Full Bust Clothing Rules: Who Made Them And Why Do We Care?

I was trawling the internet for dresses this weekend stumbled across some dresses that I really loved. Here’s the first one:

And this was the second one:

The full bust fashion faux pas of the first dress is pretty obvious: the giant ruffle on the chest is a traditional no go. The second dress was full of women telling other women not to buy it if they weren’t tall and skinny; they were concerned that it didn’t hide the fact that they had more fat on their stomach than some women.

All of this got me thinking about fashion rules for full busted women and why we care so much about them. The ruffle thing is obvious. It comes from the more general rule that you shouldn’t wear anything that draws attention to your bust line, which when you think about it seems truly ridiculous. If you’re a full busted woman, your breasts are going to be front and center in pretty much anything you wear. You can’t camouflage them by avoiding ruffles and chest detailing for the rest of your life.

The second dress touches on a larger issue. Full busted and plus size women are encouraged to wear baggier clothes to hide any “figure flaws”. Again, this seems totally silly. Putting on a shirt that imitates a tent won’t make anyone think you’re a 90 pound woman. Instead, it will just make people think that you’re even larger than you are!

Fashion has rules for women of every shape and size and we all spend lots of time eliminating clothing based on them. It also helps us mentally divide ourselves into judgmental categories. Plus size women eliminate all dresses with horizontal stripes while smaller busted women load up on ruffles and avoid dresses that show cleavage. Are we missing out on some great clothes by following the accepted fashion rules?

As I thought about it, I realized that some of my favorite pieces do break those rules. One of my favorite and most flattering work shirts is bright teal and has ruffles all down the front. When I tuck it into a plain colored pencil skirt I look 5 pounds slimmer. Almost all of my clothes hug my figure. I always dress appropriately for the situation but I also avoid baggy clothes at all costs. I once saw myself in a picture wearing a baggy sweatshirt and jeans and I literally looked about 250 pounds. Since then, I’ve never gone back. I’ve also come to terms with my figure. Even if I lose weight, my breasts aren’t going anywhere. Since you’d have to be blind to not notice them, I’ve never bothered to try and hide them or make them look smaller.  

Today I’d love it if you’d comment and tell me what fashion rules you break on a regular basis and why. And maybe I’ll get brave and try out that dress with the ruffle on it.


  • Reply Jame (@jameane) July 16, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    I finally broke the tuck-in-your-blouse with a skirt look. Banned for short-waisted women like myself. And the first time I did it, I got so many compliments on my outfit….

    I have broken the ruffle rule. And the skinny jean rule (I wear these all the time, even though my legs are decidedly not skinny and I am sort of pear shaped). Rules are made for breaking. Or at least experimenting.

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      I’ll have to try that! I always tuck in my blouses with a skirt, but I have one that might look great untucked. It’s actually meant to be a tunic style top originally. I also want to try skinny jeans.

  • Reply Angela July 16, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    I don’t know where most of the fashion rules come from. Further more I kinda wonder how many women truly know their body type. I seen a of women hate one body part or another and that body part isn’t all that “bad” I.e. When I as a skinny I hated my legs, but now that I’m chunky I realize that I have small leg and hips. And I was probably more “in proportion” when I was thinner than I thought at the time.

    I would love to see a blog called Hit or Miss: breaking fashion rules.

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      I think body type can be hard to identify. I’m technically an hourglass, but I sure don’t look or feel like one most of the time. I don’t dress like one all the time either, but I probably should. I’ve seen lots of good guides to figuring out your body type but I don’t know if there is a good standard one around.

  • Reply Englandia July 16, 2012 at 6:29 AM

    There are so many great options for big busted women. I think the only thing I shy away from are button down shirts. But I have avoided those for so long, I have a fantastic word wardrobe with many dresses, wrap dresses, skirt, shirts and what not that completely flatter my tits. I don’t wear any tents, I do a lot of wrap dresses, jersey materials that are hugging the figure, a-line dresses. Many I can get a standard stores as well. It’s a hit or miss, but no matter what body type, you always have to try things on 🙂

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      I have the same issue with button down shirts. Check our Darlene’s Campbell and Kate company for a solution though-her shirts are awesome.

      It’s so true that there is no substitute for trying things on!

  • Reply Avonelle Lovhaug July 16, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    The rule I stopped following was wearing black to look slimmer. For years a significant portion of my wardrobe was black, and even after I dropped some weight I left it there. I stylist friend of mine told me that black is almost never someone’s BEST color, usually our best colors are our hair or eye colors. Wow. Now I wear lots of greens and browns, which I never did before. And I look much, much better!

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 4:36 PM

      That’s great to hear how you’ve branched out! Finding the right colors is a huge part of building a wardrobe that you love. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I stock up on bright red clothes!

  • Reply By Baby's Rules July 16, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    I break the rules quite often. Maybe it’s because I never learned them as I did not grow up or have my early adult years as full busted. Recently I wore a dress with ruffles all along the breast area to a wedding (while pregnant). I tend to buy shirts that have designs on the chest which some people say should be avoided because stretch can distort the image or design. I’m on the shorter side and a lot of people say carpi pants will make you look shorter in the leg, I wear them as long as they hit at a certain leg length. Oh and when it comes to hair color, many people say that redheads shouldn’t wear yellow, red, certain oranges, or certain pinks. I wear all of those quite frequently, especially yellow.

    I think you should try that dress. I personally think it would be more flattering with a wider belt, but I think it is perfect to accent an hourglass figure. Ruffle or not, I think it is a great balanced style that could be dressed up very easily.

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      I’m definitely going to try both dresses. I’ll make sure to put up a picture when I get it! It’s great to hear that someone else gets along with t-shirts with designs on the chest. I’ve been wearing plain t-shirts for years, so I will give that a try.

      By the way, I loved your bust ruffle wedding outfit. It looked fab!

  • Reply Darlene July 16, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    I love the ruffled dress, but I would have to see it on to know if I thought it was a Yes or No for me. It looks like it actually may camouflage the bust.

    Which rules we decide to follow depend upon what we’re trying to accomplish. If my goal is to focus on my bosom, then I’m not going to follow the rules for drawing the eye away from it.

    And I think there are some standard rules that, when we break, we tend to look worse than if we kept them. Example: top with gathers above the bust that falls like a tent around my torso . . . I bought one of these at a thrift store last week because I loved the color, but I’ve discovered that it’s just not a rule I’m willing to break outside of the house (going to post a pic on my blog this week). Another friend of mine broke this rule recently as well, and I thought she looked TERRIBLE. However, she looks so amazing the rest of the time, and I think it’s her willingness to break the rules every now and then that helps her figure out which ones she’ll follow.

    • Reply hollyj July 16, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      Very good points, Darlene. I will definitely try the dress and put up pictures whether I keep it or not. One of the reasons I buy so much from Modcloth is their really easy return policy. It makes me feel secure enough to branch out and try new things.

      I do think that experimenting is key. I’ve worn some things out and then seen pictures of myself afterwards and thought, “Wow, never doing that again.” However, if I hadn’t done it in the first place I never would have known!

  • Reply Greene July 16, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I have a ruffled front dress that I just love. My only complaint (other than it wrinkles something awful and I never knew what to do with that until I got a steamer) is that in my engagement pictures in a profile it looks like I’m at the end of the alphabet as opposed to the middle-ish. However from every other angle it’s fantastic and I get so many compliments on it!
    I think the secret is that it’s a loosely gathered ruffle which is bias cut so it ruffles without standing too far away from the chest- interest without bulk.

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