Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fashionable, flattering: A plus-size fit

By Abigail Leichman
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)

Now that the average American woman is size 14, everyone from Mo'Nique to Jessica Simpson is putting money on plus-size style trends. Large women now have so many fashionable choices that it's time to learn how to play up their bodies, not hide them, said Clinton Kelly, co-host of TLC's What Not to Wear.

The key concept in plus-size dressing, Kelly said, is structure.

"Everyone I see in the malls wears an oversize sweatshirt, faded jeans and white athletic sneakers," he said. "It's just as comfortable to do a nonathletic sneaker in a great color, a dark denim jean with straight legs, a cute polo shirt and a cotton canvas jacket - and it's a hell of a lot more flattering."

Kelly always recommends jackets to lend style and shape. Enlist the help of a tailor to make sure it fits well, he said.

"Not enough women go to tailors. Men buy a jacket and expect to get it tailored, but women expect it to fit off the rack. It's not going to happen."

Choose a jacket that fits your widest part and tailor the rest of the piece, he advised.

"If you have a large bust and narrow shoulders, you have two options: Get a jacket that can't close or one that's too big at the shoulders. Buy one you can close, then take it to a tailor to reset the shoulders."

Kelly's additional fashion tips for plus-size women:

  • "We always hear that black is slimming. But structure - how the garment fits you - is more important than color. If you wore a black potato sack, it would look like a black potato sack."
  • "Color and pattern can help balance the body. If you're bigger on the bottom, keep things there on the simple side with a darker color, then wear a lighter color on top or a bolder print."
  • Use your size to your advantage. "A larger frame can get away with bolder patterns and big, expressive jewelry and bags."
  • Play up the parts of your body you love, play down the parts you don't. "If you love your bust, maybe choose a V-neck with lace or detailing. If your hips are your widest point, don't do anything to draw attention to them, like a horizontal stripe across the bottom of a shirt."
  • "If you're trying to camouflage your hips and tush, a black A-line skirt is the way to do it. The fuller skirt flares away from the body and draws the eye to the shoes and away from the tush. Pair it with a white shirt and a one-button jacket for a fantastic look."
  • "The worst thing a woman can do to her plus-size body is wear light denim tapered jeans. A dark jean with wide legs and a little stretch will work better."

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