June 23, 2020

Rethinking your old style “rules”, or, how I learned to love a tuck!


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.

17 thoughts on “Rethinking your old style “rules”, or, how I learned to love a tuck!

  1. avejj says:

    I thik you look great all tucked in but you are fairly tall. I’m only 5′ high. How would that look?

    1. lynl says:

      I’m 5’2 and short waisted and I had the same experience as Jenny-tucked in and 2/3 – 1/3 works for me, too!

  2. Andrea Letourneau says:

    The wide-leg pants and tucked in shirt makes me think of the late 1930s styles – very elegant even in casual fabrics. I think the reason so many have been avoiding tucking in their pants for decades is because of the low-waist style that appeared in the ’90s (and the shunning of “high-waist” pants following the change). Until I started sewing my own clothing, I, too, was stuck with unflattering styles designed for someone else. Now with the dozen or so Cashmerette patterns in my stash, I can make garments that are designed for my shape and look great on me. You’ve inspired me to give a try with tucked in wide leg pants.

  3. Amy P says:

    I never thought I should wear oversized silhouettes, but a friend who is a similar size carried them off so well. I’ve started to embrace unusual shapes in dresses and tops.

  4. xglsc says:

    not all tummies are created equal. I would happily take your tummy =) how about something for the apron tummy or the pendulous lower stomach. You can’t hide it from the side or from the front… A circle skirt is about the best you can do.

    1. cherylr1983 says:

      Try the Calders, If have a larger lower apron tummy and they are AMAZING!! I wear mine to work all the time and get compliments from the younger (and thinner) ladies in the office.

  5. itsjusttoni says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am an older lady (74) and am on a long weight loss journey. So far I am a few pounds from a 100# loss, but I still have a ways to go. I do have a B belly from 3 C-sections and other surgeries. I absolutely LOVE this look! NONE of my clothes fit me now. I am about to embark on a new wardrobe and one of the first patterns in my arsenal will be these pants!

  6. Susan says:

    You are right. It is time to rethink. Calders are nearing the top of my sewing list and I’ve been wearing a similar shape in RTW from Kaliyana with oversized tops.

  7. johnnygrl says:

    While it looks good on you, I am short waisted and only 5’4″. Highwaisted pants look weird on me, as it appears that the waistband is only 2″ below my breasts. Plus, I don’t like the feel of all that fabric at my waist.

    1. Kris Dow says:

      Same. I’m very busty too, and a high waist just puts a horizontal line in exactly the wrong place on my body. Even natural waist garments can be an issue.

  8. Tanya says:

    I love my calders with a tucked in cedar, I too never thought I’d wear them that way but it works so well.

  9. Lyndsey says:

    Love how we are insecure about different things. I have always loved that I have quite a defined waist – but my hips and worse still my thighs are definitely the areas i agonise over. Love looking at your real people models and will jump in and buy a pattern soon – which of your pants/skirt styles work best hiding those thighs

  10. Chris Parker says:

    Great read thank you. I’ve decided I have a C belly, I have a smaller Short waist front on you can see it’s smaller. Side on there a Capital C belly and a C butt!!!
    I’ve not been a long pants wearer but I’m going to give it ago. Thanks for the info xx

  11. XGLS C says:

    I think Jenny is right about the 1/3 2/3 thing. I have the apron tummy yet wearing a dress with a circle skirt, belted waist, and nicely fitted bodice is my best look. I can also wear a straight, not tight, heavy denim type fabric with a tucked in tshirt and a little cardigan and get many complements. I’m 5’9″. Mrs Hughes, Tanya is my hero How I wish I had her courage. I look at some of the prints she wears and love her look but can’t get the courage up to do it myself. The other thing is age… at 68 many of the looks out there are just not appropriate, in my opinion. I follow The Closet Historian on YouTube and love her vintage style. It looks great on her but when an old lady wears vintage you are not looked at in the same way. then it’s not trendy it’s just weird =)

  12. Harriet says:

    I miss the tucked-in-pants-with-a-belt look of the 1980s (I guess the “preppie” look – pleated pants, polo-style shirt). It was so comfortable, and I never felt weird wearing it. The belt, threaded through belt loops, pulled the whole thing together. There was a period when I used colorful scarves as belts, no idea what it looked like, but it was fun. I was a bit trimmer then, in my 30s, not that much different than now, but I think it might look odd today. (I hear you, fellow 7th-decaders!)

  13. Peggy Riordan says:

    What is an apron belly? I have not heard of that before. I am new to this company. I saw the article on the ‘B’ belly and was so happy to see it. I had just discovered that look myself a couple of months ago by accident. I had some lounge pants that were for a tall person, so I pulled up the waist so the legs would not drag on the floor. I glanced in the mirror and that’s when I noticed that my ‘B’ didn’t show! I am now in the process of making pants higher waisted so the rolls don’t show anymore! I will try tucking shirts in now too!

    1. XGLS C says:

      Apron belly is a B belly gone wild. The lower b section gets looser and looser and hangs lower and lower. It pulls on your lower abdominal muscles and the ligaments causing pain in your lower back and sometimes in your groin area as well.

Let me know what you think!