Reader Request: The Side View

Reader Vildy asked for some input on how to flatter her profile. Since she feels she looks considerably more slender from the front than from the side, she asked for a side-view analysis and a few figure-flattery tips.

This is a question that is quite close to my heart. And so, my friends, it is time to properly introduce you to my tum.

First, here’s me from the front:

And now, from the side.

Helluva difference, no? Just like Vildy, I look considerably slimmer seen face-on. Not better, mind you, just slimmer.* And I have learned a number of tricks for minimizing my midsection bulge that I will now share … with the understanding that they are best suited to women whose natural waists are a bit smaller than their bellies. My guess is that those who appear proportioned from the front but less so in profile will be built similarly to me. And since Vildy didn’t specify, I’m going with that theory!

You apple-shaped ladies will find most of these tricks useless, I’m afraid – click here for a few apple-specific musings.


1. Full skirts

A full skirt with a nipped-in waist will draw the eye to your narrowest point, and flare out stiffly from there, masking the tum entirely. SCORE.

2. Princess seams

Much of de-emphasizing the belly is about emphasizing the waist. Princess seams are ideal for this, as they nip in at the natural waist and float over the hips without clinging.

3. Belted button-down shirts

This is basically a way to create the effect of a full skirt while wearing pants. Belting at the natural waist emphasizes its slimness, and since button-downs are generally stiff, they’ll flare out naturally beneath the belt.

4. Belted floor-length skirts

Belt nice and high, and let pick a long skirt that is A-line or full. It’ll create volume lower on your body, but overall have the same effect as a shorter full skirt. This look works best if you’re average or above-average height. Shorties might get swallowed up by all that length …

5. Vintage-style shirtwaist dresses

Belting helps, but this style can work on its own, too. Make sure to find a frock that has waist definition and a flared skirt.

6. Fitted blazers

And I mean FITTED. This blazer is my ideal, as it is practically a corset. As with all of the other key pieces, it emphasizes the waist, flares out over the tum, and creates pleasing proportions.


1. Dropwaists

I’m pretty well convinced that dropwaists look horrendous on all body types, but they’re particularly offensive on havers-of-tum. You’re basically making a snug packet for your entire upper body, from shoulders to hips. What a fantastic way to draw attention to your spare tire!

2. Empire waistlines

I know that many, many style experts declare this style to be a life-saver for anyone with some weight around the middle. And they DO work for some folks, but not for all. Depending on your build and the cut of the garment, empire waistlines can make the slimmest of us look preggers. If you’ve got a protruberant tum, do you really want to stir up those rumors?

3. Well, just general tightness

My tee was super tight, and my skirt was pulling across the belly and hips. Both of which drew attention to my middle. The giant floppy bow sprawled across my collarbone helped distract, but still. Overly tight clothing will cling and reveal, so make sure your clothes are fitted without being suffocatingly snug.


1. High-waisted skirts and pants

If you’re more concerned with emphasizing your waistline than disguising your tum, high-waisted bottoms are fantastic. But don’t expect a bump-free side view.

2. Sheath dresses

There’s that same pink dress from the top two photos. A true sheath features a pencil skirt-esque bottom half, and since you’ll have an unbroken line from shoulders to knees, there’s no way to disguise the tum. But hey, check out how hot I am in my sheath, tum and all.

3. Long, slim, fitted layers

Same basic concept as the sheath: It’s gonna hug your curves, both the ones you want to emphasize and the ones you want to mask. But if you want to play around with proportions and look cool instead of svelte, go for it.

Is your front view drastically different from your side view? Is it tum-related? If not, what causes the discrepancy? Do you do anything specific to mitigate?

*Please be aware that if you decide that your tum is bigger than mine, and I have no right to be self-conscious, I will not publish your comment. See this post for further explanation.

  • Andrea

    I have the same figure type as you, whether I'm slim or heavier. These tips are very helpful and I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. Thanks!

