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Monday, June 9, 2014

Modesty Tips for Big Women

Photo by: Lavoview, Free Digital Photos

In case you’re wondering, the last time I wore a size 8 was probably in the eighth grade. Since then, my sizes have gone up and up, down maybe twice, then up again. I’m not proud of it, and I’m presently doing diet and exercise for a variety of reasons. I would consider myself “large.”

So, I decided, since I very much understand the problem of full-bodied women, to share with you a few hints about dressing modestly. (These can be applied to pregnant women as well.)

First, remember that the biblical guidelines for women’s dress can be summed up in two words. (Think M&M.)
  1. Modesty—decent and appropriate
  2. Moderation

So you head off to a shop that specializes in clothes for larger women. What do they have? A lovely shoulder to floor caftan with a sunflower more than a foot wide—I’m not exaggerating; I actually saw this more than once—smack dab in the middle of the tummy area. Nothing like a walking pup tent, nature included!

They also have large prints in many trendy sleeveless styles. The only difference between these dresses and what our smaller friends buy is the size.

You get a dress you like and trot off to the try-on rooms. There, in all your glory, you discover that not one of those sleeveless numbers should be worn on a lady with arms like yours. So, you look for a jacket to go over the cute dress. You find a bolero you think will work. Back to the fitting rooms. Oh no! A bolero on an ample bosom is not the thing! So you go back to the racks, hang up the dress you liked except that it’s sleeveless, and you swear off boleros for life. Lesson learned!

You leave the shop a little bit sad and a whole lot disgusted.
  • Don’t they know that a woman who’s 5’4” doesn’t want a bigger-than-life sunflower across her middle?
  • Don’t they know that prints should be scaled down for larger ladies?
  • Don’t they know that people who wear women’s, plus, and extra sizes usually have chubby arms?
  • Don’t they know that a plus-size bolero is only going to look good on someone with a small bust?
  • Why don’t they make clothes for me?

I’ve been there so many times, I can’t tell you. But, I can share some guidelines for shopping born out of many years of sad experiences. Let me share them with you. Maybe it will help you look for the right things and avoid some of the disappointments.

Don’t even look at:
  • Anything with large prints. Scale down to the size prints you should wear for your height. Medium to small is usually right for a larger figure.
  • Anything with a feature placed where you don’t want to emphasize. You don’t want a pocket, beading, print (the sunflower), stripe, or anything else in any place you don’t want attention.
  • Anything tight. The Michelin Man look is not what I’d call modest. Avoid leggings like the plague. Avoid skinny jeans. Avoid anything tight.
  • Horizontal stripes. Horizontal on a horizontally-larger person . . . well, let’s just say it only emphasizes the already obvious.
  • Extremely bright colors. More on color below, but you don’t want to look like the whole fire engine. You can still wear red, but wear a muted red.
  • Anything with a revealing neckline. I don’t know why, but if you read secular tips for dressing big women, they advise deep and wide necklines. God does not want us to show provocative parts of our anatomies.
  • Anything sleeveless. (Discussion of this below.)
  • Anything shorter than mid-knee. There are very few women of any size who have beautiful knees. I personally feel that this rule should apply to every woman. It is modest to cover one’s knees. Period.
  • “Pup tents.” A top or dress with no shape will only make you look larger than you are. Avoid tent dressing. (Tents are for campers!) 

Look for:
  • Shirts. Shirts come in all kinds of styles, prints, and sizes. They even come in longer styles, which look nice over slacks. They have a collar, V neckline, and buttons—all adding to a slimmer look. Shirts are a great option for the full-busted woman.
  • Jackets. By “jackets” I don’t necessarily mean structured business-wear. It can be a cardigan, a flowing jacket, or a sweater jacket. When you wear a jacket—open in the front—you create the illusion of vertical. Vertical is good for larger figures!
  • Skirts and dresses. Especially when a woman has ample hips, a skirt or dress is a more modest option than slacks. Consider buying A-line skirts and dresses. You will look nice!
  • Sleeves. Cap sleeves and sleeveless look awful on large people. (I don’t understand why they make big sizes this way!) Look for sleeves in three lengths: just above the elbow (depending on your elbows), ¾ length, and long. I wear ¾ all summer and long for other seasons. You’d be surprised how wearing sleeves slims your look.
  • Layers. You can wear a dressy T-shirt in a color you love under an open shirt, wearing the shirt like a jacket. You can layer the same T-shirt under a real jacket and add a pearl necklace to dress it up. Think “vertical” when you dress. Make sure you wear things that visually slim you.
  • Modest V necklines. A V-neck is better than any other style for the heavier woman. It emphasizes vertical.
  • A seamstress. It’s hard to find dresses that fit well. Find a lady who can alter or make you dresses that fit nicely. A dress gives you that nice vertical line you want. You can also choose your sleeve length and raise the neckline, if needed.

Some general helpful rules:
  • Pray specifically before you go shopping. God will lead you. I know He cares about what you wear. (Tried and proven.)
  • Always, always, always try things on before buying. Always.
  • When you dress at home, use a full-length mirror. Every single day. Look at yourself from every angle you can. Make sure you look modest. (If you don’t have a full-length mirror, buy one.)
  • Remember that darker colors make you look slimmer. If you want to look smaller, wear similar tones top and bottom instead of cutting yourself in half by wearing a light tone on top and dark on bottom. Go for more similar combinations. (If you are pear-shaped, do wear a lighter color on top and darker on the bottom.) This does not mean we all go around in black, navy, and brown! You can pair a cranberry red top with a black skirt or wear a jeans skirt with a cute navy jacket over a bright T. Use your imagination and think “vertical.”
  • Wear cute shoes. Never wear clunky shoes. Make sure your shoes are feminine and pretty. It will improve your whole look.
  • Scale your jewelry to your height and build. If you are very tall, you can wear any jewelry you like, including large pieces. If you are shorter than 5’8” don’t wear huge collars and really large earrings and cuff bracelets. Go for longer earrings and simpler necklaces. Large-busted women should only wear necklaces that end above the bust. All big women probably should steer clear of any short necklace, like a choker. It only divides us, and we want to look “vertical.” Wear scarves straight and hanging, not circled around your neck. Again, vertical.
  • Ask a friend to shop with you. Take your daughter or a girlfriend—someone who will give you an honest, loving assessment of what you’ve tried on. (It’s a great excuse for a ladies’ day out!)

A Christian’s dress has more to do with the heart than the body. When we want to please God first and foremost, it will be reflected in the care we take in choosing our clothes.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves
in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety;
not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
(1Timothy 2:9-10)

(For more posts about fashion and modesty, see the tab at the top of my blog.)


  1. Already been following those rules. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for reading, Helen. God bless!

  2. A camisole or sleeveless short under a V-neck helps keep it modest (although I have to confess when the weather is warmer I get too hot to wear even that much layering.) I've seen little inserts that somehow attach to your bra straps underneath a shirt to provide some modesty across the cleavage, but I haven't tried one.

    Speaking of cleavage, larger women need to know that theirs is probably higher up. I have been startled, when washing my hands in the restroom at church, to realize that even that amount of leaning over showed much more than I intended. Even having ones arms crossed can squeeze things together enough to make it look like your cleavage is higher (forgive my frankness - just sharing my experience. :-) Feel free to delete that sentence if you think it is too much.)

    1. Oh yes, posture makes a difference! We all need to be careful! Thank you for mentioning solutions for lower cut tops. Always a challenge! God bless you, Barbara!


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