I had a really interesting chat with my Mum and with the lovely Cashmerette community on Instagram recently all about evolving your style and challenging your “rules” for what your body shape can or should wear.
I’ll be the first to admit that for a long, long time, I had a LOT of rules when it came to dressing myself. I think most people have one area of their body they struggle with loving, and for me, it’s always been my tummy and waist—ever since I was a little girl, that’s been the part of me that I associate with not being good enough (on a side note, it’s funny because it makes me TOTALLY blind to any other part of the body that someone else might be insecure about: if you have a flat tummy and larger thighs I will literally—quite literally!—not “see” your thighs and be convinced you’re very thin. The mind is a curious thing!).
So in order to try to hide my tummy and bigger waist, I instituted a set of rules: never wear anything tucked in. Never wear high-waisted garments. Don’t wear belts, or anything that emphasizes your waist. And for years and years, I stuck to this. Sewing and starting to experiment is what finally made me realize that not only were those “rules” arbitrary once you have clothes that actually fit you (tucking things into too-tight garments is definitely a different matter), but also that the rules were actually wrong!
I started observing plus size women with similar body shapes to mine, and paying attention to the proportion and how things fit them. And now, I tuck things in all the time and I think they look great—not only that, but I think they don’t particularly highlight my tummy/larger waist either. There’s certainly an element of what’s in fashion here, too: right now, this silhouette of big floaty pants with a form-fitting top is quite “in”, and it’s possible in a few years time it won’t seem to be so modern. But, I also wouldn’t wear something just because it’s fashionable—it has to suit me AND be fashionable, or it’s not going to work for me.
The outfit that prompted all of this mulling was this Calder Pants + Concord T-Shirt combo (we’re even selling a kit of these great pants here!). Let me start by saying I LOVE THIS OUTFIT! But it’s not something I ever would have worn this way in the past. (Also please excuse the creases from sitting on the floor with a toddler all morning… living the #workingmom life).
A few years ago, I would have tried on this outfit like this, with the t-shirt on the outside, so as not to break my “no tucking in” cardinal rule. And…. eh. It doesn’t look good! So I would have concluded: no wide legged pants for me.
But older and wiser Jenny knows better! Here is the Concord tucked in to my Calders. So much better, no?! The key really the is the proportions: the pants are (very) high waisted, wide legged and slightly cropped, and the t-shirt is close-fitting, with a wide open neckline and cropped sleeves. While I’m very anti-rules (if you haven’t realized that by now!) it’s also noticeable that this outfit follows the traditional artistic and photographic “rule of thirds” – I’m two-thirds pants to one-third top. For some reason, that ratio is pleasing to the eye (and 50:50 tends to be less so).
Now about that tummy. It’s still 100% there guys, with extra “made a baby” goodness
But because these pants actually FIT ME well, and have an elastic back, and have been designed for a generous tummy, well, you can see that tucking in my top really doesn’t emphasize it at all.
Amusingly, one of the criticisms we sometimes get is that we use models with flat stomachs. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Actually, it’s the cut and fit of our patterns that are deliberately designed for curves—and which assume you have a tummy—that’s giving that impression. For instance, the Calders have a generous front crotch curve which gives some extra fabric to cover your tummy (basically a built-in full tummy adjustment). The waistbands are also thoughtfully placed, especially if you have a “B belly”—you can read my thoughts on fitting B bellies here.
So, the moral of the story is give a go to styling your clothes a little differently, and challenge your pre-existing “rules” about what you can and can’t wear. You might find that something you thought was a “never”—whether that’s wide-legged trousers, high waisted skirts, maxi length or high necklines—can actually look and make you feel fabulous if you get the proportions right.
Unfortunately, the usual advice of “just try it on in a store to see if you like it!” is really useless for plus size women: want to know how many stores in the main mall in Boston carry my size? Zero! But there are some things you can do:
- Explore your closet and try things on in different ways. For instance, tucked in, layered, sleeves rolled up, pants cuffed, trying with different shoes, etc.
- Find style or sewing bloggers with a similar figure type to you, and get inspired by what you love on them but would never “dare” to wear. For me, an early inspiration was Gabi Gregg who has similar proportions to me—she really opened my eyes to combinations of garments I never would have thought of wearing!
- Follow hashtags like #measurementsmovement on Instagram to find people with similar measurements and proportions to you, then use hashtags like #CalderPants to find patterns on a body like yours. We always tell you the measurements of our models (and the size(s) we made for them) to help you do this with our patterns.
Here’s the thing: there’s nothing to lose. And maybe you’ll find a whole new way of wearing your current wardrobe! It’s worth a shot.