Dressing to Disguise a Belly in Summer

Tips on how to hide your belly with fashion this summer by Wardrobe Oxygen

I have a large stomach that can easily pass for being seven or more months pregnant if I let it hang out and do not camouflage. Wearing A-line garments is tricky because I inevitably get asked if I'm pregnant. My “uniform” is slacks, a fitted tee or shirt, and a sweater or jacket, but you can see how this becomes tricky in the summer heat. Also, to accommodate my stomach, my pants often end up baggy in the rear (I have a tiny ass and thin legs). I want pants that fit but don't call attention to my stomach, aren't saggy in the bottom, and that is classic or on trend. My preferred style is classic and polished. What do you recommend?

Tips on how to disguise a belly in the summer heat. How to camouflage a midsection in summer by Wardrobe Oxygen

How to Hide a Belly in Summer: Dress over slim pants, strategic draping, pattern on the bottom, choosing tops that focus on your waist instead of above or below.
These exact items are no longer available but are featured to illustrate the post and give sartorial inspiration.  Within the post, you will find links to items that correspond with the advice offered.

Oh pants, they can be such a pain when you have curves. But they’re so versatile and easy to style, and so perfect for so many occasions. When it comes to really great pants in plus size that look classic and polished, I have to recommend the Kady pant from ELOQUII. It’s made of this thick, tightly-knit doubleweave stretch fabric that looks professional yet can dress down. The fabric is made that it holds its shape, no saggy bum or diaper effect after a day sitting at your desk. They’re an ankle length, which is also flattering and perfect to pair with summer shoes.  They also come in petites, and for those reading who are more of a pear shape, check out their Viola fit. The images below will direct you to different styles of the Kady pant available at the ELOQUII website:


If you're looking for jeans, I highly recommend Talbots.  I bought a pair of their white ankle jeans and wore them on a cross-country flight I found them so comfortable.  Even more amazing, when I arrived at my destination the jeans weren't stretched out!  They wash like a dream, come in regular, petite, long/tall, women, and women petite.  And if you think Talbots is for a certain age you haven't tried their clothes lately… you'll be pleasantly surprised. Click below to shop my picks from Talbots jeans:

As for tops, steer clear from trapeze or a-line tops like you mentioned, as well as anything with an empire waistline (below the bust, above the natural waist). Those are stereotypically found in maternity fashion. Instead, you want something fitted, or that is gathered to create the effect of a waist at or below your natural waistline. Surplice or faux wrap style tops and wrap dresses are great for this.  Also don't be afraid of tops that have a gently elasticized waist or a self-belt at the waist. Instead of adding bulk, it will help create the effect of an hourglass shape.

Examples of tops that use architectural details to hide a belly.
Shop the collage: floral top | red top | blue top | striped top

This carousel of images below showcases tops of this type currently available in stores. You can use the arrows to scroll through the images to find a top you like.  Click on the photo and a separate browser window will open directing you to the site offering the top.


Since you say you have slim legs, I am betting you also have arms that you don’t mind being seen. Showing your arms will not only keep you cool in the summer but also elongate your frame and balance your figure. Sleeveless, semi-sleeveless with a ruffle covering the top of the shoulder, or even a cap sleeve will likely flatter and look polished. Having that bit of shoulder detail will balance the body and keep the eye looking up. Steer clear of deeply cut armholes, racerbacks, or halters as even when the top is fitted, they create a triangle shape to the body, emphasizing the midsection. 

As for length, I think it’s up to you for comfort. I’ve seen women with large stomachs look phenomenal in tucked-in blouses or tops that hit right at the waistband, while others look better in tops that hit mid-hip. Tunics can be tough as again that’s a length that is popular in maternity fashion; if you prefer some length to cover the rear I say go even longer. The dress over pants look is back in style (and honestly if you do it right, a style that is never unstylish). Consider longer tops or shorter dresses in lightweight fabrics over slim but structured pants (not leggings, again that’s too typical maternity and not polished) for a very chic and modern look.  Below I have another carousel of tunic and shorter dresses that will look chic with longer shorts or lightweight capris, leggings, and such:


While many style gurus recommend wearing a column of color (same color top as trousers) to slim the figure, I think in this case it may emphasize your belly. Having a top with interest – gathers, a ruffle or drape, a tie neckline, a print – will camouflage your midsection without effort. Prints are our friend as they create an optical illusion. Graphic prints (brushstrokes, cubist patterns, etc.) camouflage better than classic dots and florals because they confuse the eye. 

Examples of tops that use prints to create an optical illusion.
Shop the collage: black and white stripe top | green floral top | black and white tunic | colorful striped top

I find the best optical illusions come from black and white patterns and they look so crisp with white pants and can winterize easily when the temps cool.  Again, I offer another carousel of tops that create an optical illusion with prints.  Scroll through and click on any image to visit the retailer's website:


And speaking of patterns, they don’t have to be reserved for the top. A fabulously printed pant can draw attention away from your midsection. Especially when paired with a black top (which recesses), this can be a very chic look. I love a black and white printed ankle pant; add a colorful sandal for even more style points and to again draw the eye away from the torso.

