Part 5: Understanding Style

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A big misconception for beginners in fashion is that being fashionable is all about follow the current trend and choosing styles and cuts of clothing that are currently “in”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is extremely important to find styles of clothing that cater to your body type.  Many of the current styles look best on young, slender and uncurvy frames, and are not well suited for fuller busts, larger hips, and comparatively smaller waists. So then, what should a curvy woman look for in her clothing?

What Constitutes a Bad Fit?

There are many things that can result in a bad fit. Here are some of the more common fit issues:

– Squeezing in to a size too small for a part or all of your body (either by choice or necessity).

– “Flowy” loose fitted garments if you’re busty – this will make you look pregnant.

– Wearing a size too big to accommodate curviness that clothing isn’t designed for often results in a baggy, unflattering fit.

What Constitutes a Good Fit?

– A garment that cinches at the smallest part of your waist.

– A garment with adequate bust and hip room.

These are really the most important criteria for curvy women. However, some more may or may not apply depending on your circumstances:

– If you’re tall, an adequately lengthy garment – a lot of curvy women find the size of their hips and bust drags dresses and tops up their frame.

– Waists come long, short, high, low and somewhere in between, so a garment that cuts to your waist specifications.

– Stretchy fabrics can be amazing as they provide leeway in the bust and hips – however, skin tight clothing can unflatteringly emphasise certain body parts.

You may have noticed an emphasis needs to be put on the smallest part of your body and adequate room needs to be given for the larger parts. This isn’t about looking thin (although it will probably make you look a lot slimmer than wearing a baggy shirt if that’s what you’re going for) it is just about following the flow of your natural body shape. The point of choosing the right style for your body is that you will always look more put together and fashionable when you are working with your natural shape instead of against it. So, try to choose styles that celebrate your body’s shape instead of squeezing in to clothes that aren’t good enough for it. More information on where to find things that actually fit will be added to this blog later, so stay up with me!

Part 4: Finding the Right Undergarments

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All right, this is a really important and also potentially life changing step. To start with, it is important that you know that everything they tell you about your bra size at shops like Victoria’s Secret and Bra’s n Things is a complete lie. Seriously. People wearing the wrong bra size is such a big problem that over 80%* of women are doing it. The most common mistake made is having a band at least 1 size too big and cups at least 1 size too small. This happens because women generally have no idea how bra fitting works because a large proportion of the stores we buy from use something called the “+5 method”  when sizing us for a bra.

The Wrong Method

The +5 method means that you measure your underbust, add 5 inches to it, then measure your bust, and subtract the bust from the underbust to get the cup size (1 inch difference A cup, 2 inch difference B cup, and so on). So using the +5 method, if you have a 28 inch underbust and 37 inch bust, they will: 28+ 5= 32, 37-32= 5, A1 B2 C3 D4 DD5, put you in a 32DD. This is the wrong sized bra, and is likely to leave you with a too big band which rides up or down your back, the bra smooshing your breasts and not sitting properly flush against your chest, and you’ll likely be wearing the straps really tight to compensate for the lack of support. The +5 step was used back when bras were made of extremely rigid material with no extra stretch, whereas today’s bras are basically all made of material with some give, making it totally redundant and in fact harmful.

The Proper Method

So, the real way to size bras, sometimes called the +0 method, is just that simple – cut out that ridiculous +5 step.  So using our previous example of a woman with a 28 underbust and a 37 bust, 37-28=9, A1, B2, C3, D4, DD5, E6, F7, FF8, G9= This lady would be a 28G. Yes, that’s right, a 28G. This, while on the larger side, is not at all an uncommon size when people are sized correctly. I can assure you that if these are your measurements the +0 method has immeasurably more comfortable results than the +5 method because I wear a 28G (I used to wear a 34C – ouch!).

Now, because I wear a size that bra manufacturers around where I live like to think are obscure, I have to order my bras online, which is a real pain because I don’t get to check for other non size related fit issues and have to rely on reviews by others. Now, if you have found you are a hard to find size, say a 30D, and you don’t have the money to go online just yet, fear not. You can still probably improve on where you are now.

How Cup Sizing Works

Not all Cs DDs and Gs (and beyond) are built the same. A 32C is 3 sizes smaller in volume than a 38C, and has the same cup volume as a 34B. This is because your cup size is all about the proportion of your breasts to your body/underbust, nothing more. So say you are currently wearing a 34A but have measured yourself as a 30D, but you can only find D cups down to a 32D. In this case, you should try a 32C. The band may still be loose and cause fit issues, but the cups will fit much better as the 34A was one cup size too small for you. This is using a method known as sister sizing. Basically, once you find your bra size, (say my 28G), you can go up in band size and down in cup size to find other bras with your cup volume. People do this for all sorts of reasons – not enough money to ship overseas, some bras are tighter or looser in the band and are more comfortable in a size up or down in band, or sometimes people measure as one size but feel more comfortable a band size up or down. Here’s a great blog post with more to say on the matter: http://fullerfigurefullerbust.com/2012/08/16/bra-sizes-do-not-exist-without-back-sizes/.

