Women's Corner

Small bikinis for big bottoms, bold rather than twee florals and shorter shorts (but no knicker-grazers). Here are the… Midsize summer style rules

If, like me, you are a middle-aged woman in a mid-sized body (I’m a 14-16), you may be approaching the summer months with a familiar sense of trepidation.

Clothes for covering up have been put away; ones that reveal far more are coming out. But, fear not, here are the hacks I have learned in my two decades as a fashion editor, so your wardrobe flatters and fits your shape — whatever the weather.

Hems should hit the knee

Shift dress, £59, whitestuff.com

It may be leg season, but you need to consider carefully the length of your skirts. There’s a suggestion that, after several years of sweeping maxis, hems are getting shorter this season.

Whilst I spent my 20s and 30s in bottom-skimming tunics, the same shape but just above the knee now feels about right.

For my fellow midlife dressers, I would suggest sneakers or a ballet flat rather than a heel with this length. Heels can feel like trying too hard.

I love Jigsaw’s smocked linen dress in coral, which also gives a nod to this season’s love for the red palette.

Ignore than XL label 

Top, £65, monsoon.co.uk

Top, £65, monsoon.co.uk

Think about the shape of the clothes on your body, not the size shown on the label.

We all know there are no standard sizes for clothing manufacturers. Take me: I’m an XL in any French high street brand, but a 14 in M&S.

So try on different sizes and, if in doubt, always buy larger, ignoring the inner voice that says you can’t possibly be that size, as there’s nothing more unflattering than too-tight clothes.

Swerve ruffles and pleats. They only add bulk, and usually where women want them least — on hips and shoulders.

Don’t be afraid of a little bikini 

Triangle top, £15.99, and Brazilian bottoms, £9.99, hm.com

Triangle top, £15.99, and Brazilian bottoms, £9.99, hm.com

I’m an apple shape, with no bum and quite a tum, so I opt for the coverage of a tankini.

But, believe it or not, a bikini looks fabulous on a nice big bottom! Actually, it’s more flattering to have less fabric, so resist the urge to go for big pants.

If you’ve got larger boobs, a halterneck offers the best shape and support, whether on a swimsuit or a bikini.

M&S has a brilliant selection, and I particularly like its Tummy Control Halterneck Swimsuit in dark red and white.

Supersize your prints

Floral midi dress, £79, liveunlimitedlondon.com

Floral midi dress, £79, liveunlimitedlondon.com

After several years of channelling Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House On The Prairie, it’s time to say goodbye to ditsy floral dresses. 

While there’s nothing wrong with sticking to those longer lengths that skim the body, bolder prints and polka dots feel more modern this season — and, what’s more, look great on any size.

Try Whistles’ Imie smudged spot print dress or Lexy London’s Tara dress in honeycomb.

Ditch the long-style Bermudas 

Denim wash shorts, £55, nobodyschild.com

Denim wash shorts, £55, nobodyschild.com

I’m not about to tell anyone to adopt the trend for buttock-hugging shorts that are basically knickers, but neither should you go in the opposite direction. Leave Bermuda shorts to actual Bermudians and opt for mid-thigh length — your figure will look far more balanced with slightly less material.

I pair my shorts with a loose unlined jacket (try Toast) over a striped Breton T-shirt. If you get chafing thighs, then everyone, from Tesco to Skims, sells smoothing stretch bike shorts which are invisible under clothes.

It’s the perfect time to wow in white 

Broderie cover up dress, £98, thewhitecompany.com

Broderie cover up dress, £98, thewhitecompany.com

If prints don’t appeal, then minimalists should opt for the white midi shirt dress from COS and romantics for Boden’s broderie midi tea dress.

I know it’s tempting to reach for a trusted black cover-up, but where a looser black dress can look like a tent, there’s an optical illusion where a breezy white dress blends with its background.

Worn with bright lipstick, nothing feels more summery, and the white bounces light up to the face to give skin a lovely glow.

Swerve sweaty polyesters and opt for cotton. Just don’t forget to check for transparency by standing in front of a window before you buy.

Bra to end back rolls

Scoop bra, £95, evelynbobbie.com

Scoop bra, £95, evelynbobbie.com

Middle-aged and mid-sized women know that underpinnings are key.

In hot weather, a too-tight bra is torture and creates unnecessary back rolls. Get re-measured every year to avoid bulges across your back.

Advances in bra engineering mean that even bigger cup sizes don’t need a painful underwire these days. Try wire-free brand Evelyn & Bobbie, whose bras also have wide, seam-free straps.

No cap sleeves please

Fit-and-flare dress, £169, hobbs.com

Fit-and-flare dress, £169, hobbs.com

If, like me, you are one of the legion of women who avoid sleeveless tops, then make sure you steer clear of cap sleeves, which cut your arm off at exactly the wrong place — where it is at its fullest.

Look for flutter sleeves, raglan or super-flattering bracelet-length sleeves that stop just below the elbow.

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