By: Annie Atienza Image Consulting
For many Westerners, wardrobe shopping in Shanghai can be incredibly difficult. Sizes are constructed on an entirely different scale for the local population, making the hunt for proper fitting clothing seem impossible at times. This problem is compounded for shoppers whose figures are within the plus sized range, and I am here to help! In this article, I will address the challenges of our beautiful plus sized mammas, but I have also packed this piece full of advice that can benefit all ladies.
It’s a pleasure to introduce myself to the group. I am a professional image consultant and stylist in Shanghai. I relocated here with my husband three years ago from New York City, where I trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology. My role as an image consultant is to help you identify the strategies to look your best, based on the science of your body and face. I love my job, because I get to help people transform and feel absolutely fabulous.
As much as I’d like to be a fairy godmother and tell you about the wealth of retail shopping destinations I’ve found in Shanghai that cater to plus sized clients, I’d be lying. The truth is they aren’t easy to find. Further into this article, I will share some wonderful retail options, but first I’d like to share some image consulting insights that are backed by the science of the body. Let’s start by identifying some key components that will help you look and feel fantastic.
Every body has its own shape, and identifying which of the six dominant body silhouettes you have is important in determining the proper clothing to wear. The six body silhouettes are: hourglass, figure eight, rectangle, oval, inverted triangle and triangle. Do you know which body silhouette you have? Let’s explore a few body shapes that I have recognized most frequently among my plus sized clients: the triangle silhouette and the oval silhouette.
If you have a triangle silhouette (a.k.a. pear shape), the lower half of your body is wider than the upper half of your body, meaning your hips are wider than your shoulders. You most likely have a small waist and a well-defined bottom. To balance the silhouette, we want to add visual volume to the upper half of the body. Strong strategies include choosing interesting necklines on top like a cowl neckline or boat neckline; wearing lighter/brighter colors on top; wearing cropped jackets on top that stop near your narrow waistline; and wearing eye-catching accessories on top in proportion with your bone structure.
If you have an oval silhouette, your shoulders are broad and most of your weight resides above your hips, typically through the midsection. Your hips are slender and your bottom isn’t well defined. To highlight your assets and balance the overall look, choose solid colored tops that avoid hugging the torso; opt for V-necked tops that visually elongate the midsection; and look for pieces that visually reinforce a waistline by having interior diagonal line details. Adding visual dimension to the lower half of the body will also balance this body type. Try eye-catching prints or lighter colors on the bottom; or A-line skirts and straight-legged or wide-legged pants.
Remember, each body type has its own set of rules!
Wearing proper colors for your skintone will enhance youth and vitality. We absorb proper colors worn around the face, and these colors visually smooth skin texture, even out skin tone, highlight bone structure, and accentuate key facial features like the eyes. In some instances, wearing the proper colors can even make the exterior dimensions of your face appear leaner. The overall benefit of wearing the proper colors is added attention to your beautiful face (and vibrant personality!). Now who wouldn’t want that?
Identifying whether your skin undertones are warm or cool is an important first step in determining which colors will serve you best. It’s also possible for undertones to fall in a neutral range. Hemoglobin contributes red tones, melanin contributes blue tones and carotene contributes yellow tones in various proportions to the skin. As a color specialist, I take clients through a 16-step process to determine their perfect range of colors, but it’s possible to get a quick glimpse on your own.
An easy acid test to determine warm vs. cool is to try on a peach top, followed by a pink top. Try and observe which color brings more energy to your face. Specifically, which color blurs the appearance of under eye circles and wrinkles? Which color appears to create a natural flush in your cheeks? Which color makes the hue of your mouth less grey? If the answer is peach, you probably have warm undertones. If the answer is pink, you probably have cool undertones.
When in doubt, rely on these universally flattering colors: blush, coral, medium teal, medium grey, forest green, burgundy, periwinkle and watermelon red. These colors look great on nearly everyone. Also remember that “your best white” shouldn’t be whiter than the whites of your eyes or teeth.
TAILORING AND FABRIC CONTENT
Once you have identified your body silhouette and best colors, take your newfound knowledge to a tailor. Many people cringe when I mention tailors, but we reside in a fantastic city for custom clothing. Start thinking of tailors as pals. I suggest developing a solid relationship with one tailor who will get to know your body type and needs. And at the risk of injecting shameless self-promotion here, I strongly suggest taking an advocate to the tailor with you, like an image consultant or an outspoken friend. Whether you choose to have pre-existing wardrobe pieces copied in new fabrics and colors to suit the season, or have entirely new pieces created, having someone who knows you and your body always helps.
