Dressing well for the large man?
December 26, 2005 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Where can I learn about dressing well as an overweight man?

I'm more interested in casual clothes than in formal ones.
posted by callmejay to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, they have those 'big&tall' stores, which probably have a good selection of trendy stuff.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on December 26, 2005

and Nordstrom is really good for advice...i'd try an expensive big/tall place also--ask questions and get their opinions--try on lots of stuff and model it for them or a friend. You want not to bulge out and not wear anything either too loose and baggy or too tight. It's about how stuff hangs down. Also, spend lots on a great jacket that fits perfectly--you can wear it all the time (whether it's a sportcoat or a leather jacket type thing, or both). Once you find a brand that hangs well on you, remember it for the future.

Also, start watching people around you--if you see a guy built like you in great clothes, try to swallow your pride and ask where.
posted by amberglow at 3:17 PM on December 26, 2005

Also, start watching people around you

This is what I was going to say. As you walk down the street or through the mall, notice guys that look like you and see what they're wearing- do they look good? Do you like what they're wearing? Why or why not? Thinking about what you like and don't like is a good start.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:19 PM on December 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Having worked my way through college in men's retail clothing sales (*shudder*), I can tell you that men's, as compared to women's, clothing is very forgiving to the overweight man.

If you're looking for casual clothes, most department stores will carry up to 2x (and sometimes 3x). Big & Tall shops are an option, but tend to carry mostly dressier clothing, and the casual clothing tends to be pricier than you may be willing to spend.

You'll want to work with natural fibers, due to the whole heat-buildup thing. Cotton sweaters and sweatshirts for the winter, the same material in button down shirts and T-shirts for the summer. In general, look for tops that don't have ribbing on the bottom. You don't want the shirt coming in at the waist and accenting your stomach.

For bottoms: Check out Levis "Relaxed Fit". I used to do a lot of bike-riding in high school, and my legs have always been bigger than a boot-cut or a slim-cut jean would allow. For more casual times, Old Navy (and the like) sell some decently priced but very durable sweat-pants.

Button-down shirts can be a problem when you want to dress up, because you have to tuck them in for them to look good (once again: Bringing anything in at the waist is not your friend). I tend to focus on non-dress shirts for button-downs (a cotton-poly blend, or, if you want to look good, a silk shirt), and leave them untucked.

If you need to wear a suit, go to a store and have it fitted. They have specific styles of jacket and pants -- just make sure it's comfortable. There's nothing like how the feeling of uncomfort can translate into looking uncomfortable. A well-fitting suit can actually make a bigger man look pretty distinguished.

For specific reference beyond my clothes-experience: I'm sitting at about 70lbs overweight right now, so I have similar concerns.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:24 PM on December 26, 2005

whether it's a sportcoat or a leather jacket type thing, or both

You have to be careful with leather jackets: Don't get the standard jacket with the ribbing on the bottom. You'll want to look at a specific style called a "Car Coat", as it'll hang nicer, be generally slicker looking, and be a lot more comfortable when you've got to button/zip it up for the cold.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:26 PM on December 26, 2005

I would look at those "what not to wear" shows on bbc america and TLC. Sometimes they have men and sometimes you can apply some of the women's tips to men (there are similar issues and strategies).
Or maybe next time you see an attractively dressed man that is similar in body type ask him (I guess if the setting is appropriate and not "weird"). OR maybe you could find a person that works in a store you like with a similar build. They would love to help I am sure.

Good luck!
posted by TheLibrarian at 3:26 PM on December 26, 2005

If I learned anything from what not to wear, it's to never wear pants with pleated waists. Trust me on this one, a flat front on the trowser is what you want. Creases in the pants are still ok.
posted by furtive at 3:44 PM on December 26, 2005

As a large man, I figure people should be happy I'm not subjecting them to the sight of myself walking around buck naked, and if they don't think I look trendy enough, fuck 'em. Being in Seattle I tend to go with he layered look (t-shirts with open or buttoned button-down shirts in complementary or contrasting colors) for my casual needs. If I need to dress up a bit for something, I have some "business casual" (i.e. a couple dress shirts and a pair of khakis). If that's not suitable for some thing or another -- and I have found very few things for which it won't suffice -- I just wouldn't go.
posted by kindall at 4:18 PM on December 26, 2005

Also, don't forget about grooming - a decent haircut, a shave or a beard trim, clean fingernails, update your glasses if you wear them, a decent watch. All these things add to the clothes.

Oh, and the very best thing you can wear is a smile.
posted by essexjan at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2005

Embrace tailoring. It's what fat guys are least likely to do, and also the thing they should do the most. These suggestions about finding clothes 'that fit you' are well-meant but not likely to be helpful. Fat guys are big in some places but not in others. Don't get yourself depressed searching for items of clothing that will fit you perfectly off the rack.

