Curvy and Competent: Dressing Professionally With a Salma Hayek Body

how to dress professionally if youre curvyReader H has a great question about how to dress professionally if you’ve got a killer body like Salma Hayek’s:

One thing that I’m still wondering about (and moreso lately, as my summer internship looms) is if different rules of professional dress apply for different figures. Is it ever necessary – or desirable – to hide your shape?

For example, let’s take a tailored sheath dress. I can imagine such a style looking very professional on someone with a straight figure, like Keira Knightly. But on someone with more pronounced curves, like Salma Hayek, would the same dress read as too sexy even if it fit correctly, simply by virtue of its proportions? As younger woman in the Salma Hayek camp, I’m worried that by wearing clothes that fit me right, I might end up looking all wrong. Care to weigh in? Am I just being paranoid?

You’ve addressed tangentially-related issues before, such as dressing too young and dressing unprofessionally (ie: too tight, too tacky, etc). But I’m not sure if you’ve yet touched on whether there are additional factors to be weighed beyond proper fit and appropriate formality.

We haven’t covered how to dress professionally if you have curves in a long while — so let’s discuss.  For my $.02, the notion that you have to deliberately hide your body or dress in dowdy clothes is just not true.  That said:

– Make sure your clothes — and particularly your bras — fit. First, a physical quiz.  Stand up.  Lean over and touch your toes.  Now stand back up again.  Quickly now:  tell me how many boobs you have.  If the answer is “4,” your bra and its fit is just not appropriate for the office.  A well-fitting bra will contain the girls (on top AND on the side) without constant re-adjustments during the day.  Get thee to a lingerie store that might actually carry sizes larger than a D cup or smaller than a band size 34, and ask a salesperson for help.  (Be prepared to spend quite a bit of money for this endeavor — a single good bra can cost you $60 or up.)  Similarly, look at your shirts, skirts, and pants:  if your clothes are too tight, they will “smile” when you put them on, and tug at the zippers and buttons.  Getting one size larger can be helpful.

– Know what your clothes are saying about you. A while back there was a lawsuit against a big bank from a woman who said she was fired for being too sexy — apparently she wore low-cut blouses, skin-tight “suits,” and platform heels that emphasized her curves (some of which, if memory serves, had been surgically enhanced).  I’m not saying you have to wear a muumuu, but look at yourself in the mirror and seriously appreciate what clothes are saying about you.  I’ve always had an hourglass shape, and I’ve used camisoles and necklaces to raise the necklines, avoided wearing some trends (like the corset-belt trend that was in a few years ago — loved the look but I just looked too va-va-voom for the office) and reasonable heel heights that didn’t make my bottom stick out more.  If sweaters hug your every curve — wear an open blazer on top of them.  A sweater with a looser fit can still be flattering.

– Realize that even non-sexy clothes can emphasize your curves in unprofessional ways. You’ll generally know when this is happening:  for example, I remember buying a below-the-knee pencil skirt (which I actually paired with purple fishnets — ah, youth) and feeling uncomfortable in it because the long fit meant I was “wiggling” down the hall. Joy!

Readers, what are your tips for dressing professionally if you have a Salma Hayek body?  What do you do, and what have you seen work/not work?



  1. Miss Priss :

    I’m a young(ish) woman with curves and find that the looser fit, higher neckline, longer skirt look helps disguise my hourglass without making me too frumpy. Just as shorter skirts are not as work appropriate on taller women, really form-fitting outfits are easier on straighter figures. Having once worn a curve-hugging sweater to the office, I was told I looked like a ’50s sweater kitten and spent the rest of the day in my pashmina. If I show off more than my clavicle and forearms, I feel uncomfortably on display in the male-dominated office. If I show off anything, it is with a more well-tailored (but still slightly looser) outfit.

  2. I second the lingerie store tip. Since cup sizes get bigger with band size (e.g., the cups on a 34C might be roughly equivalent in size to those on a 32D) and since stores in the U.S. seem convinced that anything above a D is freakishly huge (it’s NOT!) a lot of women seem to have been led to believe that they were a 40DD instead of a 32H, and similar atrocious size differentials. This does not lead to well-fitting bras!

    The worst offender, btw, seems to be Victoria’s Secret. They carry a tiny range of sizes and seem determined to shove any woman who walks the door into one of them.

    • I third this and TOTALLY agree about Victoria’s Secret. Ugh!

      After years and years of ill-fitting bras I finally found a good bra store where I live. They put me in a 32F in one bra. Who knew there was such a size?!

      I feel and look so much better with the new bras and they are even slightly minimizing.

    • Anonymous :

      WORD. For years I thought I was a 34A. Turns out I’m a 30D. The girls look so much better with proper support!

      • I don’t understand how this happens – anyone feel comfortable enough to elaborate? Isn’t it pretty clear from looking, the difference between an A and a D?

        • It’s because cup sizes aren’t consistent across band sizes. A 34A is going to have similar size cups to a 32B to a 30C. (Whether it makes sense to size things this way is a totally different issue, but when does women’s clothing sizing ever make sense!) So you can get cups that fit by going up in band size rather than cup size or vice versa. Since stores like VS give off the impression that most women are A through D and the outliers are really extreme, a lot of women who are outside that range mess with the band size instead of seeking out expensive, hard-to-find cup sizes (that they may not even know exist!). Which is doable, but a supportive bra should really have most of the support coming from the band rather than the shoulder straps, which does not work if you’re wearing the wrong size band.

          • It also doesn’t help that culturally “DD” seems to mean “ultra-giant pornstar boobs” when DD isn’t really that huge of a cup size. I think women just assume that if they don’t have proportionately huge breasts they can’t possibly be that big of a size.

          • it also doesn’t help when you do hit one of the few stores that carry 32Ds and the young girl who happens to be working that day is oh so helpful in finding them because she wears that size, and then comments on the fact that its due to the fact that she has implants *head plant*

            on to other topics of bra fitting, I’ve also seen girls wearing their bras really high in back and they actually ask me why mine is so low… (I do a lot of community theatre – there is no seeing your female castmates in their underwear!) I try to explain but they seem to think that its still where the bra is supposed to be sitting…

        • Someone who needs a 34A will have about a 34 inch measurement around the bust, but that’ll be about a 34 in chest and one extra inch of bust. Someone who needs a 30D will have about a 34 inch measurement, but that’ll be a 30 inch chest and 4 extra inches of busts. Unscrupulous or ignorant bra sellers will try to put the second woman in the closest bra size they sell that will fit around her bust, which will be a 34A or B.

          • Aimez-Moi :

            Oh, that’s nothing. I’m between a 28C/30B depending on the brand, and I keep going to to the department store for a fitting and given a 12AA bra (34AA), which cups cut across half my breast (really painful!). I was at one stage buying childrens training bras because I have such a narrow back, despite being B/C cup. I don’t know of any shops which hold my size, and I was told to get one tailored, which would have ended up being over $100. Honestly, the whole bra shopping experiance is a joke. I’ve given up.

      • Agree agree. VS is extremely limited & had me thinking I was a 34B for a long time (got properly fitted and am a 30D). Once you have a good idea of what size you are in which brands (some inconsistencies in sizing across brands) has much better variety than VS or Nordstrom if you’re not near a good lingerie store w/ lots of options.