  • Cinderella’s Folly

    I love that you showed photos of yourself when you did not only the right things, but also the wrong ones. In magazine and style blogs, it's so easy to imagine that people dress perfectly for their bodies, everyday, and pictures like your show that hey, it is OKAY to experiment, even when the results are not the most pleasing. Also, I love your 'For when you don't care' section. I sometimes feel that the little Clinton and Stacey on my shoulders prevent me from wearing anything but a-line, nipped-waist silhouettes, and I feel guilty whwen I try something else (like they will accost me in a mall somewhere and let me have it.) I love the concept you promote here – wearing something because you LIKE it, and you like the way it looks on your body, conventional rules of figure flattery be damned. That's so important to expanding your fashion repertoire and being more creative.

  • Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusian*Glow

    Great post ! I struggle with a tummy just like yours. And you've finally told me what I suspected: drop-waists are not for me. Thanks !

    I had written a post on the fact that most figure type classifications take only the front view into consideration. "big hipped" may mean someone woth broad hips and a flat bum, or vice versa.

  • Nadine

    I have a totally different figure but nevertheless I enjoyed reading this :).

  • Meli22

    you are a very brave woman, I love you! :)

    love the tips for the revealing tummy problem!

    I alone have figured out that empire-waist or babydoll styles SUCK for my body type- a waist band below the bust draws attention to the bust and i good,but it must be fitted on the bottom half or I get the 'preggers' rumors going.

    The drop-waist thing I have yet to figure out. Good thing I didn't buy that drop-waist coat I was eyeing!

    For me, pleated skirts are AWESOME because they make the waist look small and cover the problem areas. I also can't wear super tight clothing over my midsection or rear. I try my best to aviod the lumpy bumpy syndrome :)

  • Suz

    Very interesting post, thanks! I am a firm believer in emphasizing the waist, for any body type!

    Even though I'm a very thin person (albeit with a sort of large booty), wearing things like pencil skirts still gives the illusion of a belly. But I still wear them because you're right, they're super sexy! Nothing wrong with channeling a little Scarlett Johansson!

  • e.

    (new reader here!)

    I love you for doing this! I should do one for broad shoulders. :)

  • Amy

    WOW what great tips! You really covered all the bases. I like the way you point out that not every style of clothing works for everyone (Ahem, dropwaists must die. For me at least 😉

  • Belle de Ville

    OMG, fantastic post. Although I think htat empire waist dresses can also work in your favor if they are cut right. At least they work for me.

  • Rebekah

    I like the way you think.

    Like Cinderella's Folly, I love that you showed both tum-friendly AND unfriendly styles, using yourself as a model. For me, that was the only real selling point of the ol' 'What Not to Wear" books.

    Sometimes we don't realize what a difference figure-flattery makes until we see a "before" and "after" shot.

  • Kym

    It's nice to know that I'm not the only one that has that darn tummy! For someone who's always had flat abs, when I turned 40 & it first showed up I was pretty upset. It has taken time, but I've finally come to accept it and thru trial & error have come up with the same list of tips that you've given.

    Just wondering if you've seen Wanda Syke's new commedy special – she spends time talking about the same tummy that she's named Esther. This skit helped me to laugh at myself.

  • Rea

    I have the same belly as you, and found this extremely helpful! Thank you!

  • Rosie Unknown

    Great post, very helpful!

    I love the concept of high waisted skirts that flair out, but sadly they tend to make me look way too bottom heavy. It doesn't exactly help with the tum problem, but it is much more bum flattering if you chose something fitted at the waist and hips, but that flares out at mid or lower hip line, it is wonderful.

  • gina

    I've found that drop waist dresses can camouflage a small tummy if the dress has a bit of a blouson effect above the dropped waist. I don't own a dress like this; the ones I've tried on have not worked for other reasons, but here's something like what I'm talking about:

  • Nina (Femme Rationale)

    sal, i think u look beautiful 360 degrees. kudos to you for being confident and showing all sides of your great body.

