Through Thick and Thin

Let’s assume for a moment that you are not Kate Moss. Let’s assume, too, that you have at least one physical feature that you’d like to downplay or even disguise. Finally, let’s assume that this feature is below your neck, and above your knees. Assuming all of these crazy things, it is likely that you have resorted to large, bulky, sack-like clothes in an attempt to mask your perceived “flaw.” I’m here to tell you that there is a better way.

I used to love the big sweater and the over-sized shirt. Eventually, Husband Mike dubbed these my “hide inside” clothes. And that’s what I was doing – hiding inside my clothes. I didn’t want anyone to see my lumps and bumps, and felt this was my only effective means of disguising them. But by putting myself in huge, formless clothes, I actually made myself appear even bigger. Sure, no one saw my love handles, but they couldn’t see my waist or bust or hips either. I looked like a very large, round blob atop a pair of tree trunks. (Photo courtesy jjill.com)

Eventually, Husband Mike got through to me. The message he sent was this: it is more attractive to show the world an imperfect form than a formless mass. He said he wanted me to wear tighter clothes, but when you’re uncomfortable with your figure, “tight” is a terrifying word. Eventually, I figured out that what he meant – and what I needed – were not tight clothes, but fitted clothes.

Fitted clothes have seams that nip in at your curves. You know the ones I mean. Not the button-down shirt that hangs like a box of white oxford cloth, the one that mimics a woman’s curves just sitting there on the hanger. Not the loose, flowy palazzo pants – the bootcut ones that allow room for your hips, but go in at the knees a little, showing the natural shape of your leg. The great thing about these cuts is that, generally, even if you don’t have well-defined curves of your own, they can create the illusion of curves for you.

Again, fitted does not mean tight. Fitted clothes should skim your body, defining its shape – but they need not squeeze or squish.

If you are still concerned about trading in your massive Irish wool sweaters for some princess-seamed blazers, here’s another tip: buy thick fabrics. A sturdy knit or boiled wool will hold its shape and, if it nicely tailored, will help define yours. But not everything needs to be wintry to be thick. The J. Jill shirt pictured above has a double-cloth front. The doubling of the material creates better lines and will mask any lumpage and bumpage, but the shirt is still cool enough for spring. Layering is trickier – I wouldn’t really recommend piling on three long-sleeved tees to create a thicker fabric. Instead, look for high-quality, fitted items made from materials that are sweatshirt thickness or thicker.

I am one of the luckiest people I know because I LOVE my boss. I refer to her fairly frequently as my personal Jesus, since she single-handedly saved me from my seemingly endless career hell. I would lay down in traffic for this woman. On top of rescuing my soul from eternal suffering, she is an IMPECCABLE dresser. She has found her style, nailed it, and wears it flawlessly. Bless her heart (and mine if she ever reads this), she is neither tall nor lithe. But you never even notice. She is the mistress of the fitted blazer, knows exactly which lengths of top suit her figure, sprinkles just the right amount of pattern and texture through her wardrobe, and generally looks like a million bucks. She knows all about the thick fabric trick – I’ve never seen her in anything sheer. And it just plain works.

So, Not-Kate Moss, consider this next time you reach for your husband’s flannel shirt: curves are what separate us from men, boys, and yardsticks. Curves rock. Let the world know you’ve got them.

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  • fresca

    For my taste, this is the best advice you’ve ever written: “it is more attractive to show the world an imperfect form than a formless mass.” That has extension way beyond clothes!