Great Style: The Blouse

People talk about great style; maybe you even know someone who has it. But no one ever seems to tell you exactly what it is. I can tell you what it isn't: It isn't having a certain body type or wearing the latest thing. It isn't waiting to buy that dress until you lose enough weight.

Having great style is simply wearing clothes that fit you. Once you start wearing clothes that fit you, you will be amazed at how much better you look and feel. That will make you feel more confident, and confidence is something that people with great style have in abundance. But I avoid talking about "great style." Talking about 'style' is vague, but fit is definite. You can get your teeth into the concept of fit.

So what is fit, exactly? Above everything else, it's the idea that clothing exists to fit your body and make it look good, not the other way around. The details are not complex. Fit means no gaps or bunches, no twisting seams, no pants crotches that hang too low, no blouses that refuse to stay buttoned, and no skirts that can't seem to stay in one place. If you've had any of these things happen to you (and I know you have), then you have clothes that don't fit. The good news is that every one of these problems can be avoided or fixed.

To get clothes that fit, you need a full-length mirror. If you don't have one, get one.


To illustrate fit, let's consider the humble blouse. Blouses have endless problems, and anyone with boobs of any size will have their list. The best place to ensure a great fit is in the store before you buy it. Or right after you open the mail pouch when you can still return it.

Put it on, button the front and the sleeves but don't tuck it in. Stand in front of your mirror with good lighting. Check the fit at your shoulders first. Look at your shoulders in the mirror and cross your arms over your chest. If it bunches at the shoulders, the blouse is too big. If it feels tight or pulls, it's too small. Try another size and if that doesn't work, try another manufacturer.

If it fits in the shoulder, look at the bustline. It's almost impossible for large-busted women to find a front-button blouse that doesn't have ugly gaps between the buttons. (Remember, OTR stuff is made for that non-existent average person.) If you have gaps, I have a simple solution: sew tiny snaps between the buttons. This works fantastically and solves the problem permanently. If you don't like to sew, a tailor can do this for you for just a few dollars.

If adding snaps seems like too much trouble, solve the problem by changing the blouse style: use a tunic blouse or a pullover. These don't have buttons, so no buttons, no gaps, no problem.

With the blouse completely buttoned, twist your wrists in the cuffs and look left and right. The cuffs and the collar should move with you without shifting up or getting twisted. If that's OK, bend over: does the blouse ride up too far in the front or back? Do this with the blouse tucked in and untucked. If it passes this test, you are almost there.

Picture of breast dart too close to the nipple. Finally, check the bust darts. Darts are triangular folds sewn into the blouse to shape it. Bust darts are usually placed on the side and can be horizontal or angled. The darts must point toward the bust and end about a half-inch away from the nipple. If they are a bit farther away than that, it might be OK, depending on the fit of the blouse, but they should never, ever be above or below the nipple. The picture on the right shows a dress with a breast dart. It's in the right place, but it goes to the nipple. That's not desirable, as I'm sure you can see.

If the darts are a go, move around in the blouse one more time, checking for unnoticed pulls or twists. If it passes all these tests, then it's time to welcome it into your closet!