Professional Image, Outfit “Compliments,” and Confidence at Any Size

Self-Confidence | CorporetteWhen you get an unexpected comment on an outfit, does it make you question bigger things, like your judgment? Do plus-sized women need to be particularly wary of such office outfit comments? We’ve talked about when you can tell interns their outfits are inappropriate, and how to react when your male boss tells you you “dress too well,” but we haven’t really talked about a casual comment from a friendly coworker. A big welcome back to today’s guest poster, my old friend Kathryn Rubino, who’s written previously about the perfect plus-sized blazer and DIY options for gaping blouses. – Kat. (And I’m sure she looked FABULOUS in the blouse she’s talking about.)

“What a great top — I mean, I could never wear it, but it looks great on you!”

I heard those words and my blood ran cold, and I stuck a smile on my face and mumbled my thanks. Was this a genuine compliment or was I the victim of workplace shade?  Disturbing though it may be, most professional women have dealt with this sort of thing (Kat has even written about the back-handed compliment phenomenon before). But it is such a ubiquitous problem that for my guest post I wanted to discuss that moment that has you questioning every fashion decision you’ve ever made.

First, a little background  this is a workplace where jeans are appropriate on more than just Fridays. The general guidance is that you shouldn’t look “sloppy” but there is quite a range that is considered perfectly acceptable office wear.

Second, I felt great in the outfit. You know how some looks just put a little bounce in your step? That was this outfit. Yes, the shirt was a bold pattern (shades of taupe mixed with a bright yellow and pink), but I had it paired with a dark rinse jean, a reliable black stretch blazer, and nude wedges. So there wasn’t a lot of the pattern showing, just enough to make me feel like spring had really sprung after this interminable winter.

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Mind the Gap: Some DIY Options for Gaping Blouses

How to Fix Your Gaping Blouses (DIY) || Corporette

2018 Update: We still think this post has a ton of great options for gaping blouses (the comments as well!) — you may also want to check out our most recent round-up of the best women’s dress shirts, as well as our recent roundup of companies making dress shirts for for women with large breasts

Button-down blouses can be great — if they fit you and don’t gape in the bust.  Some companies specialize in creating non-gaping versions for larger-busted women (e.g., Carissa Rose, Rebecca & Drew) but sometimes you just want a DIY fix for a shirt you’ve already got.  Today’s guest poster Kathryn Rubino — one of my personal friends — is a plus-sized fashionable overachieving chick who has some crafty suggestions for fixing the problem. (She also posted a few weeks ago about how to get a great-fitting blazer.) – Kat

We’ve all been there. You’re getting ready for that big interview/meeting/presentation and as you look yourself dead-on in the mirror you are the image of professionalism. As you reach for the straightener to put the finishing touch on your perfectly coiffed hair there it is. It’s your bra. Peeking out from that infuriating gap in your button-down shirt. It almost seems like it is mocking you, “maybe you aren’t as put together as you think you are.” It is maddening. So, how do you deal with this problem? I’ve tried all the work-arounds. The camisole under an unbuttoned button-down. A wrap-style dress shirt. A button-down that is deliberately ruched at the bust. And these are all pretty good solutions, but sometimes I yearn for the simplicity of the classic button down. So this plus size writer test drove three potential solutions to the problem. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but here’s how they worked for me.  (Pictured: Mind the Gap, originally uploaded to Flickr by toastbrot81.) [Read more…]

The Perfect Plus-Size Blazer

The perfect fit for a plus-size blazer can be elusive, so I’m thrilled to introduce today’s guest poster, Kathryn Rubino.  In addition to being a plus-sized overachieving chick, I’m proud to count her among my most fashionable friends. (Pictured below: Sejour “Broken Plaid” Jacket (Plus)icon, available at Nordstrom for $128.) – Kat

Update 2015: Please sign up for our new Plus-Size Workwear newsletter if you’re interested in more plus-size content from Corporette!

Sejour "Broken Plaid" Jacket (Plus)iconThe search for the perfect blazer is age old, and for those of us on the plus-size side the issue can be compounded. (This writer has clothes between sizes 16 and 22 in her closet, though, at the moment, I’m lucky enough to be on the lower end of my personal spectrum.) So what’s a girl to do? Tailoring is a great way to turn an unflattering, boxy jacket into a noteworthy wardrobe staple. Below are some tips to get the best fit out of your blazer.

– Darts are your friends! Darts are tapered tucks that can be sewn into your jacket to adjust the fit, and are particularly useful if you are going up a size to get better coverage up top if your body still nips in at the waist.

– The shoulder is key. One of the most difficult alterations (read: expensive) is changing the shoulder seam, so make sure that a jacket hits you on the shoulder–not on your arm. You may not consciously realize it, but a proper shoulder makes a jacket look polished and professional.

– Be comfortable. If you find the jacket ill-fitting or tight in places this fact will come through in the hundred little gestures and faces you make throughout the day. I often have the tailor remove the lining on the arms of my blazers so it doesn’t feel as constricting and my range of motion isn’t limited. You can also slit the seams of the lining yourself if the primary problem with a blazer is tightness in the arms.

– Sleeve perfection. The proper length of a full-sleeved jacket can be vexing, but I’ve found somewhere between the top of your hand and where your thumb bone starts to look the most “right”. Any longer than that can make the blazer look sloppy and gets in the way.
– Mind your buttons. It may be true that a good blazer is like a good friend, but nothing says “this jacket has seen both sides of one too many crash diets” than missing or frayed buttons. Get your buttons replaced and/or reinforced. It is fairly inexpensive (and is an easy enough skill to learn for those DIYers) and most importantly, it keeps you looking like the well put together, overachieving woman you are!

One final note, when you find the perfect blazer there is a tendency to use it . . . a lot. That’s completely understandable but it is truly terrible when the center back seam (or any seam) of a blazer has stitches that are pulling (when they look further apart then they should be). This comes from wear and tear, and sometimes, ill fit. If you see this on your blazer, call it. Retire the piece, mourn its loss and start the search for a new one. As a bigger girl you don’t want your clothes to look like they may give out on you at any second, particularly in a professional setting.

Readers — of all sizes! — what have you found are the best tips for getting a blazer to fit properly?  What do you most frequently ask your tailor to do?


Interested in writing something similar for Corporette? Check out our guest posting guidelines.

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