    • YES! This makes a huge difference. I have a friend who is at least 2 clothes sizes smaller than me but she wears a bra band size that is at least 4 sizes bigger than mine because she’s never been properly fitted. I know we’ve talked about it on this blog, but getting fitted really isn’t as traumatic as I was sure it was going to be. In fact, it was the biggest non-deal. (FWIW, I went to Nordstrom for a proper fitting.)

    • Totally agree. Without really any fluctuation in my weight, since I was 16 I have gone from a 36B to a 34C to (finally) a 32 D or DD, which is my correct size. The volume of the cups in each of these sizes is roughly the same. But when you have a bigger band size, the cups are spaced more widely apart, and the band is too loose on your back, causing it to ride up.

      Victoria’s Secret is the devil when it comes to bra sizes. They want everyone to be an A to a C and will keep putting you in a bigger band size until the cups fit. Most women in the US, I’ve been told, need to go down at least one band size and up one cup size to get the correct fit.

    • Notalawyer :

      Ladies, those bras are expensive, but they are SO worth it. If you are larger up top, and have worn poorly fitting bras all your life because that is all that you could find (or all you could afford), you will be amazed at the difference in the mirror when you are wearing a properly fitted bra.

      Seriously, one of the best moments in my life was when I found the right size and where to buy pretty ones that fit and looked attractive rather than the ugly ones (I thought) fitted me and looked like something a frumpy great-grandmother would wear.

      You will stand up straighter, your waist will look smaller, your clothes will fit better. …And, you won’t bounce when you walk.

      It’s SO worth it.

    • ahhhh I HATE vs!! I have spent so much money on them in the past thinking I was a 34C, I go into Nordstrom to get fitted and I’m a 32DD. My bras feel so much better now. Who knew!

    • The only time I was ever fitted for a bra, (probably 15 years ago) the saleswoman just had me wear the bra I had on and measured me clothed. This doesn’t seem right– wouldn’t an ill-fitting bra screw up the measurements? What should I expect at a proper bra fitting?

      • Former 3L :

        At my bra fitting (at Intimacy), the bra lady took a look at my boobs, first in my old, far-too-big-in-the-band bra, and got me some bras she thought would fit. Over the course of the appointment, she also saw my boobs sans bra, which might have actually happened before she got the bras for me to try on. She was also very involved in the try-on process (although in an eyes more than a hands way). I really want my mom to get a fitting but she is much more modest (?) than me. I’m thinking of just driving her so she can drink beforehand and then be more comfortable.

        • Intimacy is a worthless bra store. They carry bras in larger sizes that make your breasts look BIGGER and more prominent. And their fitters are what they characterize as “curve friendly” but what I characterize as stupid. I asked them for a minimizer. They swore up and down that they were giving me bras that would minimize my bustline. The day after I went to Intimacy, which sized me as a 32E, I went to court in one of their bras (which caused my breasts to look even larger and barely fit within my jacket- courtroom staff referred to me as “Tits McGee”. When I went back to Intimacy and demanded a refund, the idiotic fitter suggested that I get more “feminine” clothing at BeBe instead of wearing a suit to court.
          If you are already outside of the “normal” sizes, what is the point of making your large breasts look larger unless you are a pornstar?

      • Can anyone speak to the fitting process at somewhere like Nordstrom? I have always avoided these fittings because while I’m fine with measuring over a bra, I am not down with total toplessness. Some insecurities just cannot be conquered under bad fitting room lighting…

        • It’s not so bad. My bra saleswoman at Nordstrom (San Francisco) measured my band size with a tape measure and eyeballed me sans shirt and with bra and brought me some ball park bras she thought might fit. Then it was trail and error until like Cinderella, it was PERFECT. I don’t have the tightest body or the flatest abs, so at first I was self-conscious, but then I realized that this woman see’s all kinds of bodies all day long and couldn’t care less. It helped that she was much older than me though. Also, make sure you wear your best bra day of, I was embarrassed because I stopped by on a whim in something pretty shameful.

        • Same thing for me. She measured my band size, then eyeballed, and was completely correct. I thought I was a 34B, turns out I’m a 32D. Second-third-fourthing what everyone else has said – it makes SUCH a difference! You look slimmer with everything hoisted up and properly in place. Well worth the really minor embarrassment.

          32D isn’t so easy to find. Nordstrom usually has some, and you can always check out Nordstrom Rack. Plus, all 32Ds are not created equal. Donna Karan was my go-to brand for a couple of years, but now they don’t seem to fit me (and I don’t think my size has changed significantly, haven’ t gained or lost any weight). I get all the VS hate, believe me, but I have actually found that the 32D in a certain style (can’t remember, but it’s lightly padded and has a bit of lace) fits me really well. I got the first one from the catalog – they don’t tend to carry that size in the store too often, but I did find one the other week. Actually, there were several, but they were hot pink or hot turquoise. I got the lone “nude for me” bra. The saleswoman was very nice and sort of apologetic about it, I have to say.

  3. I think it’s really important to look at the neckline. There’s a difference between a well-fitting sweater on a curvy woman with a high neckline and one that shows cleavage. And it’s important to know where your cleavage starts — some women’s cleavage starts only a few inches below their collarbone. Obviously that’s not something that can be changed, but it’s something to be aware of.

  4. I love the advice on the bras. I also want to reiterate that clothing that you believe “fits” you for an evening out with friends or dates is often too tight/small/short for an office setting. To me, that’s the biggest mistake young professionals (of any shape) make in dressing for an office. I’m not suggesting frumpiness, but there is a middle ground.

    • Diana Barry :

      Yes!!! Just this morning I saw a young woman in pencil skirt (very nice) and cowl neck sweater. The sweater showed every contour and bra outlines, etc. Even though she was quite thin, this is NOT appropriate!!! People sometimes think things fit if they can squeeze them on – just go up a size. It is OK to be a S and not an XS!

  5. Always find this type of discussion to be useful. As a busty 5’9″ woman working in a (non-law) male-dominated conservative industry, this is something I struggle with.

    To reiterate this post and Kat’s earlier one on the topic, getting properly fitted for a bra is crucial. Not only will clothes fit better, but in my case it also seems to visually take off a few pounds.

    I would like to give a shout-out to Bravissimo, a UK retailer that focuses on hard-to-find sizes. They’ve recently launched the brand Pepperberry, which sells clothes available (loosely) by bra size. The button-down shirt I’ve received from them, while not the highest quality, actually fits in the bust and torso.

    Also, I had a friend who used to work at Victoria’s Secret, and has confirmed that they will fit everyone who walks in the door into one of the sizes they carry. I thought I was a 38D for years…and I’m actually a 34FF.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I had this same problem on the other end of the spectrum. Thanks to VS, I always thought I was a 32/34 B, but I’m actually a 36 AA.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with the VS issue. They seem to be much more interested in stocking a large variety of styles/colors in limited sizes, than limiting the styles and offering a wider range of sizes.

      • Not a 34B :

        34B always seems to be the default at VS. I was encouraged to wear that size at multiple stores (I am a 32D) even though 34B was rarely a good fit for me. I have a lot of female friends who are perplexed why I don’t go there because they still don’t know that VS is probably not stocking their real size.

    • So if you can’t get to the UK anytime soon, and don’t live in NY, where should you go for proper bra fitting? I’ve heard Nordstrom’s is good….anywhere else anyone can recommend? I have always thought I’m a 36A, but increasingly suspect I should get fitted properly to find out what’s actually going on.

      • Check out Yelp reviews for the best lingerie stores near you or, if you can’t find one, consider combining a bra-fitting with a trip to a major city the next time you go.

