What kind of body is Boden designed for?
March 15, 2018 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Boden brand dresses don't fit me, and I can't figure out why! Mefites who find that Boden clothes fit well and are flattering on them, can you tell me a bit about what type of figure you have?

I'm average weight, shortish, banana x high-hip/figure-8 shape, and tend to fit my (petite) size OK-ish in a variety of mall brands. Weirdly, though, I've had a long succession of lovely-in-theory Boden dresses end up looking... distinctly dumpy on me. Even weirder, it's always in the same way-- something like a complicated combination of being too long in the torso, too wide in the shoulders/ upper arms, and too loose in the small of the back (??) and lower tummy. (Note: it's not just being too big all over, because there are regions-- upper hipbones, front waistline-- that fit fine-to-snugly. And the next size down is always very sausage-y on me.)

Very occasionally I see their dresses look this way on the model, too, usually with looser-fitting silhouettes that in theory should handle a little extra room just fine. Most of the time, though, the garment looks OK on the catalog model and awful on me.

I really like the Boden dress aesthetic and would love it if there were a simple tailoring "fix" that'd make their clothing work for me. I'm hoping that with some additional data on bodies that do fit Boden, I may be able to get a better sense of where the fundamental design mismatch lies.

-- if there's anyone out there who doesn't mind sharing-- what makes Boden work for you? Or do you have insights on what's going wrong for me?
-- related: any ideas for other retailers of similarly styled clothing?
posted by Bardolph to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Many but not all boden dresses work on me. I'm average-to-short, long-waisted and pear-shaped. Because of the last I can't wear any of their shift dresses but anything else works.
posted by typecloud at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a friend with lots of Boden that I always admire, and it took her a long time to put it together, even though she is a totally different body shape than you (tall, broad-shouldered, long-armed, long waisted).

Apparently, she went through every single jacket they had until she found Her Holy Grail Blazer. The dresses are still hit or miss for her, so she just takes a BUY EVERYTHING AND RETURN EVERYTHING MINUS THE TWO THAT WORK approach.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Many, many Boden dresses are empire-waisted. There are a LOT of people for whom this style doesn't work--if you've got a tummy, you look pregnant, if you're large-busted, it makes your breasts look huge and/or weird. I really don't know of another mid-level clothing clain that puts out so much empire-waisted (or nearly so) clothing. Could this be your problem?
posted by praemunire at 11:53 AM on March 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am short, average-weight, and hourglass, and have the same baffling fit problems you do (especially the looseness in the lower tummy and back). Chiming into say their wrap dresses fit me very nicely (as wrap dresses so often do on this body type).
posted by lovableiago at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

My experience sounds alot like joyceanmachine's friend's approach. I do have alot of Boden dresses that work for me -- and yes, many of them have high waists, as praemanuire says -- but I have returned several dresses that look terrible on me. Dumpy is exactly the word I would use. I have given up on their pants since those never seem to work for me and have returned more tops than I've kept. I'd say that I find their cuts more hit and miss, than that they're for a particular body type. My only consistent issue with Boden is that their tops and dresses seem low cut or sort of gappy for me? I have to wear a tank or camisole under many dresses and I had a scoop neck top that gaped so badly, you could see right down my shirt if I wasn't sitting straight up.
posted by kittydelsol at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a lot of Boden dresses and they are some of the more flattering items I own! I always feel like Boden dresses are made exactly for my body type, so I see where you're coming from here.

re: body type: I'm short but have long legs (so, short-waisted? right?), generally pear-shaped (small chest & waist, larger hips; I'm 1-2 sizes bigger on the bottom), but with straight & fairly broad shoulders. A lot of Boden dresses are low-cut, and while they look fine on me, on someone with anything bigger than a C-cup they'd be extremely revealing.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a Boden gal! I'm 5' 10" with long legs and a flat chest. While I looked better in their clothing when I was 50 pounds lighter (c'est la vie...), their waist usually hits right at my narrowest point and looks flattering. It's a higher waist than other clothing brands. Blouses have been a gamble, but they often fit better for my flat chest than other brands.
posted by missmary6 at 12:42 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Quite a bit of Boden used to work for me (5'7", large-busted, fat tummy) especially the 1950s/1060s vintage look ones. I liked their colorful fun clothes, and they fit into my artsy wardrobe.

