Styling Tips for Plus Size Apple Shapes

I keep getting requests for styling tips for plus size apple shapes.  But, before I even get into my tips, I feel like I need to emphasize the following:

When it comes to styling tips, tricks, guidelines, and suggestions, please ALWAYS remember…

  • Fashion is meant to be fun, creative, and an expression of the self.  There are NO RULES.
  • Ultimately wear what you want.  Wear what makes you feel good and brings you joy.
  • Everyone is unique.  No suggestion will work for everyone because everyone is different.  Some people are short, tall, long torso, short legs, small bust, big bust, no waist, wide hips, etc.  I could go on and on.  We are all unique combinations.  Use what works for you.  Disregard what doesn’t.
  • Experiment!  Because you are unique, you are going to have to experiment.  Try out some of my suggestions.  Use what you like.

Styling Plus Size Apple Shapes - Plus Size Fashion for Women - alexawebb.com

From image, clockwise: Wrap Dress, Bootcut Jeans, Long Necklace, Pleated Tunic, Boyfriend Jeans, Empire Top, Empire Dress, Belt, Waterfall Cardigan

Are you a plus size apple shape?

So let’s start with figuring out who this applies to.  The apple shape applies to more plus size women than most realize!

There are two types of apples, in my opinion.  Those who are always apples (“born apples”) and those who become apples when they gain weight (“new apples”).  Both are styled very similarly, but I bring this up so that some folks might see that although they used to be a pear or an hourglass, their tummy has become rounded, making them more of an apple-shape.

Compare my mom and I for example.  My mom is tall with a long torso.  And she is a “born apple,” she carries ALL of her weight in her belly.  She has skinny arms and long lean legs.  I, on the other hand, was an hourglass.  I’ve got hips, booty, thunder thighs, and wings for arms.  But, when I gain weight beyond a size 18/20, I really become more of an apple shape because my midsection becomes so rounded and filled out, that my natural waist is no longer the smallest part of my body.  I become a “new apple.”  So, although my mom and I still look very different, we often dress similarly because of our large(r) midsections.

Born Apples

  • Remain apple-shaped regardless of size or weight gain/loss
  • Carry weight in their tummy
  • Average to large breasts
  • Have small(er) legs and arms

New Apples

  • Are not apple-shaped unless they gain a certain amount of weight
  • Can become an apple-shape during peri-menopause as weight gain in the tummy is a characteristic
  • Carry weight all over and have proportional legs and arms

Why should these seemingly different body shapes be styled similarly?  Because the ultimate goal of styling these shapes is to minimize the tummy, create a the illusion of a defined waist, and/or play up other features.  And once you learn how to do this, you can recreate the same “faux” silhouette time and time again.  I can look at catalog/website images of clothes and immediately know whether something is going to look good on me or not.  It is second nature and I take it for granted.  But I will teach you how to do this too!

Styling Plus Size Apple Goals

  • Minimize the tummy
  • Create the illusion of a waist
  • Play up positive features
  • Create a new silhouette

How do we achieve these goals?  Let’s start with the top and work our way down.

Styling Tips for Plus Size Apple Shapes

Your favorite neckline is going to be a V-neck or deep V-neck.  This is going to visually draw the eye up and divide the width of your shoulders and chest.  And since we are bringing the eyes up, invest in a good bra.  Keep those girls up!  A scoop neck, especially a lower scoop works well also.

Whether you are looking for dresses, tunics, or tops, look for:

  • empire waists
  • wrap styles
  • swing
  • trapeze
  • babydoll
  • skater
  • a-line
  • peplum (only peplum styles with a high/empire waist)

As I was trying to show in my poorly drawn Instagram post, you can create a new waistline by choosing clothing with a waistband, elastic, belt, tie, etc., at the smallest part of your torso, just under the bust (classically referred to as the empire waist).  This includes adding your own belt to swing and trapeze styles.  One of my favorite work tops looks like a shapeless muumuu that’s been cut at the hip.  It looks ridiculous until I add a belt.  Then it is fabulous!

