Plus-Size Panache (cont.)

To get the most from your full-skirted look, Strauss says, remember the proportion rule: "The fuller the skirt, the slimmer the top."

One sleek summer look for both tops and swimsuits is the halter, and all our experts agree that it can look great on a plus-size figure. The key is making sure it's cut full enough to cover the fleshy areas under the arms. "When it fits right a halter makes your shoulders look wider, your cleavage more prominent, your hips smaller -- what's not to love?" says Strauss.

When it comes to summer slacks, our experts vote for the boot-cut. Saboura says plus-size women can also look great in lower-waisted styles, which elongate the torso for a leaner look.

For a dressier look in pants, Strauss and Saboura say, loose, flowing palazzos are a hot fashion statement that looks great on plus-size women.

Accessorize Your Life

If you're in between sizes, or don't want to commit to a new wardrobe just yet, a few wisely chosen accessories can update your look.

This is the season of the embellished handbag -- and when you pair one with embellished shoes in a bright color, plus a coordinating scarf and/or jewelry, last year's outfit suddenly looks of-the-moment.

"One of the most flattering plus-size looks ever is to wear a dark solid color on the body -- like black, chocolate brown, or navy -- and then splash up a storm with one or two bright seasonal accessory colors," says Saboura.

What colors are hot right now? Any shade of turquoise, pink, or coral. And summer brights like lime green and banana yellow will be on the scene just in time for those Fourth of July picnics, Salzman says.

Getting the Fit That Flatters

Along with the plus-size style revolution, there's a fit evolution going on as well. Together, these trends are making shopping for plus-size garments easier than ever.

Among the newest fit initiatives is "Intellifit" -- a kind of electronic tailor that's housed in a high-tech glass tower. You step inside, fully dressed, and the system uses harmless radio waves to take precise measurements at key points on your body. The information is translated into size and style recommendations suited for your body type.

Intellifit was tested recently at stores like Macy's, Lane Bryant, and David's Bridal shops, where customers reportedly went wild for the device. Soon, it should be appearing in a number of malls and stores nationwide.

If you have access to a phone and a computer, you don't even have to leave your house to find the perfect fit, thanks to the Home Shopping Network's new sizing system. Instead of relying on measurement charts that lump different styles into pre-determined size categories, HSN measures every single garment in every size and posts those measurements on its web site. In addition to bust, hip, and waist measurements, HSN also provides the garment's length and "sweep" (for items like jackets and skirts).

According to Saltzman, this "takes much of the guesswork out of wondering how an item fits."

Another fit feature at HSN is the "virtual model." Enter your measurements online, and presto -- the program creates a virtual model of your body. By clicking on various outfits, Saltzman says, you can dress your model -- even spin it around -- to see how the garment will look on your body type.

Similar virtual model systems are available online at Lands' End and L.L. Bean.

Published April 22, 2005.


SOURCES: Sharon Haver, founder and director, FocusOnStyle.com. June Saltzman, vice president of fashion merchandising, Home Shopping Network. Sam Saboura, fashion team, Extreme Makeover; author, Real Style: Style Secrets for Real Women with Real Bodies. Carolyn Strauss, plus-size model; designer, The Carolyn Strauss Collection.

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