        • Yes, I suspect Nordstrom’s the next time I head to the States. Don’t think there is anywhere good in my little city.

      • I go to a little lingerie store that specializes in good quality bras in a wide variety of sizes and was staffed by a middle aged woman with a no nonsense manner. I find that stores that cater to younger people often think they can get away with shoving women into a smaller range of sizes and under training their staff.

        • Yes – most “big cities” have formal lingerie stores. You might also look for the store “intimacy” as they are expanding to new cities. For big box places, you can’t beat Nordstrom. Once you know a true size and brand/style you can find often on line through places like brasmyth.

        • Yes, you MUST find the “middle-aged woman with the no-nonsense manner”. She won’t be overly friendly, but you can be sure she will fit you correctly! Also, I’ve found it helps if they are foreign, and preferably she is wearing a tape measure around her neck like a stethascope. I’m really not kidding.

          In NYC I’ve had good luck in Saks, Bloomingdales (middle-aged russian lady), and Intimacy.

          I did not have good luck with fitting at Journelle, but they do carry pretty stuff and a wide array of sizes for once you know your size.

          • In NYC, BraTenders is the gold standard. They fit all of the Broadway dancers for lingerie, and they do regular customers by appointment. Absolutely stellar service.

          • found a peanut :

            mine is named Irma. You can’t get a more appropriate name than that :)

      • They can be tough to find (just a few locations throughout the U.S.), but I have had excellent luck at the store Intimacy.

        • I had a great fitting at Intimacy New York a couple of years ago and just got refitted at a local Bloomingdales in my home state. The woman at Bloomies was excellent and actually put me into the size I was already wearing (yea me!) so I can recommend Bloomies. And coincidentally she was Russian, had a tape measure around her neck AND wore glasses with the chain holder around them. I call that the trifecta of bra fitters.

      • If you’re a “full-figured” bra size, I’ve found that I’ve gotten a good fittings at Lane Bryant. Their clothes don’t fit me (I wear under their size ranges in clothes), but because I’m “full-figured” up top, their Cacique line fits me like a glove.

        • I agree, Lemon. I, too, am too small for Lane Bryant’s clothes, but need larger size bras, and just began buying them from Lane Bryant. Cacique is just perfect for me.

      • in the southern US find a Belk’s that used to be a Parisian or that otherwise carries Wacoal – then find out if they have a fit specialist… I lucked out in that I found out about Wacoal online and happened to hit a Belk’s that had a fit specialist who had been doing this for almost 30 years – you’re not going to find that at every Belk, unlike your more high-end type places elsewhere, but it does still happen occasionally… and even if you can’t find a fit specialist, but you can find more sizes, try it out – I figured out based on the actual proper formula online that I should wear a 32D before I ever saw the fit specialist – so while it was good to have confirmation – I still would have had a better fit than I did before just based on that!

        (of course I could go off about how Belk’s actually had real shoe fitting specialist when I was a child too, but…sigh…my grandma worked at Belk’s so I’m still a Belk’s girl at heart!)

      • There’s a place in LA (on Melrose) called Jeanette Bras for the fuller figured ladies, and Yasuko’s Bra & Lingerie Salon in Pasadena is also good.

        • socal gal :

          Miss Steven’s on Sepulveda just south of Olympic is awesome too. Ask for Elizabeth!

    • Brava for Bravissimo!!

  6. knock-out bod :

    My moniker is a bit of an over-statement, but I figure, why not be confident? In all truth, though, I have an hourglass figure, a bust and behind, and I’m athletic and young, so I fall more into the “nice” body category than not. I’ve found that a looser fit and higher necklines tend to make me look much more professional. I usually like to have a 1/2″ to 1″ of “extra” material around the waist… not so much that it’s bunchy, but enough that when I take a big, deep breath, the dress or shirt still doesn’t feel tight. I also like to buy slightly larger tops and belt them to define the waist, which ensures that the bust and length are appropriate, but I don’t look like I’m wearing a tent (maybe a shirt that falls straight down instead of figure-hugging). For skirts, I always require it to hit at the top of my knee cap, and I make sure that the back is hitting just shy of the crook of my knee. Again, I don’t want things showing when the skirt “swooshes” as I walk.

    Sad to say, but I also see my husband’s reaction. I’ll usually do a little fashion show when I buy new pieces, and if his reaction is, “Dang girl.. come over here!” I usually try to find a way to tone it down. I also ask him what exactly about the outfit he finds “hot”, so that I can either switch it up with another piece in my closet, or avoid buying a similar piece in the future. I also have to be brutally honest sometimes and realize that an outfit is more to make my husband think “hot business woman”, rather than my colleagues thinking, “capable professional”. If you look in the mirror and think about that, you might need to switch out a blouse or add a jacket.

    • Alex Mack :

      I do the same thing with my husband! He doesn’t get why I never buy/always return the work clothes that he really loves…

    • I do the same husband check! He’s always confused and disappointed when I change, poor guy.

    • goirishkj :

      Third on the husband check! Of course, then he moves on to argue that I’m a prude and that anyone can tell I am female and therefore have boobs. While he has a point, there’s that middle ground that we’re all struggling to find.

    • I don’t do the “husband check” but I should. Because sometimes I come in the door from work and get the “damn, girl…” response and I’m like, oh, crap. I spent all day at work in totally inappropriate clothing. :)

    • Yes. Do the same check. And he always wants to know why I don’t wear what he suggests. Even when I tell him I’m going for “competent” not “hot.”

  7. I am not sure Kat answered the question. That is, *assuming* you are wearing clothes that fit you properly (i.e., tailored, but not skin tight), should you, nonetheless, abstain from certain items?

    I would say you have to make concessions where appropriate. So if you have a large bust, you may need a slightly higher neckline, because when you cross your arms and when Keira Kneightly crosses hers, it will look different. No different from being 5’10 and needing a longer hemline. But aside from things like that, I don’t think anyone needs to go out of their way to look sexless. I think you just have to be brutally honest with yourself, what works for you, and cognizant of the fact that *no one* should dress the way lawyers and other professional dress on TV and in movies.

    • AIMS, I was thinking the same thing. Assuming your clothes aren’ts stretching, gaping, etc – is there an issue with some silhouettes being per se sexy?

      I’m thinking Joanie (*sniff* that no Mad Men until 2012) is a good example of the look in question (although some of her dresses are a size smaller than I would wear to work, the concept stands – tailored to her curves). Dear Joanie accentuates the curves with accessories and the way she walks, smiles, etc — but put the same dress (maybe one size up) and a cardigan or blazer on a person just walking and acting like an ordinary professional, and I think there’s no reason to be ashamed or feel too “sexy” simply because a properly fitted sheath dress shows your waist:hip ratio.

      • See, I was thinking Joan is an example of how NOT to wear a sheath dress. If you have a figure like hers, then you need to construct an outfit with more structure to keep the va-va-voom factor on a much lower setting. (“Structure” is something that they’re always talking about on What Not To Wear. Jackets have structure.)

        • I’m remembering Joan’s dresses as more structured. I agree that hers are a size too snug for professional women now, but I think a lot of her “va va” factor comes from how she moves and presents herself – the hip sway, emphasis on chest, etc. Also, I’d pair her dresses with cardigans or blazers to add another layer.

          I guess after watching (one too many?) episodes of WNTW, all that “structure” and “locking and loading” started to just look plain uncomfortable. I’m curvy (but not Salma Hayek level), and the idea of needing to wear blazers and minimizers and all sorts of swaddling to be “appropriate” just sounds like I’d be pulling at my clothes in irritation by midday.

