We’ve all read the articles. Even worse, we’ve all heard the well-intentioned comments by friends, family members, and total strangers: “Are you sure you want to wear that?”
When I was younger, there seemed to be a central set of fashion rules that everyone with “good” taste followed. What I didn’t realize until I got older and started writing online was that this unspoken set of fashion commands was also used to chastise fashion writers, models, and designers. The rules seemed to be the rules, no matter the context.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had less and less respect for these fashion rules. Sometimes to the point where I will intentionally buy something that breaks them, just for fun. Ironically, some of my most successful Instagram outfit posts have been in pieces that openly defy these rules and seem to take people by surprise.
Today we’re going to talk about what fashion “rules” tend to apply to full-busted and full-figured people. We'll also talk about how to subvert or break them while still looking fabulous.
1. No Stripes
There’s a big debate about whether horizontal stripes make you look fatter or vertical stripes make you look taller. These fashion rules mostly lead to people being afraid to wear stripes at all! The truth is that the cut and style of a piece of clothing have far more to do with how your body type is perceived, rather than the pattern adorning it. Besides, if you think about it, stripes are classic: think of the chic French navy and white striped t-shirt or a fun striped dress like this one from Eloquii. As long as you’re comfortable with the style and silhouette you’re wearing, stripes are just another pattern.
2. No Ruffles
This rule terrified me for years! I only recently started playing with ruffles and ruffled sleeve dresses in my wardrobe. And it turns out that when the ruffle hits right, it can be an incredibly flattering look. This dress from Rue 107 is pretty because the top can be adjusted to hit at just the right length. In general, look for ruffles that end above or below your chest rather than in the middle, or ruffles that run down the sides or sleeves. If you’re nervous, balance it out with a piece that has one statement ruffle and otherwise feels classic.
3. Always Minimize Your Chest Size (Alternatively Known As the “No Turtlenecks” Rule)
I wrote a fashion review early on in my career of this dress in another color (before I learned not to read internet comments). And I’ll always remember what some stranger wrote in response. “Why do you want to accent your breasts so much?” they asked. The idea seemed sort of silly to me because the best minimizer bra in the world combined with even the most flattering clothing wasn’t going to make my 34HH breasts disappear.
Here’s the truth: there is no way that you can make your bra size disappear without surgery. So you might as well learn to accept it. Wear a supportive bra and wear stuff that makes you happy. And remember that someone else is envious of your curves and would probably trade with you if they could.
4. Black Is Always Slimming
One of my favorite hashtags on Instagram current is the #fuckflattering tag, which is full of women posting outfits that society might consider daringly unsuited to their body type. The rule about slimming one’s figure with black clothing prevails because we are generally obsessed with dressing to appear thinner.
I love a great black dress, but there’s a whole world of creative and non-slimming options out there if that's what you like to wear. A black dress makes a great investment piece. So don’t be put off by what other people may think of the one look you love.
5. No Tops That You Can’t Wear With A Regular Bra
A few months ago on Instagram, I saw this video of a full-busted woman using a miracle product: a stick-on bra that fit her GG cup breasts! I’d never seen anything like it before, which is how I found Brassy Bra. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’ve seen enough testimonials on Instagram to believe it works. Their stick-on bras are available in a huge cup size range and a diverse skin tone range. Everyone (including us curvy people) can now rock a backless dress or top for a special occasion.
6. No Floral Prints
The plus-size community, in particular, has a weird relationship with florals. For many years, florals were all that was available; except they came in the forms of tents that your grandmother would have worn when what everyone wanted was fashionable work clothes. Lingerie follows similar trends, so when strappy bras and ditzy prints hit, everyone was ready to throw florals overboard for good.
Except the right floral can be kind of fabulous. Think about beautiful winter florals or unexpected rose prints! Instead of jettisoning floral prints, I think we should be willing to carefully accept them back into our lives if they demonstrate enough creativity.
7. Never Show Your Bra
One brief look at Instagram shows that people are breaking this fashion rule all the time. But I think that everyone needs a reminder that the visible bra trend can work for them. If you don’t want to bare all, go with a slightly sheer shirt or dress and a full coverage bra. Those of us who are braver can steal this gorgeous sheer look, which deserves to be seen.
8. Don’t Deviate From Classic Silhouettes
If you’re curvy, I’m going to bet that you own a lot of fit and flare dresses. There’s nothing wrong with that: I will never pass up a cute skater dress when I run across it. However, there are a lot more options out there that also deserve lots of love. Modern sculptural minimalist pieces are now available in curvy versions, and all of the latest runaway trends tend to hit curve friendly vendors quickly now. As a result, you shouldn’t feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your body type by sticking to classic cuts and shapes.
9. Always Wear Stretch Fabrics
Floral Embellished Cotton Poplin Dress Available in Sizes XS - 6X or Custom Sizing via eShakti
As a rule, I’ll always pick a woven fabric over a stretch fabric. I love pieces that have beautiful drape and structure, which is harder to find than cheap knit dresses with a ton of stretch. The central problem with filling your wardrobe with high-quality woven pieces is that they really have to fit, and many retailers aren’t building for curvier figures. Luckily, places like Eshakti are now solving that problem!
Eshakti offers custom sizing for a nominal fee and will even let you tailor the neckline, hem, and sleeves to your preference. They’re also now offering ways to combine a silhouette you love with the fabric you love from another dress. It allows you to get even closer to creating a unique piece for yourself. Most of us aren’t rich enough to have a custom dressmaker, but Eshakti is a pretty good second option!
10. Empire Waists Are Your Friend
I am convinced that all of the advice about empire waists and curvy figures comes from years of curvy women simply wearing dresses that didn’t fit! Just because a dress becomes an empire waist on you when you put it on doesn’t mean that you have to settle for it.
The rise of curvy clothing retailers online has meant that women have many more options that take both their body and breast size into account. If you’re devoted to empire waists, then keep wearing them. But also know that there are lots of places to buy a dress that will hit at your actual waist if that's what you want.
Finally, here's a photo of me, showing how I regularly break these fashion rules. What about you? Do you follow any of these full bust rules? Let me know in the comments below!