10 Ways to Dress a Grownup Silhouette
Flatter a large bustline with these style tricks
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, January 16, 2020
En español | Whether you're now a 32C, a 34DD or a 36G, know that breast size and shape continue to change with age. It's normal. Everything from declining estrogen to weight gain or loss, working out and plain old gravity prompts our breasts to get bigger and saggier, and lose their firm, perky roundness. Unfortunately, our growing and evolving bustline affects how our clothes fit. No one is immune — not even celebrities. Here are 10 key tips that can make your bosom a true buddy.
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PHOTO BY: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images; Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
1. Keep your breasts lifted. For a sleek, firm look under clothes, your breasts should “sit” midway between shoulder and elbow regardless of their size or your overall body proportions. Any lower and your midriff will get lost. You want an uplifting front and side view with a clear space for your torso. Then stand up straight! The best bra can't do its work if you're always hunched over your iPhone or standing slumped and slouched. Keep your shoulders back and down like a dancer or a movie star.
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PHOTO BY: Harper Wilde; True & Co.; ThirdLove
2. Get a “cool” full coverage bra. Finding a bra in a style you'll love wearing and feel comfortable in is key, but don't get hung up on cup size. You can be a DDD in one brand and an F in another (or even a DD). The bra you want to do the job is a smooth T-shirt bra style with lightly lined foam cups for a natural rounded look (great if your breasts are saggy, uneven or shallow on top) or a minimalist wireless style engineered to lift and contour. Skip bralettes, push-ups and old-style “grandma” bras (even if, like me, you actually are a grandma). Get fitted by a pro in a store or try sites like ThirdLove, True&Co., Lively and Harper Wilde that offer advice on sizing to personalize fit.
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3. Make form-fitted clothes your go-to style. Show your shape with tops and dresses that skim over your breasts or cling in a good way. Don't worry: If you're wearing a lightly lined seamless bra, nothing will show through — even under tees, bodysuits and superfine knits. Trying to compress, diminish or flatten big or saggy breasts by hiding them in oversized tops will just make them look bigger and saggier. You may want to go up a size in very fitted sweaters, though, simply because it looks more polished. Choose black or dark tops instead of white to minimize volume.
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PHOTO BY: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images; Lars Niki/Getty Images for New York Women in Film & Television; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for The Estee Lauder Companies
4. Define your waist. A belt — even a very skinny one — really makes the point that your breasts and middle are not actually a unit. Unless you're wearing the right bra, it's easy for breasts, midriff and waist to get crunched together in a blurry shape. However, if you're following tips No. 1, 2 and 3, once you get your breasts up and off your midriff your torso will gain inches of space right beneath your bra band and seem longer, slimmer and belt-ready. Cinched shirtdresses and jumpsuits are ideal choices here, too.
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PHOTO BY: Nancy Rivera/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Michael Kovac/Getty Images for LACMA
5. Fake a waist. Suppose you have big breasts, a tummy bulge and your real waistline is completely MIA. No problem. Just choose dresses with a raised, not-quite empire style that sits somewhere below the bust to a few inches above the waist, or belt any dress above the real waist at that same point. It's a sneaky way of faking a waist and letting your breasts benefit from the narrow part of your rib cage. When wearing a relaxed blouse or tee, or generously cut shirt with pants or jeans, do a French tuck (tuck in the front only to restore that waist definition and avoid a tentlike look, but maintain a fashionably undone look at sides and rear).
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PHOTO BY: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly; ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images; Amy Sussman/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank
6. Wear wrap dresses and tops to get an hourglass shape. This style has amazing manipulative bosom-contouring powers. The crossover shape of a wrap is basically an X that creates a waist or whittles an existing one while holding and supporting your breasts in a flattering dual sling. Just be sure the wrap has enough fabric to cover your breasts and bra without providing a cleavage show so you can move about freely. Faux wrap styles work, too, though you will have less control over shaping.
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PHOTO BY: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix; Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
7. Count on a fit-and-flare dress to balance your proportions. This dress combines the benefits of a fitted top (which firms and flatters your bust) with a skirt that flares to a wide A-line shape. The combination evens out body proportions so you don't look top-heavy by shifting extra volume below the waist to the skirt. Midi hemlines with their extra fullness give this style even more power. Pair your fit-and-flare with a heel (even a low one), since that further elongates your legs for an additional body boost. And yes, all of the above add up to complement your bust. Trust me on this one.
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PHOTO BY: Raymond Hall/GC Images; Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
8. Wear a tailored jacket. Structured blazers give soft bodies and full breasts a sculpted, firm look. It's one of the reasons for the current surge in pantsuits. The straight lines and sharp V of the jacket firm up excess curves immediately. Just be sure to choose a style that's nipped at the waist and buttons right below the bust to avoid a boxy look. Even worn open, a blazer still works to frame your bust and camouflage any extra fullness at the sides of your bosom. If you do unbutton that jacket, remember to keep the waist of the pants defined with a tucked in top or a slim belt for breast flattery.
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PHOTO BY: P. Lehman/Barcroft Media via Getty Images; Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images; Raymond Hall/GC Images
9. Choose necklines wisely. We're seeing more celebs on the red carpet with extra revealing cleavage, but it's not the best idea for real life. The inverted triangle of a V neckline never fails to flatter grownup chests. It's subtly sexy, visually adds inches to your neck and torso, and prevents a big chest from looking too solid and shelflike. Unbutton blouses and shirts to a V (and yank the sides open a bit) for the same effect. However, if you're a trendy dresser try the fashionable square neckline. The broad angular shape reveals more upper chest, which frames a substantial bosom for a more balanced look. For those who still like high necklines — say a crew or a turtleneck — just make sure it's fitted to keep your chest looking robust, lifted and shapely.
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PHOTO BY: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images; Sam Tabone/WireImage; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
10. Use full sleeves to flatter, divert and distract. Sleeves that puff, flare, balloon or flutter are doing more than looking stylish. They're a handy voluminous optical illusion that has the power to grab attention away from your bust. The bigger the sleeves, the more attention they get. For a more practical everyday approach, switch to raglan and drop-shoulder style tees and sweaters that provide ease through the chest without looking baggy or oversized. And do yourself a favor: If you're busty, trade classic T-shirts with short sleeves that end level with your bust for three-quarter sleeve styles. It's a small change and a bit of an optical illusion, but it makes all the difference.