  • CompassRose

    Excellent posts! (Oh, drop waists. Drop waists are the curse of ANYONE with a figure. They look SO HOT on skinny people, and SO BAD on everyone else. I learned my lesson about that in high school in the 80s — hello, vintage 20s dresses that looked like hell.)

    I have kind of the opposite problem; I'm much wider from the front than from the side (especially in photos next to women with normal shoulders, I look like a truck or a very short wall), but most of these strategies work for me, too.

  • Linda

    I can't even decide whether I have this feature or not, because I seem to instinctively wear the "do" styles 95% of the time anyway. But posture must have a lot to do with it too, no? You seem to be standing kind of funny in the second pic.

  • Oranges And Apples

    I don't see my stomach as a problem – it's a tiny wee bit sticky outy but compared to the rest of me it is perfectly miniscule – but I still follow all the tips and tricks you show here – it's all about emphasising the waist!

    And I'm with you on empire waists – there are VERY few people who can pull this off!

  • sloth

    Sally this post is really GREAT!!! I am printing it out and putting on a closet doors! U

  • Maggie

    Thanks for the awesome tips! 😀

  • Becky

    I have a tummy, too! I do this thing in just about all of my photos where I "bevel" which means, I stand at an angle, never full frontal, or full profile. This minimizes the tummy in my pictures…in real life, I can't bevel all the time, so I embrace the fact that while I have a tum on me, I have a nicely proportioned hourglass figure. That means, I do high-waisted skirts and pants, and I fully embrace shapewear, which helps smooth out lumps, and minimizes my tummy. Thanks for sharing Sal!

  • Kelly

    My side view is my worst, too! My belly likes to make unwelcome appearances in lots of outfits.

    I imagine spanx and things like that help with this, but it still really helps to know the specific clothes that help. (speaking of spanx-type things, I know I never reviewed that Miraclesuit "lose 10 pounds in 10 seconds" panty you asked me to on my blog…I ended up not wearing it on my trip that weekend because I got sick and couldn't go out with everyone that night, but when I do wear it I will post a review!)

  • Vanessa

    Lovely advice, Sal! I'll have to keep it in mind for the next time I'm worrying over what I look like from the side. Have you ever tried Spanx? I've always been curious about them, yet I also have reservations over the idea of using a body shaper.

  • Sal

    Wow, two Spanx-related comments in a row!

    Kelly and Vanessa: I do have a Spanx knockoff that I utilize at times. I love it for smoothing out hip bumps, but I can't say it does much for my tum. Minimization, anyway … it certainly mitigates the jiggle! But it's never been able to smooth out my spare tire.

    However, I think that's down to my personal body composition. It could certainly work for others! Anyone use Spanx to flatten out their tummy bulges?

  • jennine

    oh my goodness…thanks so much for showing this! i don't like to see my 'side view' and i'm always checking other people to see if my side view is bigger than other's.. and for the most part, unless you're a telephone pole, your side view will have some substance.

  • LPC

    Drop-waist used to work for me. Broad-shoulders + used to be 25 inch waist + long torso = looks good in a drop waist. At 53 my tummy has come into its own and drop waists are a thing of the past.

  • WendyB

    Oh my gosh, I love the expression on your face in that second photo. Adorable. You have such a good sense of humor.

    My solutions for bad angles — Spanx or more often — refusing to look at myself from those angles. If I can't see it, it must not exist. Right? RIGHT?!?!

  • Meli22

    I did find a spanx imposter that smooths my tummy very nicely- but it creates a small roll under the bust that doesn't exist, and flattens my tush so bad I refuse to wear it lol 😉 however it DOES take me down a size or two, so if I was desperate to fit into something I guess I could… but comfort overules a smaller size no matter how pretty the clothes lol!

  • Sal

    WendyB: Absolutely. I look at myself head-on WAAAAY more than I admire my profile!

