Work Week Wardrobe Essentials for Plus-Sized Women
Shopping for clothes as a plus-size woman is frustrating. It feels like nothing ever fits the way it should and none of the items were created with your body type in mind. Luckily, more and more brands are becoming size-inclusive, offering options for sizes in the double-digits. However, it can still be a challenge for plus-size women to find work clothes that are appropriate, functional, comfortable and stylish, all at the same time.
Workwear Tips for Plus-Sized Women
As the office environment changes, so does our definition of workwear. However, as our office attire options expand, many plus-size women find themselves at a loss for what to wear. For years, plus-size women felt they had to hide their curves at work. Today, more and more women are discovering they can wear work attire that's form-fitting and fashionable, while still being work-appropriate.
Revamping your work wardrobe can help show off your personality and boost your confidence. To get started, try implementing these tips:
- Accentuate your best features: Every woman has parts of her body that she loves and parts she'd rather not draw attention to. Even though you're dressing for work, you can still accentuate your best features — within reason. While the line of what's acceptable and what's not varies from workplace to workplace, you can still highlight certain parts of your body without crossing it. If your legs are your best feature, try wearing a pencil skirt. If you want to highlight your waistline, try out a wrap dress.
- Wear clothes that fit: This might seem obvious, but many women think they'll look better if they wear clothes that are too small or too big. Clothes that are too small can make you look lumpy, while clothes that are too big make you look sloppy and unprofessional. For best results, wear clothes that fit you well and comfortably, especially if you sit at a desk for most of the day. Clothes that are too small can restrict blood flow when you sit in a chair for extended periods, and uncomfortable clothes can distract you from your work.
- Use a tailor: Unless you get your clothes exclusively from plus-size retailers, most of the clothes you buy online and in-store likely won't fit you right. Even though the average American woman wears between a size 16 and 18, many retailers have no idea how to properly dress plus-size bodies. Since many plus-size women have curves where others don't, clothes often fit well in one part of the body, but poorly in other parts. For example, if you have a larger bust, a dress that fits well around your chest will likely gap around your waist. To avoid this, take your clothes to a tailor to make them perfectly fit every curve.
- Invest in quality undergarments: One study found that 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Whether it's bras, underwear, shape-wear or tights, having an arsenal of form-fitting, high-quality undergarments is the secret to any good outfit. They'll help you smooth out certain areas while accentuating others. Make sure you have a bra and panties that will work well under every outfit in your wardrobe. With so much to do at work, the last thing you need to worry about is a bra strap coming out of place or your underwear bunching up under your pants.
- Understand your work environment: Every workplace is different. Some workplaces have defined rules for attire, while others have unwritten rules. Some workplaces require you to wear certain clothes to get the job done — others don't. No matter where you work, you'll need to get a grasp on what is and isn't acceptable before you go shopping. If you've been working there for a long time, you should have a good understanding of appropriate office attire, based on what everyone else is wearing. If it's a new job, ask during the interview or sometime before your first day. When in doubt, go more formal and conservative then adjust as you go. In a professional setting, it's always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.
Know Your Body Type
The key to feeling confident and put-together in your plus-sized business casual outfits is understanding your body type. Knowing both your body type and how to dress for it are skills that every plus-size woman should know. This knowledge can help guide you towards which cuts, styles and patterns will help you feel and look your best. Some of the most common types are:
- Hourglass: The hourglass body type is the most balanced, meaning it commonly features a large chest, a defined waistline and a full bottom. The main style goal when dressing for this body type is to accentuate your curves. Classic styles, like pencil skirts and fitted bodices, are great for fitting hourglass figures. Women with this body type also tend to look fantastic in body con dresses, structured tops and high-waisted bottoms. You'll also want your clothes to stretch, so they can better adhere to the contours of your body.
- Apple: Women with apple body types characteristically have a large chest, a large midsection and slim legs. Since women with an apple shape carry most of their weight in the upper half of their bodies, the style goal for most women will be to cinch their waist and show off their legs. For most apple-shaped women, deep v-necks, skinny jeans, wrap dresses, strapless dresses, A-line cuts and cropped jackets will help elongate the legs and define the waistline. Women with apple-shaped bodies will benefit the most from tailoring, as most clothes aren't designed with their body-type in mind.