However, they changed their look dramatically a few years ago and quit being so whimsical and vintage-inspired and now I don't think I could wear anything they sell. In fact, I was just looking today and I was like, NOPE. All the dresses for this spring look like they're for very slim, very young women who want to look unexceptional.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:42 PM on March 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am short waisted with small shoulders and a big butt. There is usually a 2 size difference between my top (smaller) and bottom. And yeah, dumpy is the word for some of those Boden dresses!. I have a lot of them but I have slowly accumulated them and tried on way more than I have kept. I have had more trouble in the past few years finding anything, so maybe they're sliding a bit on construction and quality. The stretchy shift dresses seem to work best for me. I haven't actually ordered this, but it looks very similar to the Ottoman dresses they used to carry that have been workwear go-tos for me. My husband jokes that I should just get a Star Trek communicator pin and I would have a Halloween costume.

I have been looking for an alternative as well. Banana Republic has some dresses that seem like they would work but they never carry much in store so I haven't actually explored the options.

In general my question for clothiers is: but what would that look like on a woman with some boobs? I am only a C and I feel like a German beer maiden in comparison to a lot of the models ostensibly showing me what the clothes would look like on.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:51 PM on March 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do you have a swayback? Ie, a deeply in-curved lower back that kinda juts back out again to become a butt? Often also seen with a small waist.

If so, a lot of dresses and structured tops will tend to bag there. The good news is it's generally a fairly simple "swayback alteration", as long as they garment doesn't have a back zipper (you'd add vertical darts and sometimes a horizontal dart right at the bunchy part)- and when the lower back is well-fitted (video), the resulting silhouette is very graceful-looking.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I’m very tall with what used to be hourglass but these days could be generously (heh) called full-figured. 36E, size 16/33 in jeans, 35”inseam and a super long torso. Many of the not-empire-waisted dresses look good on me and I think it’s because they snugly fit the bust, skim the tummy/waist, are long enough in the torso to fit me, and are long enough and slim enough in the skirt to be flattering and professional. I will say I always, always order multiple sizes and am reliably one to two sizes down from Boden’s online size-estimator.
posted by stellaluna at 3:58 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am 5'7 with a short waist under the middle aged spread. I have been wearing Boden for a while and agree that it's changed. It also wasn't that consistent in the first place. The items that have worked best for me are their leggings, certain high waisted jersey dresses with pockets, bootcut jeans, swing dresses, cashmere sweaters, raincoats, and blazers. I usually order long sizes. The tunics are good if worn over jeans. With leggings, it's hard to achieve--should you want to-- the Tory yummy mummy look of their marketing. The effect is more like mutton dressed up as lamb.

I've also given up on most of the prints. There's a fine line between "conversation print" and dowdy. And many of the prints are red phone boxes and big ben, or union jacks in funny colours. I find this British nationalism too much to stomach.
posted by Morpeth at 5:49 PM on March 15, 2018

I have an hourglass figure and agree that sometimes I find Boden dresses a bit short-waisted, but tend to have good success overall. I've gotten pretty good at knowing which of my two sizes to go to based on key measurements from the individualized size charts and knowledge of how stretchy each of the fabric types are. Also, I find the customer reviews actually more helpful than most retail sites, if you wait a couple of weeks you will get good and fairly consistent feedback from the public at large if a particular garment is too short waisted or tight or frumpy or whatnot.

