcome your words of wisdom. I don't have a ton of money but I have some gift cards from a recent birthday for department stores. I live in the UK, so I don't need items from specific shops as much as a general idea of what to go for and I can try and find variations in the places available to me. Thank you!
posted by billiebee to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some kind of maxi skirt with flats/sandals?
posted by jabes at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2014

Try googling "maxi dress with sleeves" for ideas of what I think will work for you. A chiffon or lace sleeve will disguise arms, but still look floaty and summery. And this style look nice with delicate flat sandals.

Like this dress, maybe? The one in black?
posted by MuckWeh at 3:23 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maxi dress that highlights the cleavage with a cropped jacket. There's a ton of images online of people wearing it with a denim jacket, but I would look for something a little more dressed-up or maybe a cropped cardigan if that's more your style.

Don't bother with the wedge, just wear sandals/shoes that have a good toe and, if necessary, alter the dress so that it's the right length.

Maxi dresses are all over the place, so you should be able to find one for a good price. The right jacket would be a little bit more challenging, so I would look around online for a promising one, and maybe just order a bunch and return the ones that don't work.
posted by ohisee at 3:23 PM on July 7, 2014

You've got great cleavage and a small waist? Surely you can find some inspiration at PinUpGirlClothing or ASOS Curve!

A-line dresses or skirts are probably going to make the most of your curves without emphasizing a bottom-heavy shape.

Long, flowing maxi dresses or skirts could be flattering depending on the style, but they can also have the unfortunate tendency to make people look shorter and/or wider depending on the fit/cut/fabric.
posted by erst at 3:24 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I'm a fan of a pencil skirt. If you wear something that highlights your waist, your chunky thighs become part of bottom silhouette that enhances your curves. Pair with an ankle boot like so, and you're showing leg without showing the bits that cause you anxiety.

Then find a fitted blouse that suits your taste. If it's sleeveless, just find a short cardigan or jacket.
posted by politikitty at 3:51 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think we have the same body!

Unless you are a really long-legged 5'6" I would avoid maxi dresses like the plague. They can go frump-fest really quickly if you are not super tall and thin. I have never tried on a maxi that didn't make me look like I was either super religious, four feet tall, or wearing a cap-sleeved muu-muu.

Seconding pencil skirt or a cute a-line dress. If you are feeling self-conscious about your legs, boots will help. I too have chunky thighs and borderline cankles, so I just exclusively wear things that hit right at the knee, along with wedge sandals. (No heels here, either.)

For two recent weddings I had a lot of success with shift dresses in kind of structured fabrics that cinched at the waist (one with a ribbon, one with a belt). I wore one with wedge sandals and one with boots. Ellen Tracy dresses at Nordstrom in the US are medium expensive, but they tend to have nice shapes/fabrics for pear-shaped ladies.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:35 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ok, the other dress was too old to find a picture of, but here is the one:

I replaced the sash with an off-white belt with a gold buckle, which looked a little neater. And a cropped cardigan. Really though I had always assumed I couldn't wear dresses that shape, but I was pleased to be wrong.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:39 PM on July 7, 2014

Like a few commenters above, I have doubts about a maxi dress being the most flattering. Most of them are unflattering stretch fabric, and unless you're tall and/or thin, they do tend to look frumpy and lumpy (in my opinion, on me!). If I were you, I'd go with a really structured a-line 50s style dress. If you have a small waist, the proportions will probably fit you better than other clothing, anyway, so I would accentuate your best features (waist, curves) rather than trying to cover up your worst. You can find some cute ones with short sleeves (on Etsy, for instance) if you don't want to show your upper arms. If you don't want to wear heels, I think you could pair that sort of dress with some cute ballet flats or wedge sandals. If you give your measurements (bust and waist), I could have a quick look on Etsy for you - I'm quite practiced in finding those sorts of things for myself there. :-)
posted by ClaireBear at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2014

Also, as an addendum, I know from experience that has some of the sort of dresses that I'm describing (although less selection than in the US). I still maintain that 50s dresses are exceptionally flattering for pear-shapes and hourglass-shapes, especially with flattering undergarments. A maxi might work, depending on the cut and pattern, but they're really hit or miss on people who are not tall and/or willowy - paired with a cardigan or jacket, I worry that it might come across as frumpy and less flattering than something bolder and more tailored to your figure.
posted by ClaireBear at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2014

Yeah, maxi dresses are risky. If you do want to go that route, watch out for empire waists, because that way lies "areyoupregnant?" town. A wrap maxi might work, if the tie is right at the waist. I have never seen a structured maxi with nice waist darts, but that could be okay, too.

