Dressing the Top-Heavy Figure

Our Best Tips For Flattering A Full Bust

Susan Sarandon has a top-heavy figure but chooses flattering -- and age-appropriate options to flatter it. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

 One of the most difficult figure types to dress is the top-heavy woman. And the older you get with a top-heavy figure, the more difficult it becomes to dress for this body type.

At 25, nobody is going to feel sorry for the top-heavy gal because everything is – you know – up where it belongs. In the later decades of life, that same busty woman needs to really pull out the styling stops to look good in clothes because a top-heavy figure can make even a slim woman look matronly.

You basically have two options when dressing for a full bust, since things like skin-tight t-shirts and halter dresses are usually too skimpy. Instead go with the options of flattering a full bust by either creating an hourglass shape or create a column.

Which way you go depends on your individual body shape, because there are so many variations on the full-busted silhouette. Whatever your body type, showing off some skin up top – not necessarily just cleavage – but shoulders or arms, helps combat a frumpy/matronly image.

More ideas for dressing a top-heavy figure:

  • Short and busty:  When you are short and busty, you can sometimes look very short-waisted. The worst thing you can do is exaggerate that with short boxy jackets or tops. Instead, work against your body type and opt for tunics that are hip length to create a longer torso effect. If you so wear a shorter jacket or cardigan, layer a longer top under it to give the illusion of length and height and to keep the eye moving in a vertical line. Belts can be tricky with this figure type, but you can get away with wearing a hip-slung belt (it will actually accentuate your hips to give you more of an hourglass shape.) Don'ts: babydoll dresses, shapeless baggy clothes, overly tight anything.
  • Average/tall and busty:  With more height, you can create an hourglass shape by accentuating the waist. Necklines that create a V (like a wrap neckline) are flattering to a top-heavy woman. Necklines such as a deep U-shape or, of course, a V shape can be flattering. Also geometric shapes like squares can combat a full bust. You'll still want to avoid silhouettes like empire waists (combined with a big bust they make it look like maternity wear) and puffy sleeves (not a good combo with a heavy bustline.)
  • Busty and plus-size:  You get the double whammy of dressing for a full bust and a full figure. Opt for a wrap bodice or layers (open jacket over a tank) to provide structure over curves.  Opt for tailored pieces instead of clingy knits. Avoid ruffles, full sleeves or lots of embellishment at the bustline. Look for face-flattering details to draw the eye up: a turned-up collar, great earrings, flattering haircut.
  • To show or not to show cleavage?  How much of your décolletage (which includes your chest and cleavage area) you want to show depends on your own personal sense of modesty, but be warned that as you age this area tends to show age quickly with sun spots and wrinkling. Done tastefully, a little cleavage can look sexy and appropriate.
  • Your bra is your best friend. If it's been a while since you've been bra shopping, try out some of the newer minimizer styles which feature everything from underwire-free to softer shaping. Most important: buy bras that fit and avoid the "cup runneth over" look. For even more torso support and smoothing, top it all off with a camisole shaper.