The Best Suiting for Curvy Women

A reader recently emailed me asking for work suiting advice.  She is looking for a power suit but has a curvy shape.  She wanted to know if I had any suggestions on where to find a great suit:

I am an architect and work in a design field of mostly men… and I have a very feminine physique. I am a classic ‘apple' shape with a large bust and am typically a size 10/12. I need a long, lean power suit and don't know what brands to try. I am a fan of Universal Standard but have not ordered one of their suits yet. I will take any suggestions you might have.

For years I struggled to find suiting to accommodate my soft curves. I am 5'3″ with an F-cup bust and in the past decade have varied between a size 12 and 16. Every suit I found was either too boxy or looked like it was leftover from the cast of Melrose Place (remember the super tight and short suits Amanda Woodward would wear?). Luckily in the past couple of years, brands have caught on to the need for great suiting for curvy frames while trends have made suits stylish for everyone, not just stockbrokers. Below I share my favorite places to shop for suiting for curves along with some photos of me in suiting from the retailers I have shopped from.  The other retailers I recommend come from feedback from multiple Wardrobe Oxygen readers.

The Best Retailers Offering Suiting for Curvy Women

Wearing a Talbots Italian Doubleweave Double-breasted Blazer and Pants; see my full Talbots suiting review at this link.

Talbots

At Talbots, I can find suiting for my 5’3” size 14 curvy body and they fit right off the rack. Offering most of their suiting in misses, petite, plus, as well as plus petite, you can create a more custom fit for your unique shape. Talbots suiting is clean, classic, shaped for a woman’s figure. You can find a great pantsuit in a solid color or subtle pattern that will be classically stylish now and seasons from now. The quality is excellent, and the customer reviews help you know which size to purchase and if the silhouette will work for your form.

Shop Talbots Suiting:

Universal Standard

I’m glad you mentioned Universal Standard because I think they do offer great suiting pieces – good quality, classic styles, and a size range from 00-40 with some pieces available in petites. They have suiting in ponte, a classic stretch wool suiting fabric, and a classic luxe twill suiting fabrics. Each fabric has one blazer and a variety of skirts and pants to coordinate. I love how they will show the same piece on a variety of bodies at different sizes so you can better assess how it will fit on your frame. I find the wool and twill suiting pants from Universal Standard to accommodate lower curves quite well; the ponte some find they are better sizing up for a curvy frame. That being said, their size chart is very detailed and I recommend measuring yourself and if unsure, contact their customer service to ensure you order the right size.

Shop Universal Standard Suiting:

Wearing a Banana Republic blazer with coordinating “Ryan” pants in tropical weight wool. No longer available; click here to see the original blog post with this suit.

Banana Republic

I’ve had surprisingly good luck finding suiting that fits my curves at Banana Republic. Offering sizes 0-20 and most pieces with tall and petite options, you can achieve a better fit before visiting a tailor. Often employing stretch and tech fabrics that resist wrinkles and are travel-friendly while offering a variety of jacket and pant cuts for different frames, the suiting is very curve-friendly and a lot of it is also machine-washable. If unsure, I recommend sizing up with the blazer and then visiting your neighborhood tailor or seamstress to shorten the sleeves and do a minor nip or tuck along the torso for a custom fit.

Shop Banana Republic Suiting:

Wearing another suit from Talbots. It is no longer available; click here to see the original blog post reviewing it.

Of Mercer

Of Mercer was created for businesswomen who want to look powerful but also embrace their feminine side. Offering 00-14 as well as 14W-20W, Of Mercer offers matching suiting separates in three different classic fabrics, all with stretch to work with a woman’s curves. Fit is important to Of Mercer and they have a detailed size chart and online instructions on how to measure yourself to find the right fit.

Wearing a petite plus sized pantsuit from Talbots. No longer available; click here to read the initial review.

Sumissura

Wish it was possible to get a custom-made suit without being a millionaire?  Wish such a feature was available without leaving your home?  Sumissura creates custom-made suits for women and when I say custom, that goes beyond your body's measurements.  Being able to choose fabric, label style, fit, even number of buttons on the cuffs, Sumissura gives you the luxury of designing the suit perfect for you without spending an arm and a leg (custom suits are under $300).  I have never used Sumissura, but I love the idea of it and love how they don't have a size limit.  If the idea of creating a suit from scratch is overwhelming, Sumissura carries popular business suit designs already set up and you can just enter your measurements to get it made for you.  Sumissura also offers dresses, trenches, and more made to fit.

Wearing a ponte knit pantsuit from Banana Republic. it is no longer available but was a suit that fit me for years thanks to the professional yet stretchy fabric. Click here to see the original post featuring this suit.

