Dear Kathi,

I am in an office most of the time, as I work on a college campus in New Hampshire. Without air-conditioning in a lot of the buildings, it can be brutally hot in the summer, as well as very cold in the winter. The “clients” I see might be vendors, co-workers, or students.

As a 50-year-old hourglass-shaped plus size, I stick pretty close to slacks or an occasional skirt, shirts or knit tops, sweaters, jackets (I wear a lot of light-weight sweater sets), simple jewelry, and comfortable shoes, like sandals, or loafers.

At church I play organ. I wear slacks or a skirt with a jacket, or a dress, often with scarves and jewelry. Shoes are a little dressier-usually pumps that I can kick off. I would like to upgrade my wardrobe and am looking for specific advice about what I can wear.

Linda > Dartmouth


As an hourglass plus size, be careful what you wear on your feet. Avoid clunky shoes. “Clunky” means fat heels with a lot of coverage on the top of your foot. Try to choose shoes that have a low profile and are very streamlined. Choose pumps that are cut low in the front of your foot and if possible cut low on the side to show off your arch. A kitten heel is the best choice because, again, it is petite in size, not bulky or chunky.

For sandals, wear thin straps, nothing bulky. Loafers are a good stand-by if they are not heavy. Again, go for the low profile, streamlined, and feminine. No chunky, clunky heels.

It sounds like the layering effect is good for you. The matching sweater set combo has the hazard of looking schoolmarmish, however. You might be better served with the modern day equivalent of layering two unique sweaters on top of each other: a sleeveless shell under a 3/4 sleeve lightweight sweater. You can even wear a blazer over both of these as the weather turns cooler.

Remember to keep your blouses fitted, but not tight, to emphasize your figure. A fitted blouse gives the impression of a smaller waistline. Wear a suit coat or blazer over the fitted shirt to hide any bulges that might be obvious when you sit down.

If you are going to wear a skirt, a good overall length for most shapes is a hemline that falls at the skinny part of the knee. Avoid skirts that are exceptionally long. Long, flowy skirts should only be worn if the top half of the silhouette has some sort of fitted shape. The paper sack effect results from wearing loose over loose, and long. If the skirt has to be long, I would prefer to see a flowy top over a long fitted skirt. Better yet, a knee length skirt is the safest alternative for every top.

Make sure to balance your top half with your bottom half. In other words, if you have a large bustline, make sure to avoid narrow, straight, or peg leg slacks, choosing a boot cut or flare leg instead. If you have a large derrière, make sure your jackets and blouses fall just below the largest part of your bottom.

Vertical lines add slimness to your silhouette. They can be found in seaming and cut, as well as in fabric pattern. Emphasize your best asset. If it is your eyes, wear clothing colors that highlight your eye color. If it is your small waist, make sure to wear blouses that are trim at the waist. If it is your face, play with earrings and scarves tied at the neckline to bring the attention to that area.
Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to write with any other specific questions.

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San Diego Professional Organizer