Ask Painfully Hip: Practically Plus-sized and Perpetually Perplexed

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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    45 comments to Ask Painfully Hip: Practically Plus-sized and Perpetually Perplexed

    • [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptHi, 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 … [...]

    • ooer thanks for the post. without shamelessly self promoting (much) i just wanted to point out that I’m about the same as stacey up there. im a 12-14 and find it hard to thrift (which is why i started an ebay store – i get the fun of thrifting even though i can almost never wear anything i buy). Half the reason I started my own blog is because, while I LOVE all of the blogs I read – particularly Painfully Hip ;) I did find that they were naturally geared towards thinner girl well, because the bloggers were generally thinner. I thought it would be nice to write the blog as a size 12-14 – that awkward grey area – and maybe connect with other fashion conscious bloggers also around my size to share tips.

      anyway if you wanna visit it’s – still very early stages and not nearly as awesome as places like PainfullyHip but I hope it will be soon.

      Awesome post by the way. ebay is so great for shopping. It’s usually not too expensive, you can ort by size and if it doesn’t fit just re sell it. I’ve found some GREAT stuff this way. so yeah – spot on.

      much love

    • I know that a lot of the readers of my blog aren’t stick thin, but they all seem really comfortable with who they are. I think you are right, you just have to be comfortable in your own skin :)

      There are so many great styles out there fall all types of weights, heights, ages, boobs, legs, heads…. there is perfect stuff out there. Look at Marilyn Monroe, Scarlet Johanson and Liv Tyler, they are gorgeous ‘larger’ women :D

      Fantastic post x

    • pigeon

      Another fabulous vintage/thrifting resource for those in Portland, Or or nearby– the underground, plus size, body positive Fat Fancy.

      They have monthly sales, and are saving up to open a store.

    • Suzanne

      I beg to differ on the issue of high-waisted and high-rise pants. I have been a size 12 and 13 for a few years now, and i find that high-rise pants are far more comfortable and “flattering” than low-rise pants. Because they sit above the hip and “love handles” they create a better line, especially if they are a straight leg instead of “skinny.”

      Anyone can have the “mom pant” problem, that just has to do with the style of rise. A size zero pant can create that effect, especially if it was made in the 80s or early 90s.
      It does not depend on the size of your stomach at all! It’s the way the pants are designed.
      I’d say the wranglers are a pretty good brand for high-waisted larger sizes. I always find a pair or two at Goodwill for like 5 bucks.
      I find that shopping at vintage stores is often disappointing, so if you can get out to the suburbs or a rural area and get to some real thrift stores, you will find more items that fit more than a size 2.

    • I agree with Suzanne. I’m, well, “zaftig” and I find that high-waist jeans hold in my love-handles and make me look slimmer.

      I love this post, by the way. I really could use most of this advice!

    • Ummm…I think that I may have sleepwalked to my computer and written you an email as my subconscious alter-ego Stacy, because wow do I relate to her and we have the same body and does she want to come to Portland and be thrifting friends? Great advice, by the way.

    • How odd that she can’t find anything. I’m a size 12 with pretty big boobs and all I wear is vintage dresses and blouses. In fact, I’ve found more stuff usually than my uber skinny friends who might have to have things tailored. I don’t look at vintage online, it’s 1. more expensive and 2. usually stocked with skinny sizes. I just go to local thrift stores and Goodwills and hope for the best. You just have to be willing to dig. I actually have a lot more luck with vintage sizes than with “normal mall clothes.” No pants fit me at all at Forever 21 and no shirts fit right. In my opinion not only is vintage the best way to go for a fit that’s right, but obviously all your own and usually better quality for cheaper.

      I personally hardly ever to never wear jeans, or really pants for that matter. I wear a pencilish black skirt and top for school and usually dresses for going out, I just think dresses and skirts feel more flattering on me. I tried the sort of “skinny black pant” which fit me fine, but as she said emphasizes the hips and brings the focus to the middle. On the subject of pants, if I did wear jeans, I would never wear low risers. High waisted skirts and pants are just more flattering. I think there is a big difference between “mom jeans” and high waited. Mom jeans are made to somehow flatten ones butt.

      I’m also not big on the cleavage bearing, it sort of makes me uncomfortable, but if I do, I definetly wear tights to counteract the boobage.

      I really liked this entry, the suggestions of cardigans, belts, vests and A-lines are certainly things I use. It addressed a lot and makes me wish there were more blogs with girls around a size 12-14. I run a street style blog, but had contemplated doing a personal style blog. I ended up just being in flickrs “warbrobe remix” less work. haha

      It understand it can be hard to dress in all the ways you want to at a size 12 since the skinny pant, the layered mary kate looks, among other things are just not flattering, but it certainly does not stop there.

      wow that was a lot. haha I guess this entry hit close to home and I guess I’m hoping this comment helped in some way.

