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11 Dress-Slim Tips That Work for All

Stylish ways to camouflage those extra quarantine pounds


Raise your hand: Who has gained a few pounds during this COVID-19 epidemic? You, me and just about every other woman age 50-plus who got too chummy with the fridge and slacked off on exercise during isolation. Real clothes are a shock. Buttons don’t close, zippers don’t zip and everything we wore last year is too tight. But hey, this is not about being thin. You can have a body-positive attitude, own your curves at any size and still want to look fit, firm and fabulous. Here are 11 ways to triumph over the scale — and dieting isn’t one of them!

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(Clockwise from top left) Warner’s Cloud 9 Wireless Contour Bra 1269; Vanity Fair Beauty Back Full Figure Wirefree Extended Side and Back Smoother Bra; Auden Women’s Bonded Micro Briefs
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1. Buy new underwear

Seriously, anything you wear will look 10 times better if extra fleshy bits are not being squeezed or overflowing your bra and underwear. Living in cozy, comfy sweats has weaned us off true shapewear (maybe for life?), but do your body and clothes a favor and get an updated T-shirt bra. Look for lightly lined cups and construction that lifts your breasts up and off your midriff without an underwire like the Warner’s Cloud 9 Wireless Contour Bra 1269 ($40, jcpenney.com) or Vanity Fair Beauty Back Full Figure Wirefree Extended Side and Back Smoother Bra ($30, kohls.com). No need to give up comfort. By creating as much space as possible between your chest and waist you get a longer, more toned torso instantly. Grab some seamless, high-cut microfiber briefs like the Auden Women’s Bonded Micro Briefs ($5, target.com), but make sure they are in your new size.

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(Left to right) Vanessa Williams (left) and Mary Steenburgen (center) are wearing V-neck dresses while Phylicia Rashad sports a boatneck blouse.
Adrian Edwards/GC Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

2. Choose a V-neck

I’ve said it before: The inverted triangle of a V-neck strengthens your shoulder line and lengthens your neck and torso. Wider Vs balance broad hips and thighs; deeper Vs give a generous chest separation and lift (just don’t go too low, no cleavage necessary). Wrap dresses and crossover tops also have this neckline. No Vs in your closet? Simply unbutton all your shirts and blouses to a V, but be sure to yank the sides open for a true V — not a sliver. Next best neckline? A boatneck offers similar shoulder-broadening and neck-stretching benefits to the upper body.

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Oprah Winfrey (left) and Kathy Ireland in pantsuits.
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3. Wear one color head to toe  

For the sleekest look — whether you’re a size 12 or 18, M, XL or 2X — keep your tops and bottoms in the same color group and intensity (in other words, a near match). You’re going for minimal contrast. For example, don a navy tee and dark wash blue jeans, a light blue hoodie and light wash jeans, or hoodie and leggings in black. No need to resist mixing seasonal items day or night, either. Your tonal outfit will get a lot more interesting if you mix in prints and textures, too — for example, wear a green floral silk blouse with your olive cargos and a heathery green cardigan. Pantsuits, of course, are a win. Dig ’em out!

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A H&M Ribbed Jersey Bodysuit worn by a model (left) and the clothing item by itself (center); H&M+ Ribbed Jersey Bodysuit (right)
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4. Use bodysuits and swing tanks as smoothers

The last thing we want to reveal in public is back fat, muffin tops or a less-than-toned midriff. A simple black-sleeved bodysuit — such as the H&M Ribbed Jersey Bodysuit ($18, hm.com/en_us) also in plus size H&M+ Ribbed Jersey Bodysuit ($13, hm.com/en_us) — will create the slim, taut line you want and allow you to tuck in a top without the usual bulge creating excess to stuff into the waistband. They make great flab blasters, too, when layered under all close-to-the-body clothes.

