Too curvy for "clothes for curvy women"
July 21, 2007 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Apparently my measurements are unusual for a fat chick. Is there anywhere I can buy flattering clothes off the rack (in person, and no tailoring needed)?

Preemptively: "You're not healthy" (I am) or "I'd hit it" (you wouldn't) go to I'm looking for helpful suggestions here -- please!

My measurements are 44-32-50. Just under the bust is 35". I'm currently wearing a 36DDD underwire, and somehow I'm comfortable in it (no lumps, bulges, or feelings of impending explosion). I am just under 5'9". While my BMI is not great, my waist-hip ratio is under 0.65. I'm young and I've never been pregnant, so I have no idea why I'm proportioned this way. Please let me know if any more measurements would be helpful.

The trouble may be obvious now that you've seen the numbers. In case it's not, the thing is that it seems like each of my proportions make me a different size. For an example, look at Torrid's sizing chart -- my tits make me a 16; my waist makes me too small for the store; and my hips and ass make me an 20. Similarly, Lane Bryant just introduced new Right Fit sizing, and the curviest style they offer is built for a 34" waist and 47" hips. If I wanted this shirt from Igigi, I would have to buy a size 22/24, and it would be a little loose in the bust, pretty tight around the hips, and give me a whole extra 10" in the waist.

So what do I buy? Or, more accurately, where do I shop instead?

Right now I wear pretty much exclusively jeans (Levi's 515s, made for 51" hips and 42" waist) with men's T-shirts/hoodies (XXL). I'm a college student, so this is somewhat acceptable, but you won't be surprised to learn that it isn't very flattering. But it doesn't seem to matter what I wear, since even when I dress up and look more feminine and fancy, it all looks baggy and terrible -- I have to fit the biggest proportions, which means my waist is totally lost.

I know it's popular to wear a cute flirty shirt with a huge belt over it. Honestly, though, I think it looks pretty dumb to wear a belt over a shirt -- and even if I could get over that, I still think it could only be justified if you have a slim figure and an unusually small waist and want say "look at this!" My waist is still bigger than most girls' hips, so I don't want to bring attention to it (duh). I just want to wear normal clothes that are cut to fit my size, not try to attract special attention with fads like huge weird belts that will be out of style soon. I am not specifically trying to define my waist, just trying to find clothes that fit me.

Also, because of my breasts, a lot of clothing looks really trashy on me. I know "wrap dress!" is going to be the immediate answer, but it looks terrible; anything low-cut, or otherwise purposely meant to draw attention to my body (like ruching/shirring), does. I know there was a related recent question, but besides our very different sizes, our goals are also very different. It seems like that question was "I have curves, how do I not look trashy at the office?" whereas my question is "where can I find normal, not specifically-curve-showing-off, clothes that fit me?"

My ideal clothing would be pretty modest -- cover me from collarbones to elbows to just below the knees. I'm happier being modest, and anyway, nobody wants to see my knees or upper arms. For professional situations I have flared black pants, a bunch of button-down shirts, and a jacket, all of which are nice, but subject to the same fit problems (not enough darts). For casual/classroom wear, I have absolutely no idea what to do, hence the jeans and men's Ts. For lingerie, I'm happy with my everyday bras, but fancy worn-to-be-looked-at lingerie/sleepwear would be awesome (underwire definitely needed, though).

I know there are tons and tons of online stores and mail-order catalogs that cater to plus-sized women, but there are two problems with those. The main one is that, like the examples above, their stuff isn't curvy enough to fit my measurements. Plus-sized, yes, and I need that, but I also need curviness. And second, I can't try the stuff on. And I need to try clothes on before I can even think about buying them. So I need to buy in person, although the good news is that I can get to New York City if needed.

So is there anywhere I can shop, in person, to find clothes that come close to fitting me, without having to have them altered? Even if I get stuff tailored (which is expensive, and I'm a poor student), even if the stuff is able to be altered, it doesn't usually fit very well or look very good because it wasn't designed for a figure like mine. Getting custom stuff made for me is hardly an option, so I'm looking for stores that cater to a not just plus-sized, but also curvy, niche.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
50's vintage? Dresses loose fitting on top and through the hips but with a belted waist. Or somewhat 50's style skirts - fitted at the waist only - I think the key is to make sure they are the right length, if they hit right at the knee they should be quite flattering. V neck tops with elbow length sleeves would be nice I think. I have a disproportionately small waist and I found that wearing a boxy silhouette, pretending I don't have a waist, makes me look several sizes larger. You have to work with the silhouette you have.