Tips for Curvy Women Buying Suiting:

  • Size up, tailor down. To make sure there is room for your curves, purchase a size up.  Ensure the sleeves are roomy enough for your upper arms and shoulders, even when wearing a blouse, that your bust doesn't cause the jacket to pull, that you can sit comfortably in the trousers.  A tailor is your secret weapon in making any suit look twice its pricetag and give you twice the confidence and air of success. 
  • Consider a single-breasted, one-button style.  A one-button style creates an hourglass shape, working with a curvy frame.  It also looks more current and looks good when left unbuttoned.
  • Consider a “column of color”.  If you wish to minimize your curves, creating a, in the words of my friend Rosana of DC Style Factory, a column of color with your blouse and pants the same color will elongate the frame.  If the color is dark, it will recess under the blazer making your figure less of the focus.  No need to have it black with a light-colored blazer; other dark colors will work and the blazer doesn't have to be high contrast to achieve the effect.

Wearing another Banana Republic pantsuit. While I chose it in hot pink, when it was still available it came in more conservative colors like black and navy. Click here to read the original blog post featuring this suit.

While this list is not exhaustive, these retailers are known to carry professional looking suiting season after season, offering fabrics and fits to work with a woman’s curves. If you are reading this article and know of another retailer that regularly offers professional suiting for curvy women, do share it in the comments to benefit other women looking for this workwear must!

16 Comments

  1. Isi
    July 16, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    I have tried Sumissura myself because it sounded perfect. however, I wasn’t able to get well fitting trousers from them, even after sending them back twice with feedback. Every body is different, of course, so they may work very well for others. But I was really disappointed that they had tiny seam allowances, so I couldn’t even take them to a local tailor to have them fitted! My tailor assured me that in most made-to-measure, seam allowances are about an inch, not a quarter. Also, no stretch fabrics.
    I would be interested in hearing other experiences, though. If my experience is the exception, I might be willing to try again

    • July 21, 2020 / 2:56 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this! That’s really weird/not cool about the seam allowances!

  2. Karin
    July 16, 2020 / 3:08 pm

    I love the Premier Bi-stretch work blazer and pants on Eloquii. Makes me feel sexy in a suit, which is hard to do! I’m hourglass and 5’7 if that helps.

    • July 21, 2020 / 2:56 pm

      I agree, their Premier Bi-stretch is fantastic!

  3. Erin
    July 15, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    As more of an apple shape myself, I prefer Ann Taylor. I have two of their suits and wear their dresses with the blazers as well. I have built a nice work wardrobe with AT pieces.

    • Jennifer
      July 17, 2020 / 12:57 pm

      Agreed. As an apple shape, I’ve had great luck with Ann Taylor

    • July 21, 2020 / 2:57 pm

      I used to love Ann Taylor but in the past couple of years I’ve found the quality and fit inconsistent which is why I didn’t include them. But that may be me focusing too much on the Ann of a decade ago instead of seeing them as who they are now!

  4. Emily L
    July 15, 2020 / 9:16 am

    This was a great roundup! I don’t have to wear a suit every day anymore, but when I did I also found J. Crew to have good options. J Crew and Banana Republic were my go-tos, and I also had some luck at Nordstrom with its Halogen brand (hit or miss with the fabrics), Vince Camuto, and Theory (the best wool suit I’ve ever had). I found some good pieces at Ann Taylor as well. With a curvy hourglass figure, muscular butt and thighs, and big shoulders, I size up and tailor down in every single one of these brands from the sizes I would buy in regular clothes.

    • July 21, 2020 / 2:58 pm

      Thank you for these suggestions Emily!

  5. Melissa Stamos
    July 15, 2020 / 9:10 am

    @Bette – Love MM LaFleur! Also, I find good options at Ann Taylor and Elie Tahari.

    • Melissa Stamos
      July 15, 2020 / 9:20 am

      Also – Saks Fifth Avenue online has a great (but small) selection of heavily discounted suiting pieces and work dresses. Think $450 reduced to $100.

  6. Linda A Fagan
    July 15, 2020 / 9:05 am

    Great options! That tan suit is a 10 on you. Love them all!

  7. Bette
    July 15, 2020 / 9:03 am

    I notice the questioner is an apple shape, as am I. I often wear suits to work, and find that many “curvy styles,” esp those from Talbots, are more suited (no pun intended! 😉 to women with smaller waists and bigger hips and thighs — the pear shape. FWIW, since your reader is an architect and likely appreciates design, MM LaFleur might be a good option. I love how their pieces indicate whether they’re “middle friendly” or “hips friendly.” Plus, they offer creative options in knit fabrics and beautiful colors that can spice up the office.

    With all this said, I’d like to add that I remain super annoyed at Talbots for no longer offering their suit pants in Talls.

    • NICOLE KOWALSKI
      July 15, 2020 / 2:26 pm

      I am exactly the shape the questioner describes and agree that Curvy fits do not work for an apple shape. Waists are too small, hips too big. Curvy is not = a little extra weight in the middle with a large bust.

      I also find one button jackets rarely work unless the “stance” – place where the button is placed – is close to under the bust. It just gaps, emphasizing the fact that the girls aren’t small.

      I’ve never tried MM Fleur, but I have had no luck at Talbots or Banana Republic ever. Same with Theory-they don’t like boobs. J Crew cuts have sometimes worked. My best blazers are Eileen Fisher, J Crew and Ann Taylor.

    • July 16, 2020 / 3:16 pm

      I fully agree, I never buy the curvy fit, it’s geared towards more of a “pear” shape.

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