Wear It Well:
It takes all sizes
Fitting petite and plus-sized women
by Suzanne Libfraind
It’s not news that no two bodies are the same, which makes buying off the rack without having to alter garments nearly impossible. More than half of all women today wear clothing sizes that are not considered the industry standard but instead that require specialty sizing. Essentially, then, half of today’s women are wearing a special size catering to petites, plus sizes or tall women.
Petite women often are referred to as being height challenged at 5 feet, 4 inches or shorter. Although petite is a defined specialty size, it truly is a height and not a size thing. Petite clothing is cut shorter in length, featuring a higher armhole and a shorter rise in the pants. It is proportionally smaller in scale and detail as well. Petite women, then, can range in size from 0 to 24.
Plus-sized women’s sizing, an industry standard, is designed for women who wear sizes 12 through 24, super size 4X to 6X, and extended sizes greater than 7X and up. Plus sizes usually are associated with the letter “W”, meaning this is a woman’s size versus a misses size. Plus-sized clothing is more generously cut for a fuller figured woman, with longer-length tops and sleeves.
Fortunately, shopping for petite fashions is easier now than ever. Most major retailers, such as Macy’s, J Jill, Nordstrom, Anne Taylor, Loft, Belk, Old Navy, Lord & Taylor, JC Penny, and Talbots carry petite lines. Specialty stores and boutiques also carry petite lines, although to a lesser degree.
If you are petite, there are things worth considering this season as you work on your lifestyle wardrobe:
Always choose color over black
Dress either tonally or monochromatically as much as possible, as it elongates your appearance
If you want to wear stripes, try vertical ones that are on the thinner side versus chunky or horizontal stripes
Look for garments featuring detail around the collar and hemline
Choose patterns with small designs, limited colors and limited space between each design
Try wearing wide-legged fitted jeans to balance your frame from top to bottom if you are top heavy
Three quarter-sleeve jackets and sweaters are wonderful for the upper limbs, making them appear longer
Wear purses to fit your body in size; the purse should not wear you or extend more than two inches below your hipbone
As with shopping for petite sizes, shopping for plus-sized fashions has become much easier. Stores like Lane Bryant, Belk, Macy’s, Nordstrom, At Ease, Avenue, Talbots and Catherine’s all carry plus sizes.
If you wear plus sizes, take note of these suggestions as you maneuver your lifestyle wardrobe through the heat of the summer:
Try monochromatic dressing or tonal dressing with color and textured fabrics
Remember to accentuate your best features, such as your legs, bust or waist
Keep accessories in scale to your size, meaning not too small
Select fabrics that are not loose, too frilly or heavily embellished
Look for clothing that has clean lines and is made from stiffer fabrics
Patterns are great, as long as they are not overly busy with multiple colors
Look for jackets that hit at the top of the hip and are boxy, which will help camouflage the tummy area
Opt for flat-front trousers, since pleats only add more girth
Choose slightly pointy shoes over rounded toes, since it gives the appearance of a sleeker body line
Buy a jacket that fits the largest part of you and that you can button; wearing it open is fine, but it shouldn’t look too small
Tall women are considered 5 feet, 10 inches and taller and have challenges of their own, chief among them finding sleeves and hem lines that are long enough to accommodate their limbs. Adding a bit of weight to the frame generally is suggested, unless you are curvy and tall.
If you are tall and slender, put a cuff to the hem of your pant, which will add weight and volume to your overall shape
Adding layers is a wonderful way to fill out a tall frame and add curves
Opt for rounded-toe shoes, which will prevent legs from looking longer
Ankle-strap sandals are the perfect option when paired with a fuller skirt to achieve an overall balance to a slender frame
Use embellished and heavier-weighted belts to emphasize your waist or hips
Stay away from matching everything and go for color blocking, stripes, and geometrics
Shop Tall Couture, Long Elegant Legs, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor for tall-sized fashions
The bottom line
More and more designers and retailers are offering garments to fit women of all sizes. Regardless of your size, it is important to wear clothes that are fitted to your body and that are altered by a good seamstress or tailor to achieve a better-fitting garment. Often, the simplest of adjustments makes the entire look more polished.
Remember, regardless of your size there are plenty of options out there, so don’t buy to just buy, and purchase only what you feel accentuates the best of you. You deserve to look and feel the best you can be.
Special thanks to Briar Chapel, which provided an ideal backdrop for this issue’s fashion shoot.
Suzanne Libfraind is author of “Portraits of Lifestyle Dressing: Your Style, Your Closet” and owns Wardrobe Consulting, a Raleigh-based firm that offers fashion expertise to clients throughout the Triangle. To get in touch with her, call (919) 270-0250 or visit wardrobeconsulting.biz.