  • lisa

    This is such a great post! I've always had what I call the rice belly–I'm pretty slender everywhere else and then there's this little bit of something that sticks out around my middle. I don't think I care enough about figure flattery to disguise it, though, because I love wearing some of the things you said to avoid–sheath dresses, dropped waists, high-waisted bottoms. And I definitely agree with your assessment of empire-waisted anything–it's rare that I find an empire-waisted dress that doesn't make me look way bigger than I am!

  • Laura.

    sally, you are the bomb. for reals. this post is hilarious and helpful, as always.

  • Hanako66

    this is great! I totally use these tricks as well…nothing clingy in my middle!

  • rubybastille

    Dude, you still look fabulous in all the "avoid" clothes!

    And I totally love those sheath dresses.

  • Tina Z.

    I REALLY like the last category, think it makes you look more slim than the first category! Especially the pencil skirt. But I actually think the empire waist dress is nice too- I think empire waists are for everyone with average-small breasts. It's chest size that makes or breaks an empire, big boobs = bad idea.

  • kristophine

    I really loved this post. I'm in the same boat, with a nicely defined waist that I love… and a tum that often frustrates me. I tend to go with the emphasize-the-waist-to-hell-with-the-tum approach.

    I don't wear shirtwaist dresses often, though, for the same reason I don't wear wrap dresses: they emphasize my differently-sized breasts. Maybe you could do a post about that sometime–tips for those of us with a cup size or more difference between our lady lumps.

  • K.Line

    What an awesome post – very good advice all round (hahaha). I find that, with large breasts, the tummy lump becomes all the more challenging. So some of your suggestions just won't work. But still these are great suggestions for many apples.

  • Lady Smaggle

    Ha! That's great! I love a fellow blogger who posts pics of themselves looking less than their best! Love. xxx

  • Sal

    K.Line: That is a GOOD POINT, and not one that had occurred to me! I bet these tips are downright useless to women with larger breasts … hmmm, anyone have tips for minimizing a tum when you've got a sizable rack? I'll try to think of some, too.

    • Laura

      Tailoring. Pretty much all of your tips work, you just have to be really fussy about making sure your shirts or dresses fit your girls right, otherwise you get the drape effect that makes it look like your body goes in a straight line from boobs to thighs. Nothing like looking like a cardboard paper towel roll…

  • futurelint

    Very brave post Sal! I've always gained weight in my tum, even as a child… love the tips!

  • Passion4Fashion

    I love this post. I have the same body shape… from the side.

  • Audi

    I have a tummy bulge as well; most days I just remind myself that I'm probably the only person who'd ever notice it, and wear those high waisted pants or sheath dress anyway. But I've used many of the tricks you mention here too, including a waist cincher for super form-fitting stuff.

  • bekster

    Great post. I love the "For When You Don't Care" part. Sometimes it's just worth it to show the old tum in exchange for some cooler effect. I think I am more of an apple-ish shape, but I think many of these tips would still work for me.

    I am amazed at what a difference there is in how things look in real life and in photos, and also how different photos can be from each other, even if they are of the same thing. Sometimes I wish I could get people in real life to stand at just the right angle for the perfect view. :)

    Oh, and I still LOVE LOVE LOVE that green shirtwaist dress! You should put up that picture every few posts just so we can continue to bask in its beautifulness.

  • Tina Z.

    I find big boobs are difficult to dress, regardless of tummy size. That would be a great post- where to put them so they don't make you look huge! And I 2nd the request for dealing with asymetrical cleavage. Seriously, I have a tough time finding non-boring and sort of trendy tops to flatter. And I'm not a huge apple but don't have a tiny waist either…


  • Jen

    You and I have the same shape!

    I was underweight all throughout highschool, and now, at 29, I'm around a size 8 – 10. Regardless of my weight, I've always had that pooky tummy. Too often, it irritates me, but I'm trying to accept it as part of the lovely shape that is ME!

    And I've tried Spanx, but found them to be WAY too uncomfortable for everyday wear. Plus, maybe I should just be proud of that little tum, no?