At the Torrid site, I think pencil skirts are not for you, they would need a lot of tailoring to take in the waist enough and it would be out of proportion. But one of the knee length slightly full or a-line styles would look nice, I bet.

If trousers fit in the hips you can have a tailor take in the waist.. this shouldn't be an expensive alteration at all, actually. Probably worth it to have a good fit, otherwise you wouldn't wear them much, right? Alternately, look for some trousers that hit at the hip, and just make sure you wear a top that is long enough.

That Lane Bryant sizing for instance - it gives the waist size it should fit, but they probably don't even sell trousers that actually fit right at the natural waist, it's just a guideline. Go to the store and try on a whole bunch of fits and see what feels comfortable and looks flattering, that would be my advice, even try on things you wouldn't think to try.
posted by citron at 11:05 PM on July 21, 2007

I think defining your waist is a good idea, it doesn't have to be with a huge belt (you're right on that!), perhaps a medium size belt or a tie/ribbon belt (so comfortable & easy to wear) that is the same color as the skirt/dress you're wearing? I also noticed most of the dresses at Torrid have waist accents because of the flattering effect it gives.. But honestly, a lot of their stuff is awfully trashy isn't it? that's unfortunate. There must be good design for plus size out there right? I'm kind of surprised that Lane Bryant is all stocked up with fitted Bermuda shorts, capris, and pedal pushers - those cuts are hard for most people to wear! striped flare pants, plaid wide-leg gauchos - what are they thinking? Those cuts will be unflattering on a size 2!

What about something like this simple black skirt with a patterned blouse? No one is going to wear that pink bow on there, but you should tuck the blouse in, maybe wear a belt/sash, maybe not.
posted by citron at 11:22 PM on July 21, 2007

I don't have an answer for you, but one of the Fatshionistas might.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:26 PM on July 21, 2007

This community may be of use to you.
posted by serazin at 11:27 PM on July 21, 2007

otteroticist! Damn you!
posted by serazin at 11:28 PM on July 21, 2007

The Fashion Spot- plus size thread

I'm afraid I don't have invite privileges on this site but should be no problems to browse without a membership..!
posted by citron at 11:33 PM on July 21, 2007

If watching Stacy and Clinton in What Not To Wear has taught me nothing else, it has taught me this: buy to fit your biggest part, have the rest taken in. Also, a jacket will make any outfit. With your measurements (and, heck, we all have this problem to some extent), it will be hard to find things that fit well and flatteringly straight off the rack.

I actually do seem to recall a woman who had this exact problem on the show. I'll take a look at the website and post back if I find anything.

In the meantime, I wonder if empire wasted shirts would work well? They may not emphasize your tiny waist, but they should float right on by the hips. Something like this or even something that you could tie at the waist like this. I am also a size 16 on top and a 20 on the bottom, and this has worked well for me. YMMV.
posted by rosethorn at 11:46 PM on July 21, 2007

A woman with the curves you describe, anonymous, will require different patterns than the standard commercial pattern grading will accommodate. For one thing, where women of lesser endowment could be fit with slightly deeper darts to the waist, you are going to need more darts, of approximately the same depth, if your darts aren't going to be little pointed pucker pouches, particularly in patterned fabric. You may need curved darts, or notch relieved double darts, rather than conventional straight darts, and a waist alteration in slacks for you may really become a re-grading exercise.

Were I altering rack slacks for you, that you'd bought to fit your hip measurement, I'd rip the waistband in the back, clear to the side seams. At the waist, I'd take in the side seams, the seat seam at the top (while letting out the seat seam as much as possible toward the crotch), and I'd add two additional darts in the hip area, before cutting down and resetting the waistband, so as to distribute taking in 8 to 10 inches of fabric over 6 or 7 seams, as opposed to only trying to alter at the seat, or seat and darts. It's a more extensive alteration, but it would result in a much better looking, better fitting garment.

Were I altering an unconstructed shell jacket for you, I'd probably essentially reconstruct the jacket, ripping the side seams, darts, and armhole. I'd mark the armhole to reset the sleeve as high on the side as possible, hoping to get an extra 3/8 to 1/2 inch. If that required ripping and reseaming the sleeves as well, so be it. I'd mark a second dart halfway between any front dart and side seam, or in the middle of the side panel, if a pieced front. And then, I'd reseam the front with the additional dart, and reset the sleeves, reserving 1 to 1.5 inches of waist adjustment to be taken up in the back seam(s).