I recommend that clients be confident discussing several key factors including: best exterior silhouettes for pants, skirts and dresses for their body type; best inseam length for their body type to accommodate the butt and hips properly; best waistline placement; princess seam and bust dart placement needs to flatter the bust and waistline; tapering strategies for both pant legs and arm holes to flatter the body; and fabric content, among other considerations. I also recommend that all custom pieces be made with approximately 1.5” (3.8 cm) of extra fabric sewn within the seams of the garment, so pieces can be altered in tandem with fluctuations in weight.
For all women, but especially plus-sized women with moulded bodies, it is essential to consider fabric weight and drape to complement the body. Lighter weight fabrics that drape well across curves will visually lengthen the body, creating a leaner appearance. Heavier weight fabrics sit stiffly upon the body and add bulk, which visually thickens the body.
Best fluid fabric options for moulded bodies include: silks, silk jerseys, sheer woolens, cottons, and high quality rayons. Avoid taught fabrics like corduroys, canvas, worsted wools, heavy satins, and jacquards. And don’t forget about fabric lining! Not only does interior lining make clothing easier to put on and take off, it also smoothes the body beautifully. Lining will never replace the power of Spanx, but in most cases, it will work wonders on the overall appearance without all the pinching.
Ultimately, you want to have a wardrobe with pieces in the proper silhouettes, using proper fabrics, in the proper colors, all of which can be mixed and matched to create endless outfits that fit your needs. Here are some great retail options to help you update your wardrobe while living in Shanghai.
ZURITA: This contemporary clothing boutique has two locations in Shanghai, and features a range of
styles made for women using natural fabrics. Zurita believes in sustainable clothing consumption, and
accordingly, their designers create timeless pieces that can be mixed and matched easily. You’ll find
figure-friendly silhouettes on display, and a custom fit guarantee; Zurita will work with you to customize
their designs to your body. And, their beautiful silks, cashmeres, bamboo cottons and merino
wools can be color-customized to meet your needs, too. Notice Zurita’s silk blouse and dress at right.
Address: 247-7 Wulumuqi Road, near Wuyuan Road, Xuhui District; and Kerry Parkside, 1378 Huamu Road 2nd, L203, Pudong
THE COLLECTION: Anyone who has a foot larger than a size 39 tends to be out of luck here in Shanghai, but I can recommend a lovely little gem called The Collection. This boutique carries a wide array of shoes and boots up to size 43. Remember, shoes aren’t just fun, they can serve as a silhouette balancing element. Ladies with inverted triangle or oval silhouettes for example (dominant on top, narrow on bottom) can add visual dominance and attention to their lower half with an eye-catching pair of shoes. So, here’s to giving you yet another reason to buy new shoes! Take a peek at The Collection’s wide selection at left.
Address: 139 Anting Road, near West Jianguo Road, Xuhui District
JOSIE CHEN: Women with large bone structure are complemented best by
wearing large-scale jewelry. Allow me to recommend a fantastic jeweler from
the UK called Josie Chen, who also has a design boutique here in Shanghai. They
feature stunning one-of-a kind costume pieces that are dramatic and dominant.
Josie Chen is also happy to create custom jewelry for clients, and I simply can’t say
enough about the beautiful crystals and expert techniques they use to create these
eye-catching pieces. Check out the stunning necklace and bracelet at right.
Address: 751 South Huangpi Road near Jianguo Road, Building 4, Unit 208, Luwan District,
LORD&TAYLOR: This U.S. based online retailer has nearly 2,900 plus sized items in their collection, ranging from contemporary to conservative. Expect to find wardrobe staples for work, play, special occasions, athletics, and much more. Some brands I recommend include: Eileen Fisher, NYDJ, and Nipon Boutique. This retailer ships to China, and has a 90-day return policy. www.lordandtaylor.com
MACY’S: This U.S. based online retailer also has thousands of plus sized items, including a petite plus department (catering to plus sized women who are 157cm and under). Macy’s has one of the largest plus sized departments in the world, with an array of styles ranging from trendy to conservative. Here too, you will find wardrobe pieces suited for work, play, special occasions, athletics, and much more. Some brands I recommend include: Tahari, Via Spiga, Adrianna Papell, and Michael Kors. And, get ready for more good news…Macy’s ships to China and has a PHENOMENAL ONE-YEAR RETURN POLICY! Yep, you read that correctly. www.macys.com
I hope these insights are helpful in conquering your wardrobe woes in Shanghai.
For more outfit inspiration, add me on WeChat: AnnieAtienza, visit my website at: www.annieatienza.com, and for personalized advice or group education, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always here for you!