By Geoffrey Henning, vice president of women’s design and fashion at JCPenney
Recently, I’ve witnessed a shift within the plus-size woman. She’s no longer hiding her shape behind a tunic or boxy top. She is embracing everything about herself and proudly showing it off. She feels good about her body and wants her style to reflect her mindset and highlight her best attributes.
Assets to Highlight
There are two assets that should definitely be emphasized when it comes to plus-size styling, the waist and cleavage.
The importance of the waist is that it elongates the body. Anytime you enhance or highlight a waist shape, you become taller. As a designer, I create pieces with the goal of giving the plus-size customer a waist shape in everything she wears—ensuring that flattering, lengthened effect.
Most customers draw attention to their cleavage in a very subtle way as it provides shape to the body. Cleavage creates the hourglass illusion, which is one of the most appealing feminine forms. Any wardrobe piece that tastefully highlights this asset is certainly a win; however, it’s important to ensure there is ample coverage as there is always a fine line.
What to Wear
There are a few key pieces that should be part of every plus-size wardrobe—to not only highlight the aforementioned assets but also to create an overall sensational look.
Pencil skirt: Pencil skirts, particularly high-waist ones, create shape and elongate the form. For the most part, the current trend has them falling below the knee, so they cut the body in the perfect place, creating the right proportion. In addition, they enhance a woman’s curves, so she can’t help but embody sexy attitude.
Ponte leggings: They are practical but also incredibly flattering. Because of the snug fit of ponte, it holds the body in and creates a smooth form. Pair them with a tunic and jacket, and you have a knockout look that no wardrobe should be without.
Peplum top: Not only does it enhance the bust, it creates an hourglass shape—especially if it’s belted—and results in a fabulous look. Not to mention, a peplum top is good at hiding flaws because of how it sits away from the body.
Flyaway jacket: This easy, on-trend jacket is an ideal choice because it’s not constricting or restricting. It doesn’t cut the body off at the middle like traditional jackets; instead, it creates a waterfall effect, encouraging the eye to travel the length of the form.
Asymmetrical tunic: Asymmetry creates a different visual illusion on the body. It draws the eye in different directions so the focus is on the overall flow. This helps create a sense of elongation.
No matter how the plus-size woman chooses to dress or what she chooses to flaunt, she should own it. I encourage her not to be shy, to really show off her curves. I find that when a woman does that, she walks differently, holds her head up higher. She’s much more confident. And who doesn’t want to feel that way?
As vice president of women’s design and fashion at JCPenney, Geoffrey Henning oversees a team of more than five dozen in-house designers and textile artists. Fluent in French, he travels globally throughout Europe, Asia and the United States to bring the latest trends to JCPenney customers. Geoffrey is on the Parsons School of Design Board of Governors and is a frequent fashion critic for NBC Weekend Today. His fashion illustrations have appeared internationally, including in Italian VOGUE and British ELLE.