How to Dress an Apple

Okay, so we aren’t REALLY going to dress apples! I am not Amelia Bedelia.

But some of us tend to be a little, um, thick in the middle, and it takes some skill to camouflage this discrepancy in proportion. After all, a flattering fit is all about creating the proper proportion.

When I gain weight, it goes right to my middle. I’ve learned over the years some tips and tricks to disguise it, but I’d love to hear your input. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Balance.

To balance out the proportion, add bulk to the bottom and/or top (depending on which is the bigger issue). For instance, a chunkier shoe or a tall boot helps balance out a thicker middle with wider shoulders. Uggs are great for this body type. Also, a boot cut or flare pant leg work just as well.

Not that most models need help in this area, but this outfit works well. The boyfriend cardigan also helps camouflage a thicker middle.

2. Structure.

As much as I love flowy, filmy dresses and tunics, these only exaggerate the problem. Instead, opt for dresses and jackets with structure. This is why I love a sheath dress with a lot of structure at the waist. Thicker fabrics are best. Like this sheath from Kenneth Cole. Gorgeous.

3. Wide waistbands.

Pants with a wider waistband tend to hold in some of the extra, um, stuffing, and create a smoother silhouette. I especially like when the button closure is on the side and not right in the middle, like the Sloan Fit flared pant at Banana Republic.

Bonus deal: Use code BRJAN25 for 25% off your order at Banana Republic. You are welcome.

4. Cardigan or wrap sweaters

Cardigans help camouflage a thicker middle (see the photo from #1.) Fortunately right now they are all the rage. I always opt for one when I’m feeling bloated or heavy around the middle, which used to be often.  Now with gluten free, notsomuch anymore!!

I like these too, but the tie at the waist can work for or against you.

It can cinch you in a bit, but I feel that it just draws attention to the fact that I have no waist. What do you think?


I know some people think they need the pleats to have room for the extra stuff, but no no no. They just make more volume where you don’t want any. Go for a nice smooth flat front, and if you feel the need to hide under more volume, wear a stylish cardigan instead.

6. Shapewear.

When in doubt, shapewear is your friend. I have an extensive collection of shapewear, and I’m not too proud to wear them. I reviewed my favorites last year at Chic Critique.

What advice would you add for dressing an apple shaped figure?

Join The Conversation

24 Responses

  1. I am starting Weight Watchers tomorrow so this post is very apropos. I have bookmarked the shapewear critique to take to the mall because stuffing all my bumpy bits into piece after piece of clothing, without any sort of recommendation or review, that has been designed to hold things in and can often be stronger than a gorilla on meth would just be plain nuts. And I frown upon nuts. (not really, I love nuts of all kinds)
    My fav outfit for those particularly apple-ish days is layers. A long sleeveless, floaty tank over a long sleeved tee over skinny jeans/pants. Top it off with a flowy open cardi and a long chunky pendant necklace and you’re golden. Bonus for chunky boots.
    Btw, love the mini tutorial on the Fashion Friday link up. I was practically apoplectic last week trying to figure it all out. And in fact, did not figure it out. Perhaps someone should write a post? Or an ebook? Hint hint
    Sorta worrying here that this post is irrelevant…

    1. LOL. You’re cracking me up. 🙂 I can’t seem to do floaty tops; they make me look HUGE. Maybe it’s a combo of boobs and belly. LOL

  2. I’m sure you’re right about the various styles that would look good on us apples, but I would love to see some pictures of actual apples wearing these styles. Might help to convince me to go shopping 🙂

  3. I’m an apple too…straight to the middle…that’s where the extra fluff goes. Cardigans are my best friend…especially the long, boyfriend cardigans. They hide that glorious muffin top. Thank goodness for the, “flowy shirt” trend that’s been going on for a little while now. They can be tricky, though because with a bit in the middle, one can look pregnant. Trust me, it is no fun to be asked when the baby is due when you’re holding a two month old and counting Weight Watcher points. (Yeah…it was even a woman who said that one. 🙁 So…another style I like is when a shirt has ruffles or layers going on down the front. (Not too much, but just enough to do a little damage control) J Crew tends to have a lot of those that look great under long cardigans.

    Amen to wide-waisted pants. J Crew’s every day chinos have a nice wide band, are super comfy and come in great colors.

    A little tip from Stacy and Clinton on the belted sweaters: Try not to tie it directly at your waist. You should tie it at your ribcage, as that tends to be the thinnest part of most people.

    I’d still love some more ideas for this shape…especially when it comes to jeans…because in order to fit my waist, they are usually baggy in the bum. Most articles on that subject offer help to curvy, petite, and boy/straight-shaped ladies…not thick-in-the-middle folks.

