Plus-Size Panache

Spring offers fashions that are perfect for every body

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

If frustrations over style and fit have left you vowing not to shop for clothes until you hit your goal weight, listen up: Experts say this is the season to cut loose and let your inner fashionista come out!

Indeed, women size 14 and up have never had more exciting, fashionable choices.

"Plus-size clothes have taken a very modern and very stylish turn," says Sam Saboura, one of the fashion forces behind Extreme Makeover and author of Real Style: Style Secrets for Real Women with Real Bodies. "There is a look that can flatter almost every plus-size shape, and this season we are seeing more of those styles than ever before." What's more, there are lots more places to find all these great new clothes. In addition to well-known plus-size outlets like Jessica London, Catherine's, and Avenue, many shops that traditionally cater to the skinny have taken note of the fuller figure.

Stores like Old Navy, Lands' End, L.L. Bean, Kohl's, and T.J. Maxx are packing their racks with plus-size styles. Even Victoria's Secret is now offering its super-sexy jeans in sizes up to 16, with tops up to size extra-large (18-20).

What to Wear Now

One of the hottest trends for spring is what stylists call "rich girl Bohemian" -- an updated hippie look that can be fashion heaven for a plus-sized woman.

"The bohemian look, with its long flowing skirts, is perfect for the plus-size woman," Saboura tells WebMD. "It gives you lots of room, and it's a great alternative to wearing pants or shorts in the summer. The look is causal but chic, offers great coverage, and it's very fashionable."

To flatter your figure even more, says Sharon Haver, director of, skip skirts in stiff fabrics like denim or twill. Instead, opt for soft, billowy chiffons or knits, pairing them with a close-fitting (but not tight) knit top.

"Many women think they need a big, flowing top to cover their body, but that can make you look bigger," says Haver. "Slimmer tops, as long as they fit properly, can be more flattering."

However, if your top half is larger than your bottom, Haver advises switching the proportions: Wear a loose-fitting embroidered "bohemian" top over a slim-cut long skirt, Capri pant, or boot-cut jean.

Another trendy seasonal look: A cropped jacket in a splashy summer-resort print.

"It's a quick way to update your look and any woman can wear it," says June Saltzman, HSN's vice president of fashion merchandizing. "Toss it on over a simple black or navy sheath, or over Capri pants, a pair of denim jeans -- it just works with everything."

But when choosing a print, stay away from oversized florals, which can make a plus-size woman look larger. Also avoid very dainty prints, which look out of balance.

"Think of your body in terms of proportions and your clothing as corrective tools," says Saboura. "You always want to correct and balance your body whenever you can." Perhaps no item of clothing can do that better than the poncho, the season's hottest retro look. But while at first glance, the poncho seems like the perfect way to hide all our chocolate sins, be careful! Choosing the wrong style can leave you looking like you shopped at an upholstery sale instead of a fashion mall.

What should you avoid?

"If your shoulders are broad and wide, and your top large, do not wear a boat neck or wide neck poncho," says Saboura. "Instead, look for a low deep V. The idea is always to bring the eye away from the sides and to the center of the body."

Also stay away from oversized ponchos with wide billowy sides, or those made of stiff fabrics. Stick to knit or chiffon styles that fall close to the body, hit just below the hip, and allow your curves to peek out from underneath, Saboura says.

If you don't feel comfortable in shorts, lucky you: this is the season when Capris take over! These super-flattering, narrow-legged pants go anywhere shorts can go, and they look and feel a lot more comfortable. Pair them with canvas espadrilles with a medium to high wedge heel for a slim and stylish look.

"It shows enough leg to look summery, and with a bit of a heel or wedge your legs will look longer so you will look leaner," says Haver.

Another way to beat the heat and still look good: The ultra-feminine knee-grazing full skirt.

"This style is wonderful for the plus-size woman because it adds fullness around the knees, which helps balance the hips," says Carolyn Strauss, a former plus-size model who now designs the Carolyn Strauss Collection for the Home Shopping Network (HSN). "The overall look is slimming, and the print fabrics and small ruffles at the hem keep the look fresh and very new."