      • Hmm, I have some of these issues. I’m lean–not very busty or” booty-full” but, I get inappropriate comments because I am really wasp-waisted. I now skip belted and wrap dresses at work (sigh, I love wrap dresses) and I tend to wear open cardigans (looser) and unbutton my jackets to hide my waist and avoid the “dangerous curves” comments from men and the side eye from women. I’m athletic, not voluptuous, but the more tailored my dresses (adding darts or reverse pleats to fit my waist) the less professional and more femme fatale I look.

    • Well said.

  8. LOL at “Quickly now: tell me how many boobs you have.”

    I have the Salma Hayek. I don’t think that Salma Hayeks need to strictly stick with clothes that downplay the curves to the extent possible, but at the same time we need to stay away from the other extreme. For example, I don’t think I have to wear only three or four button blazers, but I generally stay away from one button ones. I don’t think I have to wear only full or A-line skirts, but I am very cautious that my pencil skirts fit properly (and don’t show the shape of the underside of my derriere).

    BTW- I finally switched to the Enell sports bra and I am kicking myself for not doing it years ago. The thing is built like a fortress.

    • knock-out bod :

      THIS on the underside showing! That’s also a good rule of thumb for the bust as well :)

      • AND for pants! Allow me to vent for a moment: I am, in skirts and jackets, an 8 in BR suiting. HOWEVER. I have ordered two or three different pairs of pants, in the matching suiting material, and every single one of them hugs my rear end all. the. way. around. WHY do clothes makers think that professional women wish to show off the underside curve of their butts? I have pretty much just given up on finding decent suits with pants (going up a size doesn’t help; I’ve tried a 10 in the pants and it’s *still* butt-hugging, while simultaneously being too loose in the waist).

        • THIS.

          Almost all of my casual pants (jeans, cords, chinos) are from JCrew. Size 4 and they are well-fitted but not tight at all on my behind or anywhere else (I wear them with bikini cotton knickers and don’t have any VPL issues). But I own ZERO suiting material pants from JCrew because even if I go up to a size 8 and they are baggy everywhere else, they still hug my butt like a glove. And I am not booty-gifted, either! Very frustrating.

        • For what it’s worth, my pair of BR pants did that for the first half hour I wore them, then they relaxed like jeans and fit properly now.

        • Try Brooks Brothers. I have a few pairs of their pants, and they are a dream as far as not being too booty conscious is concerned.

          If you need to take the waist take in, they can do it in-store, either complimentary or for a small fee.

        • totally agree on this. husband thinks i’m a prude but I don’t really need the guys at work to see the exact shape of behind. same thing on cleavage. cleavage has no place in a professional work environment.

        • Ann Taylor has great suits to avoid the “butt hugging” look. The pants (and skirts) on all of the suits that I have from there are lined, which definitely helps to avoid this problem. But they do have a bit higher waist than I would like, but they look professional. Just doesn’t work if you tuck something in.

    • Agree on the one-button jacket. I went suit shopping with my mom a few weeks ago and insisted I needed at least two buttons. She didn’t get it and kept pushing the one-button until I finally put it on, buttoned it, and got the “holy boobs, batman!” effect. At which point she couldn’t stop laughing and rooted out a three-button.

  9. Go up a size. Seriously. A “cute” fit for weekends and going out is ALWAYS a size smaller than a “work-appropriate” fit.

    • It took me so long to get used to this concept when I was fresh out of school. We called it “dressing like a fat girl” because we had to size up in everything!

      • Accountress :

        Can I ask what made you think of calling it that? Was it because you had to increases sizes (“getting fat” even though your weight didn’t change), or is that fat girls are encouraged to wear clothes that are loose on them? Or is it the opposite, they wear clothes that are too tight and you didn’t want to look like that?

        • I’m not M, but I’ve used the same phrase. When I say it, I mean because overweight women have a tendency to wear their clothes too loose. Not they we are encouraged to wear our clothes too loose, it just happens that way because the 16 is too big, but that’s better than looking like a stuffed sausage in the 14. And yes, I know, I need a tailor! Why can’t that be done online, right?

  10. I have a large, sticky-outy butt attached to an otherwise small body (with the exception of my boobs, which are also sticky-outy) and dressing can be a pain. I have some pieces of advice:

    1. Find a tailor. I often have to buy skirts one size up and get the waist taken in, which is an annoyance to say the least. When I buy dresses, I often have to have the shoulders/back altered. It’s important to have someone you trust so that you can get the clothes you like and have them actually fit.

    2. Button-up shirts are not your friend. They are not meant to be worn by women with chests. That’s it. If you MUST wear button-downs, get the middle sewn up by the aforementioned tailor (make sure you can put the shirt over your head before doing this). Otherwise, your shirts will become gaping messes.

    3. Longer cardigans (that come down to your butt) can hide a lot of va-va-voom. I find that belting them is not a good look because they don’t lay right over my boobs. Who knows, maybe they’ll lay right over yours, but be aware of this.

    4. Minimizer bras are helpful.

    • Actually, button-downs are beginning to be our friends now. There are a few companies out there who make shirts that don’t gap at the bust but fit our shoulders and waists. I list them in a comment lower down.

    • This. Minus the chest. It is next to impossible to find pants, skirts, dresses that don’t show my butt. I have the added problem of thin legs so when things fit my butt, my legs look like they are in yoga pants. SO frustrating.

      Generally, I’ll have to buy things 2 to 3 sizes too big, then have the waist AND the legs taken in. Regardless, I still get a lot of looks from men. Not sure how to avoid that.

      • The butt is a much bigger problem, because having a sticky-outy chest is much more common than a sticky-outy butt, so clothes for women are generally made to accommodate. Also, it is much more acceptable for your breasts to be sticking out (that’s what they do) than for your butt to do so. I read once that a skirt/pants should go to the farthest-out part of your butt and then fall straight down, but no one thinks your shirt should go to the farthest-out part of your chest and then fall straight down – we’re encouraged to tuck and belt to show off our waist. People accept curve-hugging shirts but curve-hugging bottoms are a big no.

        I hear you on the pants. I’ve accepted that my pants will always somewhat hug my butt – what am I supposed to do? The yoga pants issue is a huge problem.

    • “Button-up shirts . . . get the middle sewn up . . .” = Epiphany. I have used tape, safety pins, velcro, snaps, you name it to keep my shirts from gaping. Not once did I ever think “hey, why don’t I just have my tailor, who I love, just sew this up for me.” How is it possible to be so oblivious to the most simple solution?

      • Can you really pull them on then? I’m also scared of getting it on, and then not being able to get it off and having to call DH in to help once I’ve gotten myself thoroughly stuck with the shirt around my ears and my arms stuck up in the air.

        • I sewn up ALL my shirts and they all fit over my head. Not gracefully, but it works! Don’t sew it up to the top button obviously (even if you prefer to button them all the way up) and it should work.

          • Brilliant idea. I also wear white (super fortified) sports bras when I wear button downs. Granted, sports bras do not do a lot for you, but, for me, they smooth everything out and make me look a little more athletically built (I am petite, but curvy), which I like under a button down.

          • PLEASE help a girl. I would love clear instructions to give to a tailor as to how I want this done.

        • i’ve had good looking having a tailor put in tiny snaps between the buttons. probably not as good as sewing up, but it comes undone so you don’t have to pull over the head.

