The Front-Button Gap

Front-button shirts and blouses are a wardrobe staple for many women. Like front-button dress shirts for men, the women’s garments present issues of fit that require thought and attention.

If the shirt has a collar and is to be worn fully buttoned, the fit of the collar around the neck is an important consideration. A collar too big will make the wearer look like a little boy wearing grown-up clothes that are too big for him (consider Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live for this effect); a collar too small will find itself straining around the neck or unbuttoned to provide some relief.

A second issue is the lay of the shirt down the front. Curvy women in particular may find it difficult to find shirts that do not gap around the bustline. Look for garments with shorter distances between buttons (i.e., more buttons) to minimize the extent of any gap; also look for placement of a button at the largest part of the bust (a design detail that is maddeningly difficult to find).

050017 oh no front-button gap blouse InStyle REV

While celebrity model Alexa Chung looks adorable channeling Diane Keaton in Annie Hall in a photos spread in the April 2017 issue of InStyle magazine, the clothing selected for her just doesn’t fit. The above photo exacerbates the front-button gap issue with a striped shirt, which pulls across her bust and displaces the stripes for a visually distracting effect.

Some shirts can be worn open over a tank or camisole like an overshirt, eliminating the front-button gap.

Another fix would be to add a scarf , tie or vest (the latter two choices, a la Annie Hall) to cover the front-button gap. This can be an effective way to salvage a blouse or shirt that is otherwise not wearable.

050017 oh no blouse w tie InStyle April REV

A second photo from the InStyle shoot pictures Chung in an ensemble that closely imitates a most iconic Annie Hall ensemble with a tie. But whereas Keaton’s costumes were fit to her body (check the shoulder seams in stills from the movie), here the shoulder seams of the shirt are too wide and the underarm seams of the shirt pull out from the vest, for a most unflattering effect. Add to that the pants that drag on the pavement, and this photo, like the one above, goes into my Oh No! file.

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Button-Front Shirts & the Busty Woman

In the March 2015 issue of Lucky magazine, a reader asks:  “How can I get button-downs to fit correctly? If you don’t know what I mean, ask any woman with large breasts.”

0315 white shirt 0315 Lucky REV

The editor who fielded the reader’s question responded by consulting with another editor at the publication. Their response: “If a button-down’s gaping or straining in any way, you’re wearing it too tight. This doesn’t mean you have to go with a shapeless men’s shirt–it’s a button-down moment, so there are many cuts right now. ” So far, so good.

The recommendation continues: “There are purposely slouchy, rounded-back ones, and T by Alexander Wang makes them slim and straight, rather than hugging the body.”

0315 T by Alexander Wang cropped short sleeve poplin shirt model 5-11 size 2

Here’s the only T by Alexander Wang button-front shirt in the designer’s current on-line collection. It is cropped, and available on the designer’s web site only up to size 6 (the model pictured is 5’11″ and a size 2). The cropped and unfitted top is decidedly not a look for a woman with large breasts — assuming a size 6 would accommodate her chest, the shirt will stick out in front in a most unattractive manner.

The advice continues: “Then there’s long in back, short in front, which is just–a thing now. If ever there were a season to find your ultimate shape, it’s now.”  No example or picture of this style is provided, but the cropped shape above seems to be a related style.

The editors’ response does include an illustration, a picture of a model wearing a plaid button-front shirt over a white tee (and under an army jacket). As lovely as she is, a sample-size model is not one who can provide perspective on the issues unique to large breasts.  In the picture the shirt is buttoned only at the top button and does not demonstrate correct fit at all. This provides no solution to the reader’s issue.

0315 white shirt 0315 HB Michael Kors shirt REV

The type of blouse styling to which the reader more likely refers is exemplified by the classic front-button design Michael Kors white shirt pictured above in the March 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  The shirt is pictured on a model with long-waisted proportions, tall and slender with a modest bust.

The issue with button-front shirts is that they have a strong propensity to gap when buttoned over large breasts.  The reason for this is a flat garment design is not meant to accommodate the dimensionality of full breasts.  Going up a size or two (or three) may well not resolve this issue.

One important factor in finding a shirt or blouse that does not gap is selecting a design that has buttons spaced so that the garment buttons at the biggest part of the breasts, in line with the nipples. This placement will vary from woman to woman — this is a matter of an individual’s height and body proportions.

