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Muslimah Style Tips: Taking a Real Look at Plus-Size Dressing

SHUKR’s Head Designer Tabassum Siddiqui lists the good, the bad and the ugly of what is available and trendy- to help women of all sizes solve the challenge of what to wear to look their best.

I am a plus-sized sister and have been invited to a ladies’ party but I have no idea what to wear! What should I be looking for, what colours will work for me and how should I accessorise my outfit? I want to look beautiful but I am worried my size may let me down.


Please include general advice on choosing styles to flatter when not in hijab as well as advice on how to choose fabrics and shapes for outer garments like abayas.



Anyone who thinks they are a specialty size probably owns 2 or 3 “safety” or “default” outfits, rotating them to near deterioration even though you probably have a closet chock-full of clothes.


The main problem for most shapes and sizes is that they’re not easily found in trendy High Street stores let alone on the runways or in magazines. Many women end up wasting time, energy and money in stores that do not cater for them. They stumble around looking like a deer caught in the headlights because they’ve gone shopping unprepared and without a mission. Later, they come home feeling tired, depressed, unhappy, and again, without an outfit. They have no idea what their silhouette or colours are; they have no idea what they are shopping for; or they shop with people who think that what works for their body type will work for others.


As a tall sister, I have a “horrible” time finding shoes, let alone clothes. You would think that with all of the 6 ft. tall models that grace the runway, there would be a plethora of options. Well, no. Apparently, they are anomalies. With my size 9 boats, I used to visit dozens of stores desperately searching for something to cover my hideously large feet. Yes, I did have self-hating issues, and you would too if almost everyone you encountered told you that you were too tall, your feet too big, and how on earth are you ever going to get married?


Alhamdulillah, I did get married, my husband appreciates my height, and I am on the very slow path to loving my shoe size. I used to painfully wear shoes that weren’t my size just so that I would be wearing what everyone else was wearing or out of complete desperation to wear shoes that weren’t trainers or from the men’s section. After hundreds of fruitless hunts of not finding my size or shoes that didn’t look too orthopedic or too matronly, I decided to get real about my size.


I did the hard investigation to find out what shoes are best for my feet, who made my size and where are they located. Yes, they cost a bit more, but this is a worthy investment because in the long-run I have something that I can wear which is pain-free, and not 12 pairs of shoes that I can’t ever wear. I can now keep trainers only for working out and my feet love me for not binding them in size 9 or 10 stilettos.


So what is a woman to do if she has been so wonderfully blessed with beautiful curves? A bit of creativity and confidence will go a long way; so too will taking the time to find out what colours, cuts and styles flatter you best. Next, find out which stores near you or online carry your size. When you have done your research, you will be ready to shop and ready to define your own look.


Here are some dressing tricks, whether for parties or for general wear. Remember that taking the time to develop and invest in a great wardrobe is an investment in you.


Essential Underwear:
So many women glaze over this topic when it is the most necessary item in our wardrobe. Even if you’ve thought you had found the perfect outfit for the occasion, without the right foundation pieces, the outfit could look all wrong. Wearing a properly fitted bra can actually take pounds off your overall look, lift you up, reveal a waistline that does exist, and make you look better in your clothes. If you are busty on top, why would you wear a bra that is pretty in front but has these thin straps that cut into your back and sides and does nothing in the way of support? Yes, you can still wear those beautiful lacy ones, but get them in your size with wider straps and in a design that will provide a bit of lift or minimising. Remember that, regardless of your size, the bra band is what actually lifts you up and not the straps. It’s recommended to not wear the same bra two days in a row because you will wear out the elasticity in the bra band over time.


Another great foundation piece that helps smooth out any extra rolls is shapewear. You might be thinking of a corset, but a more comfortable option would be an all-in-one body that will lift and firm you up without a visit to a plastic surgeon. Your clothes will just slide on and you will have a slimmer torso in no time. Just need a lift at the rear? Then opt for knickers that resemble biker shorts but offer contouring where it is needed. Investing in these problem solvers is the secret to looking flawless in your dress for most sizes above 12.


Working Your Assets:
Whether it is a special evening with your husband or an all-women’s Eid party, emphasising your favourite parts and downplaying what you would rather not think about is a win-win strategy. The key to effortless elegant dressing is knowing yourself well and balancing and harmonising every element in your overall look. This also refers to what you do show off and what you don’t. Sometimes this will mean not conforming to a certain style or cultural trend amongst your friends. Once you get the hang of it, you will look effortless and elegant at any occasion.



Try the following:
•  Wrap style dresses and tops. The wrap style is a true friend to anyone who wants to creatively disguise an untoned midsection. A wrap style with a deep V-neck will give the illusion of a waist.


