Saturday, October 13, 2012

Just Who Makes These Rules, Anyway?

It’s really important to me as an advocate of style options for curvy women, that we have as many choices as we need in order to bring our personal style to reality.

Yet if I were to compile a list of all of the "rules" that I have heard for tops for busty women, it would go something like this:

  •     No patterns
  •     No lace
  •     No ruffles
  •     No high necklines
  •     No low necklines
  •     No bright colors
  •     No empire waists
  •     Nothing tight
  •     Nothing clingy
  •     Nothing loose
  •     No spaghetti straps
  •     No bust/neckline detailing

Phew, what an exhausting list. Based on this, it's little wonder that so many busty women feel confused, and turn to basic, solid-colored, v-neck t-shirts as the only shirt option available to them. Now, I love V-neck tees, and I actually think that they can be a nice, flattering, basic style for most women- not just the large-busted. But, I think that if that's all we wear, we're missing out on a lot of opportunity for creativity in our wardrobes. Too many women hide under these styles, and while I think they can be great and have no intent to diss them entirely, I think that a wardrobe full of them can be quite boring. Not to mention that said t-shirt isn't appropriate attire for every single occasion.

Now, obviously, most women don’t follow all of those “rules” exactly, especially seeing as some of them are downright contradictory. But I do see a lot of busty women limiting themselves unnecessarily, and I find that sad.

I’m not actually sure that these tips are even the most flattering! I have actually found that certain types of detailing can be quite nice. While I don’t want an emblem, slogan, or ruffle directly over my chest, I love details like soft cowl necks, draping, ruching, shoulder details and cutouts, any sort of gathering or draping, asymmetrical hems, flowing sleeves, etc. I also don’t see why busty women should have to stick to solid colors- patterns and textures such as lace can be lovely, especially if they cover the whole top and aren’t just focused on the bust area. I have actually found that such detailing is often much *more* flattering on a curvy figure, and it doesn’t scream, “hide me!” Frequently, when you work hard to draw attention away from your bust, you're also drawing attention away from what's right above it- your beautiful face.

I actually feel that compelling women to follow such an extensive list of "rules" is overly restrictive, possibly sexist, and certainly an example of prejudice against big breasts. Lots of women have big boobs, they’re not really such an unusual feature to have, so I don't see why a large chest has to be something that causes "fashion experts" to throw up their hands in despair and tell us to just cover them up in boring solid tee-shirts. Taken to its logical extreme, what they are really suggesting is that our breasts are so shocking, and so mutant, and so inherently, overtly sexual, that we need to draw as little attention to them, and to ourselves, as humanly possible.

In my opinion, a flattering garment doesn’t just hide, or “slim” you. It also has to highlight the parts of yourself that you love, and it has to feel right for your personality and style. If V-neck tees (or whatever you are told you “need” to wear) aren’t your thing, you should feel free not to wear them, and to wear what makes you feel good about your body. I’m not saying to totally abandon flattering your figure, and wear whatever you want even if it’s hideous on you. That is only another method of hiding your body. Flattering your figure involves both celebrating it and working in harmony with it, not hiding it. Dressing big busts needn’t be nearly as restrictive as some people make it out to be. In my experience, I find that as long as my clothes fit well, and show the shape of my waist, I have a lot of freedom in terms of what I can wear well.

Unfortunately, companies that make clothes for busty women tend to assume that we want to follow these rules too strictly, assuming that they are what is most flattering on the busty figure. And the fact that so many women believe it creates a self-reinforcing cycle. But we can still request other styles, and when shopping at “normal” stores look for things that fall outside of these rules, even if you need to get them altered or choose things with a lot of stretch.

My advice? Experiment and decide for yourself what you like. You might be surprised by what works. It is your right to have a personal style. The size of your chest should absolutely not change that.


  1. Love this post! But I have a few things to point out though. Most media, when they talk about "curvy women" are NOT TALKING ABOUT SHAPE- they are talking about the size of the body. This definition has been so twisted that it has evolved into a word that just describes heavier set women. So whether women are apple, pear, ruler, or hourglass-shaped, they are just referred to as "curvy". That's why I can't take advice from magazine columnists seriously because they are so narrow-minded about female body types. Their advice DOES NOT accommodate all women. Like you, I myself am a thin, hourglass-shaped woman. Just wear what makes you feel confident and makes you happy.

    1. Agreed, that is a really useful thing to point out. In this post I am referring mostly to advice for "busty" women- although they could be assuming we're plus-sized there, too! *Sigh*

  2. Yup, that's me. I have the same v-neck tee in a handful of colors. While I like them, they are a bit boring. Every now and then I get the urge to buy nice blouses or something different but of course, the clothes in stores never fit right. If only I could see how all the stuff I find online would fit my body... Thanks for your posts where you try on different clothes. It helps.

