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10 Plus-Size Fashion Tips with a Body-Positive Attitude

Inclusive sizing offers even more options for curvy shapes

(Left to right) Melissa McCarthy in a belted orange dress and long pink shirt-duster shacket; Oprah Winfrey in a navy belted maxi sweaterdress.
(Left to right) Melissa McCarthy in a belted orange dress and long pink shirt-duster shacket; Oprah Winfrey in a navy belted maxi sweaterdress.
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images; Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

As a fashion editor, stylist and personal shopper, I’ve seen a real shift in women’s approach to their bodies and clothes. Decades of dieting and struggling to fit into a specific size are fading away. “I want to look 10 pounds thinner” has been replaced by “I want to look amazing!”

While I don’t dress the following celebs or know their exact sizes, in the spirit of body positivity, I present these curvy and fashionable women as style inspiration. Here are 10 tips for embracing the frame you’re in.

1. Give your body, psyche and wardrobe a boost

(Left to right) Morgan Fairchild in a print jacket over a black top and pants; Queen Latifah in a statement striped sleeveless shift; Sherri Shepherd in a fit-and-flare-style bright pink floral.
(Left to right) Morgan Fairchild in a print jacket over a black top and pants; Queen Latifah in a statement striped sleeveless shift; Sherri Shepherd in a fit-and-flare-style bright pink floral.
Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images; Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images for Aurora Institute; Araya Doheny/Getty Images

Opening your closet and getting dressed should be an elevating experience, not a frustrating part of your day. Start by donating your old “I’ll lose the extra pounds someday” clothes and boxy, unstylish items ASAP. Then start adding new pieces that put a smile on your face and make you excited to get dressed and say “Yes!” to your next evite.

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2. Dress to elongate your body

(Left to right) Meryl Streep in an A-line print black midi dress and low kitten heels; Garcelle Beauvais in high-waisted black pants and a white shirt.
(Left to right) Meryl Streep in an A-line print black midi dress and low kitten heels; Garcelle Beauvais in high-waisted black pants and a white shirt.
Tasos Katopodis/WireImage; Unique Nicole/WireImage

Weight is a horizontal thing: It adds width at the bust, waist, hips and thighs. Height and leg and arm length, however, do not vary, no matter how much the scale fluctuates. Whatever your height, you’ll get a more flattering overall look by creating the illusion of a longer, taller silhouette. You can do this several ways: by dressing in one color from head to toe; wearing jeans with a higher rise (if you’re a belt-and-waist person); showing your ankles and wrists in 3/4-sleeve tops, ankle-cropped pants or midis instead of full-length pants and maxis; and wearing a shoe with some elevation, like a chunky lug or platform sole, a low block or kitten heel, and/or tapered, pointy-ish (not toe-cramming pointy) shoes.

3. Show off your shape

(Left to right) Anjelica Huston in a black body-conscious midi sheath with a square neckline; Leslie Jones in a black, ruched, body-conscious dress; Jennifer Coolidge in a slightly off-shoulder bright pink sheath
(Left to right) Anjelica Huston in a black body-conscious midi sheath with a square neckline; Leslie Jones in a black, ruched, body-conscious dress; Jennifer Coolidge in a slightly off-shoulder bright pink sheath.
Mike Coppola/WireImage; Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for The Chairman's Party; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Don’t hide those curves in oversize, shapeless pieces — highlight them. The only thing fashionable, body-hugging dresses, bodysuits and knits that skim your shape require is the right underclothes (see tip number 9) and a confident attitude.

4. Define your waist

(Left to right) Martha Stewart in a moss-green belted coatdress; Melissa McCarthy in a bold, striped belted dress and wide black belt.
(Left to right) Martha Stewart in a moss-green belted coatdress; Melissa McCarthy in a bold, striped belted dress and wide black belt.
Patrick McMullan/PMC via Getty Images; Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Many bodacious women forgo belts and tucked-in tops after menopause due to weight gain at the belly. But a belt can be a shape maker. If you have an hourglass-shaped torso or a thicker midsection that has lost its indent, a belt quickly confirms that bosom, midriff and belly are not one solid unit. Shirtdresses, wrap dresses, fit-and-flare-style dresses, jumpsuits, paper-bag-waist pants and belted pants make the point. Though many styles come with their own “cinchers,” consider splurging on a few special belts to personalize your wardrobe.

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5. Or wear dresses and tunics that flow

(Left to right) Meryl Streep in a white tunic blouse over black ankle pants; Phylicia Rashad in a red asymmetric-hem boatneck tunic over fluid black pants; Alfre Woodard in an above-the-knee A-line shift in black-and-white giraffe print.
(Left to right) Meryl Streep in a white tunic blouse over black ankle pants; Phylicia Rashad in a red asymmetric-hem boatneck tunic over fluid black pants; Alfre Woodard in an above-the-knee A-line shift in black-and-white giraffe print.
Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Add a few one-piece, belt-free dresses with an A-line shape or a loose, straight silhouette to your closet. With no break at the waist, these styles skim right over the middle. Long, untucked shirts that pair easily with flat-front elastic-waist pants and jeans are another waist-breaking option.