    • sewing the button-up shirt! why didn’t I ever think of this. may have to add them back to the wardrobe with this trick.

  11. I think the issue is less about your overall shape, and more about how you highlight certain body parts. As a 34H, I think that one main lesson is take extra care not to draw attention to the bust area at work.
    -Make sure your cleavage isn’t visible, even by someone much taller than you (what you see in the mirror isn’t what a 6′ tall person sees).
    – Make sure the pattern/texture of your bra isn’t visible through your shirt and you don’t have “headlights” or a visible line where the top of your bra ends.
    – Make sure your bra straps aren’t visible and aren’t in danger of becoming visible.
    – If you wear cap sleeves or a tank, make sure you don’t show side cleavage.
    – Pay attention to how patterned tops sit on you, so you don’t end up with a giant flower or dot right at the point of your nipple.
    – Don’t wear a necklace or scarf that falls under your shirt into your cleavage or is in danger of encircling your boob.
    – If you want to wear an eye-catching accessory, consider shoes, earrings or a belt, or a scarf that’s worn around the neck.

    Obviously these tips are true for smaller-busted women as well, but it’s less noticeable when a smaller-sized bra is visible, for instance, simply because it’s smaller.

    • knock-out bod :

      Good tips! Especially true about the patterns. I’m forever avoiding ribbed shirts for exactly this reason! The ribbing expands so noticeably in the bust area, and just draws too much attention.

      On another note, work is incredibly slow on this dreary day. We have a 3-day weekend for the Easter holiday, and I have zero focus… then this thread comes along and completely zaps all possibility of working this afternoon!

    • Add: Pay attention to rib knits and other verticle lines.

      I had a long-sleeve, turtleneck sweater which showed zero cleavage, fell to my hip, and was slightly loose (about one size). But it had a wide rib which curved around my chest, visually drawing attention to my breasts. After SEVERAL comments and unchecked glances, I had to give up on it. Sniff :(

    • Anon-ee-mouse! :

      Amen to checking patterns. I wore a black and white patterned wrap dress one day to work (which was otherwise appropriate for my office) and realized once I went to the bathroom and looked in the full-length mirror that a fortuitously-placed “white” spot was on my lower back/derrier and you could very clearly see the top of my underwear through it.

      I basically spent the rest of the day scuttling down the halls sideways with my back to the wall. (Not really, but I sure felt like doing that)

  12. Dressing professionally with a Salma Hayek body? Is this a joke? Uh, I think I’d somehow make it work. If only. . . .

  13. Anonymous :

    Not an issue for me (self-employed, not very curvy), but I’ve heard lots of good things about Carissa Rose, a line of professional-looking shirts and dresses expressly designed for women with full busts.

    • I love my Justina shirt and Katerina dress from Carissa Rose. Also, look into (1); (2); (3) (as someone mentioned above); (4); and (5) my own recently launched brand,

  14. I have a stick thin boy figure so not my challenge. Jealous of the curvy people, happy how I am, but the curvy thing is cool and sexy.

  15. Instructions Please! :

    Anyone know how to measure your own bust? I don’t want to fall prey to a VS salesperson!

    • Get it done professionally at a better store!
      Neiman, Nordstrom, or a specialty place like MyIntimacy or similar.

    • Go to Nordstroms!

      If memory serves me right, has proper instructions. But you really can’t do it yourself and get an accurate measurement.

    • Try the instructions on the various lingerie sites (barenecessities, herroom, wizardofbras, etc.) so that you have a basic idea before you go to a store. If there is more than a 4″ difference when you subtract the measurement around your apex from the measurement around your band, be suspicious of anyone who tries to put you in anything less than a D cup. If your band measures between a 28-34, don’t let anyone put you in a 36.

      Your best bet is to go to a store that has a giant inventory because even the specialty boutiques will sometimes try to fit you into what they have in stock rather than admitting that a size and style that they don’t have would be better for you.

      You want the most experienced fitter possible. These are the fitters who understand not just your breast measurements but your breast shape. One style will work better on a woman whose fullness is on top than it will for a woman whose fullness is at the base of her breasts; or one brand is better for women whose breasts are more widely set.

      If you can, wear your new bra at home for a few hours with the tags on. If it starts feeling loose, take it back and have them re-size you into something that will give you more support. You want to wear a bra as tight as you can stand it. So if, on the other hand, they try to sell you something you can hardly breathe in, do the same wear-at-home test to see if it stretches out and becomes comfortable. If it doesn’t, consider using a bra extender in the back until it stretches out even further.

    • LongBosoms :

      I lost a bunch of weight a few years ago, and I’ve been struggling to find the right bra since then. I know I should get fitted, and I like the idea measuring yourself to get an idea beforehand. Loose skin from the weight loss + age = bosoms that look like a tennis ball in a tube sock. The fullest-part measurement when they’re hanging down to your knees is obviously not the same as what you’d get when wearing a bra. Any suggestions on how I should measure these long bosoms?

      • Notalawyer :

        You can measure the width around to get the band size. And…you can do it lying down to get your breasts out of the way.

        For the cup size, if you can’t get a fitter, you might try guesstimating. That worked for me. I used the info on the Bravissimo website for measuring, then guessed at the cup size. I came out pretty accurately, luckily.

        For your cup size, what do you wear now? I.e are you wearing a DDD? Do you have spillage, i.e. mounds of flesh pooching over the top of the edge? Then you need a bigger cup size.

        If the opposite is true and you have gaping between the top of the cups and your breasts, you have too big of a cup size and need to size down.

        Ideally, you should have a cup size that fits exactly to your breasts with neither indentation above and below (too small cups) and no flopping around or puckering (too big).

        It seems odd but the band size is usually much smaller than you are used to wearing, and the cup size bigger. You want the band to fit you on the LOOSEST hook when you first purchase. They will stretch and you want to allow for that. Again, this seems weird.

        I’ve also noticed that certain brands fit me better than others…and are more comfortable. I’ve found one brand/style that works for me and have now purchased it in 9 colors so far. (So fun.) Hopefully they won’t stop making that one.

  16. Also jealous of the person with the easter holiday off work:) not so at my company.

    One general thought… blazers always take things up a notch professionally in my view, no matter the age, shape, style. I notice a very clear difference in my building from lower level staff dressing and higher level execs and the most common thread is blazer vs. no blazer.

  17. Back in the day, there were several guys who seemed eager to network/work together, but then when it came time to actually do a project they had no idea what to do. Now that I’m older and dowdier (not completely dowdy, just moving that way along the continuum, and clearly not 36-26-36 any more), that no longer happens.

    As for how to dress professionally–one could start by avoiding the kind of low neckline/pushup bra combo in the picture!

  18. A big thank you to the reader who posed this question. With a petite, hourglass figure, I’ve struggled to find professional attire. Loose clothing hangs funny and appears frumpy (or gapes at the waist and reveal panties/crack). Fitted clothing looks too va-va-voom to be taken seriously.

    Ditto comments about a well fitting bra, no underside curves, and tailored pants (or finding a brand/style that looks tailored).

    Ideally, blazers would be banished entirely. But ‘til then, jackets with a wide band at the waist work best for me. The band gives the waist visual substance, so that it doesn’t look ready to pop open like regular one-button jackets. But it tastefully fits my waist so that I don’t look boxy.

    I also wear long camisoles under nearly everything, which prevents accidental cleavage, smoothes tops over curves, and hides a waistband that’s a little off.