  3. Absolutely in agreement with you. I love to wear patterned fabrics, particularly spots and stripes, as long as they fit properly they still look good

  4. Great point Brittany. I spend a lot of time working with design details I've spotted to see if they will translate well to tops for full-busted women. However, with having such a young company with many challenges to handle, I'm adding styles very slowly and starting with classics - I just posted a new shirt in black and French Blue. But I would absolutely love to hear suggestions from other women's wish lists for consideration in the continual process of style development.

  5. You are right. Those lists are crap, because large breasts is only one feature, and choice of most flattering clothes should depend of the shape of a whole body (min). If you have narrow and slender shoulders detailing there could be quite flattering, and if you have very soft facial features sharp V-necks usually looks off, empire waist on apple could look great if fabric is right, and of cause there are flattering patterns for any woman, it's just different patterns for different women.
    And btw even body shape and coloring isn't the whole picture: personality is the most important thing when you are creating personal style.

  6. I have boobs and hips and, when I weigh less, a defined waist. I do love a good v-neck, it's quite flattering. But I find myself wearing a lot of shirts that are fitted because they're much more flattering. I love long tunics that skim the body, and cowled necks. They look GOOD on me, and work well with my broad shoulders. I also will buy ruffled necks so long as it's the right kind of rufflwes. And scoop necks are also great for me -- it has to expose the collar bones.

    The main thing that being busty denies me wearing is backless/cut out back shirts and dresses. I LOVE them, and since I can't go braless I am always a little bitter about it, because a pretty back will sell a dress to me.

    1. Totally with you on back detailing and cutouts! Sometimes you can find something that has a cutout placed just right, such that it still hides your bra.

  7. I am mostly in agreement with you. I definitely don't pay attention to any kind of rules when dressing, especially since I prefer to emphasise my boobs, not minimise them. Regardless of whether a person wants to minimise or emphasise, they can usually wear all of those "incorrect" things in a way that will have the desired effect if they do it properly.

    The only thing I disagree with is this: "I’m not saying to totally abandon flattering your figure, and wear whatever you want even if it’s hideous on you. That is only another method of hiding your body." It's not up to you, me, fashion experts or anyone at all to define what is and isn't ok for another person's body. If a person feels absolutely amazing in clothing that doesn't flatter their figure at all, I would not consider them trying to hide their body unless they told me they were doing that. I will wear clothes that I know aren't flattering on my figure because I want to achieve a certain look or because sometimes I just want to say "I can look spectacular without wearing clothes that work".

    I realise that you were not meaning to say "don't follow those rules, follow mine instead" and that your message is the freedom summed up in your last paragraph, but I thought I'd add it anyway because we do sometimes get caught up in having to always flatter our figure when we don't actually have to if we don't want to.

    1. My point is that you are the final judge of what is "flattering" on your body. I wasn't suggesting what is or is not okay for someone's body, but rather that I'm not telling people that they must wear things they don't feel flattered in. In other words- wear whatever makes you feel good, but don't feel guilty for wanting to feel that your figure is flattered, as well as your style. :-)

    2. Thanks for this Brittany. Could not agree more :) I also get disappointed how 'curvy' is usually equated with larger sizes rather than hourglass figures. I was looking to join a dating agency recently and the only choices for body type were 'Slim', 'Athletic' or 'Curvy'. Didn't want to put myself down as slim or curvy because both descriptions would be a bit misleading. I also run quite a lot (don't get me started on sports bras!) so I suppose I could have gone for 'athletic too!

      I am with Stacy on long tunics and cowl necks. Am right now wearing a lovely dark blue woollen tunic with a scoop cowl neck that is the most flattering piece of clothing I own and has been my staple for the last year. Great over jeans or leggings. Sadly it's now getting a few too many holes to last very much longer :(

      Just an idea - Brittany, would it be possible to add a feature to your blog where your followers can send in pics of themselves in clothes they have found that flatter their shape? Or perhaps a shared Pinterest board or something similar linked to this blog? It could be pictures of ourselves (can crop out identifying features if preferred) or pictures of garments/styles we've seen that we think would work.

      I have found a few styles that flatter me, some of which are on the supposedly 'banned' list for women with larger busts and would be very happy to share. We could always share big bust fashion disasters too so others don't make the same mistakes - I have a few to contribute!

      I really appreciate you sharing your style tips and would love to see and learn from other women too. I am especially unconfident at experimenting with belts and would love to see more ideas and examples. You have a fantastic eye for clothes and details yourself and you also have a treasure trove of ideas and experience in your followers that may be worth tapping into?


    3. That is a fantastic idea, one really sometimes finds something suprisingly well fitting, but without knowing what to look for... I would totally appreciate a gallery of these lucky finds.

