Reader A wrote in:

Hi! Love your comments on Corporette and was going to post there but why not just go directly to the expert?! I am a plus-size apple shape. I wear right around a 14W-16W. I am completely uninspired but am interested in finding some affordable work options. I work in a business not-casual-but-not-a-suit-everyday kind of office. I often wear cardigans with blouses and skirts or slacks. As for style, I'm probably more Talbots than Coldwater Creek, more button down than loose and flowy. Do separates look better on apple shapes than dresses? What should I avoid? Any advice you can give or specific recommendations of affordable clothing would be very appreciated. Thank you, TCFKAG!

So this is a very timely question, since we were talking about body shape, natural waist definition, and generally dressing for your shape today or yesterday at Corporette.  So I'm excited to address your question.  So - my absolute favorite website out there for "how to dress your body shape" is Inside Out Style - she has addressed TONS of body shape issues way better than I can (probably) and in far greater detail.  Seriously, check it out everyone.  Reader A, if I had to guess, I would bet that you are what Imogen calls an "O Shape" - someone who carries their weight through their mid-section.  Rather than recreate the wheel - I am going to copy and paste her suggestions for O-shapes here:

How to dress your O shape body (see also this page):
  • You will find tops that drape past your body really make a difference.  Anything that clings won’t flatter.
  • If you feel you need to put a horizontal line on your body, make sure it’s in the empire position (just underneath your bust) rather than at your waist.  If the fabric is at all stiff make sure there are no gathers under the bust as you will get asked about when the baby is due.
  • Layering is your friend, a dark top underneath a lighter (than the top) jacket or cardigan will help make your stomach disappear.
  • Use that column of colour to create the longest vertical line you can.
  • Create focal points around your face, rather than through your mid-section
  • Keep patterns dense, but larger scale.
  • Ruching is your friend.  Ruching in a top can help to hide a myriad of secrets.
  • Tunics can work really well with skinny jeans on your body shape, especially if you have great legs.  Tuck your skinny jeans into knee high boots to balance your upper body.
  • Patterns (especially when dense and low negative space) can help to keep the eye moving and not draw attention to your body.
  • Look for fabrics that don’t have too much bulk, but also those that skim, without clinging, too much lycra in a garment won’t be flattering.
  • Single breasted jackets are best for you.  A wider collar can help draw attention up and out.
  • Avoid cropped jackets, you will find jackets that fall no shorter than the hip bone flatter most.  3/4 length can really work.
  • Jackets are great for hiding lumps and bumps, make sure the fabric is not to stiff, that they are fitted, but not too tight.
  • You may find that straighter shaped skirts work well for you, falling from your hips and creating a longer line.  Trumpet skirts that flare from the knee can also work.
  • Avoid skirts with gathering at the waist, tiered skirts and stiff a-line skirts
  • Dresses with a knot just under the bust are a great shape for you.
  • Alternatively, try a faux wrap dress that doesn’t have any seaming or ties around the waist
  • Darker denims, softer denims with some stretch will work better for you than light and stiff denims.
  • Avoid too much distressing on denim, keep it simple and clean looking.
  • Have your pants hemmed as long as possible to create the longest, leanest line.
  • Trouser shape jeans are great, bootcuts also work.
  • Want to wear a belt? Check out these tips.
The keys seem to be shirts and dresses that drape nicely across the middle but cinch at the empire waist.  Trousers that are straight legged will be best.  Avoid bringing attention to the stomach area (AMEN SISTAH).  Jackets, structured sweaters, and other items that create structure over the draped shirts.  Working with these parameters, here are some ideas - both in the separates world and the dress world (I might even throw in a couple trousers.)
Suzi Chin for Maggy Boutique Jersey Faux Wrap Dress at Nordstroms ($188) - I know its pricey, but I think this could become a real wardrobe stable.  See this awesome version in polka dot too!
Gingham wrap shirt at Talbots ($79.50 - available in other colors) - I think it would look nice under a suit jacket.
JM Collection Sleeveless Sheath ($46.99 - several colors) - belted at the empire waist, I think it would work.
Maggy London London Times Short Sleeved Textured Sheath Dress ($98 - only in 14W) - I really like that this hits right at the empire waist, has sleeves, and creates a shape without being too clingy.  Plus this color could be lovely for spring/summer.
Sejour Ela Pencil Skirt at Nordstroms ($68) - meets the "straight skirt" recommended by Imogen.
Charter Club Short Sleeve Cross Front Top ($24.99 - lots of colors) - nice shape - good under jackets.
Adrianna Papell Jersey Fit and Flare Dress at Nordstroms ($93.80) - I like the color and the way it brings attention up to the bodice.  Plus the color is pretty.
Signature Wide Leg Linen Trouser at Talbot ($109) - nice straight leg and no pockets emphasizing the middle areas.
Evans Single Button Blazer at Nordstroms ($69.50) - just in case you need a black blazer, I like this basic one.
So!  I hope this inspires you and gives you some ideas.  Write back in and let me know if you like any of these.  And definitely check out Inside Out Style's blog - she has amazing advice.  Have fun revamping your wardrobe...I know you will.  :-)
5/8/2013 13:23:35

Reader A, I am a similar size and shape, and I just want to say that TCFKAG's advice is spot on! I thought I would have something to add, but I think she covered everything I would say. I just want to say that I think we have a really tough body shape to dress - I am also petite for extra challenge - but after years of trial and error I have a wardrobe that makes me happy most of the time, so it can be done. Oh, and I know you didn't ask about non-workwear, but I will just say that for casual and dressy dresses, I have made the high-ish-waisted fit and flare dress my best friend.

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Reader A
5/9/2013 07:34:52

Thank you TCFKAG and JennyDictatrix. I've been feeling so *blah* and knowing I need to purchase some go-to some things I love. Confidence in clothing and appearance really matters and somewhere, I think I've lost it. What great choices. I think this advice about creating a long column in so interesting. I typically do white blouses, black/gray/color cardigan with slacks, but this is sort of the opposite isn't it? Adding black or dark color underneath and then a cardigan or blazer that is a different color.

I really like some of these suggestions and clicked through a couple of the links to the tops. The dresses - LOVE!

Thank you so much!

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