    • Your mom

      That’s right! Big and beautiful women ROCK! What’s the deal about the “mom pants”? Give us a break….it’s cuz of YOU (our babies) that they look like that. :)

    • I too am a larger sized gal (12), and used to come away from thrift stores (and all other stores for that matter) a bit soured. That is until I changed my ideas about what I could and couldn’t wear. The problem for me seemed to lie in the fact that everything that was my size in the thrift shops looked balloony and shapeless. I didn’t even want to try anything on. Once I got over myself, I discovered how with a well placed belt, any shapeless dress/skirt/tunic shapes up nicely, and I’m able to play up the parts of my body that I do love.

      I don’t want to be too forward, but I also co-created a vintage shop on etsy ( where I model many a vintage wonder that suit larger body types. Even if you don’t plan to purchase a thing, it may be worth stopping by to check out some of the shapes that work particularly well on me – and how that aforementioned belt pulls it all together.

      By the by, this is a great topic, and I’m pleased to see it being explored further. My next plan of action? Find a pair of high waisted jeans that I’m happy with – thanks for the other comments lending suggestions about that area!

    • Rach

      You gals are awesome. If you were able to give tips on keeping hip during pregnancy, I would absolutely worship you!

    • What a great post! Especially that last paragraph!

      I just found your site the other day and now I’m reading backwards. With advice like you give, you’re my kind of style site!

    • [...] of all, it’s good to be healthy but don’t be too hard on yourself and remember this advice: You’re more beautiful than you think – the flaws that you believe are constantly glaring out at [...]

    • wow…nice collections you got there. and also good advice too

    • Thanks for the interesting post about plus sized clothing. I look forward to reading more posts from you in the future.

    • Yes! Leslie Hall is amazing! I just love her.
      .-= Samy St Clair´s last blog ..USSR Russian Birds Color Match Box Labels Set of 3 =-.

    • Mia

      Love the article — but you won me over with the Leslie Hall reference!!! <3

    • Chloe

      Im so glad to hear someone not plus sized come up with actual suggestions and they are great! You could not have posted a better response unless you took her shopping yourself.
      Im a size 4x and 5’6 1/2 (also with the chesty issues-minimizer bras are good!)and I have a few cents to throw in, hopefully i wont offend too many people*
      Question? Do you 11-14 girls really not get the selection other girls get?
      Because on my end of the spectrum it seems I’d would be in heaven to be a size 12 these are always the sizes I find wherever I go,(but I cant shop vintage so I havn’t looked there)! (I should just email you every time I see something in your size and snatch it up!)and well it just seems wrong to put you in that category (height challenges not withstanding).
      You ladies are normal to me, while I’m certain you don’t get out in neon spandex just as much as I don’t, you don’t seem to be made to feel abnormal or fat with jokes and mean words(I would hope)which confuses me.
      That being said from what I see you kind of get pushed to one end or the other, so if you are working the plus size fashion world then rock it! But don’t believe for one minute that you are anything but normal; we all at any size have flaws we find in ourselves and the fashion world functions in numbers, amount of material costs, and what model makes the clothes look good not really how the girl is made to look(have you seen their faces and some of the crazy stuff they have to try to pull off on the runway!?).
      I guess what I’m getting at is if a post pops up plus-size I was hoping for something for a big girl not a regular girl :( I did however think most of her tips translated well:)and maybe look forward to more encompassing plus size posts(Pretty please!).
      PS their are all sorts of books about dressing flattering, though as a plus size or Normal girl (anything over a 10 really; usually) hit up or Barnes and Noble so you can get a better idea of what to keep an eye out for as you browse, bringing a digital camera with you to see how your choices look on film can give another perspective( i walked around in a white fitted hoodie i looooved last Halloween and someone had a video camera and it was an anti-flattering picture- i had no torso just boobs and a head)and don’t be afraid to bargain shop sales or coupons if they allow it! got some right fit jeans at fashion bug for $13 last week, were originally $30+!)
      Anywhoosle, I hope I helped more than hindered and was able to share my point of view, good luck ladies!***

    • I don’t delegate my life in such a manner and don’t want people around me … Being safe and happy in your own skin means exactly what it sounds like it means you should be happy with your lot and not worry about what other people think.

    • Liene

      hey girls you think you are plus size? then what i’ am? Whaile? I’am on size 18 and it’s really difficult to finde some clothes in my contry by the way I am from Latvia (yeh that contry which beat USA in Olimpyc games 2012 London in beach vollybal) If can I buy skinny jeans and vintage tops i vear Vans shoes.

    • GM

      One tip is to double check based on inches rather than sizes when buying vintage. I know this might be a no-brainer for some but sizes were different back then. I actually don’t own a single piece of sized vintage clothing because of this. I hate to say it but recreations are better when you’re shopping for plus sized stuff now. Many of the fits just weren’t flattering back then. Because of this I shop at thrift stores for interesting clothes (instead of vintage) but add vintage accessories later. It’s a good way to get the same style without worrying about unintentionally wearing a muumuu.

    • Hi my names Kelly and well i love hipster clothes but unfortunatley the stores dont love me. So most of the time i subside to wearing Tees and flare jeans. I wear a DD and a 14-16 size jeans. This is my problem.

    • Evvy

      Hi I just want to say this was a great post! But I was wondering about high waisted shorts because I have big thighs and they rub so I don’t know what to do cause I want to where those cute shorts but do I want a my legs to hurt. So if anyone has a suggestion please say.

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