If this post has information that is new to you, I seriously absolutely totally recommend that you check out this subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/abrathatfits. It’s a totally welcoming environment that tolerates no creepiness and has a lot of FAQ information in the side bar. I’ll leave you with just one lat piece f advice – be prepared to be shocked by your new bra size. I absolutely rejected that I was bigger than a C cup at first. I wore a 32DD at first, shocked that it fit better, and then realised I still had a lot of fit issues. It took me a lot of time to accept that I was a 28 band. So, even if this stuff scares you a bit or seems like a bunch of nonsense, please just give it a chance. Your body will thank you for it.

Statistic taken from *http://www.quixotegroup.com/clients/documents/newfitstudypressreleasefinal.pdf

 

Part 3: Self Acceptance

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So now hopefully, you know your body type. Here comes a really, super important step – self acceptance. Your body type can change with weight gain and weight loss, but if you are currently at a healthy weight/ body fat percentage, chances are your body type is what it is and it’s not going to change, and no matter what you are, that is absolutely ok. In too many guides, I’ve seen one or another body type branded as the “ideal body type”, with the author often adding a “congratulations!” to those who happen to fall into that category. With no offense meant to said authors, I hate this kind of thinking. It is self destructive and it is not body positive.

When exploring fashion it is necessary to have a a positive attitude towards your body. This does not mean you have to love every part of your appearance and emphasise everything about your looks, but it does mean you should be realistic with yourself about how you look, and then accept that no matter what shape your body (or face, or hair, etc) takes, there are ways to flatter it, and equally, there are styles that will look absolutely great on other people and terrible on you. This is not because there is anything wrong with you – it’s the style of clothing that is the problem. Too many times do people (particularly women) attempt to change their bodies to try and make a certain style look better. You should always be asking yourself what your clothes are doing for you. You are the person. Your clothes, however fabulous, are just things, and in the best scenario, tools of empowerment. The take-home message of this segment is this: whenever a style or garment makes you feel bad about yourself or your body, it is failing to do it’s job for you.

I will be talking more about which styles suit different body shapes in part 5, but for now, onto part 4.

Part 2: Body Shape

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If you haven’t read the previous parts in this guide, I advise you do so first. Now, it’s time to talk about body shape. Body shape refers to the proportions of your body’s silhouette. Recognising and understanding your body shape is an extremely important step towards finding clothing that shows off your natural awesomeness (yes, we all have it, it’s an empirically provable statement). For this section, you’ll need the measurements you took in part 1.

If your waist measurement was bigger than your bust and hips, you are…

APPLE SHAPED

Most common among “Not Curvy” women.

The biggest part of your body is your middle. You are also likely to have a large bust (although this is not required). Your hips/buttocks are likely to be relatively to have a smaller and flatter shape proportional to the rest of your body. It is unknown how common this body shape is. This body shape is more common among heavier women, or women over the age of 50.

If your waist is smaller than you bust and hips by no more than 8 inches, you are…

RECTANGLE SHAPED

Most common among “Slightly Curvy” and some “Regularly Curvy” women.

From your shoulders to your hips, your silhouette has a “straight up and down” look. With 46%* of women having these proportions, this is one of the most common body types.

If your waist is smaller than your hips by at least 9 inches and you have a significantly smaller bust than hips (over 2 inches in difference) then you are…

PEAR SHAPED

Most common among “Regularly Curvy” and “Dramatically Curvy” women.

Your waist typically looks well defined, and you have noticeably large hips. Your shoulders are significantly smaller than your hips (by at least 2 inches). With 20%* of women having these proportions, this is known to be the second most common body type.

NOTE: If you measure as pear shaped but do not have significantly smaller shoulders, you may appear more hourglass shaped. Looking into fashion tips for both pear shaped and hourglass shaped women may be helpful for you.

If your waist is smaller than your bust by at least 9 inches and you have a significantly smaller hips than bust (over 2 inches in difference) then you are…

INVERTED TRIANGLE SHAPED

Most common among “Regularly Curvy” and “Dramatically Curvy” women

You hold most of your weight in the top half of your body. You are likely to have an ample bust and smaller hips and buttocks. With 14%* of women having these proportions, this is one of the rarer body types.