- Pear: The pear body is one of the most common body types, featuring a small waist, thick thighs and wide hips. Since the hips and thighs are typically the widest part of the pear body shape, the style goal will be to balance out the top half of the body with the bottom. The best options for dressing this body type are patterned or detailed tops, high-waisted pants, long outerwear, skinny or bootcut jeans and wide belts. These items will help smooth out and enhance the curves of the lower half of the body while drawing more attention to the upper part of the body.
- Rectangle: The rectangle body type is also proportionate, but lacks defined curves, meaning that the bust, waist and hip measurements are all similar. If this is your body type, your style goal is to find clothes that give you a curvier shape. Asymmetrical tops and dresses, wide-leg pants, ruffled tops and bold prints are all good options for accentuating your waistline, while also rounding out your hips and bust.
While body types can be helpful to guide you in the right direction, don't let them prevent you from wearing what you want. Every woman's body is different, and every woman has different style goals, so it's essential to view these body types as guidelines, not rules. If you like how it looks and makes you feel, wear it — regardless of body type.
Plus-Size Business Casual Essentials
When choosing an outfit for work, women have a lot to consider. When you're a plus-size woman, the process becomes even more complicated. To help you navigate through the business attire world, here are a few essentials to help get you started:
Finding shirts that fit can be challenging for plus-size women, especially those who have larger busts. If your top doesn't fit right, it can stretch the fabric too far or gap in places where it should be form-fitting. To avoid this, try wearing these plus-size friendly options:
- Black blouse: It may seem basic, but an interesting, fitted black blouse should be part of every woman's wardrobe. They walk the line between casual and business, and offer a variety of styling options, from tucking into a high-waisted skirt or pants to wearing it under a blazer. The black color works to slim your torso, while the loose fabric hides any problem areas.
- Tailored button-down: Take a note from your male colleagues and wear a fitted button-down. It offers a balance of masculinity and femininity while accentuating your curves. They also offer a nice modern twist on traditional business attire, while still being practical and timeless. You can get them in any color imaginable, so the pairing options are endless. Tucked in or left out, these shirts are an essential part of business attire.
- Wrap top: Do you love the look of a wrap dress but don't want to commit to wearing a dress all day? Try wearing a wrap top. They offer the same cinched-waist look without all the extra material. These tops look great on all plus-size body types, as they define the waist and offer some stretch to hug the curvature of the body. However, be wary of showing too much cleavage. Many wrap tops and dresses have deep V-necks, and bustier women sometimes end up showing more than they bargained for.
Finding a flattering pair of pants when you have a plus-size body can feel impossible. Since most plus-size women have curvier hips and thighs, pants typically fit well in the waist but not in the thighs, or fit in the thighs but gap at the waist. Also, since most professional-looking pants don't offer a lot of stretch, they don't hug the curves of plus-size women. Luckily, there are a few types of pants that look fantastic on curvier women, like:
- Wide leg pants: While most people think pants have to be form-fitting to be slimming and flattering, wide-leg pants can look just as good, especially on hourglass and rectangle body types. Wide leg pants elongate your legs and make you look taller. They are sophisticated, feminine and easy to pair with a variety of tops and other items.
- Vertical striped pants: Vertical stripes are a great way to elongate your figure, but they are especially effective on pants. Vertical stripes look fantastic on all plus-size body types since they make your legs look slimmer, longer and more proportionate to the rest of your body. Just make sure the pants fit you well, as the vertical stripes will distort if the pants are too tight, ruining the look.
- Black straight-leg jeans: If your workplace is casual enough, you might be able to get away with wearing jeans, as long as they are dark enough to look like "traditional" business attire. If you're going to wear form-fitting jeans, straight is better than skinny for most plus-size women, as it makes your thighs look more proportionate and your legs longer.
Skirts have long been a staple of female business attire, but many new styles and cuts have recently become popularized. They can be a great way to accentuate your waist or add a feminine touch to your outfit. However, some designs and styles look better on curvier women than others, like:
- Pencil skirt: Pencil skirts are great for curvy figures because they hug the hips and accentuate the waist. They are also often made of a structured, yet flexible fabric, so they tend to smooth out any bumps. Since skirts tend to ride up throughout the day on curvy figures, it's best to wear longer pencil skirts in the workplace. You can wear them with a nice blazer or a colorful fitted button down for a more sophisticated look.
- Accordion skirt: The texture of accordion skirts are very for forgiving, so they're great if you want to avoid a more form-fitting option. They also add an interesting texture and dimension to the outfit. To make the most out of these skirts, choose a dark color and pair it with a colorful, form-fitting top that accentuates your waist. You can also add tights to add an extra layer of professionalism.
