Book Review: THE ART OF DRESSING CURVES by Susan Moses
This book is specifically targeted advice for plus-size women, and it feels super relevant.
Worth roughly $21B, the plus-size market is booming with the rise of plus-size runway models and influencers, more inclusize sizing, and even brands focusing exclusively on plus bodies.
The author, Susan Moses, who calls herself a “tall, full-figured woman,” is a well known stylist who has worked with Queen Latifah, Brandy, Britney Spears, and Destiny’s Child. Although she has worked with all body types, she became the “curator of curvy fashion” through her increasing work in the plus-size industry. http://susanmoses.com/
The first thing Susan asks you to do is to be happy with what you see in the mirror, no matter what it looks like.
Next, is figuring out your body shape. The five core shapes, from the most to the least common, are the rectangle, triangle, inverted triangle, oval, and hourglass.
Susan says the first thing she does is asses a client’s body. There are 2 ways to go about doing this. Ideally, you’ll try both.
1. Stand in front of a mirror with under garments on, or tight clothes. Look at your curves. Do you have a defined waist? Which is wider, your hips, shoulders, or neither?
Based on this picture, my hips are slightly narrower than my shoulders/arms, which would make me an inverted triangle. But I have a moderately defined waistline, so I straddle the inverted triangle and hourglass body shapes.
2. Take your measurements and follow this link to do the math and find your shape.
The calculations in the above link let you choose to compare your bust or shoulder circumference to your waist and hip circumference to determine your shape. I did both, and found that I got very different results. I ultimately decided to use my shoulder circumference because when looking straight on in a mirror, the shoulders create a stronger visual shape.
Identifying your body shape is important because the rest of the book gives styling advice based on body shape.
It’s ok if you don’t fit squarely within 1 body shape. If you straddle two shapes, like me, read the advice for both shapes, and follow what you like.
Chapter two is dedicated to shapewear. Susan highly believes in shapewear for the full-figured woman.
I own a few ill-fitting shapewear pieces, but never wear them. I’m in a place in life where I don’t dress up often enough, and most everything seems to stay in place at my current age (knock on wood). But it’s never too early to start researching, since I totally assume I’ll be going to fancy parties later in life, after gravity and time will have had their way with me.
Chapter three covers bras. I found the section on finding your true bra size very helpful. I didn’t know that the difference between the bust measurement and under-bust measurement determines cup size.
For example, if your under-bust circumference is 34 inches, and your bust circumference is 38 inches, you are a D cup because there is a 4 inch difference between the two measurements.
A cup: 1 inch difference between under-bust and bust
B cup: 2 inch difference
C cup: 3 inch difference
Based on these measurements it seems I have the right bra size. Phew. I’m doing one thing right in life. And since it’s estimated that roughly 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, this feels like a big accomplishment for me.
Chapter four goes over Susan’s wardrobe essentials which are fifteen timeless pieces for every body type.
This is a nice idea, and I agree with her on about twelve to thirteen of the fifteen items, but two pieces I wouldn’t waste my time on are the “occasion top” and the “day dress.” These are pieces that definitely don’t fit my style, as I don’t wear anything that makes a strong fashion statement, and barely ever wear dresses or skirts period.
That being said, she offers up great advice on shopping tips and how to fit each specific piece to your specific body shape, which is just the expertise I would expect from a great stylist.
I followed a lot of the advice for the inverted triangle. Susan gave great advice on how to minimize the upper body. A white shirt, was one of her essential wardrobe pieces. But she suggested trying ecru or black if a white shirt makes your upper body appear larger than you’d like. As I’ve never been a fan of white shirts, I was relieved when black was an acceptable replacement.
Also, she mentions paying attention to sleeve length especially if you have a fuller bust. Sleeves that end at the bustline make the boobs look bigger.
I had noticed that sleeves that ended on the widest part of my arm, which is my upper bicep, made me look wider, but I didn’t know why. Now I understand it’s better to have sleeves end on a narrower part of my arm, like just above my elbow, forearm, or wrist.
In chapter five, she goes over styles that were long considered off limits for plus-size bodies, like stripes, wearing all white, and prints. As a minimalist dresser, I didn’t find these topics useful, but I did find the sections on body-conscious dresses, swimwear, and skinny jeans very useful.
I felt an instant connection to Susan when she says “Today, I am a minimalist who favors all black…”
“Wearing well-fitting garments in black allows me to be dressed appropriately for starting my day as early as four in the morning in New York City and ending it in Los Angeles with a client on the red carpet.”
“For work, I wear all black almost all the time because it allows me to visually disappear when a client and I are looking in the mirror together.”
As much as I try to introduce new colors into my wardrobe, I have a really hard time straying from black, and Susan makes me feel like it’s ok.
This book fills in the gaps of what I was missing with The Curated Closet. The Curated Closet is an amazing book that helps you organize a seamless, well-edited closet, but doesn’t mention anything about dressing body types. Anuschka Rees, the author of The Curated Closet, mentions that she is not a fan of the ‘one size fits all’ style solutions. She says rules are ok, but to set them for yourself and don’t let a magazine tell you what to wear based on your body shape or anything else.
Technically, Anuschka Rees is right. You can wear whatever you want and no one can stop you. But I appreciate some guidelines from a seasoned expert like Susan, as a lot of what she has explained based on my body shape are things I was already loosely following, but didn’t know why. I didn’t know why cap sleeves and white shirts made me look so wide and big.
Now I know why, and I know how to prevent it with ease.
This book is focused on styling tricks for plus-sized or full-figured women, but any woman can get good advice out of this book.
The book is called The Art of Dressing Curves, and curves are curves whether they’re big or small.
Comment below and let me know one way you would like to improve your personal style.
Get the book, Kindle, or mobile version at Amazon. Or check with your local library to check out a copy.
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All opinions in this article are solely my own.
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