What to Wear – Size 16 Plus & Regaining Wardrobe Confidence

I recently had an email from a lovely reader wanting help in finding clothes in what the fashion industry call “plus size”. I hate this name because actually the fashion industry thinks anyone over a size 12 is plus size! And as we all know the average British woman is a size 14-16 and we are getting taller and are feet are getting larger.

Unfortunately “plus size” often means frumpy, large floral prints and synthetic fabrics. There is some light at the end of the tunnel though with some fantastic brands who understand that just because the label in your dress says size 18, you don’t want to dress like your Grandmother!

My reader confessed that she had completely lost confidence in her wardrobe and avoided the mirror, so emergency action needs taking. Whilst I am in no way qualified as a counselor I have dressed hundreds of women and know what a hard time we give ourselves, often quick to point out the flaws rather than the bits that are beautiful.

So here are my top tips for dressing the more well endowed and curvier woman. Plus which labels (both high street and higher priced) to look for including larger shoe sizes:

  1. Open the wardrobe door and remove every item of clothing that doesn’t make you feel good. It’s pretty drastic and you may not have much left but why would you want to wear anything that makes you feel bad? You deserve better!
  2. Look at yourself in the mirror (please do this) and decide what you want to emphasise. Do you have gorgeous glossy hair, stunning eyes, slim legs?
  3. Have a look at the page on “Your best colours” and see if you can figure out which dominant type you are.
  4. See if there is anything left in your wardrobe in good colours for you, especially if it’s a top, jacket, scarf or necklace.
  5. Now you’ve gathered all this information work out what else you need to make the pieces left in your wardrobe work. Do you have a shift dress that you could add a statement necklace to that will draw attention to your fabulous decolletage? Or do you have a pair of tapered trousers that make your legs look slim but you need a top to cover your tummy.
  6. Look at the outfits below and the tips underneath to see what would work for you.

how to wear dresses plus size

Peach dress Marina Rinaldi, Blue silk dress Persona, Pint dress Pepperberry, Shrug East, Wrap dress Windsmoor, Shoes Boden.

Starting with dresses. The shift shape is perfect if you have an apple shape body (your waist has disappeared and you have a tummy) Notice the necklace that draws the eye up to the face on the first dress. Apple shape women often have fantastic legs so wear heels to make them look longer and slimmer.

The second dress has clever pleating going from the bust to make a soft A-line shape – great if you are pear shaped or don’t like your thighs.

If you are curvy and have a full bust make sure your dress fits your curves – this one from Pepperberry comes in 3 ratings of curvy for each size, giving you the perfect fit to emphasise your curvy bust. Often your smallest part will be right under the bust so tying a shrug style cardigan here shows off your slimmest area and your curves.

A wrap style dress is perfect for curvy bodies and the pattern on this dress cleverly slims the body but gives a feminine shape. If the wrap comes too low add a lace trim camisole in one of your best colours.

what to wear, plus size outfits

Jacket Wallisicon, Top and Skirt Boden, Grey top Wallisicon, Trousers Windsmoor, Jacket Wallisicon, Yellow top Boden, Trousers Betty Barclay, Shoes Boden.

Next separates. Tunic style tops and blouses work really well over pencil skirts, which again are great for good legs. Make sure your skirt has some stretch and that your top or jacket doesn’t end on the widest part of your body.

Print tops are good for disguising lumps and bumps and here I’ve added a fun pair of shoes to take the attention.

Jackets should be draped and in softer fabrics to work with curves. If you have tried wearing a blazer and feel like you are wearing a straight jacket the fabric is probably too stiff. And avoid a double breasted shape and pockets at the bust if you have a full bust.

Tapered trousers work well with fuller tops making your legs look slim. Again choose fabrics that drape or have some elastane rather than stiffer ones.

Finally jeans

how to wear plus size jeans

Pink jumper Betty Barclay, Jeans Long Tall Sallyicon, Scarf Boden, Top Monsoon, Cardigan Long Tall Sallyicon, Jeans Boden, Tunic top Boden, Jeans Salsa, Shoes Boden.

There are so many great brands around for jeans for those of us who aren’t twiglets.

If you are tall as well the first pair here from Long Tall Sally are the answer (see my detailed review of LTS jeans here). Again I’ve used the trick of adding a scarf at the neck and the softly draping top and as before just make sure the top doesn’t end at the widest part.

The second pair are from Betty Barclay – choose darker rinses to make the legs look slimmer and avoid fading down the centre of the leg as this will make them look wider. The waterfall cardigan is a best friend for curvy bodies.

The final pair is from the plus size range from Salsa. These jeans are fantastic for lifting the bottom and holding you in. Teamed here with the tunic style top that flares out from under the bust (no muffin top on show).

I hope that has given you some ideas for dressing your figure whatever your personal bug bear. Remember to find one feature to draw attention to and use these disguising tips for the rest – and please enjoy your wardrobe, get rid of all those items that don’t make you feel good.

Where to shop:

John Lewis Plus size

House of Fraser Plus size

Boden – clothing up to size 22 and shoes to size 9

Long Tall Sallyicon – clothing up to size 22 and shoes from size 7-11

Wallisicon – clothing up to size 20

Betty Barclay – clothing up to size 22

Monsoon – clothing up to 22

Pepperberry – clothing up to size 18 super curvy (F-G bust size) also look at Bravissimo for bras and swimwear in larger cup sizes.

Sahara – for a more deconstructed look, their own label is generous, XL generally fits size 18-20 and was a very popular brand in store when I owned my shops.

Masai at Sahara a Danish brand whose tops and dresses are generous, up to about size 20

Gina Bacconi – if you are looking for a formal or beaded evening dress this is the brand (again one I used to stock which did fantastically at Christmas)