The 9 New Rules of Plus-Size Dressing

Convinced that you’re bound by certain style guidelines if you’re over a size 14? Get ready to change your mind.

Photo by Photo: Manfred Koh; Stylist: Mai Tran

The Old Rule:“You Should Never Wear White”

The new rule: The key to a flattering garment comes down to fit, not color, says celebrity stylist Susan Moses. “White does not make you look larger if you find the right pieces, just as black will not make you look smaller if it doesn’t fit properly,” says Moses. (The exception: On camera, wearing white can make you appear bigger.) When shopping for white clothing—Moses is a fan of white jeans and white ruched dresses in particular—avoid flimsy fabrics, which will highlight any bumps. Instead, pick materials with substance and structure; not only will they provide support, but that extra thickness will ensure your undies won’t play peekaboo whenever you’re in the sun.

The Old Rule: “Button-Down Shirts Are Unflattering”

The new rule: “Button-down shirts complement curves,” says stylist and former Biggest Loser contestant Nicole Brewer. “Look for one that has stretch and design details that create shape, like darts, ruching, and wrapping.” For an even more slenderizing silhouette, “layer the shirt under a blazer, jacket, or cardigan—it will shrink the appearance of your midsection and elongate you,” says Brewer.

The Old Rule: “Bright Colors and Prints Will Call Unnecessary Attention to Your Shape and Make You Look Bigger”

The new rule: “There are no rules when it comes to color—just make sure it complements your complexion,” says Amy Spivok-Richman, a Macy’s group vice-president who oversees the plus-size category for the department store. Adds Nancy LeWinter, the editorial director of the plus-size online shopping mall, “Even bright red can be slimming when the cut and fit flatter your shape.” (If you’re still nervous about jumping into Technicolor waters, dip in a toe first: Start with small, vibrant details—shoes, jewelry, or bags—before trying bigger pieces.) As for prints, “make sure they’re in proportion to the scale of the body,” says Moses. “If a larger woman wears a tiny print, it may get lost.” An especially forgiving option? Watercolor prints. “One color melts into the other and it’s really flattering,” says Moses.

The Old Rule: “Dressing in Monochrome Is Always Slimming”

The new rule: Use it, don’t abuse it. Monochrome can indeed work wonders by creating one long, lean, continual line; but simply throwing on random pieces in the same shade can also make you look sloppy. To avoid that trap, “play around with different fabrications. Add an item with texture or a material like chiffon—and accessorize with a pop of color—rather than wearing the same fabric from head to toe,” says Frances Freixas, chief creative officer for Fashion to Figure, a national plus-size retailer. The hue also matters: “People love nudes, but it shouldn’t be the exact same color as your skin tone or there will be no delineation between where your clothes end and you begin,” says Brewer.

(To buy: Eloquii polyester-blend dress, $98, City Chic faux-leather jacket, $91, Mynt 1792 viscose-blend pants, $158,