Reader Mirjam sent me this request via e-mail:
I was wondering if you might consider doing a blog post on clothes that look good on the well-rounded of us when sitting down? I have many gorgeous outfits that look super cute and fit comfortably when standing, but as soon as I sit down all that fat shifts and bulges and nothing looks nice any more. I am sure you must have come across that problems with clients at some point or other? I would love to read something about that!
Indulge me for a moment and read this passage from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice*:
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. — I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.”
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their chusing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? she was dying to know what could be his meaning” — and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?
“Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.”
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in any thing, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
“I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either chuse this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; — if the first, I should be completely in your way; — and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”
Even Mr. Darcy knows that bodies look better standing than seated. Doesn’t matter how tight and flat your abs are, how little or much you weigh, or how you’re shaped. Sit down, stuff shifts, clothes pull a bit, and you look slightly less put-together than you did just a moment ago standing up.
Additionally, a lot depends on your unique figure and how it shifts when you’re seated, so it’s a little tough to generalize. For instance, I tend to pooch out in the lower belly area and – having recently viewed some photos where I was hunched over a table – the upper back/bra strap area. Other folks may have other body areas that make them self-conscious when sitting.
So, with all that stacked against me, I have two meager bits of advice:
A slinky knit will reveal more of a seated body than a lined blazer. Drapey rayon will show more lumps and bumps than thick ponte. I wouldn’t advise going oversized, since clothing drapes differently when you’re seated and you might just add volume. And I wouldn’t advise going super-thick, as truly chunky knits may also add bulk. But lined garments, fabrics with some stiffness to them, and structured designs will generally hold their shape a bit when you sit down, and stand slightly away from your body without making it appear bigger or different than it is.
For those worried about tummy bulges, a flowing scarf will generally cover and distract. If back bumps worry you, wear your long hair down or go for a busy printed top instead of a simple solid. I once read in a Trinny and Susannah book that one of them (Susannah, I think) always places her handbag in her lap when seated to distract from any bulges. (I do that a lot, too, but mainly because I have recurring nightmares in which I’ve misplaced my bag.) If changing up your actual garments won’t do the trick, try a few styling switches or clever accessories to help out.
I’d also add that when you try on clothing for potential purchase, make sure to sit down in it and look at yourself in the mirror. Even tops and jackets. This will give you and idea of pulling and gaping that might cause you stress later on.
And that’s it. Because my main advice would be that old chestnut, “try not to worry about it.” Easier said than done, I know, but since we all look a little like melted humans when we’re scrunched into chairs and couches, at least we’re in this together.
Image courtesy Garry Knight.
*I tried to find a YouTube clip of the beloved BBC miniseries showing this scene, but failed. Bah.
Originally posted 2013-05-02 06:28:17.