Plus Size Tops

Plus size tops sometimes suffer from the same problems as plus size bottoms and dresses: designers who aren't attuned to the needs of the plus size customer tend to underestimate the desire for style and fashion that fills the hearts of all shoppers, and we aren't willing to settle for bad designs, cheap fabrics or sequins in all the wrong places. For every low cut tank top that looks just awful, there is another whose deep V shape and sexy shape is just right, even for plus size women. Sleeveless or halter tops don't have to be off the menu just because you're over a size 12, but they do have to be thoughtfully designed. On the other hand, most women can't get away with a tube top, no matter what shape they're in. There's
something about the strapless, sleeveless clinging nature of a tube top that makes the wearer inevitably look like a '70s "bimbo". Young teens can sometimes wear them without looking horrible (but never with eye shadow!), but most of us just shouldn't even bother.

When it comes to looking like high fashion or looking like a big mistake, halters can go either way. It depends a lot on the styling: retro, '50's style halters with a wrapped surplice bust can look stylish and fun. Think the summertime clothes of Marilyn Monroe, and you'll have the right image. Halters should definitely be constructed with support: a cheap halter somehow looks worse than even a ratty old t-shirt, which at least has the integrity of providing adequate coverage even if it is covered with paint.

There's no reason for the shapeless bags that pass for clothing in ordinary clothing stores, except for a lack of care about the expectations of plus size customers. Shopping at stores known for their emphasis on plus size clothes is a step in the right direction, because the buyers for plus size stores know that plus size clothing can and should be good looking. Shirts need to be given shape, and sweaters need to be fashioned so that long sleeves hang correctly from the shoulder and the waist is low enough to fit properly.

Cashmere is one of the fabrics that are classic and trendy at the same time. The vintage, short sleeve cashmere sweater of the '50s and '60s has been largely replaced by longer sleeves and crew and turtlenecks. Recent changes in cashmere sweaters include the cashmere tipped polo shirt (Lands End, and very cute), and cashmere cardigans, and even tee shirts. Silk, cotton and Lycra are often blended into cashmere, resulting in a more lasting fit and often lower prices. Every woman has a few items of clothing that she cherished through the years. One of the prettiest cashmere and silk confections this writer recalls from earlier, vintage

shopping days, was a sleeveless, ice-blue shell, beaded with tiny, iridescent bugle beads, on a background of thick cashmere lined in heavy silk. Truly a special occasion top, it was too heavy to be stored on a hanger: it had to be folded carefully with tissue paper in a cedar-lined drawer. It was worn at the occasional party (or hot date) until it faded into clothing history. But they're still out there: look in vintage stores for these beautiful and lasting tops.

One of the sexiest trends of recent years, the daytime corset has made its reappearance in outerwear instead of underwear. Not a true corset (most women won't put up with whalebone stays and tight lacing anymore), the camisole style top is usually fitted with pintucks, ornamented with lace and ribbon, and held up with tiny spaghetti straps. It should have laces that pull the two halves of the top together. Look in plus size clothing stores online and in catalogs for these pretty summertime tops, often low cut, which are perfect for wearing with skirts, jeans or under cardigan sweaters in the evening. For the supreme in mixed messages, pair your corset top with a pair of sweat pants.

For days or evenings when your goal is glamour without fuss, an elegant tunic over pants or a skirt makes a fashion statement while covering you from shoulder to knee. Tunics are tricky: there are some gorgeous ones out there (check out Ulla Popken). There are some monstrosities out there, too. The trick is to get a tunic whose flowing lines are flowing in the right direction. If you want to show a little skin, look for a deep v neckline or a slit up the side. Avoid tunics with wild sequins and lots of beading, big flowers and dark colors meant to make you disappear. Look for tunics in silk, satin or linen, and pale, gem-like colors. Add lots of color coordinated jewelry, and if you're feeling bold, wear the tunic as a dress with kitten heels and sexy hosiery.

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