How to Look Thin When You're a Size Sixteen

When I see Geri Halliwell's new body, I calculate that I must weigh at least twice what she does. I know that a regular person doesn't benchmark their size/shape against celebrities or even other people you meet in Waitrose, but I do. Learned behaviour, I guess. Maybe you wander the world feeling that you're content with who you are, but just not that happy that fashion trends are for hipless teens and botox babes?

Either way, you need my cut-out-and-keep guide to how to look curvaceously good on a budget:

  1. As soon as the new season's stuff comes out, run to M&S and try on everything remotely trendy looking in your size - stonewashed jeans, waistless trousers, off the shoulder tops (if you dare). If they fit and you like them (in that order) - buy. Go home immediately, memorise the washing instructions and cut out the label. This is not because you are ashamed of your womanly figure, but at some point your lover/Mother/cleaner will want to know what size you are (in a way that they never do about thin people) and you want to keep then guessing. There are very few shops that do relatively trendy basic items in larger sizes that don't cost a bomb, so get there quick. Other curvaceous women may know your secret.

  2. Try and wear clothes that are all the same shade. Now, I differ from my Mum who says that you shouldn't wear anything that "cuts you in half" (because apparently fat people can't be cut in half for some reason) - so that's goodbye to belts, three-quarter length trousers and tops and bottoms of non-matching colours. I once saw Ruby Wax interviewed on TV and she was asked "How do you manage to look so good (implication - thin)? And she replied that she wears a lot of black. If it works for Ruby….

  3. Have guts - whilst I don't think anyone looks good in a skin-tight leopard-skin t-shirt (apart from, perhaps, leopards) - don't feel you're big and you have to wear a tent. My tent-wearing years are over, and soon as I threw out my shapeless shifts and just bought clothes that fit, people immediately thought I'd lost weight anyway. Nothing makes you look as fat as buying an XXXL sweatshirt that you think hides everything.

    Now my Mother disagrees with this, but what is a mother-daughter relationship without a disagreement? (or, for that matter, a mother-daughter disagreement without a relationship?). My Mum says that the only item to wear is a silky loose-cut top, where the silk material falls in-line with your flab. I say hide your curves at your peril - be out and proud.

  4. If you have cleavage, enjoy it. Share the joy with the world. Even if you don't have cleavage, chances are you have a fat neck - so that's no to polo necks, turtle necks and possibly even round neck tops. From now on, you will wear at the very least a v-neck top, and probably a cleavage-teasing come-hither ensemble that will have everyone apart from your Mum quivering at the knees.

  5. Get good underwear. This is true if you are thin, but doubly or triply true if you are voluptuous. I won't bore you with the good foundation undergarments shtick, but believe me, get fitted for bras, and if you have a lovely pair of coconuts make sure they are well-supported. You can yearn after bras with spaghetti straps but they won't do you any good. Know where to shop - M&S for lingerie on the days you know no-one will see it, La Senza, Debenhams Shapely or Fantasie for the days when someone might.

  6. Tell everyone you've been on a diet. Most people apart from you don't actually notice if people have lost or gained weight, they just notice if someone looks happy. So promulgate the myth that you have been dieting successfully (but of course you're on a no-weighing-I-can-tell-from-my-jeans diet) and you will be surprised at the number of weight-related/you-look-great compliments you get. Just you watch.

  7. Exercise. If you are really overweight (as opposed to those stick-thin girls you want to murder who obsess about losing four pounds) then chances are you don't exercise. And chances also are that you have an inactive life - you probably don't do a weekly aerobics class, you would rather take a cab than walk half a mile, maybe you feel a little lethargic. None of this is good for your general well-being. Get into the active habit - take the stairs not the lift (but only for less than four floors - I'm not a masochist), if it's sunny, walk, if you live anywhere inside zone two don't even think about driving short distances. Start behaving like you own your body and want to lovingly maintain it, rather than feeling it's on loan whilst you wait to exchange it for the newer/thinner model.

  8. Accessorise - next to exercise in the luscious style-babe's dictionary. And I don't mean in a princessy-David-Lloyd-healthclub way - no pink trainer shoelaces matching the stripe down the side of your tracksuit bottoms reflecting the pink trim of your T-shirt. I mean collect interesting accoutrements - vintages scarves, brooches from junk shops, fabulously unusual shoes, recycle things that used to belong to your Gran. Be an individual. Be impulsive. Have no fear.

  9. Now the received wisdom for fat people, particularly on TV, is to wear loosely cut jersey clothes, generally in black, with a huge brooch at your cleavage, supposedly to draw attention away from your child-bearing hips or something. The truth is, most men love a woman who looks like a woman rather than a child, so use your style to express your individuality and your accessories to reflect your style.

  10. Don't be fashion victim. This is true whether you're fat or thin, but especially when the latest trend might be some post-human fashion designers' joke. So if luminous skin-tight clothes are all the rage, resist. Don't buy it if it doesn't suit you. You are old and wise enough to not flock-follow. Get a luminous scarf, and a cheap one too, as it will be so-last-week-daahling by the time you get to wear it.

  11. There should always be ten things in a list like this, right? Don't feel the need to follow the rules (apart from mine, of course); live on the edge, smile more, take risks and enjoy the attention.

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