If you’re like us, you’ve likely become obsessed with AMC’s brand new show Dietland based on Sarai Walker’s best-selling novel of the same name. The series tells the story of Plum Kettle (played by actress Joy Nash), who is the ghostwriter of the editor to one of New York’s hottest fashion magazines. On the show, Plum, a visibly plus-size woman, is always looking fierce, fabulous, and trendy. This is in large part to Katie Riley, costume designer and fashion impresario.
Here, Riley, who lives and works in New York, debunks the biggest myths about plus-size fashion and how women of all shapes and sizes should feel empowered to dress how they want. (Photo via Erik Madigan Heck/AMC)
Myth 1: Stick to dark colors
Riley thinks that this myth couldn’t be further from the truth. If you love a color, just go for it, and embrace shades that complement your skin tone rather than your waistline. Another tip? “If monochromatic [brights] feel overwhelming, try mixing in neutrals or a contrasting tone in accessories,” she says. Add in shades like black and navy to metallics and animal prints to make highly pigmented hues feel less intimidating.
Myth 2: Don’t mix prints and patterns
One of Riley’s favorite styling tricks is pattern mixing, and she recommends it to every one of her clients. “It’s a playful and sophisticated way to work with your clothes,” she adds, noting that if you’ve been looking for ways to add interest to your wardrobe, this is it. She suggests unconventional pattern pairings, like florals or stripes paired with plaid. “It’s really all about what makes you feel confident and strong,” according to Riley.
Myth 3: Miniskirts aren’t for everyone
Who has time for such lies?! “This is so not true — it’s about finding the right mini for you,” Riley says. The silhouette of your itty bitty mini is just as important as the length. One thing that she suggests is trying on different shapes of short skirts (who knew?). How the cut lays on your curves will determine what cropped style is best for you.
Myth 4: Keep accessories quiet
Riley knows the power of statement accessories to punch up a simple outfit (like a T-shirt and jeans). Don’t be afraid to sidestep safe choices and dare to stand out with a bold bag or a head-turning bright necklace. “It can transform a look and really dress it up!” the costume designer, who also worked on Mozart in the Jungle, explains.
Myth 5: Light colors make you look bigger
According to Riley, “It’s not about the value of the hue, it’s about the fit and how you feel in the pieces.” People will sense if you are unsure or self-conscious in your clothes. Covering up or constantly tugging is a telltale sign that you’re second-guessing your choice. But, in the end, balance is key. Lighter colors don’t automatically translate to an unflattering outfit, but lack of proportion will. Riley, who also worked on MTV’s Finding Carter, suggests for those who might find an all-white ensemble daunting is to try pairing a white T-shirt or a light-colored blouse with a dark denim bottom.
Myth 6: It’s hard to shop for plus-size fashions
Listen up: we all know that it can be difficult to find clothes that are fashionable, functional, and flattering. But we’re introduced to new brands, new designers, and new looks every single day — trust and believe that there are options out there that fit your needs.
Riley notes that the fashion market is finally starting to understand that every woman has the right to look and feel amazing in her clothing. Brands like Universal Standard, Eloquii, and Premme are just a few of the names redefining plus-size shopping. High-end designers, however, are just starting to see the potential in this demographic. Online retailer 11 Honoré launched last year to address this very void in the market and has since partnered with body-positive labels ranging from Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano (both longtime supporters of inclusive sizing) to TOME and Jonathan Simkhai.
Myth 7: Oversized clothing makes you look smaller
Well-tailored clothing is the way to go — no matter if you’re a size 0 or a size 32. Oversized items can add unwanted bulk, but mostly they can hide your natural curves and mistakenly add volume to your frame. Riley tells us that folks should pay attention to where seams fall on their body and not be afraid to visit a tailor. If a seam is off-center, warped, or stretched, it’s time to revisit your fashion choice. “I am a big believer in finding a good tailor. Sometimes a small adjustment can make a big difference,” Riley adds.
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