But I have a couple of special circumstances or caveats to add.  First, if you have a small bust, this may not work as well for you.  Because there is not a large difference in the width of the bust and width of the “new waist” (just under the bust), you may be unable to get that new faux waist silhouette.  That’s ok.  You can still look for most of the styles listed above, but you’re going to look best in the trapeze, swing, and wrap styles.  My mom is a great example, she is a classic apple with a small bust, and she looks like a million bucks in these basic a-line tunics.  They bring the eye up to her decolletage and face, skim over her tummy (camouflage), and create a long line.

Second, I often hear, “that [insert empire waist/babydoll top or dress] will make me look pregnant.”  Yes, often maternity clothing does come in similar styles.  Because often pregnant women become apple shaped with large tummies and these styles are the most flattering to that shape.  So, you might look pregnant, either by virtue of wearing a style of clothing that is common to maternity wear, or because you share the same shape as a pregnant woman, regardless of what you are wearing.  For example, I can easily look pregnant in a flattering empire waist tunic or skin-tight bodycon dress, because that is just my shape.  I have a big tummy like a pregnant woman.  It happens!  But I am going to look better in the empire waist tunic than the bodycon dress.  And to me, that’s what matters.

Next let’s talk about layers!  Top your look with a structured single-breasted blazer with a nice v-shape, with the point of the V or button just below the bust.  Make sure it fits your shoulders.  Wear it open with a flowy layer under it or a scarf on top of it.  The shape of the blazer becomes your new shape, so look for a structured feminine shape.

Also look for open, long, draped, and “waterfall” cardigans or toppers.

As for jeans and trousers, the ideal is to balance out the tummy with a bootcut or straight leg.  Even a boyfriend cut is flattering.  Some stylists will tell you to stay away from skinny jeans and jeggings.  But I feel like most people aren’t flattered by a skinny jean, except maybe very tall thin models.  But, the skinny leg is in style.  So instead of shying away from them, try to wear them in a more flattering way.

When apple-shaped, wear skinny jeans and jeggings with a long swing or empire waist tunic, a draped cardigan or some combination.  Classic apples have shapely legs (I’m jealous), so I think they are an asset to show off.  When putting together a skinny jean outfit, think of how great an apple looks in a mini swing dress and just add skinny jeans.  That is the silhouette you are looking for.  I hope that makes sense.

So hopefully you have some better idea of what to pick when shopping for your apple shape.  And remember to always experiment!

If you have any questions, please leave in the comments below.  This post is just the first in a series about dressing for your plus size shape.

For more styling educational posts like this one, go here.  For outfit inspiration check out my Polyvore sets, my Pinterest boards, and my Instagram!  Oh and please “like” my blog on Facebook!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on or purchase through certain links, I may receive a small commission.

29 thoughts on “Styling Tips for Plus Size Apple Shapes

  1. Great post. This helps clear up the shape question for me since I didn’t feel like I fit. I’m definitely a new apple, short with small breasts. Thanks!

  2. These ideas are wonderful.

    HOWEVER, above the knee skirts and dresses do noting for a BBW except draw the eye to the wider parts of the body. If you are “dressing for success”- knee length or below is much more “appropriate” ( and at 60, having been in multi settings in my career, and, at one time almost 700 lbs, I know). Don’t give the wrong impression please

    1. While I prefer below my knee, there’s much unsaid in your post. Length below the knee can often make your legs look bigger if the dress cuts off at the wrong place. IE, mid calf etc. Today, many women, even older, wear leggings or tights to make shorter styles more acceptable. And it really depends on who the “bbw” as you call it IS. Alexa did a great job with this info.

