Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not for the Rack: Bulky Tops

It should go without saying that this style of bulky knit sweater, so prevalent on the runways this season, is not for a Lady of Substantial Means. Trust me, you are not covering anything up, you are adding weight and bulk up top and thus look even more top heavy. Instead, opt for a nice structured jacket: leather or tweed or even plaid. I cannot say enough good things about a structured jacket. Even if you believe you do not have a waist, the structured jacket can give you the illusion of one.

It's not only chunky knits and cables that's bad for the boobs. Sweaters that are too fuzzy and those that have added and unnecessary detailing around the chest area are also bad.

The thing to remember is that all fabrics, not just knits, can add bulk up top if they are cut wrong, layered or draped too thick, or pleated too much.

 1911-1912 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wiener Werkstätte dress ca. 1917 via The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Really, best to avoid anything from the 19-teens, if you ask me. Terribly unreliable fashion time period.I shudder to even recall it. And don't get me started on the 1920s . . . but that's a future blog post.

Crepe, crepe is bad. Crepes, on the other hand are very very tasty, and a breakfast skill I have only recently mastered.

 Oh, I am reminded that Los Gatos Cafe's pumpkin chiffon crepes with fresh cranberries are soon to make their fall appearance. I must make a road trip. Oh, dear, derailed, where was I? Oh yes, bulky tops.
The modern age of architectural fashion has given us some amazing art, and some lovely looks. I happen to be a big fan of the architectural approach, but mostly they won't work on us more generously endowed ladies.  Sometimes they will work in a jersey, but that's a whole other post. Here's what not to go for . . .

1990s Issey Miyake dress via The Indianapolis Museum of Art

All in all, avoid the bulk up-top. Here we have an example of everything bad in one top, including a sneak peak at my next offender . .  shear.


  1. Those are some ugly Nikes. It's too bad about the sheer overlay - the sweater underneath looks like it would be quite nice on a lady of less bountiful charms.
    I have a favourite blue sweater that matches my eyes, and is mostly a small knit with one line of chunky cable-knit down the centre. It seems a good compromise.

  2. Oh yes, I deeply despise the bulky tops. When I was a teenager mom used to buy me these heavy, bulky sweaters at wintertime, with thick shoulder pads because I have narrow shoulders. The boys who bullied me normally were even worse when I wore these. Making fun of my weight and poking me in the shoulders asking if I was a linebacker.

    What made it worse is she got turtle neck ones. Even though I kept telling her I hated turtle necks. Parents sure are weird.

  3. Dearest Gail, I'm hoping that you can help a friend of mine. She has quite a rack on her and would benefit greatly from jacket for her work, but has trouble finding one that fits her shoulders. Do you know where one would find a jacket for women with broader shoulders?

  4. Dear Followingwords, I too have very large shoulders ~ perhaps it is necessary for supporting the rack? I actually have good luck with H&M, mainly because the British female frame seems to be a little more well endowed than the Amercian. They always have a large supply of tailored jackets. BCBG seems to style for broad shoulders as well, I shop outlet malls. Broad shoulders are hard to find in actual vintage. United Colors of Benetton is good high quality but expensive new, my UCB tweed came from a thrift store. I like a brand called Shugarfly carried by Nordstrom (I get mine at Nordstrom Rack). With motorcycle jackets and leather blazers all the rage, she could also opt for a nice motocross or tailored leather blazer, something made for a man might work, just not the 80's crop flap zipper traditional motorcycle jacket. I'd go thrifting for those though, cheaper that way, and consignment for the rest, better quality. Good luck!

  5. Couldn't agree more. I hate the post-Edwardian years and those horrible roaring twenties! YUCK! I also can't stand that quintessential book of the time, The Great Gatsby! BLAH!

    No, if it's not Renaissance, Victorian or Edwardian then I don't care it for. Nothing good until the gorgeous rolls, curves & lines of the 30's & 40's --men, women & autos!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

  6. I was shopping for a top today. I need something a little business casual for when I go see a potential client early in the week. (Yep, already scoped out the dress code.) The store had nothing but bulky sweaters, tanks with ruffles, and other items a well-endowed woman my age shouldn't wear. Don't get me started on the zebra prints. Just. Don't. Go. There.

  7. I adore the flapper style of the 20's...Just a shame that I am also endowed with a Rack and thus must forego any hope of ever looking good in it.

  8. Oh Barrett! Zebra prints shouldn't be worn by any woman who weighs over 125 pounds well endowed or not! Or any sort of animal or overly busy print.

    This woman who's a little bit heavier than me was bragging about her finds at Nordstrom's Rack - dresses, that I had pointed out in a very detailed letter to Nordstrom's only serve to make a fat woman look fatter because they were white backgrounds with large floral prints. Between the print and the empire waist she looked 9 months pregnant and she actually thought she looked good. It took all my self control not to crush her and tell her how bad she really looked.


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