The necessary button placement to avoid a gap can be difficult if not impossible to find.  The larger the spacing between the buttons, the more likely the garment will gap, as there is more opportunity for it to pull while being worn. The more closely spaced the buttons, the more likely a gap will be minimized. However, there is a secondary issue that arises with a garment with front buttons, especially with closely spaced buttons:  the buttons themselves bring attention to the front seam and, with that, to the wearer’s chest.  One mitigating suggestion I might add:  Blouses with soft bows attached and scarves draped over the front of a blouse or shirt can help mask the issue.

If you are busty and want to wear a button-front shirt buttoned, the shirt must be tailored to your shape with darts and seams that accommodate your shapeliness. A straight cut, like that of the Michael Kors shirt, will probably require significant tailoring to make it work for you.

This is one time that engaging a tailor to custom-make a garment may be the best, albeit not inexpensive, solution if you have a large chest and simply must have a classic button-front shirt.

Terrific Turquoise – Colors That Work – Guest Post by Babe Hope

It’s not accidental that the background color of my blog is turquoise blue . I chose the color because turquoise is a serene color, reminiscent of tropical lagoons, a color that invites one to relax and stay a while, and at the same time a color that has a vibrancy that energizes and encourages engagement.

Today I’m pleased to offer my readers a guest blog post from Babe Hope, who blogs for the web site www.ullapopken.com. Ulla Popken’s mission is “to offer plus size women exclusively-designed, stylish merchandise of finer quality with the most consistent fit” and, at the same time, to “exceed customer expectations making women look and feel their most beautiful at a fair price.” In her guest post here on www.trulybecoming.com, Babe provides her take on a key reason that turquoise is a perennial favorite.

Please enjoy Babe’s post and read on for a special giveaway that may enable you to enjoy a bit of the color turquoise, or whatever is your favorite hue.

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Colors That Work – a Guest Post by Babe Hope of UllaPopken.com  

Do you select colors that you love to look at or colors that flatter your face? Well, how about a color that does both?

Check out Ulla Popken’s Embroidered Beaded Tunic,#22435, terrifically turquoise. The color is absolutely gorgeous and it is a universally flattering color. How can this be so?

Colors on opposite sides of the color wheel enhance each other, which is why strawberries pop and look so delicious packaged in green containers. This shade of turquoise is just about the ‘color-wheel opposite’ of pink–playing up a healthy blush in the skin, regardless of your complexion tone. Both light and dark, warm or cool skin tones have underlying or obvious shades of pink. That is why this color flatters everyone. Furthermore, this color is also versatile, it works for three of the four seasons and can be paired with all neutrals, black, brown, khaki, white and of course jeans.

Oh, and did I mention the fabric? The fabric is richly textured, 100% cotton, so soft to the touch but has enough weight to drape well. The notched neckline and sleeve hem are intricately embroidered with bronze-toned beading. The fit is relaxed and the length is 32 inches. Ahhhh!

Wrap yourself in turquoise, day or night, and bring out the blush in your cheeks.

About Babe Hope:

Babe Hope is the author of Pretty Plus: How to Look Sexy, Sensational and Successful No Matter What You Weigh. She has written numerous articles, appeared on dozens of radio shows and videos and consulted to several specialty apparel retailers, sharing her tips on how to feel good in what you wear. A plus size woman all her life, Babe turned the ‘pity party’ into a ‘pretty party’ fifteen years ago and has been a stylist and personal shopper for women of all shapes and sizes. She is currently a blogger, stylist and model for Ulla Popken and fully embraces Ulla’s spirit: ‘Feeling beautiful is empowering.’

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Ulla Popken’s Tunic Giveaway to One Lucky TrulyBecoming.com Reader:

Ulla Popken has beautiful tunics in sizes from 12 to 38 and will give away a tunic to one lucky reader of the TrulyBecoming.com blog who posts a comment to this blog post during the month of June, 2012. To enter the contest, please visit ullapopken.com. Choose the tunic you’d most like to have and make note of its name and item number. Then come back to trulybecoming.com and tell us in a comment to this blog post how the tunic would expand your wardrobe options and why you’d like to have it. Be sure to include the name and item number of your choice in your comment.