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Alfre Woodard (left) and Virginia Madsen
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5. Stick to no-waist dresses for belly camouflage  

Tummy bulge is a front-and-center attention seeker. Don’t let it grab the spotlight. Any dress that does not have a belt — a shift, fit and flare, empire, raised waist, trapeze — is going to be more body-friendly to you now than separate tops and bottoms since there’s no break at the waist. One-piece dresses glide over curves and balance body proportions, so you look more “even,” too.

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(Clockwise from bottom left) Ugg Jass; Superga 2790 Acotw Platform Sneaker; Kristin Davis wearing high-rise jeans
Superga; Zappos; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SiriusXM

6. Add some height

While hardly anyone is racing to go back to wearing high heels or pumps (another probably forever here), any shoe with elevation — a wedge, platform sneaker or even a low block heel, kitten heel, mule or clog — will make legs look longer. Stay comfy but get some height in platform sneakers like the Superga 2790 Acotw Platform Sneaker ($80, zappos.com) or Ugg Jass ($100, zappos.com), and add some extra length to the look of your legs simply by moving the rise of your jeans and pants up an inch. A pair that sit at your natural waist — a high rise, not a super-high rise — is what you want.

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(Left to right) Queen Latifah, Bette Midler and Katie Couric
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7. Only put volume where you need it most

Some of us don’t gain weight evenly all over our bodies. The extra pounds go to our top or bottom. Are you a below-the-waist gainer whose extra pounds settle on hips, thighs and derriere? Or does your “extra” always go straight to your breasts and midriff? If you’re a bottom gainer, ditch the skinny jeans, knits and pencil skirts. Instead choose full A-line skirts and dresses as well as wide-leg pants ... always with a fitted top. If you’re a top gainer, forget tight tees and slim-fit button-downs and pair puff sleeve tops, dropped-shoulder sweaters and oversized shirts with slim bottoms. It’s all about playing with proportions.

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Morgan Fairchild (left) and Kim Cattrall
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8. Pair your plain black pants with a statement top

And vice versa! This is a twist on tip No. 7. Our trusty basic black pants, skirts and tops can still be supporting players in a dress-slim game plan. Black is a super-power color when it comes to making anything look smaller — wear it where you want to diminish. And pair it with an eye-catching bright or print blouse or shirt. Don’t own any? Wrap on a light statement scarf for the same effect.

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(Left to right) Marcia Gay Harden, Angelica Huston and Angela Bassett
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; Presley Ann/Getty Images for Champagne Bollinger; Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

9. Suggest a waist

So long as belly bulge isn’t your big concern, adding a belt is the best way to get sense of shape — even if your weight gain is giving your torso a boxy look. If you like the ease of looser, more relaxed clothes (a major pandemic-driven trend we love!) such as oversized shirts and utility pants and tiered trapeze dresses, then continue. Just add a belt at or just above your waist to indicate that yes, there is a body under there after all. Sling it on over any dress, popover shirt or even a long cardigan. You don’t need a small waist, just enough indentation between your bust and hips. A jumpsuit, of course, is one dress-slim belt solution that makes things easy.

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(Left to right) Sheryl Crow, Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert
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10. Bust out a blazer

We used to count on a blazer as the ultimate confidence booster to hide extra pounds. Guess what? The sharp-tailored lines still work to firm up our shape — fast. No need to buy anything. We’re the generation that has a stash in our closet ready to go! They’re trendy (again!) now in long, oversized versions as well as more classic fits, so don’t worry about looking retro. Add a blazer to your favorite ankle pants, jeans or leggings and over any jumpsuit or midi dress.

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Julianne Moore (left) and Lucy Liu
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11. Show off your narrow wrists and ankles

Your forearms and ankles are always going to be your trimmest parts of your body, no matter what you weigh. Show them off! This means swapping long sleeves, pants and maxi skirts for shorter ones — ankle-cropped pants and jeans; three-quarter, elbow or pushed-up sleeves; and skirts no longer than mid-calf midi. By drawing the eye to the extremities, you create new focal points. Emphasize them with a stack of bracelets or a statement shoe.

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