While the catwalks of Milan and Paris convey the tiny, skinny models of the fashion industry, the real world is filled with real women. The average dress size for American women is 14, which means that half of America's women are plus-sized. No longer relegated to the spacious mu-mu, the plus-sized woman has at her disposal an arsenal of clothing selections and choices to look her best.
Wear stripes. Traditionally, fashion experts have advised plus-sized women to avoid horizontal stripes, claiming that such stripes gave the illusion of bulk. A study reported in 2008 by the BBC that was conducted by Dr. Peter Thompson of the University of York's Psychology Department suggests that horizontal stripes are more slimming than vertical stripes. Dr. Thompson cites evidence that horizontal stripes make plus-sized people appear taller and more three-dimensional.
Use stripes wisely. If you are pear-shaped, avoid striped blouses; if your hips are large, opt for striped tops.
Wear black. This is a very slimming color, so opt for black and other dark-colored clothing instead of white.
Mix and match tight and loose clothing. Avoid extremely skin-tight outfits such as knit pants and tops, as these materials glorify every bump and ridge. Conversely, avoid large, flapping shirts and pants, as these make you appear bulkier.
Moderate your appearance with a blend of both, such as a slender skirt with a larger, flowing jacket. A full skirt blends well with a tightly knitted cardigan sweater. Never wear "high water" pants,. Properly-sized, the hem of your pants should rest on the instep of your foot.
Wear control top undergarments such as girdles and tummy tuckers. These items can erase a number of inches from your torso. Plus-sized women with large breasts tend to slouch; purchase a posture brassiere that provides sufficient support and also makes your waist appear slimmer.
Many women do not wear the proper bra size. A lingerie department store clerk can measure your size and provide you with some slimming and correctly sized undergarments.
Increase hair volume. While you don't need to tease your hair to 1980s punk rock proportions, a thick, luscious head of hair works wonders. Hair with volume makes your body appear smaller. Eyeliner applied around the upper eyelids enlarges the eyes. Light lipstick colors with a matte finish subtly accentuate the lips.
Draw attention to your most attractive features. If you have beautifully clear skin, show it off with a shiny necklace or open-necked blouse. If you have shapely legs but a thick waistline, wear skirt-like shorts or flowing skirts that reveal your legs.
Stand up straight. A drooping head and slouched shoulders impoverish any woman's appearance. Practice good posture. The age-old technique of balancing a book on your head can work wonders. When you stand, your knees, hips and shoulders should be aligned in a straight, vertical line. Posture not only improves your appearance but also exudes the attractive characteristics of contentment and confidence.
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Rebecca Mecomber, a former radio broadcaster, has been a professional blogger and writer since 2006. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal," Salon.com and several other publications, covering topics such as Federal Trade Commission policy and media regulations, blogging, home improvement and New York travel.