    Thanks so much!!

    1. I think, for jeans, and I LOVE ME SOME JEANS, the secret is to finding the brand that makes a wider waist. For me, I love Sevens and Joes. They seem to have a straighter cut than other designer brands. I also think the lower rise is actually better. The mid-rise (which is still pretty low by most people’s standards) cuts right at the fat line. When they sit lower, they don’t tend to make such an indention, as they sit right under the um, skin. Of course, you have to be careful that your stuffing doesn’t spill out over. This is where the shapewear comes in, sigh…

      Since giving up gluten and most carbs, I don’t have as much of an issue with this. YAY!

    2. I’m going to suggest something a little out of the box – maternity jeans. I have a pair of Levi’s and a pair of Seven’s that I still wear. They have that lovely built in, up to the boobs stretchy panel to smooth everything out and I defy anyone to tell them apart from regular jeans when you have on your long layers on top. There are so many cute, high end maternity jeans out there and you can pick them up on the cheap at consignment shops since most people only wear them for oh about 9 months or so:)

  4. My favourite piece of fashion advice came from my aunt. She said, “Always wear your harvest knickers!” (knickers is British-talk for your ‘undies’). “What are HARVEST knickers?” you may ask….Control undergarments. All is safely gathered in!!

  5. The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s better to have 1 or 2 better quality cardigans or jackets than 10 inexpensive ones. The more expensive ones are usually made better – heavier fabrics or tighter knits and “hold you in” or “camouflage” better. I’ve tried many lesser quality cardigans that have the bulk but show …um the stuffing.

  6. Thanks Jo-Lynne–a post near and dear to my heart! My ability to camouflage my middle led me to helping other women which in turn brought me to personal styling. I can so relate to the excess middle weight and the frustrations it causes. I encourage women to bring the eye AWAY from the middle with great accessories or details on clothing. I’m trying to understand why women are so against shapewear–the support tanks out there now (not full bodied uncomfortable pieces) are a beautiful thing! And last, designers are finally understanding that the more seams in a jacket the more flattering they are on us. The right fit flatters while excess fabric in the wrong place adds lbs. I love the long draping cardigans that have some shape in the back or fabric that hugs the small of the back. This creates an illusion to make the middle look smaller meanwhile the draping in the front covers what it needs to. Thanks for a great post.

  7. I like shirts that flare out a bit around the waist….tighter up top to show off the “girls” but not tight enough below to show the “stuffing”, lol! But, just make sure they don’t flare too much or they look like maternity tops!

  8. Oh my, this is just what I need. I am so challenged, it isn’t funny. First, I have to find the time to shop, but I’ll store all this info. now, and use when I get to the store.

    I’m not sure if all my fluff goes to the middle, it feels like it finds any old place that will take it. But I’ll keep these tips in mind. Found your blog from a friend of yours who mentioned it last night at a bloggers meeting. She blogs at https://www.waterwatereverywhere.net . She said what a great blog you have and I thought I’d check it out. Glad I did. Have a great day!

  9. The older I get the more I can see where people talk about the apple shape. WTH! SO annyyywhoooooo I love Kymaro, thank you for recommending that! I’ll have to try the pants with the side buttons (the link you have for the Banana Republican ones isn’t working at the moment).

    I can’t figure out cardigans to save my soul, so I am not even wearing thicker ones at the moment. And don’t think this does not pain me in -20 weather. I don’t like the longer ones cuz helllooo draw attention to my arse ….. which I don’t care for.

    I’m with ya on the boot cut jeans and the chunky shoes. Gotta have.

  10. Jo-Lynne,
    I used to be a Pear, but now I’m an Apple. I still need to learn the ins and outs of covering the mid-section better. I am really liking looser tops. Love the post.

  11. So I checked your blog a couple times today to see who the Choffey winner was…you can see where my focus lies :). In doing so, I read this post a few times but didn’t think much about myself when reading it…not b/c I’m not an apple, b/c I am. Thinking of someone who has cute clothes in there closet b/c since I turned into an apple after having my son, I’ve pretty much kept one eye open for the ‘What Not To Wear’ cameras.
    BUT tonight I was getting dressing for a dinner with friends from SoRo (you know the kind) and I was just going to put on my Mom uniform, feel insecure and call it a night. But then I remembered your notes…so I have Dark jeans on with some layers and boots! Man do I feel skinny! Thank you 🙂

  12. Big fan of shapewear – if only I could afford to buy enough to wear it every day and w/ every type of outfit – then I might not have to shop – I would like what I already have! And – I’m w/ Julie – no one should wear pleated pants – now if I can just sneak those pleated khakis out of my husbands closet – we’ll be all good!

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