If your waist is smaller than your bust by at least 9 inches and you have proportionate hip and bust measurements (equal to or under 2 inches in difference) then you are…

HOURGLASS SHAPED

Most common among “Regularly Curvy” and “Dramatically Curvy” women

Your will have a well defined waist with a “balanced” bust and hips. Your shoulders are also likely to be a similar measurement to both your bust and hips. If you have ever looked at a fashion guide before, you are likely to have been told you have the “best” body shape and that you will find it very easy to shop and that everything will suit you. If you are actually hourglass shaped, you know this probably isn’t true, and that shopping for curves – particularly dramatic curves – can be extremely difficult. It’s no wonder why – with only 8%* of women having these proportions, this is the rarest known body type.

Women of all shapes and sizes will sometimes or often struggle to find clothing that fits. This blog however caters mostly to women who fall into the Inverted Triangle, Pear, and Hourglass body shapes. However, there are general fit tips that will be explored that will be of use to anybody with a body. So, stay tuned for Part 3!

*I based the statistics in this article off of a study done by the North Carolina State University: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-shape-of-things-to-wear-scientists-identify-how-womens-figures-have-changed-in-50-years-516259.html (unfortunately, I don’t have a full link to the study). I also disagree strongly with some dieas put forth in the study, such as the fashion industry constructing clothes for the hourglass figure – this is absolutely not the case.

Part 1: How Curvy Am I?

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Before we being to dress our body, it is important for us to understand its shape and structure. It is important to understand that being curvy is not simply a matter of having a big bust or big hips. It is about the size of your bust and/or hips relative to your waist.

The first thing to do is measure yourself. Measure your bust around the fullest part (keeping the tape straight the whole way around), your waist at the smallest part, and your hips at the fullest part. Remember or write down each of your measurements as you go.

If your waist measurement is larger than or equal to your hips and/or bust you are…

NOT CURVY

Clothes that are catered to the curvy body type may not flatter you the best. This body type tends to be more common among plus sized women.

If your waist measurement is 1-7 inches smaller than your hips and/or bust you are…

SLIGHTLY CURVY

Your curviness falls within what the fashion industry currently considers normal (lucky you!). You are likely to find shopping for form fitting clothing fairly easy, excluding other fit issues such as height and size unavailability.

If your waist measurement is 8-11 inches smaller than your hips and/or bust you are…

MODERATELY CURVY

It is likely that finding the right fit for your curves can sometimes be an effort in frustration, particularly if you are busty (clothes are generally constructed for women with larger hips than bust). You may find yourself going up a size in to clothing that does not fit your waist to accommodate your bust or hips.

If your waist measurement is 12 inches or more smaller than your hips and/or bust you are…

DRAMATICALLY CURVY

This is where clothing availability starts to become incredibly difficult, particularly if you are busty (clothes are generally constructed for women with larger hips than bust). You may have to go up by 1, 2 or even more sizes simply to find clothing that fits your bust and/or hips, but hides your comparably tiny waist.

I based these measurements partly on commonly understood metrics among the fashion community, and also on research I have personally performed on the sizing guides of many companies common to Australia, the UK and the US.  It is also important to note that plus sized women may appear less curvy than straight sized women with the same difference in measurements as the waist/bust and waist/hip ratio of plus sized women will be higher. This may have implications upon the accuracy of this measuring tool.

This guide will be continued in Part 2: Body Shape.

Dressing the Curvy Body: The Beginner’s Guide to Curviness

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So, I thought I would make a guide to help people to get started. If you don’t know much about dressing the curvy shape, or you’re entirely new to fashion, it can be pretty overwhelming trying to navigate through all of the different items and styles available. This guide’s aim is to help you narrow down your options when shopping to garments that will fit and flatter your form.

There will be 5 parts to this guide:

Part 1: How Curvy am I?

Part 2: Body Type

Part 3: Self Acceptance

Part 4: Finding the Right Undergarments

Part 5: Understanding Style

Part 6: Being True to Yourself

Introducing: Clothes Made For Curves

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Hi there! As a curvy woman, I’ve found that getting in to fashion is very difficult for one simply reason – most clothes are not made to fit our bodies.Most sizing guides for mainstream retailers illustrate that the expectation is for women to have a 5-8 inch difference between the bust and waist, and at most a 10 inch difference between the waist and hips (and that’s if you fit straight sizes – if you’re plus sized it’s even more slim pickings!). This can make finding clothes that fit and flatter curvy shapes anywhere from frustrating to an embarrassing nightmare.

The purpose of this blog will be to help bustier/curvier women find clothes that fit and flatter their figures. I will be reviewing clothes as well as compiling lists of clothing that are more suited to the curvy figure to try to help take some of the pain out of clothes shopping. I also may do some more meta posts on curviness within culture.

I think it is important to state that curviness is not the same as being plus sized. This blog is aimed at helping people whose bust and/or hips are significantly larger than their waist. This may mean slender and curvy women, average sized curvy women or plus sized curvy women (although I myself fall more into the slender and curvy category).

Well then, now that I have that out of the way I suppose I better get on to making some useful content. See you soon!