  • Anonymous

    I really appreciated seeing the side view. Thank you. It was encouraging.

    – Myrna

  • Christina Lee

    GREAT post lady!!!I have the same problem and all of suggestions are spot on. I can pull off empire tops though and tend to buy them!

  • Casey

    Excellent tips, Sal! I appreciate how you showed what works, and what doesn't. I have a bit of a tum myself–really only visible from the side (and more pronounced at certain times of the month; usually I can camouflage it! ;). But knowing exactly how to minimize that profile bulge is excessively helpful. Thanks so much!!!

  • rb

    re: spanx. I have a tum that is a result of three pregnancies – certainly there's fat there, but there's also stretched out skin that will never spring back. I find spanx moderately helpful for the stretched out business. I still stick out but it is just firmed up enough to make my clothes "slip" better.

  • BAM

    That was a great post! I tend to have a tummy and I loved your "apple" post while ago. These are probably some of my favorite posts, because I *kinda* know the person showing the difference clothing & accesories can really make. Magazines always look so airbrushed in both the before and after photos that it's tough to see the difference.

    You look fab, but your post showed that the right clothing shapes can show that FAB-NESS the best.

  • Suzyfein

    Fantastic post! Same shape here too. I'm turning 40 in 10 days, and have some birthday money to spend on clothes. These tips are going to help me a lot as I shop! Thank you so much!

  • Kasmira

    Like one other commentor, I have the opposite problem: I look wider fromt the front than the side. My ribcage and hips are sort of oddly flattened. I'm not sure what flatters that sort of body type, other than strategic posing!

    Thanks for this post. It was really encouraging and educational. Kudos to you for doing all of your own modeling.

  • skapamusik

    Lovely post, it's great seeing what works and what doesn't.

    I have a pair of magic knickers (from trinny and susannah) that go all the way from the middle of my thighs up to just below my bra. I'm guessing it's equivalent to products from spanx. I think the best part about them, is not so much smoothing out my little bump (as it does, atleast a little) but they way I FEEL in them. I feel like everything is in place, my body and the clothes on top. Helps for those days when I wear clingy dresses or skirts.

    But wide skirts and a tight top like your jacket – fantastic!

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP

    Some of us are round, some are eliptical. I see many people whose tummy is the issue, and as many who have a lovely peachy bottom.

    It's also to do with your skeleton – broadness of it. I am very broad from the front and narrow from the side (apart from the boobs). Doesn't matter how much weight I lose, I will never look narrow from the front.

    Some people have rounded rib cages, other people have flatter rib cages.

  • E and O

    Yet another wonderful post. :) And I LOVE that long leathery skirt in #4. gahhhhhh!

    My weight has been all over the place the past few years and 2 tips I've found to deal with the tummy bulge and/or hip bulge. If you'll permit me a long comment, I wanted to share my magic tricks:

    1) wide hip belt

    This may seem counter intuitive since it's seemingly placing emphasis on the area you most want to hide. However, I've found that this works magic because it both breaks up the area (see next point) and literally covers those 2 bumps. The width is enough to smooth out the silhouette, without visually adding weight. Seriously, I've been able to wear too-small clothing or slinky dresses as a result of this trick.

    The belt can be heavy leather, or a soft scarf wrap. The key is to wear it at a sloping angle from back to front (higher in the back, near the waistline; lower in the front, under the navel). If you wear a hip belt directly at your hip line, parallel around your body it will instead visually expand that area.

    2) break up the line across your bulge

    Again, this might seem counter intuitive, but it actually works. Try this in a mirror and you'll see what I mean: take a long knit shirt and pull it down over your hips and belly. See how your bulges look very obvious when your eye can follow a continuous line?

    Now instead put on pants or a skirt with a low rise (say 1-2 fingers below your navel), something that is cutting across or near your bulge. See how bisecting the bulgy area means your eye is tricked? By making your eye jump around instead of following a single line you make the bulge seem smaller or not noticeable. It's a similar principle to making a long torso look shorter: breaking up the plane so your eye perceives things as more balanced. Using this trick can allow you to wear slim-fitting pants and skirts without enhancing belly and hip bulges.