All this of course, as you know, is a lot of alteration time and skill, and it's still only a re-working to some better fit, of things never made to fit you in the first place. It's actually much easier to adjust a pattern, and cut the garment with the additional dart features and seam adjustments you need, than it is to try to "alter" garments that are not really made for your shape, and the results will be far more satisfactory, particularly in patterned goods, or where the construction of the garment depends on the application of fusible interlining materials, as with tailored jackets. So while I wish you every luck in finding off the rack goods for your needs, I'm going to recommend that you work equally diligently in finding a custom clothier, and then do a few projects with them to build your wardrobe.

I think you'll find that the costs for ladies made-to-measure need not be any more than the costs of ready-to-wear + major alterations, and the results will be much, much better. The skills you need to develop are those of working with professional made-to-measure people, and of learning to shop for patterns, rather than for clothes. You may even want to learn about pattern grading and adjustment yourself, and maintain a file of pattern copies that have been successfully marked for you, for use in working with new people, when you move.

And in the long run, you might very well come to see that sewing yourself is an essential coping skill for your life.
posted by paulsc at 12:39 AM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

A fun and effective long-term approach might be to hook up with D.I.Y.ers in your community and learn how to sew (there are some affordable and compact machines out there) so you can do your own tailoring and create fab custom-made clothes.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:09 AM on July 22, 2007

Dress Barn Woman - excellent assortment of modestly priced "forgiving" fashions.
posted by peace_love_hope at 6:22 AM on July 22, 2007

In addition to sewing, you might be interested in knitting. I too have the hourglass thing going on, and am so very frustrated with readymade clothes, especially ones with no stretch. Blech!

I learned how to knit, and at least with jackets and tops, I've been able to solve my problem to some extent. Knitted garments have more give, plus you're creating them from the start, which allows you to construct them just as you like for a perfect fit. It's not a cheaper alternative...just a better fitting one. Good luck!
posted by frosty_hut at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2007

Lands' End's tiny 'custom clothing' dept might be worth a look.

2nd "buy to fit your biggest part, have the rest taken in." Getting the waist of a jacket or dress nipped in isn't too expensive.
posted by kmennie at 9:40 AM on July 22, 2007

Making darts or taking in a shirt or dress is relatively simple. It can be done for cheap by a tailor, but this also a skill you can pick up quite easily yourself. If you have any access to a sewing machine and know how to use it, this would be the most economical way to do it. Take a shirt that fits you and flip it inside out. If you look at a dart, it is basically a straight line sewn, forming a longish triangle. The trick in better sewn garments is making the 'point' as smooth and unabrupt (sp?) as possible. This might take a bit of practice, so you could try it out on a thrift store shirt that fits you up top. Wear it inside out, and pin in wear you would like to bring it in a bit, in the shape of a triangle. Even matching the exact shape of the dart of an existing shirt that fits is a good start for a dart size. Then sew on on that line. You could even do it by hand if your stitches are small and neat. To do a dress, do the same thing, except it would be like two triangles on top of each other, with the widest part, where you want the dress to be narrowest. It's not too hard, and only takes a few minutes.
posted by typewriter at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Making darts is easy, as typewriter said; what also might help is to fit your shirts on a dress form. There's good instructions for a cheap, custom DIY dress form here. I find that it makes it much easier to pin darts if you're not pinning them on yourself, since you'll inevitably move.
posted by AV at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I can imagine a lycra/cotton (close-fitting) top and dress-style pants without too many pleats would be stunning on you. With such a small waist it will be tough to find pants without altering them. If you're set against alterations you can go with skirts but they do restrict movement somewhat.
posted by MiffyCLB at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2007

My primary advice is to try EVERYTHING on even if you have even a flicker of interest in it. You'd be very very surprised what will flatter. And get used to the idea of adjusting your clothes yourself when possible or taking them to a tailor when not. (It's trivially easy to nip in a waist a bit on a shirt or dress with your own sewing machine.)

But to be honest, I have to say, most women feel clothes don't represent their bodies. That's because fit models are hired in one size and the clothes are upsized by formula from there. Most women do not have formulaic bodies. Clothes are made for like 1% of the population. So there's nothing unusual at all about you -- most of us have the exact same issue with shopping for clothes. It doesn't help any of us, but it's good to remember.