I also recommend ASOS Curve dresses. The sale prices are quite good, and the fabric feels good quality compared to other options at the same price point. They have LOTS of selection, which is super refreshing. I also like that they always use the same two or three models... if you look through a few pages of dresses, you'll get an idea of which dresses are flattering and which are not, because you are seeing most of them on the same body.

Here are some long sleeved options: wrap dresses, sleek black with a low neck, light lace overlay in midi length, interesting asymmetrical hem, a bright colour... if you are willing to go with sleeveless dress + cardigan your options open up a lot, too. I'm also heavy-bottomed and small-waisted, and I really like their "body conscious" midi dresses. The length hits just below the knee on me (also 5'6") and makes my large-all-around legs look super curvy. The form-fitting-ness is actually key, because showing waist and knees in contrast to big boobs/shoulders and hips/butt/thighs and calves makes the overall impression less "big!" and more "curves! wow!"

If you do wear a cardigan or jacket, make sure you choose the length and fit carefully so that you don't lose your waist. The waist is key.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:46 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Old book, but good advice. I recommend taking a look at by What Not to Wear. While the styles are old, the fashion advice is priceless. Suzanne and Trinny break down cuts by style and give advice on what you should look in clothes for your body type.
posted by BlackRose at 7:56 PM on July 7, 2014

I don't know your measurements or your coloring (which would also influence my particular recommendations), but just as some rough ideas, what about something like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this , this, this, this, this, this, or this?

Basically, from what you've described, I'd probably go for something with a 50s silhouette - something that accentuates the bust and nips in heavily at the waist, and ends around the knee. If you feel more comfortable, definitely look for something with at least a little bit of a sleeve. I agree with snorkmaiden that although you may reflexively want to hide your body, you'll likely find something form-fitted much more flattering on you, because it will really accentuate your curves rather than just making you look big all over. I'd aim for a medium to heavier weight cotton or linen - something with enough weight and structure to it that it will fall smoothly over your body. I'd try to steer away from thinner slinky, silky, stretch, shiny, or jersey fabrics. You might get particularly good results from wearing more structured undergarments, in order to give a cleaner shape and accentuate your waist.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:59 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Massively seconding just-above-the-knee or midi-length shift dresses, belted, with cap sleeves. Essentially, this, which I have and adore. Nothing clings or billows -- I can move in total comfort. This general style has suited me all through my various weights, though at higher points, I tended to get slightly heavier fabrics (which, I agree, drape better and hide jiggly bits), and I preferred slightly longer sleeves. A 3/4 length sleeve would work too.

Also 2nd pencil skirts, with looser silky tops tucked in (camis or blouses with sleeves short or rolled up).

I also can't wear heels, and think pretty flats in a nude colour don't detract from the simple elegance of this kind of look. It's easier to make flats work with midi lengths or shorter, I think.

I'd encourage you to try to ignore your concerns around your lower legs. People hardly notice that, especially if you stick to nude-for-you, or mid-range colours (not black/very dark and not white). I think hiding arms and legs is tricky in summer, when it's nice to have a bit of skin showing somewhere, both for comfort and aesthetics. I think it's good to have something open either above or below the waist, or sort of averaged out (as I think happens in the dress above, which is mostly modest but has an opening at the back).

Though I see them around a lot, I'd be careful with 50s silhouettes for pears; in my experience at least, a too-full skirt adds visual weight to heavier areas. Just watch for too much volume there. (My preference is for skirts and dresses that just skim the body in a mid-weight fabric; fabric weight and quality is the secret to looking great, very much agree with others - that is what would help a maxi work, imo. That and some pretty metallic sandals, even flats.)

Another option might be a loose romper, again with pretty sandals, though I think that veers young unless it's in a super high-quality fabric.

(alternative to great but expensive fabric is ensuring the dress is lined. Or, wearing a slip, though I haven't tried that)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:57 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

At the risk of threadjacking, I wanted to make one final comment responding to cotton dress sock's comment:

Though I see them around a lot, I'd be careful with 50s silhouettes for pears; in my experience at least, a too-full skirt adds visual weight to heavier areas. Just watch for too much volume there.

This can be true, and should definitely be mentioned. I think that the key here is about the volume of your upper body compared to your lower body. If you are small busted and/or have narrow shoulders, a 50s shape may well overwhelm you and look unbalanced. It works on me and my big thighs/hips because I also have broadish shoulders and am busty, so it gives a very hourglassy look with my small waist. But if you are truly very pear-shaped, you may well be better off with a less full skirt - maybe a fitted high-waisted pencil skirt with a slightly looser blouse, or some other dress with a defined waist but a less full skirt (like the one cotton dress sock linked). But if your bust and hips measurement are roughly equivalent, I think a 50s shape will flatter you a lot.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:51 PM on July 7, 2014

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