Tricks for Dressing Your Apple Figure

Tips for dressing an apple-shaped figure

Images courtesy Nordstrom

Several years ago, Sally responded to a Reader Request asking for help dressing an apple figure: Help for the apple-shaped people out there! What do we do with big boobs, big waist, big butt, and relatively bird-like limbs? I’ve been dying to write a follow up and share my own tips and experiences ever since.

Like many women, I have multiple goals in mind when I get dressed: is this flattering? (For me, flattering means emphasizing and creating a silhouette that I feel comfortable in.) Is this comfortable for the occasion? Am I projecting the image that I want to on this day? Is this clothing representative of who I am or a side of myself?

When I want to create a flattering silhouette, I try to create a feminine shape. I prefer to draw attention to my favorite parts of my figure (my lean limbs, slim shoulders, and décolletage), while drawing the attention away from my stomach’s girth. Sometimes that means drawing attention TO my waist, as I try to trick the illusion of it being smaller than it is.

Favorite Tips, Tricks, Cuts & Styles for Apple Figures:

As a disclaimer: unlike many Apples, I am smaller in the breasts and hips while most of my weight hits the middle of my body.  From the front, I do have a “figure,” though from the side? Not so much.  Some of these tips may need adjustment if you’re bustier or hippier than I am.

  • 1940s and 1950s silhouettes: 1940s dresses and tops are characterized by defined waists that rested at the natural waist; structure at the shoulders; skirts were knee length (or close to). Because fabric was rationed in the 40s due to WWII, skirt and sleeve lengths were shortened. This is great for apple figures who have limbs they want to show off! 1950s styles continue with a defined waist and often have very slim or very full skirts. As a result, I’m more careful about the 1950s styles, but find many flattering as well. (Favorite picks: Frenchie Dress; Annette Bow Dress; 1940s dress– I literally have 5-6 of these!)  Because fashions recycle, a lot of 1980s pieces will have similar cuts to the 1940s.
  • Skinny or ‘Slim Bootcut’ Jeans: I live in jeans, so it’s hard not to include them. While I often worry that skinny jeans can draw attention to my round belly, they’re a fantastic way to show off slender legs. Another option, while hard to find, can be “slim bootcut” jeans. These are cut with a more narrow bootcut opening, and as someone with short legs, I feel are less overwhelming. Two inexpensive options that fit great are Target’s Denizen from Levis and the Old Navy Rockstar in Demi-Boot.
  • A Touch of Elastic or Stretch: As I mentioned above, I love to buy fabrics with a bit of stretch. Alternately, more and more dresses, skirts, and tops are being created with elastic in the waist. You can even buy beautiful, slim cut jeans with elastic waists! It’s insane. It has also taken me awhile to get over the mentality and biases against elastic waists. (They’re for old ladies! They’re only in over-sized cotton pants!) But doing so has helped me find items that fit better. They’re also great for extending the life of your wardrobe if you’re losing weight, gaining weight, or pregnant.  (Examples: my mustard dress above; this Midi Dress, Lace Skater Dress, or Skater Dress with Twist Neck. All are on my wishlist!)
  • Belt It! I’ve only recently added belts to my closet, but what a world of improvement they make. Over cardigans with pants or dresses. To break up overwhelming print, or add shape to otherwise shapeless dresses. I tend to favor wide stretchy ones at my waist, but have found that a slim skinny belt can help add just a touch of shape and definition to an otherwise boxy dress or cover up that pesky elastic waist!
  • Pair volume with slimness or alter with accessories Sometimes I want to experiment with style. I may find an amazing drop waist dress or trapeze dress. This over-sized striped top may really strike my fancy and style, but  I know these pieces aren’t “flattering” for my figure. Wearing a trapeze dress with bear legs may get me a lot of pregnant comments. Pairing it with studded leggings or patterned skinny jeans makes the style more intentional. Adding a belt can accentuate that there is a figure underneath.

