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June 20, 2016 6:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I build an age-appropriate business-y end of business casual wardrobe as a very pear-shaped, early 30s lady?

I've always been pear-shaped, but up until a few years ago I was a thinner, firmer pear without saddlebags, so I didn't have too much trouble wearing a variety of pant styles. As I gained weight, though, I ended up with fleshy thighs, a saggy but protruding butt, and large saddlebags that jut out, which has made my body not very pants-compatible. The typical go-to pear-shape work pants like Express' Editor Fit and Loft's Julie Fit don't work on me - in the former case, the rise is too low, and in the latter case, far too high. With most other pants, I have to size up significantly to fit my thighs, and then the seat and waist are too big. Most slight A-line skirts and fit-and-flare dresses don't drape over my hips thanks to the saddlebag issue - even with Spanx.

So, my only options now look like very full A-line skirts, heavily altered Martin pants from BR, and the occasional Loft curvy fit pencil skirt. The thing is, most women around my age at business casual offices in my city seem to wear sleeker silhouettes, like skinnier ankle pants. Things that are polished, but casual and distinctly modern, in a way that boot-cut trousers and circle skirts aren't. I naturally have a decent eye for fashion, but finding clothes that professionally cover my lower half has led to me wearing stuff that's...somewhat dowdier than I'd like because so little fits and flatters me. While I could get away with jeans and a lot of Old Navy swing dresses at my current job, I'm starting a new job at a much more formal company, and figuring out how to appropriately dress myself and look like I fit in. I've seen suggestions like this at Already Pretty, but the work-wear brands she suggested don't read youthfully enough for my liking. Also, some of the standard pear-friendly style suggestions, like wrap dresses, are hard to find in stores. Does anyone have any ideas that I haven't thought of?

-I'm in Canada, so options like The Limited and Land's End are tricky. Nordstrom's also not an option for several more months.
-I wear a size 6 or 8 on top and am in theory anywhere from a 10-14 on the bottom.
-I'm long-torsoed, which often makes dresses harder to fit.
-I'd like to keep my options cheaper as I know I'll have to budget for alterations.
posted by blerghamot to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe this is a situation where you should look into getting a few sets of fashionable custom made pants? There are definitely bespoke tailors in low cost countries like Hong Kong and India that do custom suiting. If a lot of money is going to tailoring anyway, why not investigate getting four or five pairs of high quality custom pants?

I'm sorry I don't have a referral to a specific tailor for you, but that's the line of research I'd start to pursue if I were you!
posted by slateyness at 7:54 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, Ureshii does a wrap dress and I find the quality to be better than a lot of similarly priced department store dresses. They are also very good at fitting, if you send them accurate measurements.

A lot of their styles are at the causal end of business casual, but when made in solid colors or the merino wool or linen jersey become a more workplace appropriate.

Can't help with pants--I'm more or less 3-4 sizes bigger through the butt and thighs than I am at the waist and the only non-yoga pants that work for me are St. John, which I can't afford.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:58 PM on June 20, 2016

Have you tried eshakti? I have your opposite problem where I'm short in the torso and my top is about four sizes larger than my bottom. Their custom fit options are pretty darn true to measure. They have a lot of more casual/quirky things but if you look through their collection there are plenty of solid color sleeker choices of dresses and skirts that might work for you with a sharply tailored jacket and some classic shoes. Also everything has pockets! Big deep beautiful useful pockets!

You might also try the less whimsical stuff from Pinup Girl Clothing. (Sleek pants, pencil skirt) Their plus size things might work best for you but you're within size range for their regular and tall ranges too.
posted by Mizu at 11:29 PM on June 20, 2016

Oh, I had forgotten: NYDJ pants handle the waist-butt-thigh discrepancy pretty well, but I'm not sure which Canadian shops carry them. Lots of super-casual styles, but a reasonable amount of work appropriate ones as well. Also, the ponte pants don't breathe at all and if it's above 65 degrees F, I can't wear them without being too warm. They have a new linen line which I have not tried, though.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2016

Judging by the reviews, the Loft knit circle skirts were actually incredibly popular this year and last. They are knee-length, rather than midi, so that helps. Additionally, Ann Taylor usually sells one or two wrap dresses a season. (BR used to, but hasn't seemed to lately.) For pants, with those proportions, I think you are "stuck" with tailoring. ("Stuck" because it's a pain, but, in fact, standard sizes fit no one very well, and most highly-visible women get their clothes tailored for an actual good fit.)

On your broader problem: no one wants to look frumpy or dowdy, but if you are interested in fashion, you must know that certain cuts of clothing do not encourage certain body types to appear to conform to what is deemed to be the desirable silhouette. There is a lot of random BS about this in the women's magazines, but it really is a matter of how the eye interprets line and form. Skinny pants tapered at the ankle will leave your hips looking huge, because they set up a visual contrast. If you insist on looking of-the-minute and of-the-minute is skinny pants tapered at the ankle (that was five minutes ago to me, but there are local variations), you don't really have options. I think the trick is to try to figure out what within the current trends is actually congruous with your shape--some years it'll be more, some less.

Finally, if you're in your early 30s in a relatively formal business-casual environment, it's probably time to start de-emphasizing "youthfulness" as part of your career look. You're not a youth anymore, you're a grown-up professional, and appearing to attempt to compete with the twenty-one-year-old interns will not end well.
posted by praemunire at 8:03 AM on June 21, 2016

A lady at work today was wearing very loose wide pants - sort of a 40's glamour style, with a blouse with a bow which was also 40'ish. It all became contemporary because of the color - black - and her great shoes.
Her shape is a lot like yours, and though she is always very well dressed, this was just amazingly flattering.
posted by mumimor at 9:46 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your body and concerns sound VERY similar to mine. I will admit that I've pretty much given up on pants. But I've found some success from wrap dresses, collared shirts and other visual interest up top (eye-catching necklaces or earrings) with a structured A-line tea-length skirt. Structured = wool, denim, other thick fabrics.

A look I like to channel is Charlotte from Sex & the City; although she's probably quite a bit smaller than me, I think she's a fellow pear and always looks sharp. The top results from Google image search show her in tops with interesting necklines and sleeves, but not too gaudy, and she seems to take advantage of having a comparatively small waist by cinching with belts and ties.

Oh! And that reminds me of my last-ditch plan if I'm ever at a loss for something to wear: get a dress a size or two or three larger than what you normally wear and belt it across the waist. It will give you plenty of room to move around and still show a flattering silhouette.
posted by witchen at 2:54 PM on June 21, 2016

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