ONCE, LARGE women dressed to be unobtrusive.
Happily, things have changed. Large women call themselve"fully fabulous" these days. The plus-sized woman wants you to notice her. She wears bright colors, sensuous fabrics, and loads of eye-catching accessories.
"Our hang-up is we shop for clothes to look thinner, and this blinds us to beautiful new colors to try, beautiful new proportions. The way you dress denotes power and personality," says Liz Dillon, spokeswoman for the Plus Designers Council, representing high quality fashions available in sizes 14 and up.
"Think of yourself as a canvas for accessories," says Dillon. "When you buy a blouse and a skirt, you just have a blouse and a skirt. When you put a beautiful paisley shawl with it, you have an outfit."
Dillon was in town over the weekend to present her "Fully Fabulous" seminar on dressing for plus-sized women at Chezelle, a specialty store for sizes 14 and up in Cross Keys. Dillon says that the top accessories this season are big and bold designs that flatter big women. Dramatic, sweeping shawls come in paisley, plaid and cable-knit designs. Belts come in fine leathers with dramatic, big buckles. Jewelry is big and bold, ranging from hand-crafted looks to Chanel-inspired classics.
"Many large-size manufacturers have gone into the market, especially for belts," says Dillon.
"I have a trick for a double belt look where I take two belts, join them together and drop the belt below the waist," says Dillon. "It gives me a longer look with a tunic, and can conceal a non-existent waist."
It's a good rule in general to keep accessories from hitting anhighlighting your body at its fullest areas.
"If you have a full bosom, make sure your necklace doesn't hit right on the breast plate," says Dillon. "Wear a 30-inch or longer necklace. To do Chanel chains, buy two necklaces and hook them together so they fall wherever you want."
The biggest jewelry crime, Dillon says, is wearing a short, boring necklace.
"Women wear a necklace that just lies there and is not big enough to make a statement," says Dillon. It's also a mistake to wear tiny earrings instead of bold ones. Large women will look great wearing big pins, and cuff bracelets and necklaces with a lavish feeling.
Softer than jewelry, but just as dramatic, is tossing a shawl oscarf over your shoulder. "You could be wearing mustard and bTC gold this fall, which for some of us are not the best colors," says Dillon. "A shawl can bring another color such as teal up near your face to bring a whole new dimension of color to your face."
Shawls should not be wrapped grandmother-style around the torso, but should hang in a chic, asymmetric fashion to keep the eye moving."
Body shape is also subtlely altered by wearing shoulder padswhich balance out shoulders with hips.
"I don't walk the dog without my shoulder pads," says Dillon. "Shoulder pads should be as much a part of large-sizes woman's bag of tricks as lipstick. It's a cosmetic."
If you buy an outfit with unwieldy shoulder pads that slip around, Dillon recommends removing them and inserting better ones. Shoulder pads can also be attached to bras and camisoles for the most comfortable, non-slip appearance.
Hosiery and shoes are the finishing touches for a successfully accessorized look. Larger women may have wider or longer feet, so shoes that fit usually sell fast at the beginning of the season. Plus sized women should feel free to indulge in thigh-high boots, ankle-length boots and pumps with the new, clunkier heel. Many top shoe and boot designers do have wider widths available, so check with stores about special-ordering shoes or shoe trunk shows. Catalogs are another source for hard-to-find sizes.
"It is very important to coordinate hosiery to hem and shoes for a continuous monotone look," says Dillon. "Large women can wear shorter skirts with the new opaque leg. Think of tights as an extension of your outfit, definitely as important as whatever you are wearing. There are new colors such as olive and gold -- plus-sized woman can wear all of these."
Socks too, are a fun outlet for pattern and color.
"The most forgotten two inches of the body are between the bottom of the pant and the beginning of the shoe," says Dillon. "That sock can show personality, can show you don't leave anything for granted, that tip to toe you are a woman of style."