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Flatter Your Figure --- Preppy & Proportionate in Pastel Plaid

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Plaid NEVER goes out of style, and has been particularly popular since last fall. As the weather gets warmer, plaid patterns are coming out in lighter colors, which probably discourage body-conscious ladies who only feel secure in dark hues. You may not know pastel plaid actually can flatter your figure. I'll show you how.

Above are my three examples for three age groups: teens, 20-somethings, and 30 plus. Although the first two photos were taken in the past, they are applicable today because certain classic styles are forever chic. Look at the current ad below. Isn't this pink plaid miniskirt almost identical to the one in my teen photo?


Pleated plaid miniskirts stay on trend every year. That means they've been around in everyone's teen years. Looking back, I still consider it a regret that I missed out on them from age 13 to 15, when excessive puberty weight gain made my thighs too fat to pull off any kind of miniskirt. While I didn't really mind wearing a longer skirt, I terribly envied those skinny girls in pleated plaid miniskirts --- I just loved and coveted that schoolgirl look! So, as soon as I lost 20 pounds at age 16, I immediately bought a few pleated plaid miniskirts with matching shirts and had studio photos of me in them taken. This is one of those photos.

See the bias-cut plaid around the upper hip area of the skirt? Bias-cut plaid patterns are more slimming than straight ones, as explained in a post I published last fall:

Unfortunately, most plaid patterns are straight-cut, and those in light colors can optically expand your body parts, but there are ways to turn them from fattening into flattering. When it comes to plaid skirts and dresses, you just need to avoid showing straight-cut plaid around your waist and upper hips.

See, the black top covers the upper hips of the skater skirt, eliminating the magnifying effect of the multicolored straight-cut plaid. In the meantime, because the skirt doesn't cling to the lower hips, the pastel plaid around there won't enlarge them. It just optically widens the skirt, making the waist look thinner by contrast.

Actually, when I got this skirt in 2003, I hadn't learned how to dress thin yet. I paired it with a belted top only to cover its low waist, because I didn't want to bare my midriff. Now, this season's skater skirts are all mid-waist, so I would tuck my shirt into a solid-colored one, and a bias-cut plaid one, too, but I'll definitely match a straight-cut plaid one with a belted top as I did before.

Here's a cute straight-cut plaid skater skirt you may like. Even though the plaid slants a little to the sides, it stays straight for the most part. If you have proportionally wide hips, remember to let a belted top cover its waist and upper hip area!



Compared with schoolgirl-ish pleated plaid miniskirts, plaid skater skirts still look youthful but a little more grown-up, therefore very suitable for 20-somethings. Actually, they may work for those of us who are or still look 30-something, too, but a plaid sheath would look more sophisticated.

The sheath shape keeps the preppy appeal of the plaid but adds on a professional aura. This one is a bit short for the workplace though. It should be OK on a casual Friday, but for the other weekdays, you probably need to pick something a little longer for your office.

Below is a knee-length plaid sheath you can definitely wear to work any day of the week. Better yet, it's got a slenderizing bias-cut plaid pattern.


Unlike bias-cut plaid, straight-cut plaid will exaggerate the body parts they cling to. That means you can have it closely fit your bust for you to look more bosomy, but the rest of it should hang somewhat loose. Belt it if you have proportionally wide hips as I do.

The same rules apply to straight-cut plaid shirts. I once made a mistake by getting a straight-cut plaid shirt in a form-fitting silhouette. Then I felt terrible about the way it optically enlarged my rib cage.

Fortunately, I figured out a way to solve the problem. I used a super wide belt to cover the plaid on most of the rib cage area. That drastically improved the look of the shirt, so I wore it with the belt and a denim skirt during my honeymoon in Venice, Italy five years ago.

You can select a three-inch wide belt for your plaid shirt, too. Below is one with four color options for your consideration.


Another way is to put a dark-colored tank top or sweatshirt over your pastel plaid shirt, so your torso will be in the slimming black or navy while the collar and sleeves will present the pretty plaid pattern of the shirt.

My pink plaid shirt and black tank top are actually one piece. So are the navy blue sweatshirt and peach plaid shirt advertised below. Such a combo is convenient.

Let's move on to pastel plaid pants and jeans.

The tartan plaid jeans in the ad above look great, but they are only meant for super skinny women or those with narrow hips and small bottoms. As pointed out earlier, straight-cut plaid will optically magnify the body parts it clings to. Since these plaid jeans tightly fit the hips and thighs, those of us with proportionally large hips must stay away from them.

If you are curvy, but you really like plaid jeans, you can give the bias-cut plaid jeans in the ad below a try.

These are hip friendly boot-cut jeans. With their slimming bias-cut plaid, they should be pretty safe for wide-hipped women, though I can't guarantee the results because I've never tried them on.

I would feel more confident about pastel plaid on a pair of palazzo pants, which are even less clingy than boot-cut jeans. Speaking of palazzo pants, they are probably the most misunderstood clothing item. Many women think they are hip unfriendly without ever trying them on. Since palazzo pants are on trend this season, I'll talk about how figure-flattering they can be in my next post. See you next week!


About the Blog

Flatter Your Figure is a weekly blog on about how to make the latest fashion work for real women of different body types. It presents a new post every Wednesday or Thursday. 


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