Some principles apply no matter what body type you are in the market for, but all garments are certainly not created equally. That’s why Real Simple tapped Jodi Arnold, designer of Eloquii, to uncover the most important factors you should consider in the hunt for the perfect fit.
Arm yourself with a supportive bra.
The first step towards a good fit is a great bra, says Arnold. One that does not properly support the bust will alter the fit of a garment, making jackets and blouses pull in unnatural spots. However, a truly supportive bra will hoist up the bust, slim the midsection and create an hourglass silhouette. You know you have the perfect fit when the center panel of the bra lays flat against your chest, without wrinkling or gapping in the cups, and you can squeeze two fingers under the band and it still feels snug. The result is an improved fit, in an instant.
Dress to create proportion.
Whether you carry weight around your hips, or in the middle, Arnold says the goal is to achieve the illusion of balance by creating an hourglass shape. The first step is to determine your body shape—full hips and thighs, full bust, tummy, hourglass—in order to find pieces that will work for you. For example, if you have full hips and thighs, try an A-line skirt and a slightly-cropped top, which will help to define and highlight the waist, or wide leg pants paired with a boatneck top, since it balances the width of the hips, helping to create an hourglass silhouette.
Pay attention to seaming.
Tailoring and construction are powerful tools for accommodating curves, and Arnold says they’re essential for ensuring a good fit and a flattering silhouette. Regardless of the price, well-constructed pieces will include features such as bust darts, princess seams, gores, or pleats. Without this built-in structure, a garment would simply drape and mask the figure, without hugging or highlighting curves. So be sure to evaluate the tailoring before heading into the dressing room: seaming and darting are key indicators of a quality garment.
But don't obsess about "problem areas."
Instead, enhance your best features and think of the figure as a whole. By altering your mindset, you’ll be less likely to land on pieces that may not be suitable to your shape or that do not work together to form a balanced look.
Use prints and patterns to your advantage.
Rather than shying away from horizontal stripes or large-scale prints, Arnold says to be strategic, and play them up to your advantage. For instance, wear the print on the bottom if you have a full bust, or opt for a V-neck top or an open neckline to lengthen the figure.
Figure out the cuts that really work for your shape.
As a former plus-size woman herself and an experienced designer, Arnold says there are consistent silhouettes and garments she’s constantly updating, since they tend to work figure-flattery wonders:
If you have full hips, boat necklines, ruffles and boxy tops are great essentials when paired with wide-leg pants and A-line skirts.
If you have a large bust, A-line skirts balance a full upper half, while wide-leg pants and open necklines lengthen the torso.
If you have a straight frame or have a tummy, Arnold suggests opting for a shift dress or belting dresses and tops to create a waistline. Wrap dresses are stretchy and forgiving, plus they also help give the illusion of an hourglass figure.