    Contrary to advice I’ve received, I find embellished necklines to be helpful, so long as the neckline is well above cleavage, such as a boatneck.

    Pay attention to how shoes affect the look. Some high heels cause me to wiggle or stand differently in a skirt that might be fine with low heels.

    And I skip items styled to draw attention to features lacking by nature (such as rouching at button plackets down the front of a shirt). I often think back to my mother’s advice: “When you have a knock-out figure, you don’t need the tricks that other girls use.”

  19. talentscout :

    As a woman with curves, I have always dressed to avoid the extremes of matronly and slutty. My solution has always been tailored, classic clothes with maybe a touch of unusual color here or there. Fit–whether bra or anything else–is critical. It’s easy enuf to juice it up in a day-to-evening look by unbuttoning a button or swapping oh for higher heels.

    • Matronly vs. slutty–you’ve captured the two issues exactly. I’ve always worked so hard to hide my curves that I’ve usually ended up in the matronly camp. Now that I know better, I would hate to tell the reader who asked the question to avoid any one thing and I especially wouldn’t want her to wear anything too big. I think it’s a matter of finding something that fits and then working with it until you have the look you’re going for. If a certain sheath dress has too much vavoom, then find a way to tone it down, but don’t banish it from your work wardrobe entirely.

    • I agree! Add curves to a 6′ figure, and being confident while avoiding second- or third-glances from strangers can become a secret game when visiting colleagues’ offices.

      Tailored clothes win every time. Button downs are my favorite: seams that loosely follow my figure, but present structure and professional modesty when working with men. Scarves, layering, and heels are my favorite ways to “play” with my look.

  20. I think it’s also important to think about each silhouette you are wearing, and not pair too many form fitting ones in the same outfit. As in if you are curvy, pencil skirt + fuller top versus pencil Skirt + form fitting button down. If the sheath is form fitting, a high neckline/to the knee hemlength. Just balance your proportion out so not all your dinners (to quote my friend’s southern grandma) are on display.

  21. knock-out bod :

    Semi-related thread jack: a woman in my office is wearing what appear to be black and gray tie-dye leggings, paired with a fitted jersey-material black shirt that hits right at the hips, and 5″ black heels. I just…. why? WHY?

    • A woman in my office is wearing beige corduroy leggings – I keep thinking she doesn’t have any pants on when I see her walking by.

      • I saw a classmate wears…i guess black stockings with some sort of band across the top to look like thigh highs when they clearly weren’t. Very, very strange.

    • It’s better than the thong and 2″ of bottom that I saw on our temp today.

  22. Thank you for taking up this topic! As a 34F since 16, I have had sooo much trouble finding clothes that feel “professional” but still look young, etc. I have never, ever been able to find a button up shirt that looks nice, and am incredibly self-conscious at work – I really don’t want people to notice how big they are, but – as many women here probably agree – there’s nothing worse than the feeling of buying a top or dress 2+ sizes larger than your “actual” size because it’s stretching or gapping across the chest – or because it’s just too figure-flattering for work. I would really love to hear how other large-chested, small-bodied women deal with this problem! Especially in the summer months – do you just wear blazers or cardigans all the time? How do you deal with social work events where a dress is needed – just look for high necklines and cap sleeves and buy a size up to keep things covered up?

    Thank you, Kat, for this topic!

    • replyreply :

      32D here. I admit this thread disheartens me a little, as A-line skirts make me look like a little girl but several commenters make me think that maybe my pencil skirts are a tad snug. However, no one’s called me out on them so I’m sticking to them (also, I need flats for work and there’s nothing like pencil skirt + flats to instantly de-vavoom an outfit).

      To get back to your comment, I don’t wear button-downs or crew necks, mostly cowl necks, mild scoop-necks, and the occasional blouse. This trend of pretty blouses with neck details/scarf elements has really saved me. I just look for the higher cut ones and go for sleeveless ones with a light cardigan in the summer. My personal favorite are v-neck sweaters with a camisole in the gap if it’s going too low. Anyone who judges that wrong obviously has never tried to buy a sweater that fit the girls without being four inches too baggy below.

      As for dresses, I personally favor a moderate neckline sheath dress with a cardigan or wrap on top. If someone is reading this who is C-cup or smaller, you could try a blazer over as well, but that usually requires stellar accessories. If an elegant fabric wrap dress is appropriate and fits you, you can try a plain camisole underneath.

      I swear by Theory’s Betty dress. It’s so simple that changing up the cardigan, heels, and jewelry magically changes it into a new dress each time. Unlike the pants, it’s fairly flattering to a curvy figure. Unless you meant something more formal?

      • found a peanut :

        I second the Betty dress. I am QUITE booty-full and the Betty fits even me. If my tush can get into it, so can yours :)

    • Minor comment about button-downs – I cannot wear “crisp” button-downs, but if the fabric is thin and sort of limp, I can sometimes get away with them. I also like to squash the collars so they sort of splay out flat, rather than standing up. I don’t wear jackets anymore, but did put the collar over the jacket when I did, which I seem to see is not quite correct, according this site. But I think it’s some combination of 32D + fairly narrow shoulders that make the crisp, stand-up collar button-down not work for me.

      Just a suggestion to try button-downs made of thinner or silkier fabric, if you are set on finding button-downs.

  23. I appreciate the links here, going to check them out!

    I’ve struggled w/the same thing, going back to work in the past few months and trying to build up a professional looking wardrobe when tops need to be bigger than bottoms and have to beware of cleavage showing, etc.

    However, I find that when you have a lot of curves, it helps to keep things simple. I usually wear dark pantsuits and solid colored tops (even form-fitting turtlenecks worked during the winter, as long as the suit jacket was buttoned). Too many patterns I think takes away from a curvy look (there’s already a lot going on w/shape — don’t need it with pattern!), but a straight figure (I used to have that!) can wear that same busy shirt, etc. just fine. I keep things classic w/pearls and I guess you could say I dress more conservatively than most in my office — but I do make sure jackets, etc. are nipped in the waist (but cover the butt area). If I don’t, I look ‘big’ all over.

    I think if your body is curvy and you are showing it a little with an elegant but more body conscious cut — you can get away w/it if your colors are subdued, jewelry classic and minimal and patterns almost non-existent.

    This might not work for everyone but it works for me.

    • Anonymous :

      This. Also, if you’re conducting yourself like a professional, you’ll come off as a professional with a nice figure; if you’re conducting yourself like a sex-kitten, you’ll come off as a sex-kitten. The right attitude will generally correct any misconceptions pretty quickly.

  24. I’m no Salma Hayek but since having a baby and currently breastfeeding I’m curvier than I have ever been before and it’s been interesting (and challenging) to see how I’ve had to dress differently as a result. I’ll be following this thread with interest!

  25. Yes, I think being on both ends of the spectrum (I used to be skinny and straight, now I’m curvier) enables you to see exactly how what could work w/one body type just will not in any way cut it professionally with another (e.g., slightly shorter skirt — now it’s just *way too much* with the above-the-waist curves and slightly more booty — I’ve given all mine away). For a girl with a very straight leg though, I think a shorter skirt w/matching tights could still look professional and sleek.

  26. anonymous :

    This is not my body type, but you might try Inside Out Style for suggestions as to what works – she talks about both the 8 body shape (high hip hourglass) and the X (low hip hourglass) – see and

    • Thanks! This is helpful! I don’t have Salma Hayek proportions (more modest bust) but I do have an X shape.