• Princess seams (tops with a bit of boning) and any type of cut that is more structured and tailored around the waist. The fabric will then flow naturally over the hips. If you feel as straight and as wide as a block, you need to trick the eye with a curved line. Any style that doesn’t have a curved line – like a double breasted jacket with rows of straight buttons – will make you look like a building.


• Flared hems and curved seams in coats and sweater coats. A frock style coat just below-the-knee can be left open or closed for a slim look for those who do not have a defined waist. Choose coats with a looser cut and curved seams that will still give you a slim look without lacking modesty.


• Delicate fabrics with small prints that will actually create movement. Small prints distract the eye and are good for those looking to disguise their midsection and hip area.


• A belted look slung around the hips with a long oversize silk tunic in one of your bold colours with eye-catching jewellery at the next party will give the appearance of a skinny waist.


• Pencil, flared and trumpet flared skirts if you have a large bum. If this is an area you want to disguise you need to give that area structure and control where the volume starts and stops. These types of skirts have flaring just below the bum, and therefore do not make you look wider.


• Kaftans and loose tunics, whether they have an amazing print, are embellished, or in a beautiful silk or cotton, they truly are a style saviour for any size. They hide every imperfection, and leave you looking sophisticated, put-together and feeling comfortable. It is definitely worthwhile to stock-up on a few good pieces in this category.


• Wearing all one colour to slim and lengthen the body. Instead of doing all black, which a lot of people do, choose one of your colours and style your look with accessories in complimentary colours. Don’t think that wearing all one colour is boring. You can vary your mono-colour look with different textures.


• Empire waistlines on tops and dresses. This waistline hits right below the bustline therefore emphasising the bust, and then opening into a more flared line – another great way to draw attention away from your midsection whether you are a plus size, have a post-pregnancy belly, or haven’t been to the gym in a really long time. Choose empire waistlines that also have other features such as fine ruffles, tucks, and other embellishments around the bust area to distract the eye from focusing on your stomach.


• Batwing, kimono, and peasant sleeves are an elegant and interesting way to masquerade not-so-firm arms. Choose these styles in delicate fabrics and lightweight soft knits.


• Boat necklines, wide lapels, and flared hems help to balance out the wideness of your hips and the overall proportion of your body.


• Tops and dresses with gathering detail around the midsection disguise those wobbly bits.


• A stacked heel or wedge shoe to balance out your size. Since they have a solid, wider base, they are the right proportion for a plus-size woman.


• A heeled look at the next party because this will instantly lengthen the leg. And if  you haven’t yet mastered the art of walking in heels, go for a beautiful ballerina flat in satin, embellished, or with a quirky print.  Another option for summer parties would be a strappy metallic flat sandal that will go with just about anything.


Always look for the right proportions, cuts, colours, and shapes you wear with your silhouette to achieve the best overall harmonised look.


Avoid at all costs:
• Anything bias cut. It clings in all the wrong places.


• Boxy cut jackets, tops or sweaters; they will make you look thick and unfeminine.


• Large prints on delicate fabric because the movement of the fabric will put the print in motion! The fleshier you are, the more exaggerated the effect will be.


• A-line and straight skirts. The flaring of an A-line skirt starts from the waistline and gradually increases in volume as it comes to your hips, with the result of visually widening your hip area.


• Ankle strap shoes and boots on short legs or thick ankles.


• Capri trousers… on anyone.

• Sleepwear that hit at the calf. On a plus size women or anyone with thick ankles, showing the entire curve of the calf with a just-below-the-knee nightie or dress actually lengthens the leg and provides an overall slimming effect.


• Kitten heeled shoes. Their tiny spiky heel will only exaggerate the size of plus size women, make them look disproportionate, and as if they are teetering on top of a needle.


• Skinny and tapered leg trousers.

• Wide colourful tops with black trousers.


• Cap sleeves and sleeveless tops. These styles cut you off at the widest part making your arms appear bigger than they are.


• Turtlenecks and funnel necks on busty women.


• Synthetic and shiny fabrics. Synthetic fabrics don’t breathe, and don’t have the same gorgeous effect as investing in more natural, higher quality fabrics. Shiny fabrics invariably reflect light off of every bit of extra flesh that you want to disguise.


• Belted trench coats if you are busty and lack a defined waistline. You will look thick and constricted.


• Straight cut coats.


• Anything high waisted; it’s unflattering for your midsection and only increases the size of your bum.

• Belted looks at the waist; it will only mark the exact circumference of your waist and send extra flesh above and below the belt.

All sizes are quoted in UK sizes.



Tabassum Siddiqui is the Head Designer for SHUKR who divides her time between Andalusia, Damascus and her hometown in Los Angeles.