Ask Painfully Hip: Practically Plus-sized and Perpetually Perplexed

Hi, Amber and Eve.

I am ridiculously in love with your blog and read it to get inspiration almost every day. Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible for me to find thrifted clothing that fits me. I’m not obese or even officially plus-sized (yet) but I am big and curvy: a size 12 with a thick waist, broad shoulders, wide hips, and giant boobs. Most of the vintage clothing I find is sized for teeny tiny waifish girls and even if I find something that I can squeeze into, it’s never, ever flattering.

Skinny jeans don’t work, unless I’m wearing shirt that’s long enough to hide my thighs and hips. Trapeze dresses, shirts, and coats make me look like a circus tent because of my boobs. I can’t wear anything fitted with buttons up the front because they gap. A very slender silhouette doesn’t hide my bumps.

So I try to make my style my own with shoes, bags, and other accessories, but if you had any advice about clothing that a girl my size could pull off, I’d really appreciate it!



My body is kind of on the “thick” side, and I’m very anxious about wearing sleeveless or shorts. Do you have any suggestions or tips of stylish spring/summer wear?


Well ladies, I do tend to have ideas about these things so thanks for asking! There are plenty of ways to to flatter your loverly curves. Here are some spring/summer tips along with some universally flattering examples from our sponsors (click photos for more info and don’t forget the PAINFULLYHIP discount code!)…

No waistline to speak of? Fake it.
Sometimes even scrawny girls are lacking in the hourglass arena, so if your curves seem to be limited to the convex variety, fake a waistline. High-waisted pants are probably not the best way to go about it, unless you happen to have a flattish tummy – otherwise they end up looking like mom jeans. (EDIT: A reader has disavowed this highly-sanctioned myth, saying that what shall heretofore be referred to as the “Mom Jean Effect” is actually dependant on the cut of the jean and that most high-waisted jeans are actually quite flattering on her 12-13 sized frame. Thanks so much, Suzanne!)

Here are some pieces that should do the trick:

  • High-waisted A-line skirts – If you still want to take part in the high-waisted trend, A-line skirts flow out from the body and emphasize the smallest part of your waist without over-accentuating your belly.
  • Cardigans – with a nonchalant button or 2 done up at the waist
  • Cropped vests – adorable layered over scoopneck tanks and tees. Leave it open if your impressive boobs don’t allow for full closure.
  • Structured jackets with waist details and 2 button blazers – just make sure your jackets are really fitted in the shoulders or they’ll end up adding girth. There are lots of short-sleeved jackets for warmer weather these days!
  • Belts – obvious! Keep some wide black ribbon on hand for a quick and pretty alternative to wear with dresses.
  • Empire waists – obviously obvious. They simultaneously enhance the bustline and accentuate the smallest part of your torso.

    painted skirtvestjacketdenim sleeveless jacketbrown dresswhite empire

    Don’t be afraid to flash that epidermis.
    Sorry, EM, but its been proven (by some reeeeally bored scientists) that the human eye always tends to linger on the skin. And its not your luminous skin you’re trying to hide, is it? So show off your sweet freckles, lovely clavicle, voluminous cleavage or shapely legs and no one will even begin to take notice of last night’s beer binge bloat. Some flattering ways to show skin are:

  • Deep V and sweetheart necklines – they elongate the neck and show just enough cleavage for you to feel sexy without worrying about support bra sightings. Also, showing a bit of cleavage will break up the mammary “real estate” and actually minimize to the eye (probably one of the reasons that wearing a clingy crewneck sweater over a torpedo bra was considered a tad risque in the 50’s).
  • Halter necklines with wide straps – supportive, flattering and sultry, they showcase your covetable cleavage and minimize broad shoulders
  • Cap and Flutter sleeves – the closest thing to sleeveless with a comfortable and feminine slimming effect
  • Cut-outs and sheer fabrics – of the tasteful variety. I’m not talking heart-shaped cutouts all down the sides of your tapered acid washed jeans or a black chiffon tunic that shows your bra, c’mon now. A touch of sheer lace here and there won’t kill you.
  • Bermuda shorts and gauchos – when hitting at the knee will cover any smidge of cellulite and accentuate the slimmest part of your leg. Try em with calf-shaping wedges or heels if you’re not convinced.
  • satinfloral topflutter dresswhite lace topgauchosmaxi dress

    If you still really hate your legs try (1) layering a maxi dress for your warm weather wallows, (2) sheer tights are an option this season, or (3) getting over it – they’re what you’ve got so love em and don’t let them hinder your thirst for fashion – plus it’s amazing what a little bit of self-tanner will do.

    Shop vintage and learn to sew.
    I’m having a hard time believing that you can’t find anything in thrift stores that fits you! I always find the cutest stuff neglected in the plus size section! Try taking a supportive but honest friend with you who will encourage you to be more adventurous and always try things on! If you still can’t seem to find anything flattering in your size, try eBay or vintage sites that sort by size. Make sure you go to a seamstress to get proper measurements (or learn how to do it on your own) before buying online. 50’s silhouettes are always flattering (hello, hourglass era!), but when in doubt buy larger than you think and learn to alter the bodice and sleeves to fit and/or flatter. Its really not as tough as you think and always worth it in the end if you find something that you really love.

    houndstoothred sundressorange suede jacket

    Or look for all the cute vintage-inspired pieces that have been popping up in boutiques lately which tend to be more flattering and well-fit than actual vintage clothes. You may have to spend a little more, but it may be worth the time saved.

    francescateal tie-neckblack cutout dressjumper

    Above all, own it.
    No matter how much advice I spew, none of it will do any good if you’re not confident in your own skin. You can pull absolutely anything off if you feel like rockin it (mind-bending outfits have been rocked which were historically known to be entirely un-rockableCASE IN POINT), but until you reach that point, try to play up your favorite attributes. You’re more beautiful than you think – the flaws that you believe are constantly glaring out at the world like a large goiter are most likely only visible to you. Be unrepentant. Be happy to be you. Wear your personality and creativity with the confidence that you know exactly who you are and what you love, and eventually your peacock swagger will appear, along with the realization that you really are precisely as hot as you feel.



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