Fashion For Real Women

What To Do If You're a
Petite, Plus, or Tall Size

What can you do if you aren't an "average" size? What choices do you have if you're a petite, tall, or plus size, and every clothes-shopping trip you take becomes an exercise in frustration?

Well, don't give up! There are a number of things you can do-IF you understand a few basic tenets. Let's review them:

1. Don't Expect Chocolate In A Sea of Vanilla

The fashion industry offers the largest bulk of its merchandise in "standard sizes", which encompasses women sizes 4-14, 5'4" to 5'8" in height (European sizes 34-44 and 1.6256-1.7272 m), who also have an hour-glass shape. Because so many women fit these parameters, this is the most profitable ready-to-wear market.

If you don't fit this description, your choices are considerable reduced...but not non-existent. You just can't go into a regular, "vanilla" clothing store, and expect to have success in finding your non-standard size. If you do find what you need, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, head for specialty clothing stores.

Some online options include:

Petite Size

La Petite Femme

Talbot's Petites

The Petite Wardrobe

Plus Size




Tall Size

Column Clothing

Design Elevations

Tall and All (UK)

2. Understand Your Body

Have a large bust but small hips? Have large hips but no bust? Need one size on top and another size on the bottom? Then accept it and move on. Your goal is to dress the shape you have, not the shape you wished you had. Yes, it's common sense advice...that's ignored much too often, I'm afraid. Accept your body and move on.

3. Learn Some Sleigh-of-Hand Tricks

You can appear larger or smaller depending on what kind of clothes you choose. Some elements to beware of include:

*Lines - horizontal lines on a garment will make you look wider; vertical lines will make you look taller and thinner.

*Color-light colors will make you look larger; dark colors will make you look smaller.

*Texture-smooth textures make you appear smaller; chunky or shiny textures add bulk

4. Experiment With Different Elements

Once you've found clothes that fit your shape and size, try experimenting with different clothing elements to bring about the desired effect.

For example, if you're heavy...

*Try adding a long beaded necklace or pendant to your ensemble to give you a slenderizing vertical line.

*Avoid clothes that add visual bulk, like chunky sweaters, horizontal stripes, or light-colored

*Opt for monochromatic looks, blending colors from head to toe.

Or, if you're very thin...

*Use gathers and soft fullness to visually add pounds.

*Use multiple layers to create fullness and interest.

*Wear contrasting colors on top and bottom.

Once you understand your body shape and realize that you're going to have to hunt down retailers to serve your petite, tall, or plus size body, your clothes-hunting duties become a lot less frustrating. Make a list of stores where you know you can find clothes that fit, and stick with them. Ask for recommendations from family and friends. Go online and look around. Then, experiment to find what looks best on you.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and creator of Plus Size Style, a seminar that offers dressing tricks for plus size women. Visit her online at  .  Plus Size Style

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