Dressing for Your Size

Finding clothing that suits one's frame is certainly not impossible

Dressed girlHave you had the experience of entering a fine clothing store, drawn in by a lovely garment draped on a perfectly-sized mannequin? The style, colour and fabric, all set your senses tingling.

You can imagine the neckline as it would drape down your neck and the hemline to grace your body. You know it would perfectly suit that evening out you have coming up next weekend.

You ask the sales assistant for that style in your size, try it on and, then, “poof” your happy bubble disappears!

Well, take heart. Remember, you just have to keep a few pointers in mind. Whatever your size, clothing brands today offer the customer a great assortment of styles.

From basic staples for office wear to holiday clothing and occasion wear. Fabrics on offer range from denim and cottons for pants, to soft printed chiffons, cottons, and silks, for tops.

You are bound to be spoilt for choice, amidst a plethora of options that promise to fit you just right. So, your key area of concern should lie in choosing the appropriate cut, colour, and fabric for your shape.


When we talk fit, men’s wear is adjudged by a few fit points, mainly the chest, neck and shoulder for shirts, t-shirts, jackets and waist and in-seam length for pants.

For women, the key fit/measurement points are the bust, waist, hip and shoulder for tops, and waist, hips and in-seam for pants and other bottom wear.

When shopping, it’s essential to try on clothes, more so in the case of women’s clothing. Most stores in India and abroad follow varying sizing criteria, making that trial room experience all the more important. Besides, there’s no better way to tell if a certain colour or print, you are looking to experiment with, will suit your complexion and shape. So, don’t shy away from doffing those togs as you shop, for it can save you much time and hassle in returning or exchanging pieces later, not to mention buyer’s remorse.


Fashion is a creature with many a whimsical mood, especially when looking at women’s wear.

For example, two seasons ago, waists were cut high and rather fitted just below the bust, while hips were left roomy and flared. This is called the Empire Line silhouette. We saw these across kurtas, blouses and dresses.

Last season [Spring-Summer 2007], waists had more or less disappeared with silhouettes going ultra loose from the bust down, with the result that a single garment fit across two waist and hip sizes! The Trapeze look, as it is called, can best be defined as airy and loose-fitting on the upper half of the body, exemplified by garment types such as tunics and tent dresses, while it gets decidedly close-fitted and sleek on the legs with silhouettes such as leggings and slim fitted pants. Both pear and apple shapes, whether petite or plus could rejoice, for this loose fitting silhouette camouflaged all those curves, while keeping you in trend! Pear shapes can opt for some waist definition with a wide belt [say 2-3 inch in width] around the natural waist to really keep the Trapeze look up-to-the-moment.

Now, I’m in the know, that this style is set to continue on into the oncoming Fall-Winter season, pull out those pocket books because this is good news for you!

For men, the look is slim. For example, the suit jacket has gone slender and rather long as opposed to summer’s cropped jacket look, with slim collars, whether with a single button or three. Shirts are cut close to the waist. Team the jacket with straight leg or skinny jeans for casual appeal or slim trousers for a formal touch. Of course, the slim trend should mainly be sported by slender to medium frame men. It can look out-of-place on large frames.

As a rule, the more structured or tailored a piece of clothing is, it will give your body better shape and definition. Thus, a shirt will give better shaping as opposed to a t-shirt, as with jeans over trousers. Use this rule to your benefit.

Colour and print

As we’ve all heard, darker hues tend to recede, visually diminishing your size, while lighter colours tend to “pop,” thus making you look larger than your actual size. So, be sure to use colour to your advantage. Colour choices are best made by you alone, in conjunction with the advice of a colour-savvy friend. It’s important to ensure that a colour doesn’t either contrast too severely with your skin tone, or so very little that it makes you look “washed out.” Go with colours that make you feel good. And, try to expand your personal colour palette by always experimenting with newer colours.

Prints are also an element which can be used to your advantage. Small prints make a frame appear larger, while over-sized prints do the same. Medium-sized prints work to the best scale and add value to otherwise solid expanses of colour.


Fabric choice can make or break an ensemble. Crisp cottons are ideal for structured garments like shirts, while fluid chiffons are better for kaftan and blouse-like silhouettes. Heavier weight fabrics are most suited to garments like pants and jackets, as these tend to be tailored and help giving the body a cleaner line.


Garment details like necklines and sleeve lengths are the final tipping point. While wider necks [square, scoop and boat necks] make your shoulders look broader and well-defined, they can adversely make you look wider than natural and top-heavy. Try them out and see whether they work for your frame. Narrower, plunging necklines visually cut down upper body width and accentuate the neck.

Cap, short, three-forth or full? Sleeve lengths can be tricky. While sleeveless styles should be donned with care, cap sleeves and three-forth length sleeves are a woman’s best bets. Full sleeves tend to look frumpy, and should be left to men, unless the weather demands it.

Pockets are a functional feature of clothing, but can sometimes be a bother. On trousers, especially on women, side pockets are a no-no. They open up funny, and make your hips look larger. Same goes with gathers, or pleats, and other such details. Back pockets are great. When closely placed, they help diminish the size of one’s behind. Side pockets work for men, especially on pleat-front trousers as these are roomier.

Speaking of pleats, single pleat trousers are ideal for large men, while two-pleat or pleat-less trousers may be sported by average and slender men.

As a rule of the thumb plus sizes should remember to avoid garment details that visually cut across the body, and tend to diminish your height. For example, turn-up cuffs on trouser hems for men are avoidable for a visually longer leg. For women, the turn-ups on denim jeans should be measured with care.

You are now well equipped when it comes to shopping and dressing for your size. Have a good time raiding those shelves!

Meera Mittal is a Mumbai-based fashion designer and consultant.


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