    • Thank you for this link!! I’ve never been quite an hourglass, and never quite a pear. Figured I was just a broad-shouldered freak with solid thighs. Now I embrace that I am an ‘X’!! Such a relief to find recognition for this body type.

  27. Obviously I agree that we don’t want to be too sexy in the work place, but at the same time it makes me sad that all of us are so have to think so much about hiding our bodies :(

    • Think of it this way – in the 80s, when running hit big-time, I had a company with a shower, and a boss who encouraged exercise. Sounds great, right? And mind you he was a nice boss, a really good guy, I still miss him. But I ended up trying to work with several sweaty near-naked guys standing next to me commenting on stuff, dripping in those 80s mini-shorts of thin nylon as they caught their breath and waited for their turn at the shower. And let me tell you I was not a happy camper about it. The point is not to hide your body in a shameful or prudish way, but simply not to inflict it on innocent bystanders.

  28. In the summer I’ve found long-sleeved (or really anything other than cap-sleeved), knee-length wrap dresses with a good cami underneath to be a great option. The tie at the waist makes me feel like I’m not hiding in baggy clothes, but the sleeves and the cami make me feel covered up enough. And the tie gives me flexibility on how tight the dress is.

    I can’t stand button down shirts. If I get them big enough to not gape, they look mannish and frumpy everywhere else. I’ve never found any that I like but, to be honest, I kind of just gave up and moved on several years ago.

  29. Glitterachi :

    I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing something that shows off curves- just balance it by limiting the amount of skin. I am quite curvy (in the Salma Hayek sense, not the politically correct sense), and regularly wear pencil skirts. It’s the only time I actually feel good about my hips! I do make sure that they are at least knee-length, and that my shirts have a neckline that lets me cross my arms without incident, but I also wear nipped in jackets- most of my blazers happen to be one-button, not out of any particular aim to do so, but because if I don’t emphasize my waist, I turn into a giant square torso.

    You know something amazing about wearing pencils skirts with hips? When I wear a fitted pencil skirt that clearly shows my curves (though certainly not underwear line or anything like some comments have mentioned) and a top that emphasizes my waist, women are constantly coming up to me and telling me I look wonderful. Even in ultra-conservative-dressing Capitol Hill in DC! I think women enjoy seeing another woman who isn’t going to hide the fact that she has a female body. Everyone at the office already knows I am a woman. My curves are just a part of that. They don’t have to be a sexual symbol. And no one at my office reads it that way.

    • “And no one at my office reads it that way.”

      Are you sure about that?

      • I agree with Hel-lo. The women may think she looks great and the men probably think she looks sexy. The men just aren’t saying anything for the obvious reasons.

    • “I am quite curvy (in the Salma Hayek sense, not the politically correct sense)”

      This may be the most obnoxious descriptor I’ve ever seen on here.

      • I don’t even understand what the descriptor was intended to convey.

      • I actually appreciated this distinction because I am often confused nowadays when people use the word “curvy”. In the Salma Hayek sense, it is someone who typically has a large bust/butt (but who can be very thin), but in the politically correct sense, it often refers to someone who is a plus size.

  30. Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

    This weekend (I think) someone was looking for a single breasted trench coat. This was in my Shop It To Me email today, not full length, but cute.

  31. Tough one. But layering camisoles underneath low-cut blouses helps. Pencil skirts or A-line skirts really depend more on your figure. I’d say blazers are a good way to keep you looking covered in a professional way.

    • See, I think layering camis hurts more than help. The contrasting color draws the eye right to your cleavage area, and it advertises that your top was too low cut to wear on its own.

      • I partly agree with you, Eponine. Anytime someone has to wear a cami, I know it’s because the dress or top doesn’t fit them correctly (or, if it fits correctly, it doesn’t fit “appropriately” for the setting).

        On the other hand, I’ve noticed that a deep v-neck sweater or vest (especially in a dark color) layered over a different-colored tee actually minimizes the breasts, perhaps by emphasizing the V.

        • replyreply :

          I understand your point, but many sweaters are sold in stores these days that were clearly designed to be worn with a camisole underneath: Banana Republic, for example, only stocked longish sweaters with an incredibly deep V this fall/winter. It was obviously meant to be worn with a button down or a camisole, and the camisoles were what they stacked next to them. The DVF wrap dresses I often see worn with camisoles and it’s never crossed my mind that it doesn’t fit “appropriately,” especially when an interesting camisole was worn against a solid color dress.

          As for v-necks that could fit any woman with more than an A cup appropriately, I think they’re a myth. Crew necks draw attention by emphasizing the line and scoop necks are almost always too low for me. I’ll stick to the v-necks with a layered camisole.

          Now if anyone wants to recommend me a bra that I can wear with any of these sweaters that hides that I’m cold, I am all ears. I favor smooth line bras but even with the silicon concealers underneath it is still blindingly obvious when I am cold in the office (and to my chagrin, even with a cardigan on top). I have been told it’s time to start buying super-padded bras instead of the normal lining but I really don’t want the attention another cup size will bring.

          • You don’t need super-padded as much as you need something with a firmly molded cup that isn’t going to move when you get cold. Typically the cups are lined with something that isn’t very flexible so they’ll stay in place. Something that is padded is just going to have something extra at the bottom of the cup to push you up, which is not what you need.

          • Anne Shirley :

            Le Mystere

        • Eh, for some figures, that might be a reasonable guideline. But I will show cleavage without a cami in basically anything that’s not a turtleneck (which also just makes a large chest look bigger) or a buttondown (which is never sized to fit over my chest). I’m not really sure what I can do other than wear camis with things.

          • I think this is another great example of know yourself, know your body, pick what works best. I’m a 32A, so I’m not exactly bowling people over with my cleavage, but wearing a cami is a guaranteed way to push the girls together and create cleavage, drawing more attention than the bare skin probably would have done! My more well-endowed friends have had opposite experiences – no cami = more cleavage, cami = more coverage. Like everything else (skirt length, button down v. shell, etc), find what works best for you.

    • If you wear either tonal camis (same color as blouse/sweater) or nude/flesh-toned, they don’t stand out and just provide the extra fabric. I have a flesh-toned cami from Target that I wear a lot. To my mind, it’s part undergarment/lingerie, and part “tailoring” or adapting clothes. Think of it as akin to hemming your pants. As long as you project the image you want to project and look the way you want to look, I think it’s up to you.

      • This. I’m a 38H but have been lucky that the Brooks Brothers button downs fit me (with a piece of fashion tape to prevent gaping), so I wear them alot. I have camis in matching or tonally similar colors for all of them. I like the camis from Ann Taylor b/c the straps are adjustable, so I can pull the neckline of the cami to cover the cleavage line. I unbutton the top two buttons so you see 2-3 inches of the cami, but no cleavage.

        I agree about going to Nordstrom for a bra fitting. I go once per year. I buy one bra from them (usually Chantelle) and then order others on Ebay for less than half the price. One thing to remember about larger sizes is that no matter what brand you buy, they don’t last forever. It may be that your bra size hasn’t changed, it just needs to be replaced with a new one.

        Agreeing with other posters about fit. I think the biggest issue with a challenging figure is that fit is everything. A smooth fit that isn’t too tight makes all the difference in the world.