6. Work with your personal proportions

(Left to right) Helen Mirren in a white shirt and belted green-print wide maxi skirt with pink heels; Oprah Winfrey in a khaki belted jumpsuit; Patricia Arquette in a floral-print A-line midi dress with purple belt.
(Left to right) Helen Mirren in a white shirt and belted green-print wide maxi skirt with pink heels; Oprah Winfrey in a khaki belted jumpsuit; Patricia Arquette in a floral-print A-line midi dress with purple belt.
Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage; Paras Griffin/Getty Images; Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Shop and dress to flatter your shape. You may feel better in a plus bottom but wear a regular-size top or vice versa. Grab a tape measure and determine your bust, waist and hip size in inches. Size charts are a major feature on most plus-size and size-inclusive clothing sites and can differ from brand to brand. Instead of grabbing your “typical” size when shopping online, match your inches to the retailer to find your best size option.

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7. Opt for relaxed pieces

(Left to right) Anjelica Huston in a floral-print A-line belted midi dress and wedge espadrilles; Phylicia Rashad in a gray tunic over loose wide pants; Queen Latifah in a chartreuse loose tunic blouse with matching loose pants.
(Left to right) Anjelica Huston in a floral-print A-line belted midi dress and wedge espadrilles; Phylicia Rashad in a gray tunic over loose wide pants; Queen Latifah in a chartreuse loose tunic blouse with matching loose pants.
Presley Ann/Getty Images for Champagne Bollinger; Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions; Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

There’s more to the plus-size fashion boom than expanded sizes. Athleisure clothes like joggers, oversize hi-low tees and cozy sweats have taught women with curvy bodies to appreciate, layer and pair comfy looser clothes and longer skirt and dress lengths. This new ease is also showing up in roomy wide-leg pants and jeans with elastic waists, spacious tunics and hi-low tops, midi dresses, and generously cut sweaters and cardigans. Make these your staples.

8. Add jackets and cardigans

(Left to right) Patti LuPone in an elongated striped blazer over a black shirt and pants; Mariska Hargitay in a denim pantsuit and black silk camisole; Candice Bergen in an ivory blazer, tan ankle pants and loafers; Jane Lynch in a white blazer over a black camisole and straight pants; Tyra Banks in black leather pants with a belted long yellow cardigan.
(Left to right) Patti LuPone in a striped blazer; Mariska Hargitay in a denim pantsuit and black silk camisole; Candice Bergen in an ivory blazer; Jane Lynch in a white blazer over a black camisole; Tyra Banks in a belted long yellow cardigan.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images; Franziska Krug/Getty Images for Marc Cain

Toppers like structured blazers, long cardigans and dusters are essential for women of every size. The firm shape or sweeping lines (depending on which you choose) provide reassuring firmness or coverage on days when you’re just not in body-positive mode. Adding a second or third piece makes your day.

9. Wear bras that lift and support

(Left to right) Oprah Winfrey in a silver sequined dress; Mariah Carey in a plunging neckline; Lorraine Toussaint in a white peplum blouse and flowing pants.
(Left to right) Oprah Winfrey in a silver sequined dress; Mariah Carey in a plunging neckline; Lorraine Toussaint in a white peplum blouse and flowing pants.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images; Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Many women are tossing the shapewear along with body negativity. But this doesn’t mean you should hang out in do-nothing bralettes and lacy bikini panties. Bras that lift your breasts and seamless undies that give your clothes a smooth line are essential regardless of size. Choose sleek modern support bras to elevate your chest and gain visual inches of torso. Your bust should “sit” about midway between your elbow and shoulder whether you’re wearing a blazer, dress, fitted sweater or tunic top.

10. Make more of a fashion statement

(Left to right) Ava DuVernay in a white jumpsuit and black vest; Kim Cattrall in a bright pink blazer with feathers; Kirstie Alley in a purple coat, black velvet pants, black sequined tunic top and bright pink pointy-toe shoes; Martha Stewart in an oversize silver sequined hoodie and black leather pants.
(Left to right) Ava DuVernay in a white jumpsuit and black vest; Kim Cattrall in a bright pink blazer with feathers; Kirstie Alley in a purple coat, black velvet pants, black sequined tunic top; Martha Stewart in an oversize silver sequined hoodie.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images For Louis Vuitton; Araya Doheny/FilmMagic; Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images; Jason Mendez/Getty Images

Many women hide their bodies in clothes that are nondescript and boring. It’s time to flaunt your style. You can still vary proportions, match tops and bottoms, and wear the volume where you need it most. Yes, all are classic “dress-slim” tactics, but they also happen to be stylish fashion moves, so no need to stop. Buy that blazer in hot pink and that coat in purple instead of black; go for that sequined hoodie and winter white jumpsuit. The only person you need to impress is yourself.