      1. Thank you, Dottie. I didn’t directly discuss hemlines. Most of the dresses I feature are at the knee , which is the most common hemline you’re going to find for plus sizes. There are a lot of variables, such as trends, age, height, leg shape, etc.. Like I said in the beginning of the post, it is really about your preference and experimentation. 🙂

  3. Great post … As I get older … And rounder …!!!! It is harder and harder to dress and still look good here Southern California …. Great ideas …. Keep them coming …. 😀

  4. Alexa, if I were with you now I would give you a great big hug!!!! Thanks for listening and posting a blog entry for dressing us apples out here!!! I loved the suggestions. This post is very much appreciated. Thanks again!

  5. Alexa, you are my go-to fashionista on the web. Thank you for the great information, I feel like you wrote it just for me. Keep those great outfits coming!

  6. I love your blog and this is great info, I really needed it and appreciate your eye for fashion. I always struggle with what to wear and sometimes feel overwhelmed when I am shopping in stores, with your help I can now start to put together new things and figure out what works for me.

  7. Hi Alexa! Thank you SO much for all the info and tips you provide. I have a tough time finding a great structured blazer. I’m a born apple shape, so it’s tough to find a nice flattering blazer. Any suggestions?

    Same with jeans. All the jeans I bind always have extra material in the butt area. I can never find a quality jeans that are the perfect. Suggestions?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Rose,
      Did you check out some of the blazers linked above? You want to make sure the blazer fits in the shoulders, that is the most important thing.

      My mom is a born apple and loves the Torrid jeggings ( http://bit.ly/2vnbr8D )as do I, a “new apple,” but I was also told by an apple that they didn’t work for her. My mom and I usually get a size lower than usual.

      The City Chic Asha jeans are designed for apples: http://bit.ly/2vWtFkO or here: http://rstyle.me/n/crmsjbcau7p .

      I would also try the Smooth & Comfort Rockstar jeans from Old Navy. http://rstyle.me/n/crmskqcau7p

      Let me know how you make out!

  8. It would be great on your outfit posts if you said which body type this style could be flattering on. To me, a lot of plus size caters to hourglass. Thanks for the Apple tips.

    1. Hi Christine,
      I can do that. In my opinion, most outfits can be tweaked to be more flattering for apples. For example, if I have a basic outfit, like a cardigan, tee, and jeans- choose a swing tee or tunic instead of a basic tee. That’s why I think it’s so important to learn about the best options and how to create a new silhouette, then you really know what to look for and what changes to make. 🙂 Thank you for your input. I really appreciate it!

  9. Hi Alexa! Love the post and the photos help me tons when trying to figure out different styles. I do have a question… What about skirts? I love them but not sure what style to purchase. I’m a classic apple, lean legs, heavy midsection, and small bust. Please help!!

  10. Hello Alexa, I love your posts. They are very helpful. I am a born apple that looks very pregnant. I have trouble with work dress pants. I try to stick with straight leg because others just have wide legs that are not flattering. Skinny pants are okay but I think I need something in between, like a slim fit pant. I also can’t wear heals or pointy flats due to foot problems. Any suggestions for shoes that can still be stylish with these outfits. Thank you!!!

  11. Hi, I’m a new apple but with an under active thyroid, I have a large saggy stomach due to constant weight gaining and losing, I always buy longer tops but for once I’d live to wear a skirt with a top tucked in but how do I hide my stomach? It really hangs

    1. Hi Jackie,
      I understand your issue. I too have saggy stomach problems. What first comes to my mind is shapewear. Specifically something to give you a little lift and to hold you in. What I have found is that briefs and bodysuits are much better for giving a lift than the shorts or leggings types. These shapes tend to pull and hold the stomach up. So first I would try a brief or high waisted brief. Like these: http://rstyle.me/n/ctdmhacau7p (firmer control with straps that hook to your bra) or http://rstyle.me/n/ctdmigcau7p (lighter control, but more comfortable).

      And if those don’t do enough for you (or you are wearing something that is more bodycon), try an open-bust bodysuit like this: http://rstyle.me/n/ctdmaacau7p or http://rstyle.me/n/ctdmeecau7p The straps will offer even more support and “lift.”

      This smooth base should give you more confidence when trying different skirt/top combinations.

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