Slenderizing The Stout Woman
( Originally Published 1924 )
The problem in clothing stout figures is to emphasize height and to decrease breadth, as all architectural lines of stout figures give an impression of breadth and circumference. The woman who is fat should not try to wear clothes designed for the slender. A size thirty-six dress, just because the dimensions are increased to a size forty-six does not become a slenderizing dress.
It was the President's-day Reception at the club, every one was dressed in her best to give dignity to the occasion. A short, stout woman appeared. She entered the room in a way that displayed her consciousness of having arrived socially! She had on a black velvet dress, and around the hips were two six-inch taffeta ruffles ! The figure was cruelly cut into parts, making it look shorter, and therefore wider, and the taffeta ruffles which stood out from the figure increased the size of the silhouette. The socially-arrived woman did not know how to suggest the desired slender and lissom appearance she coveted, because she had not the simplest knowledge of the effect of space relation in a costume.
On another occasion in a group of business women, was one who weighed two hundred pounds. "Tell me what is wrong!" she cried. She desired earnestly to create an illusion of the absence of her too material self ; but in her ignorance she had selected clothes which gave just the opposite effect. Her dress had a round neck; she was wearing a medium length strand of huge round beads, giving the effect of many circles on the figure. And every time a curve is repeated, it increases the rotundity of the decorated.
The stout person should avoid all florid curves. She should abhor round neck lines; circular designs in fabric, as huge roses; large round beads; short strands of beads ; round earrings ; round-toed shoes with round buckles; large round dots on veils; round breastpins; many large round buttons; large round wrist watch. The large circular, bright or beaded handbag should not be carried by the stout woman, for the outlines of the ornament against the figure increase the figure's stoutness. Large, circular cuffs on gauntlet gloves increase the size of the silhouette.
Slenderness is emphasized by the long vertical lines, continued from the top of the head to the point of the toe, by having hat and shoes and hose and gloves to match the costume in color. If shoes and hose and hats match in color, even if the dress does not, the eye will travel from the feet to the head and an appearance of height and, therefore, of slenderness will be created.
The stout person must avoid broken lines, such as shirt waist and skirt of different colors, hose of contrasting color, hat of unmatching color, short sleeves which end at the elbow on the level with and therefore continuing the waist-line, decorated textiles which increase size by emphasizing it, such as wide or conspicuous stripes, large plaids.
The diagonal carefully used is more effective in giving length of line than the vertical. The stout woman must avoid and flee as from the wrath to come all horizontal effects, such as the use of broad horizontal lines in design and in the pattern of the fabrics used; the use of horizontal lines in all trimmings and decoration, such as broad flat effects in hats, collars, wide cuffs of contrasting material, and ruffles which stand out and increase the silhouette and place the horizontal line of the figure.
The stout woman should never perpetrate an emphasized waist-line. Girdles or narrow sashes with ends reaching to the bottom of the dress, always the color of the gown, are slenderizing. A stout woman with the waist-line drawn in certainly suggests inartistic discomfort, and she also makes bust and hips appear larger by their contrast in size with the waist.
The stout person must avoid any appearance of being too large for her clothes, such as the effects produced by tight corsets, skirts, sleeves, and tiny hats.
A skirt with broad tucks or stripes of contrasting bright color should be avoided, as the figure is divided by the horizontal lines, producing many sections; the height is thus shortened and the breadth widened. The appearance of the dress is greatly affected by the length of the skirt, which should be regulated to suit the proportions of the figure of the wearer, within limits of the mode. With the dropped twentieth-century waist-line, the skirt must be longer in order to preserve the balance of proportions for most figures. A very stout woman can not adopt ultra-short skirts without becoming ridiculous. Draperies from the shoulders give a longer line than draperies from the waist. A skirt which slightly flares and is very long, as the Spanish skirt, gives greater slenderness than the skirt which is tight-fitting at the feet.
Neck lines are important. They should be governed by the shape of the face as well as by the general figure. A round full face is too much accented by the rounded neck line. The pointed neck line is the most slenderizing; it draws attention from the roundness of the face and also gives a lengthening effect to the entire figure. If the bust is large and the waist-line slender the point of the neck line or vest should end, not at the waist, but at the bust line, slenderizing the bust by the angle; or points which run up from the waist ending at the bust will decrease its size. If the waist-line is large in proportion to the shoulders and bust, the point tapering to the waist makes it appear narrower, and thus equalizes the proportions of the figure.
If one observes her own shadow, her reflection, her silhouette, she will quickly see the effect of sleeves on the size of the figure. For very stout women, the long Sarah Bernhardt sleeve, however diaphanous or cobwebby, and never tight, is the best. An elbow sleeve divides the arm into short upper and lower, and gives an abbreviated height and a still further spread-out appearance. Raglan and kimona sleeves tend to increase the breadth of the figure—the former give a narrow appearance to the shoulders which increases the size of the bust in contrast. The latter put an unbroken horizontal line on the figure from finger point to finger point—a disastrous spread of wings !
High colored hose in contrast with dark dress and shoes magnify the width of the instep and ankle and suggest an effect of swollen proportions, augmenting the rest of the stout tout ensemble. Stout people should avoid high-heeled shoes, for they appear to give insufficient support for the tremendous weight; grace in walking is made impossible be-cause of the constant twist of the ankles.
Pockets should not be curved or horizontal, but should be either vertical or sloped toward the central vertical line to produce tall or slender effects.
Persistent attention to details, lines, and proportions is the price every stout woman must pay if she wishes to display slighter proportions—that balance that brings out the best qualities of the figure and conceals those not desired. Diagonals from distant points of radiation, deep vertical plaits close together, angles, points, long up-and-down and flowing lines in all details, and an "easy fit" cleverly and consistently carried out can be made to create an illusion of diminished circumference and avoirdupois.