- A-line skirt: A-line skirts are a plus-size girl's best friend. They cinch the waist and accentuate the hips, giving any body type an hourglass shape. For the best results, wear an A-line skirt at the smallest point of your waist with your shirt or blouse tucked in, creating a small waistline and curvy features. Just be sure the skirt is long enough to fully cover your hips and thighs.
Dresses are a comfortable and fun way to dress in a workplace that has a more formal or strict dress code. They add a feminine touch and an added level of professionalism in the workplace. Since they come in endless varieties, colors, shapes and cuts, you'll never find yourself out of options. Some of the best options for plus-size women are:
- Wrap dress: Just like wrap tops, wrap dresses are a stylish way to cinch your waist and hug your curves. Since most styles allow you to adjust the waistline, you can get the perfect fit without a tailor. Depending on the length of the dress, it might also have a long, flowing skirt, adding a youthful, summery touch to your outfit.
- Asymmetrical dress: Asymmetrical dresses are great for drawing attention to or away from a certain area of your body. Wherever the asymmetrical aspect of the dress lies on your frame, that's where it will draw the most attention. So, if you have a pear body type and are looking to draw attention away from your hips, an asymmetrical accent on the top part of the dress will do the trick. If you're looking to draw attention to your legs, an asymmetrical accent at the bottom of the dress will draw attention there.
- Empire waist dress: Empire waist dresses cinch just below the bust, allowing for a longer-looking frame and an accented waistline. These dresses look especially nice on shorter women or women with apple body types, as it elongates the look of the waist and legs and creates a straight line from the midline to the bottom of the dress.
Although it's the last piece you put on, outerwear is an essential part of your wardrobe. However, finding the line between functional and fashionable can be challenging. If you're looking for a slimming, chic piece of outerwear for work, try layering these pieces over your outfits:
- Patterned blazer: A fitted blazer is an essential part of any woman's professional wardrobe. It gives the outfit a polished look and easily hides any problem areas in the midsection. If it's patterned or textured, you can use it to draw attention away from the lower half of your body. If you want to make your hips or legs appear smaller, a colorful or patterned blazer can serve as the perfect accent piece of your outfit.
- Trench coat: Trench coats look good on any body type. Versatile, functional and classic, they can tie together almost any outfit. Since they are typically a neutral grey or tan color, you can pair them with almost any color. Most trench coats also come with a wide belt, so you can show off your waist, even when you need to bundle up.
- Knit cardigan: A knit cardigan is a classic staple of women's workwear. You can wear it over a blouse or fitted button down to add another dimension and layer to your outfit. However, they can make your outfit look too conservative if you pair them with the wrong pieces. To avoid this, try finding a cardigan with an interesting pattern or color to give it a more youthful and fun look.
Many women underestimate the importance of accessories. They can help pull focus, add a touch of bling or help hold everything in place. To use them properly in the workplace, try these accessory tricks:
- Wide belts: Wide belts look great on plus-size bodies because they help create a more defined waist. You can use them to cinch the waist of a blouse, sweater, dress, coat or any other piece that gaps around the waist. If you want it to be more subtle, choose a black or tan belt. If you want it to be a bold statement piece, choose a bright-colored or patterned one.
- Scarves: Scarves are a practical way to add dimension and layers to an outfit. If you want to draw attention away from the lower part of your body, a scarf will do the trick. Especially if they are fluffy, sparkly or colorful, they will help draw people's eye up towards your upper torso. Also, if you have a large bust, a scarf can help cover any unwanted cleavage.
Shop for Plus-Sized Business Casual Outfits at Perfectly Priscilla
Looking for business casual outfits for plus-sized women?
At Perfectly Priscilla, we want to help you show off what's beautiful about your body with our exclusive styles and sizes. We are an in-store and online plus-size boutique for women size 10 to 26. We are dedicated to helping you find the perfect fit for your body's curves. Whether you have an apple, pear, hourglass or rectangle body type, we have options that will make you look and feel your best.
As a plus-size woman, you know shopping for clothes can be frustrating. That's why we've created a line of high-quality clothing that will accentuate you waist, complement your curves and flaunt your features, whether you're wearing jeans, a dress, a sweater, a blouse or a skirt.
Start shopping for clothes made with your body type in mind with Perfectly Priscilla.