As far as tucking stuff in at the waist: it depends what 'waist' you're talking about. Most dress pants are meant to ride at the natural waist. On a thin man, it's sometimes hard to tell whether he's wearing them that way or not; on a fat man, it's obvious, and it can look a little strange or old-fashioned, but it does keep your shirt tucked in better. If you are fat, and you wear your pants at your hips, then your shirt is going to keep coming untucked.

Also: dark colors. And similar colors on both halves of your body, top and bottom, so that your length is emphasized and your curves are de-emphasized. Embrace vertical stripes; eschew horizontal stripes.

Get the basics right. Thin people often assume that fat people are sloppy, lazy, don't care about their own appearance, and in general don't have their shit together. Make yourself a moving target. Get a good haircut, shave well, match your shoes to your belt. Before you put on something unusual, or even some unusual combination of regular things, ask yourself: "Are people going to think I'm fully aware of what I look like in this, or are they going to think "Not only is that guy fat, but he probably doesn't realize how obnoxious that shirt is"?"

Err on the side of dressing up too much. It's always better for someone to look at you and think 'that guy is overdressed' than 'that guy is fat.' Besides, dressier clothes go better with fat. A suit is by definition the most streamlined thing a man can wear: the same color, the same fabric, a complementary cut: top and bottom. A jacket (tailored!) covers up the part of you that you would most like to cover up; not just your belly per se, but the point at which your belly hangs over your belt. To wit, pants held at the natural waist, mentioned above, look better under a jacket.
posted by bingo at 4:47 PM on December 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Adding to bingo - you'd be surprised at how little bespoke casuals go for (ok - you're not going to get t-shirts, but still). Not only are you likely to get something that fits *you* rather than generic Mr Lumpy, but it's both up to the minute and usually lasts quite a period of time.

A lot depends on exactly how large you are - fabric cost could be a factor, but it wouldn't hurt to check it out. The only real caveat is if you're undergoing any exercise programs now or in the near future - which could require a more fitting wardrobe - in which case, the extra expense may be extravagent.
posted by Sparx at 6:17 PM on December 26, 2005

I frequent a restaurant where the manager is unusually heavyset, and this guy always look sharp. The most obvious thing is that he doesn't allow a lot of contrast among shirt/belt/pants. The clothes don't match, but he doesn't cut himself at the waist by wearing dark pants and a light shirt.

He also wears colors that flatter him, but I do think that colors with like values are a good idea.
posted by wryly at 6:36 PM on December 26, 2005

I like to wear "tall" shirts (XLT) because they don't come untucked. I get mine at Eddie Bauer. Wearing ties is hard for me because of my large neck. Off-the-rack shirts that are big enough in the neck are tentlike on my torso; gonna have to bite the bullet and get some tailored shirts.
posted by neuron at 10:48 PM on December 26, 2005

Sparx - "bespoke" means made by a tailor as opposed to off the rack, right? (asks a clueless US'ian)

Ditto on whoever said watch the "What Not To Wear" shows. BBCamerica did one for a guy named Matt, I think (their first male fashion victim) who is a big guy. Many of his tips were useful for my big husband. I think if you google "what not to wear" you can find photos.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2005

Yes, bespoke = custom tailored. Another recommendation for bespoke shirts. You'll have to buy in bulk (generally 4+, I think), but my XL friend loves them.

Also, general rule of thumb (aside from the excellent "no pleats" advice)- vertical stripes have a slimming effect. Avoid horizontal stripes at all costs.
posted by mkultra at 9:51 AM on December 27, 2005

I was the assistant manager at Casual Male for a couple of years. I definitely second the advice on never, ever wearing pleated pants. I would try to talk my customers out of it at all costs. It does NOT disguise your belly, the fabric draws attention to it!

The look that seemed to work the best with all big men was a button-down shirt left open with a coordinated tee underneath. This look always came off as casual, yet put together. Also, if you tend to get hot you can shed the outer layer. Here is an example.

When it comes to jeans, don't go with loose fit. A lot of guys think if their jeans are bigger it makes them look smaller. No, most of the time all that extra fabric again draws our attention to your size. Hardly ever did we have a customer come in and go straight for regular fit but this definitely would have been the best option for some. The general rule is, if you are larger on top than you are on bottom (bigger belly, smaller legs) go with a relaxed fit to even our your porportion. However, if your legs aren't much smaller, definitely give regular fit a try.

My best advice is to go to a store specializing in bigger clothes, (there are Casual Males ALL over the place) and either take a female friend, or even better, ask one of the female salespeople to pick you out an outfit that works best with your frame, skin color, etc. I guarantee you'll come out looking great.
posted by Ugh at 10:39 PM on December 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

And like neuron said, tall shirts work really well (even if you're 5'7!) because the extra length can pull over the belly to keep them from coming untucked.
posted by Ugh at 10:41 PM on December 27, 2005

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