Repost: Shopping for Figure-challenging Garments

I’ll be taking the week off regular programming to spend time with my family and relax a bit. Hope many of you can do the same, and enjoy these tidbits from the archive!

And Happy Christmas to those who observe this holiday!

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Jess popped this question into the suggestion box:

I don’t know quite how to phrase this, but I’d love a post on how to shop for those items that make you feel insecure. For example, I’m mostly a wearer of skirts and dresses, but I want to incorporate more trousers into my wardrobe. However, while I’m familiar and comfortable enough with my body in skirts and dresses to make shopping for those items straightforward and pain-free, shopping for trousers fills me with angst because it highlights those parts of my body I haven’t quite got to grips with (my thighs, mostly, which are the reason why I find it hard to get trousers to fit), and also because I find the sizing (with waist measurements and hip measurements and leg measurements and all of that) confusing. As a result, I tend to either get upset or give up very easily. But I want to overcome this, not least because my Dream Jeans are on their way out and I can’t find any more of the same brand and I want to be able to find some replacements!

Ahhh, I know the feeling. The mere idea of shopping for pants used to make me break out in hives. Shopping is fun and invigorating when it involves a relatively speedy and undeniably successful outing. Shopping is disheartening and frustrating when you spend five hours trying on dresses and leave tired, frazzled, and empty-handed. Shopping is an absolute CHORE when you are shopping for an item that you know is tricky to fit and have no idea how to approach your search.

I’ll level with ya: Shopping for garments that challenge your figure and/or style will always involve some trial and error. I’ve got tips – oh, do I – but they won’t be foolproof. Sometimes you’ll do all of these things, set out to buy yourself some goll darned blazers, and STILL fail to find a single style that works on your frame. But hopefully these practices will help minimize the number of shopping excursions that end in fruitless frustration.

Consider what works for your figure and why

Even if you’re shopping for a garment or style that appears to work against your natural shape, it helps to understand the elements of clothing that work with your natural shape. So let’s use Jess as an example. She does well with skirts and dresses, but cannot seem to find a pair of trousers that fit. She is self-conscious about her thighs. It’s likely that skirts and dresses have become her go-tos because they skim her thighs. How can she re-create thigh-skimming with a pair of pants? Widelegs, perhaps? Or maybe doing skinnies in a long-over-lean combo. Perhaps she also likes skirts and dresses because they emphasize her waist. How about something retro and high-waisted with a belt? Knowing what you want to accentuate and what you want to downplay can help you hone in on the versions of challenging garments that are likely to work best on your bod.

Research online

I know that online shopping has its pitfalls, especially when it comes to cuts that don’t generally work for you. But doing some reading, searching, and research – even if you don’t end up clicking “buy” – can help broaden your fit knowledge. Most major online vendors include user reviews for their products, and while some can be succinct to the point of uselessness, many are detailed and helpful. Boden, Anthropologie, and Old Navy tend to have incredibly specific customer reviews. Anthro even requests height, figure type, and personal style input from customers. In addition to learning about the dearth of options available to you by perusing online shops, poring over user feedback can help you learn about what works for people with figures similar to your own.

Ask for help from store employees

Most frustrated shoppers don’t ask for help. From anyone. And sure, requesting the assistance of a paid employee may make you feel beholden, but it may also lead to a successful shopping experience. Sales associates know about specialty sizes, how certain garments and styles run, and hopefully possess some basic knowledge of style and figure-flattery than can come in handy. If you’re shopping for something that’s always challenging, ask for help. Really.

Remember that the world contains tailors

I know, always with the tailoring. But friends, off-the-rack clothing just plain doesn’t WORK for many bodies. If you’ve thought long and hard about what clothes flatter you and why, done online research, asked for help from a friendly SA, and still can’t find a pencil skirt that fits properly, find one that fits mostly and have it tailored into perfection. (Or consider learning to make alterations yourself!)

Remember: It’s not you, it’s the clothes

This is probably the most important wisdom that I can impart.  And I’ve imparted it before. There is nothing wrong with your body just because it won’t fit perfectly into off-the-rack everything. You should not attempt to change how you’re shaped, how you look, or how you feel about yourself just because nothing at Zara or Forever 21 fits you. Clothes should fit you, you needn’t fit them. The styles, shapes, and specific garments that slide onto your gorgeous form and make you grin at your radiant reflection? Those are the ones that deserve the honor of bedecking your bod. Don’t let ill-fitting clothing convince you that you’re wrong or strange. You are not wrong. The clothes are wrong, and if they don’t love your every nook and cranny they don’t deserve to hang in your closet or adorn your frame.

Again, doing these things will help. They will not make your decades-long search for properly fitting cardigans end in angel song and beams of sunlight. But they might lower the number of times you return from the mall all sweary-mouthed.

What else would you suggest to Jess? How do YOU shop for garments that challenge your figure?

Image courtesy mon.ami.

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  • JB

    Here’s another tip that I didn’t think of the first time I saw this post: Bloggers like Sal! There are lots of style bloggers out there in the cyberverse, and some of them even post their measurements. If you can find a blogger with a body type similar to yours, you can get an idea from her photos of how things fit her and, therefore, how they might fit you.

  • Kristen

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this after the original posting, but while you’re out shopping, try on something fun, too! It’s free and easy to try on something you’re comfortable in, that makes you feel good about yourself, and it can cut back on that frustration of trying on a million things that don’t fit well. Just don’t use it as an excuse to give up on the “hard” item – use it as a reminder of what you like about your body and how fashion can be fun.