  8. omg, that list is perfect! I totally get people telling me what is flattering based on this list. I've been thinking about this a lot as I'm trying to sew clothing for myself that's flattering. Interestingly, if what I've made is fitted, I get people saying it looks sexy. But if I sew something that is less fitted, it looks really fugly on me and I really just don't enjoy wearing it. So, as a busty gal, are my options only to wear v-neck knits? Also a mom of two, I also get judgmental comments about how my dressing sexy is going to affect my kids. I don't want to hide my body inside sweats. I did that. Now I'm much more interested in wearing flattering clothes. Guess I just have to suck it up when I get mean comments about what I wear. thanks for the post.

  9. I think this is an example of a dress that would look unbelievably beautiful on you, Brittany, but doesn't adhere to all the figure rules:

    Patterned, high neckline, bright, tight, clingy, neckline detailing - but I suspect, due to your otherwise delicate bone structure and small waist, perfect. :)

  10. *sigh* I am also driven crazy by people who suggest that busy women should never wear knits, because they're "immodest." But often, knits are the only thing that FIT!

  11. I find it amusing that style "experts" think women with ample chests should adhere to a list of style rules. I mean come on, aren't women with curves way more beautiful than runway models with little boy bodies? I say wear the knits, wear the clingy tops, and let the jealous style "experts" blush with envy :)

  12. I'm really bothered by your comment. I am, of course, somewhat ample-chested myself, but talking about which body shape is "way more beautiful" or referring to less curvy women as having "little boy bodies" and the like is unnecessary and cruel. Blogs like this exist because curvy or large-chested women have been made to feel less-than, and turning right around and doing the same thing to a different body type just perpetuates the same terrible cycle. I can't speak for Brittany, but it really seems to me that your comment was the opposite of what she and this blog stand for.

  13. Hi

    could anyone here tell me what size are these breasts?

    they look like a 28J in my opinion. what do you think?


  14. Dear Brittany,

    I am a newcomer to your blog. I must thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ideas and truths about large breasted women! For years I have struggled with finding bras and clothing that fit well. I have "measured" as 36 DD since age 17. I am now 26. I measured correctly following your guide to discover that my actual size is 30G! No wonder I always fall out of my cups and have side-boob. No wonder the band doesn't lay flat against my sternum. I've been wearing the wrong bras for over a decade!

    For Christmas I am buying my first correct bra from the UK thanks to your recommendations. Finally I know that beautiful bras DO exist for me!! I no longer have to feel like I'm missing out on sexy bras because Victorias Secret doesn't ever fit right.

    Your post here has been another infusion of truth about the world of female body image. Busty women must not be limited in our clothing options as long as we dress tastefully. I absolutely love fashion and I own a varied wardrobe of tops. I'm ready to take my fashion to the next level with the correct bra and some properly fitted tops!

    Thank you again, Brittany! You have gained a new loyal follower.

  15. brittany, what size is your bra? are you a 28H?

  16. I love it! Thx!
    I am physically somewhere between you & "Fuller figure filler bust" and I LOOOVVVEEE this whole online world of empowerment and ideas.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, lessons learned and tips with us.

  17. Been following for a while, but this is the first time making a comment.

    Thanks for putting this out there. I'm just a D cup, probably not nearly as impressive as you; but I am tall, thin, definately curvy, and have been that way for as far back as I can remember. It seems in my area, there are two points of view for how a woman like me should dress. Cover everything up, wear slightly loose clothes, stick to solid colors; or let everything hang out for the world to see, be skin-tight clothes on top of that, and wear all the patterns you want. It's annoying to go shopping for clothes and have someone wanting to play dressup with me, like I'm a doll instead of a human.

    In the end, you're right, it's about what makes you happy.

    I tend to follow a modesty rule, rather than a fashion rule. If I have a low neckline, I try to wear longer trousers or skirts, at least knee length or longer. If my skirt or shorts show most of my legs, I try to keep my neckline as high as possible. My topped tend to be fitted; my bottoms tend to be fitted enough in the waist and hips to stay on my body, but loose around my legs. My personal preference is to have brighter colors and patterns on the top, and darker and solid ones on the bottom.

  18. I think whatever makes you comfortable will be okay.

  19. I have a sleevless top with ruffles down the front and it really pretty and comfortable. I'm a 38D and don't think I stand out more because of the ruffles.

    I think experimenting is great advise. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Unless we try it out, we won't know and may be surprised in the end.

    Great advice, thank you!

  20. My two cents . . . [as a male]

    I think that runway fashion and 'mainstream' women's magazines tend to emphasise a direction that is a more pre-pubescent/ androgynous 'look' which I find disgusting.
    It is just manipulative - by making women dissatisfied so that they can sell more products. It also becomes easier to control people who aren't confident in their own skin.

    As I find more women that actually have curves and are proud to own them, I enjoy looking for pictures of them. :)

    I consider all the haters to be supremely ill-mannered, I believe that you should say that a set of proportions is or isn't to an individual's taste, that way you don't have to damage the woman's self-esteem.


I always love to hear your thoughts! Please remember to be respectful. I may not publish comments that are rude, hateful, personal attacks, racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate. Dissenting opinions are fine, as long as they are respectful. Thanks!