A stylish guide to dressing a curvy body shape

A stylish guide to dressing a curvy body shape

Dressing for a curvy body absolutely has its moments. Not everything works. Sometimes, the things you want to work, just don’t.

I was a late bloomer. My body started to develop in my late teens and my shape changed drastically. Clothes that I had previously loved ceased to fit. Styles of dressing and eras of clothes that I had identified with no longer suited my body shape.

At first, I tried to hide my body, afraid of its drastic change. Through wearing shapeless clothes, I discovered that my newfound curves deserved to be celebrated, and clothes that accentuated them properly were actually the most flattering of all.

Once I’d accepted this, I found a whole new world of outfits I’d never been able to wear before and I’d love to share some of the tips I’ve accumulated on the way. When you know how to dress for your body, you can rock everything from sexy party dresses to sophisticated suits.

How to dress a curvy body shape with style:

A stylish guide to dressing a curvy body shape

Embrace gathering

I always gravitated towards pieces of clothing with gathering. Gathering is a sewing technique that is used in clothing to manage fullness and adds a ripple effect with tight folds of fabric.

Garments with gathering on the seams accentuate the curves by encouraging the material around them, while also adding a layer of texture that smooths over the body’s silhouette. This eliminates the stress of exposure that usually comes with tight clothes.

Here are two examples of dresses I own and love that feature flattering tight gathering:

1. Gathering at the seams

This black dress, with gathering at the seams, is perfect if you’re wanting a tight, sexy look. The material is light, and the gathering is elasticised which makes it super comfortable to wear.

When I go out for dinner, I’m always conscious of wearing tight clothes, as they are the last thing you want to be in when you feel bloated or full. I’m also much more self-conscious of wearing tight clothes during my period, as I always feel bloated and uncomfortable.

The gathering in this dress makes me feel as though I can show off my curves and be sexy, while knowing that my ‘imperfections’ are comfortably concealed.

The cut of this dress is important to note. A simple rule I apply to the ‘sexy’ section of my wardrobe is to choose one body part to feature. This dress has a plunging neckline – which I love – making my boobs the feature. Having big boobs means they’re a noticeable feature, so I like to balance them out with a long hemline.

Tip: Long hemlines are most flattering on tall people as they elongate our proportions. Anyone over 170cm should invest in long hemlines.

A stylish guide to dressing a curvy body shape

2. Gathering at the chest

This purple dress is another example of a flattering style with tight gathering.

The gathering is situated in the middle of my chest in a vertical seam. The gathering guides the fabric underneath the curve of my chest and boobs, giving my waist a beautiful, curved shape.

The eye is drawn to my waist, which is one of the smallest parts of my body and is celebrated through this garment.

I love this look for a casual day at the market, but it could also be dressed up with stilettos and an up-do for party season, or dressed down with chunky sneakers and a jacket.

Play with lengths

This outfit is an example of how different lengths and materials can work well together. This is one of my favourite outfits, because it has a hint of sass but is versatile, comfy, casual and cool.

All these pieces are super flattering on their own. I’ll take you through each piece and then why they go well together.

The top is flattering because it’s loose but structured. Being long on the outside and shorter in the middle makes the waistline look compact, even though it’s not tight on the body.

The skirt is a pleather high-waisted mini skirt. I love the look of leather, but I often find it to be uncomfortable to go about my day in because it can be too tight and hot. I bought this skirt one size too big, so I can synch it at the waist but still move about freely.

The boots are above-knee, stretchy and suede. The deep burgundy colour is slimming and, given the height, make my legs look longer and thinner than they are. I’ve always struggled to find stockings that fit, so this style of boot is my preferred source of leg warmth.

Tip: Boots that sit just under the knee can cut off your leg length and be unflattering. Stick to over-the-knee or ankle boots as they elongate the legs.

Play with lengths

I’ve put these pieces together because they balance each other out.

A flowy top should almost always be paired with a tight bottom and vice versa. I like pairing ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ materials together, which is why I love this top with the pleather skirt.