For similar retailers, you might try Joules, also a British brand. They're more casual but have pretty prints, though they tend towards larger scale, more realistic florals.
posted by alygator at 7:30 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love Boden but I own zero of their dresses. I’ve sent back every single one I’ve ever ordered. I’m 5’4” and they are all far too long for me (I’m not particularly long in the leg for my height). The dresses also tend to have extra room in the tummy - pleats for instance. This is excellent when you want it, but my one and perhaps only notable figure feature is a long, slender torso, and thus Boden isn’t my most flattering option. These two things make their dresses look dowdy on me. The patterns also tend to be too big for a person of my height. I feel like their dresses wear me, rather than the other way around.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:52 PM on March 15, 2018

I think their clothes only work if you're long-waisted. (I'm not.)
posted by Violet Hour at 11:08 PM on March 15, 2018

If it helps you to work it out, I'm another one who can't wear Boden. I'm about 5'5", usually wear a US 6 in dresses and pants and a S or XS in tops. Somewhere between a pear and hourglass shape, with relatively long legs for my height. Boden stuff is always oddly roomy on me, but not in a way that ordering a smaller size would fix the problem. Also, their skirts and dresses are freaking short. (Have never ordered a maxi from them.) The have, or used to have, an option to order skirts a bit longer - maybe 2" or 3" longer than the standard. I prefer below-knee or midi styles, so that excited me at first. I figured a dress that was knee length on a tall model, plus a few extra inches, would be well below the knee on me. But they always hit me at or above the knee, wtf.

I can only conclude that Boden is meant for women who want lots of extra room to move around in their clothes, and who are tall and thin but also paradoxically bulky in shape and fans of very short skirts.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:18 AM on March 16, 2018

80% of my work wardrobe is made up of Boden dresses, but I order comically large amounts of dresses and return about 90% if them. My husband has no idea how they make any money off of me, given all their shipping costs. I am 6’ tall tall, pear-shaped, and am constantly gaining/losing 10 pounds on my belly. I have yet to find a shift dress that fits, and even wrap dresses are too large on top for me. The sweet spot seems to be a-line/fit and flare style dresses with a forgiving pattern to camouflage belly bulge. That said, the waistline is still often too high for me, even in size long.

I have yet to keep any tops because they refuse to sell shirts in size long, and the arms/torsos are never long enough for me. I haven’t tried any pants yet because I am not a glutton for future disappointment, and who needs disappointing pants when you can just wear a dress.
posted by Maarika at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2018

Best answer: Most Boden dresses are cut fairly wide in the waist, and fairly narrow across the hips, and many aren't stretchy. The skirts are kind of a medium-tightness, which I think is a hard style to wear.

Medium-tight skirts will be flattering on people who have:
narrow hips, small butts, wider waists, and flat stomachs.
Kate Middleton has this kind of build and looks good in dresses of this style.

But most people, Kate Middleton included, look even better if the dress either has more volume through the hips/skirt- which makes the hips look fuller and therefore makes the waist look tiny by comparison...

or when the skirt is stretchy and more fitted all the way down to the knee, which makes the figure look more curvy and juicy.

So to my eye, a dress like this Boden one- wide waist, medium-tight skirt, not stretchy-- will ONLY look good if you're pretty much built like a narrow rectangle. Here's another one. And another. Even the models look kinda square and frumpy in those dresses- the only thing making them look ok is that they're built like gazelles so that level of slimness means clothing at least tends to skim rather than bunch on them.

Another fit thing is that the waists on a lot of the Boden dresses look too low, so they will again tend to cause weird bunching as they're hitting you at the upper hip rather than the natural waist.

If you have a curvy butt, wider hips, or a small waist, that Boden dress will be too big/baggy in the waist and belly, making you look frumpy, and simultaneously too tight across the hips/ass, making you look like you're stuffed into the skirt- the kind of fit issues you see in this photo.

Boden dresses that would probably be flattering on most women:
This jersey wrap dress.
This yellow dress with a looser skirt.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:49 PM on March 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

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