    Now of course the key here is a good fit. If you're sausaging yourself into too-small clothes you'll just end up with overspill and a bigger bulge. (I believe Sal calls this the bisected worm issue.) But something that just skims the body works great.

    Also, if you're wearing a skirt, I've found that low-rise pantyhose help with this as well (not to mention that they're more comfortable). As much as I dislike Victoria's Secret, they've had great low-rise hosiery in the past that were comfortable. I think Sock Dreams (online) also makes low-rise hosiery, instead of that drugstore up-to-your-boobs long rise stuff.

    hope this helps someone out there.

  • Vildy

    WoW, Sal, a huge belated thanks from me. If you see the date, I wasn't reading clothes-related blogs and was absorbing political discussions. I totally missed this wonderful post.
    Have now read it all plus all the comments.

    I have to agree that you look great from all sides! Have to agree with Imogen, too, that it's a ribcage/structural affair as well. In college, at about size 5, I used to be frustrated at how other gals would tuck their shirts in and beneath their bosom the fabric fell in so dramatically and I just looked stocky. That part's ribcage, all right.

    I envy your ability to wear full skirts. I've given most of mine away, keeping only one that's lightweight silk. Reason: my bumps and lumps, front and back, are closer to inline with each other. The absolute worst on me, though, is the culotte or divided skirt. I'm probably the only woman in the world who loves these and, again, I end up giving them away. From the side they need to accommodate both the belly and the bottom and then drop from there. Well, both the belly and the bottom are low.
    Anything falling straight from there just looks like one big, chunky block. Same with straight vs. pencil skirts. Straight skirts also give that chunky block look and the longer they are, the worse it is. By the way, I am only 5 feet tall and actually wear a smaller size on bottom than on top. About a 10 mass market on bottom – even with the bumps – and a 12 on top so I can close buttons.

    The peplum effect does work great on me. And because my belly area starts right above the bikini line and is more a mound than a bump, I do two other things: I use tie belts with some heft to them and make a one loop bow, leaving that bit of frou created to stick out over the belly. It sounds like it would call attention but it distracts and breaks it up. I also sometimes put an extra belt loop or two right near the front buckle of a regular belt. This keeps it from riding up so I can wear it higher in back and lower in front, the way a reader mentioned.

    I look great in a sheath because the torso shaping shows the reason for the curves. But I can never wear a shift dress with that low bottom I have plus my 36DD bosom has no cleavage and is more to the sides. From the side, at least I have an obvious bosom so long as I wear clothes that don't obscure it.
    Because of the way my bosom is placed – no, I don't want to shove it around with padding the same way I don't want to wear spanx because I grew up when 95 lb girls like me wore long rubberized panty girdles so as not to jiggle! – I always look blocky and flat-chested in the front view of a coat or jacket that is all buttoned up. Wide open lapels help and that's good for blazers but not for keeping warm.

    Thanks again, and to all the readers, for this great post. I'll
    betcha there are a whole group of readers who have a different "problem" : lots of people have a bigger size body in front than in back and vice versa – if you drew a line down their side. First time I heard of this was in a sewing book but it seems a lot of people relate. Easy enough to fix with sewing pattern combining but an interesting dilemma for ready-to-wear because most of the wardrobe advice for shapes is still looking head on or at the rear view. Thanks for taking the time to look at things sideways!

  • Mikaela

    great post!! i have the same wish–to minimize "tum", as you call it!!

    and you wear that pink dress beautifully!!

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  • Yael


    I love your blog. I’ve been reading for a while, but haven’t commented yet. Thank you for all your work. Reading your blog helps me feel more beautiful every time!


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  • Jess

    “Havers-of-tum” actually made me giggle out loud. Love it. I really identify with this post.