        Another thing, since I am curvier, I am somewhat careful about color and fabric. I used to have a dark red sheath that for some reason one of the men commented on. It wasn’t too tight or short and had a high asymetrical v-neck, but I think that because I’m already an hourglass, when you add the red color, it was too much for the office (Commercial Bank). I have the exact same dress in navy that doesn’t get any comments. I’m not saying don’t ever wear red, but just pay attention to the ways it can translate on your figure. I love ox-blood red, so I bought a fab jacket instead.

        Regarding fabric, one of my coworkers who is more gamine likes to wear a chiffon camp-shirt style blouse with a cami under it and it looks great, but I tried on a similar blouse and it just doesn’t work for my figure at the office.

  32. replyreply :

    Huh, I didn’t put that link in there, the site did. Wish we had a preview button…

  33. A-nonnynonny :

    To those of you talking about the perfect fit bra… I understand that the better fit does wondrous things for support, since I went from a 34B/34C to a 30DD and tremendously reduced my upper back/shoulder pain. Wearing the bra in the “right place” lower on the back helped a lot too.

    But the smaller band gives me the dreaded “bra bulge” line across my back. Do I just have to suck it up, or is there a magical bra out there that will fit properly AND not make my bra look flabby?

    • Hey, same exact before and after size change here. I don’t have a solution to the problem though…

    • Try yanking the bra band further down your back. That always helps me.

    • Yes indeed, there isn’t just a matter of bra size, there’s a thing about bra style as well. That size cup requires a wider back. The problem is that 30 is a small band size, and so you tend to find bras styled for smaller women in general, you’ll mostly come across single hooks. Alas, a DD cup really needs a 3-hook back to work, it’s a matter of leverage. So at least compromise and never get any less than 2 hooks..
      And let me point out also that style mostly happens in the front, there’s nothing unsexy about a wider back, especially if you’re not bulging out of it :-).

  34. Re: camis…I’ve gotten a little too much attention (when previously working in a biz casual envi) when wearing a contrasting colored cami….just has that ‘sexy-exposed-lingerie look that didn’t work for me (although, as mentioned, it’s different for each person!).

    I will say I’ve had great success w/camis/tanks of the same color as a silky shirt. I have a black tank I wear all the time under silky black tops that might otherwise be a tad on the low side. It provides that nice extra warmth too!

  35. If you have curves, you shouldn’t attempt to hide them, as that will make you appear frumpy and stumpy. But there’s a difference between HIDING THEM and COVERING THEM UP. Far from me to criticize Selma Hayak, but in my world, having your tatas hanging out of your shirt is no way to get respect. Quite the opposite.

  36. Great tips – I have curves, especially the curvy boobs! It is hard to sometimes find a balance to not look so top heavy, but making sure tops are not too big or too tight is the key. I always have to try on shirts, because even the correct size may not give you the result from the style.

  37. Can anyone recommend some specific stores or brands that they’ve been successful with? I am going into Consulting after graduation, so I’m looking for fairly conservative/classic styles. However, most shopping trips fail to turn up the goods (particularly for suits and shirts to go under suits). Right now, I’m focused on the shirt problem because it’s the hardest problem right now.

    About me: 5’7, 135-140, athletic but curvy. 32D bra. X-shape, 35-28.5-35/40 (high and low hip). My ribcage ends just barely above my navel, so I am forced to wear low-rise pants.

    For shirts: This means that the slim-cut button-ups don’t stay tucked all day, and if I try blousing a little at the top, it always comes out sloppy. Any silk or other woven top that doesn’t come with a zipper is very pouchy in the middle; many of the ones with zippers to nip the waist don’t flare out wide enough to sit correctly at the hip (bunching up somewhere on the high hip bone).

    This blouse fits like a dream, and if I hem it an inch it will be the right length. Can I wear it, untucked, under a black or charcoal suit? Is the coloring or styling too bold for Tech Consulting?

    This shirt also fits nicely, but only untucked. It’s a little long for my jackets. Can it be hemmed and left untucked?

    What other shirt styles are appropriate under a suit besides button-ups? What specific brands or stores are better for X-shapes to buy professional shirts?

  38. When you hit the 40s your weight can fluctuate even more. Keep a set of core pants – for “Fat” “thin” and “skinny”, black, to cover you. Also, go for wrap shirts, sashed shirts, and be willing to spend more and alter to fit precisely – like Lafayette 148. These shirts will always fit you better than something that is stretch tee which hugs you. Remember, if the fabric isnt skimming you but is being pulled it is TOO SMALL. Fit the shoulders of a blouse and then take it to a tailor to tailor the rest to fit – to SKIM you. Dont expect it to fit all over your curves off the rack and dont go by size. If you have the time, read Kendall Farr’s “Style Evolution”. I work in PR.

  39. Christine :

    I can recommend Bravissimo for bras and some of the clothing. I wear 32H/34GG and they are the only place where I can get all styles I need, from a nude basic set to wear under a white blouse, to a strapless that is firm yet comfy to a glam set. For bargains, brastop is also good in my size, but they have limited selection, mainly cute sets to have extra. But they are good to add some variety to my lingerie drawer without breaking the bank.

    My figure is much like Joan Holloway’s, though my butt, boobs and tummy stick out more and my shoulders, ribcage are a bit more delicate. Main problem is that when back is size 10 and boobs size 16-18, very few standard items look professional as is. For blouses, I either get something stretchy and sew any button close plus take in the waist a bit or buy from bravisimo.

    I have two bravissimo suits and love the fit, but would prefer something all wool/better quality. Does anyone super curvy have experience with online custom tailors? I have a hard time finding one that is affordable and has shapes of jacket that are both conservative and flattering. (I’m thinking 2-3 button, neck not too high, no flap pockets, princess line, ending at hip.)

  40. Maybe it’s because I work in Dallas, and women here loves clothes with pizzazz, but I don’t see anything wrong with wearing clothes that are fashionable and highlight your shape. I’m 5’2″ with a larger chest. My standard work uniform is a high-neck sheath dress, generally black or navy, a blazer that is nipped at the waist (and generally hangs on the back of my chair because I can’t stand working with a blazer on), a statement necklace, and 4 1/2 inch heels. No one has ever accused me of dressing provocatively or too attractive for work. And I’m taken seriously. In fact, one of my female superiors recently told me that she looks to my outfits as examples. And I think my male superiors appreciate that I put effort into my attire and that I am always stylish. They similarly care about how they look and, as much as men can, wear suits that show off their physique.

    I think the most important thing is that you dress in a way that makes you feel confident. Not confident in a sexy, man-eater way, but confident in an “I feel put together, professional, and stylish” sort of way. If I was wearing clothes that were a size too big or that I felt make me look fat then I wouldn’t feel that same amount of confidence. The ultimate objective is for people to notice you, not your clothes.

    And with in mind, when I go to court I do change up the wardrobe. The suits aren’t as flattering, the heels are lower, and the jewelry is minimal. It’s not my favorite look, but at that point it’s about not being the focus of the presentation. The worst story I ever heard was from a female partner I know who, after winning a jury trial, polled the jury and learned that they spent most of their time talking about why her skirts seems to be a size too small. Answer: she had just had a baby three weeks before.

  41. Hey! where’d my comment just go?

  42. What a great thread that I stumbled on to this morning! Thank you. As a high school teacher with an hourglass figure… well, enough said, I’m certain. Finding the right ‘structure’ is always challenging (and frustrating), and the Husband Check yields many of the same comments posted here. He REALLY does NOT seem to get that sexy is NOT appropriate for the classroom. Geez. :/ I appreciate all the advice as I prepare for another school year….

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