_ _ _

Call her Ash, Ashe, or Ashley– she doesn’t mind! Already Pretty contributor Ashley began blogging in 2007 about fashion and style to fill a void in her life while living in the wintery tundra of Indiana. Her blog Dramatis Personae focuses on food, life & style.  Ashley’s love of fashion began at 10, when she bought her first issue of Seventeen magazine; this also began a life long battle with learning to love her body (she never looked like the girls who graced those pages). As a plus-sized woman, she loves promoting fashion for all women and shops that want to make all ladies feel beautiful.  She currently calls New Orleans home and share her little house with a wonderful fiance and two brilliant and playful Maine Coons kitties.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for Ash in Fashion. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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17 Responses to “Tricks for Dressing Your Apple Figure”

    • Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

      Thank you, Patti!
      And I’m a huge fan of the 1940s silhouette… everyone’s got their favorites, but damn! Men and women looked so good in that period.

  1. meg

    As a fellow apple, I would say one thing – the skinny jeans that you think look great on your small limbs also make your larger parts look larger in comparison. I work in fashion and used to live in tight tight skinny jeans until I realized that a slightly looser ankle (not even that loose – I find the Gap Always Skinnies are a nice in between skinny and straight leg) is way nice in proportion to the rest of my body, even if it makes my legs look slightly bigger. In the same way, (not skin tight – white jeans shouldn’t be skin tight unless you’re in a hair metal video) white jeans can really work well because they make you look bigger in the bottom and then the rest of you looks smaller in comparison.

    • Ashe

      Meg– I definitely agree by both counts! I actually have a love/hate relationship with skinny jeans, but my default tends to fall towards straight leg or a slim bootcut for every day wear. I have a couple of skinny jeans I’ve purchased in “Tall” because they go to my ankle, but also tend to have a little bit of “looseness” around the bottom of the leg instead of hugging them…

      So you make a super great point that I should have clarified more of! I love them when deliberate against another “faux pas” piece (like a trapeze shirt), but definitely wear them carefully otherwise.

      Love the hint about white jeans– they’ve always terrified me, but I’ll have to reconsider them now!

  2. Grace

    I agree with meg, above, about truly “skinny” jeans– then again, I’m a plus size gal– true “skinnies” make ,me look like an ice cream cone.
    On the other hand, Boot-cut jeans gor bigger gals often have ridiculous amounts of fabric at the ankle. I feel like I am wearinbg palazzos. The last thing I want to do is actually “balance” the hips I have! 🙂
    I like straight leg jeans, though I will say, even those look like flares on me sometimes because my calves and ankles are small.
    So, I often peg my own jeans, no matter what style I purchased. I figure out how wide I want the ankle to be, then cut a big trianle up to the inseam, and sew it back together. Voila.

    • Ashe

      Great tip about pegging your own jeans, Meg!

      I wear skinnies often, but sometimes buy tall (like recently) so that the ankles are a bit looser without quite having the fit of straight. Like you, I also feel like regular bootcut just SWIM around my legs… it feels like I’m wearing flares! It’s why I love the demi-bootcut or slim-bootcut. I just wish they were easier to find, especially in plus-sizes.

  3. clara

    I love your tips, especially belts , yeees , are incredible accesories for your closet, are helpful.I also like straight leg jeans, very much …

    • Ashe

      I’ll admit, belts are only recent additions to my closet (in the greater span of my life). But I’ve quickly thought, “How have I lived without you?”

  4. Gracey at Fashion for Giants

    Great tips, Ashe. I have the opposite problem with my figure. From the front I have no shape, but from the side, I have more so. But, that means that belting also works really well for me.

    • Ashe

      It’s amazing how versatile a little strip of leather (or plastic or fabric) can be!

  5. Frenchie

    Is it just me? I don’t think you’re an apple shape. I see you as very well-proportioned with no “exaggerated” parts. You and I have similar builds–curvy, broad, tall (?), but definitely well-proportioned! You look great!

    • Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

      You’re too sweet, Frenchie! Thank you!

      I’m lucky that from the front, I do look more shapely. But when you see me from the side, I’ve very much got a “chicken” shape where all the weight is in my belly. If I were to go bra-less, my stomach would look bigger than my bust! It’s led to tons of “when are you due? Are you excited for the baby?” comments over the years…

      (And you got me on tall–5’7– not too tall, but more so than average.)

  6. AnnR

    Although I’m a Pear I’ve got plenty of Apple friends, we fruits stick together, and I agree that belting is flattering. While you may not be belting a “small” waist, the visual cue adds shape. Belts are not just for skinny gals!

    • Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

      They definitely aren’t, Ann! I think that’s a stigma a lot of women can fall into– that certain items are just for slimmer ladies, when a belt can be a great accessory at any size. I think that hard part is just finding the right style and fit!