I encourage colour matching where possible, so it was a must for me that I wore this top and boots as a combo!

Knee-length boots look great with anything, but for this outfit I really wanted them to be the feature – hence the shorter skirt.

I’ve even played around with lengths in my choice of accessories and hairstyle. I’ve gone for a high ponytail to elongate my neck, and simple drop earrings.

Tip: Drop earrings that go to your jawline or lower, should always be worn with your hair up! That way, the earring is properly featured but also acts to elongate your neck.

This outfit is a super easy look that could be achieved with any loose top, tight pants, a floor-length skirt or even a tight dress underneath.

Colour matching is optional, but always a nice flourish. It’s the perfect outfit for anything professional or social; it’s modest and comfy, yet thoughtful and stylish.

Give pencil skirts a go

When in doubt, reach for a pencil skirt.

If you’re like me and carry weight in your lower stomach, then high-waisted is the way to go. Opt for to-the-knee hemline – it is the most flattering hemline on everyone because it elongates your curves and gives your body good balance.

Matching a crop top with a high-waisted pencil skirt is a no-brainer, as it celebrates the smallest part of the body: the waist. It also allows for the smoothest silhouette as there is no need for tucking in or tying up.

Clashing prints

Skirt in clashing prints

I love clashing prints, and I encourage everyone to play with colour – especially colours that suit your complexion.

Perhaps try different block colours on the top and bottom or clashing prints, and then find a colour within those to match to a lipstick or earring.

I’ve gone with an orange lip, to match my skirt pattern.

Tip: To successfully clash prints, choose either warm or cool colours and stay within your chosen realm. If you venture out, things could get a little too wild.

Denim skirt

Denim skirt

I’ve never been hugely into denim as I am haunted by never finding the right pair of jeans, however I do love a denim high-waisted pencil skirt.

I’ve paired a denim skirt with a high-necked chocolate leotard.

Leotards can be tricky, but if you can find one that works for you, they’ll go with just about everything. Mine is from SKIMS – a trusted Kim K creation – which hugs everything in and also requires no tying up or tucking in.

I’ve paired this outfit with some chunky sneakers and obnoxious hoops for the full Kardashian leisure look.

Try twin sets and power suits

You can never go wrong with a twin set or a power suit. They’re guaranteed to make you feel like a badass boss, they’re fun and flattering, and give you an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.

I’ve had this yellow twin set for years, and have never grown sick of it. The pants are high-waisted and tight on the bum, making them versatile with any top – loose, cropped or leotard. The kaftan-style shirt has splits down the side which give my torso shape and elongate my legs.

Again, the lengths play a huge role in what makes this outfit flattering, as it accentuates my body shape rather than hiding it. I love wearing this outfit with fun heels or wedges. This outfit is fun and it makes me feel fearless.

Try twin sets and power suits

Power suits come in many shapes, sizes and colours. I personally have a few, but this hot pink crushed-velvet suit is really working for me right now. It’s extra, yet casual and comfy.

You can pair this with anything and wear it for any occasion. I’ve paired it with a white t-shirt, a simple neck chain, and chunky sneakers for a smart sporty look.

You could also wear it with a crop top or pretty bra and heels for a dressy occasion, or a turtleneck and heeled boots for a sleek working from home or office look.

Tailored suits always look good on curvy bodies because they are made to show off our assets. This one I’m wearing isn’t too tailored, but it still comes in at my waist, shows off my shoulders and neckline, and fits nicely around my boobs.

Hopefully these styling tips for dressing a curvy body shape will help you the next time you’re looking for ideas. Remember to have fun with it, embrace colours and tailoring you wouldn’t normally consider, and focus on emphasising your best assets.


All images by Oscar Shaw.

TELL US: Do you have any tips for styling a curvy body shape? Share your advice in the comments section below.

Laura Roscioli writer SHE DEFINED

Laura Roscioli

Laura Roscioli is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. 

Through years of experience working for VICE and other media agencies, she has fostered an invested interest in storytelling and seeks to push boundaries with her work.