(PS: get professionally fitted for bras. The 36DDD size makes me think you're wearing department-store bras, which probably aren't what you need. I was wearing the same until a few years ago when I found out I was a band size smaller and two cup sizes bigger. Wearing bras made for large breasts, in the correct size, honestly changed my whole view of my size.)
posted by loiseau at 3:29 PM on July 22, 2007

You're so SO gonna hate this answer, and mods delete it if you must, but a yucky truth is that even a marginal loss of weight seems to magically improve one's ability to find clothes which are not tight where they should be loose and loose where they should be tight. And I'm talking 5-10lb losses here. So while there may be lots of good accommodating strategies for dealing with your current shape, it may be more possible than you imagine to move to a configuration which is a bit easier to find fits for.

Never underestimate the effect of even marginal weight losses on both self-image and fashion compliance.
posted by unSane at 8:44 PM on July 22, 2007

Look at how Nigella Lawson dresses. She's a little bit smaller than you, but with a 25-inch waist she's similarly proportioned. Strappy, stretchy tops with a cardigan or shrunken denim jacket over the top (it doesn't have to button over the breasts to still flatter and look like a good fit), sometimes a skinny belt over a bigger item. Deep cleavage with covered-up everything else, and not at all frumpy. Her style is vintage-look without being vintage... real vintage pieces from the 1950s were designed to fit women wearing heavy support undergarments, so even if you have the right dimensions, the fabric may not lay correctly.

You could lose all the weight in the world but your basic proportions will not change much. As someone who is much smaller (size US 4) but still curvy, I find the sewing machine is my best friend and second the recommendations to learn some simple tailoring. Most modern clothes are not cut to fit a tiny waist-to-hip ratio, and making darts is something you can pick up in an afternoon. You can even cut in a new side seam on a t-shirt that will be undetectable, but flattering. I bought a vintage dress that fitted me in the bust and had the waist down to the right size in enough time to go out in it that night! Sewing shops and department stores run free or cheap classes on how to do these things.
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:43 AM on July 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

I am nthing the "try everything" advice.

I'm short and curvy meaning there's an actual ass, tits and hips here. (Or as my southern grandmother used to say, "She ain't missin' a thang.)

I find the following designers make clothes that are practical, don't make me look like a two-dollar 'ho..or for that matter, a school marm: Carol Little, Dana Buchman, Anne Klein. Now, these are expensive labels but every Dana B suit in my closet was purchased at Goodwill..Yup.

Also, lycra is your friend when blended with natural fibers. Don't be afraid of the wrap dresses. A pretty camisole underneath will keep you from distracting your colleagues with your cleavage. I find that I spend most weekends in yoga style pants and stretchy tops in vibrant shades, nice jewelry and lip gloss....(Stacy and Clinton would frown but so far, I'm still waiting on my $5,000 shopping spree so I can wear what I want.) I can dress up the pants with a nice mid-heeled sandal (Heels ALWAYS. Great for elongation) or during the day, a pretty casual shoe.

I personally don't like anything stiff and cotton. It's always pretty but I need fabrics that drape my curves not sit on top of them so they look all boxy.

If something catches your eye, take it into the dressing room. Be honest with yourself and but not overly critical. Take a blunt, but kind friend along.

I also never do the following: crew necks (V-necks do the elongation thing too and can actually make bigger breast look smaller), button-down shirts (no matter what size I get them in, they always gap at the breast. I wear pull-over camisoles under suits.) After law school, I was told we had to wear shirts with collars to interviews so I found a v-neck sweater with a cotton collar. Solved that problem.) Skirts that aren't a-line also never end up in my closet.

Also, I hate both Stacy and Clinton but "What's Not to Wear" has taught me loads about dressing my body for different occassions. I had the work and casual thing down but could never fully figure out the dressier things. TiVo this. It's very educational.

I find retail shopping to be a pain but I always find what I need with my friends at the consignment and thrift stores. I also save big money!

Good luck.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:55 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out my virtual model? (

You create a model that has 'your body' by entering actual info about your body type, and then you can use your 'virtual model' at online stores that support the service, and they'll show you clothes that will fit based on specific measurements that you enter. Some give you extra info, like a fit rating and where the item might be tight or baggy, etc.

One thing to note: it seems as though you can only enter general information like 'body shape' and weight into your profile at, but when you click through to retailers (like Lands End), you can then enter your *actual* measurements (i.e., bust, waist, and hips... and occasionally even more obscure ones like thigh circumference).

I know you said you need to try on clothes, but maybe this would make it less of a gamble to order online. Alternatively, you could note the specific items and sizes that seem like potential good choices, and then go try them on in a store, at least in cases where brick and mortar stores exist.
posted by sentient at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2007

« Older Help me beat possible discrimination!   |   How to select and buy PCI card with PS/2 port for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.