Please post your comment below and be sure to provide your name and email address as requested. Your last name and email address will not be published with your comment, as all comments are moderated. All comments are subject to being edited for length.

The contest runs through 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2012. Comments will be judged based upon the thoughtfulness and clarity of the comments posted.. The lucky winner will be contacted via the email address provided, and the winner will have ONE week to claim the prize, after which time it will be awarded to another entrant. If the winner’s choice of tunic is no longer available in her size on ullapopken.com, the site may substitute a garment of similar value.

This giveaway is open to persons 18 years of age or older living in the United States, and is void where prohibited by law.

Tee (Shirt) Time

Summertime, and the dressing is easy. Unless air conditioning is cranked up to the goose bump level, dressing for which I’ll address separately, staying cool and comfortable usually means ditching the cardigan or jacket and paring down with to either one piece – a great dress – or two pieces – a flattering top plus your choice of a skirt, shorts or pants.

The quintessential summer top, as noted in the July 2012 issue of InStyle, is the t-shirt.  InStyle provides “12 Reasons to [Love] a T-Shirt (as if You Needed Them!),” which doesn’t actually provide 12 reasons why you might love any particular t-shirt (since, for example, brights and pastels are mutually exclusive categories), but rather, 12 possible reasons why you might love a particular t-shirt (i.e., because it is in a bright or pastel hue).  For instance, a tee in a thin, body-hugging fabric layers easily; a tee with long tails “covers your butt”; a tee with Spandex may not stretch out.

Where InStyle  particularly misses the mark is in its love song to the plain white t-shirt, as it rhapsodizes: “Consider it the LBD of tops. Whether you dress this classic up or tone it down, a short-sleeve crewneck can be worked (and  reworked) in tons of ways.”  I would tweak this statement to say that a tee shirt in a flattering neutral color with a flattering neckline and sleeves can be enjoyed in countless variations.

The crewneck is simply not a flattering choice for almost any woman, as I wrote back in February. As you can see, in every case, InStyle either disguises the crewneck by wrapping a scarf or hanging a pair of shades from it, or distracts from it by means of a statement necklace or jacket.  But how much more flattering each of the looks would look if the neckline were wider and deeper, so that the torso doesn’t look so boxy.

For women with large or fleshy upper arms, a longer length sleeve is more flattering than one that cuts across the arm at about the level of the armpits. A sleeve that fits loosely and ends above the elbow is a great hot-weather option that disguises the upper arms.

The color white may also be a challenge. A bright white tee may make the wearer’s teeth and the whites of her eyes look off-color if they are not the same bright tone. Choose a softer off-white or other pastel or neutral shade in a color flattering to you  and enjoy its versatility.

The June 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine recognizes the challenges of finding a flattering tee shirt in the feature, “The Ultimate T-Shirt Buying Guide” which begins: “This century-old design is summer’s simplest basic, but finding a fantastic one can be tricky. Here are 27 options for every body and budget . . . plus solutions to every possible tee issue. . . .”  The guide is packed with tips as it analyzes various fabrics, styles and even the opacity of various tees.

Among the highlights in the Real Simple guide is the discussion “What’s My Neckline?” that helps readers determine what styles are most flattering. A crew neck is a “classic, but it can emphasize a large bust, a short neck, or a double chin.”

The guide deems a v-neck “Universally flattering, but watch the cut: A very high V can make a large bust look saggy, while a plunging V can be too revealing. A wide V balances out pear shapes.”  The issue with a high vee is that it affects the visual sense of the wearer’s proportions, and it can make any bust, large or not, appear relatively low. A wide vee, like a scoop neckline wider than a crew neck, makes the wearer’s head appear more in proportion with her body. If the neckline is to be worn unadorned, choose a neckline at least as wide as the widest part of your face. A narrow vee can be nearly as unflattering as a crew neck.

About scoop necks, the Real Simple guide states: “Beautifully displays the collarbone and elongates a short or thick neck. However, the curvy neckline highlights a round, full face. . . . “Let me suggest striking the word “However,” and taking a different tack:  A scoop neckline can highlight a beautiful round, full face.

Don’t settle for ho-hum, less than flattering style in a garment that can well be the mainstay of your summertime wardrobe. Both magazine articles provide a wealth of options for consideration, a great place to start your quest for the perfect tee.