Accessories can make a major difference. As I mentioned, colorful shoes can add style but also bring the eye down. The same holds true for colorful statement earrings. Earrings are better than shorter necklaces or bold bracelets for making a statement as they are farther away from your midsection. If you do wish to wear a necklace, look for a long chain with a pendant that will elongate the frame. Have fun with sunglasses – big plastic frames, ‘70s inspired aviators or rose-tinted shades, anything that creates a bit of a statement while adhering to your personal style.

With bags, a big bulky shoulder bag that hangs at waist- to hip-length will only enlarge that part of the body. And in the summer heat, who wants to lug around a big heavy bag anyway? Consider totes, single strap backpacks to carry lots of gear and clutch bags when you don’t need to bring much.

And finally, the most important accessory to wear is confidence. When you feel good, you look good. You stand taller, you have better posture, you rock your outfit, and people notice the whole package, the amazing woman, not one specific body part.

This post was originally published in June 2017 and was updated in May 2019.

49 Comments

  1. June 8, 2019 / 9:48 pm

    Great article! I struggle with this issue all the time. You’ve given me some inspiration!

  2. Christine Johnson
    May 21, 2019 / 11:33 pm

    Great post! Anyone struggling with this issue might like to visit whenthegirlsrule.com, a blog wholly devoted to dressing the apple shape.

  3. MarlaD
    May 19, 2019 / 9:08 am

    Belly is definitely my biggest challenge. If you are a dress wearer, this season I discovered the super flattering Karen Kane Chloe dress and I’m in love. Some sites will say this is a swing dress but it is not – it’s a nice a line that skims but creates a shape and has room in the front without volume. And it has pockets! Looks cute with booties or sandals, cardigan or jean jacket. This must be a classic style for Karen Kane since there are a lot available out there that might be from prior seasons, there are some great bargains on Amazon. You can find prints and solids and comes in regular and plus. It’s a shorter style, I am 5’-1” and the XL it hits me right at the top of the knee. Packs up to nothing and doesn’t wrinkle. Honestly? I’ve got six so far.

    • July 16, 2019 / 10:05 pm

      Where do you find karen Kane dresses

      • MarlaD
        July 17, 2019 / 1:38 pm

        Hi Nancy, I have found them on the Karen Kane website, Nordstrom and Macy’s. There is also a hodgepodge available on Amazon, even some of the current styles at reduced prices. I do all my shopping online so I’m not sure what store availability is. They have some fall patterns out on the Nordstrom website right now. Good luck!

  4. Marie
    May 17, 2019 / 9:18 am

    This is GREAT post for me as I fall into this category and it’s my never ending dilemma !

  5. Cec
    May 16, 2019 / 11:12 am

    Any skirt/dress suggestions? I had a baby in the fall and am still nursing, so not only do I need tummy disguising but boob access. Also my internal thermostat seems to have reset to hot-all-the-time. Really really over empire waists and wearing my maternity dresses (and really really over people asking me if I’m (still) pregnant!)

    • Maryn
      May 17, 2019 / 10:38 am

      The Lands End banded waist fit and flare dress that was shared here recently was my go-to while nursing. I still have a couple in my closet – they pack well for travel, too.

      • May 17, 2019 / 10:50 am

        Great suggestion, it’s one I wore when nursing as well and continue to wear! https://shopstyle.it/l/3rBy I also did wrap dresses, especially in matte jersey which doesn’t stretch out over time like regular jersey can. It was a long while ago but I found mine at Talbots of all places. But a lot of places carry such dresses and they come in a range of lengths, sleeve lengths, prints, and solids. This one from chaus has elbow-length sleeves and this link is for navy but they have it in a couple other colors: https://shopstyle.it/l/3rDx and this one from Eliza J has a pretty floral print making it great for day weddings and social events: https://shopstyle.it/l/3rCK

        Not what you’re asking for but I had to share this jumpsuit from Loveappella I LOVED when nursing and beyond! https://shopstyle.it/l/3rCO

    • Lainey
      May 17, 2019 / 10:54 am

      As someone who has a similar body type to this after having two kids, I find that tucking tops (usually French tuck style) can actually help. It makes it obvious that I’m not pregnant and highlights the fact that I do indeed have a waist, even if it’s not a particularly slender one.

      • Lainey
        May 17, 2019 / 10:56 am

        This is weird – meant to post this as a general comment, not a reply to the above comment! Sorry!

  6. Darlene
    May 16, 2019 / 10:42 am

    Thank you for taking the time for this post. It’s so helpful to see all the top suggestions too, lots of inspiration to transition to summer! I’m going to check out those eloquii pants, though in going to the website I just learned they closed the location close to me! This is some of my favorite content you do, thanks!

    • May 17, 2019 / 10:52 am

      I’m sad they closed your nearby store! But do know they’re super easy to deal with for online purchases and returns!

  7. Barbara
    May 15, 2019 / 10:08 pm

    I don’t know what shape I am. I have big arms, a big tummy, big boobs and also short fat legs. I’m also just
    5 ft 4in. I wear leggings and jeggings. and most of the time I wear boots and booties in the winter. Summer I wear heels and flats. I wear tops to cover my tummy. I’m kinda a mess.

  8. Carole
    April 11, 2019 / 3:11 pm

    I have ok arms, large chest, & tummy but small hips and slim legs and ankles. I also have a very short torso, with no waist line., so tucking in is out for me. What shape would I be? And what tops would suit me best.

    • May 16, 2019 / 10:52 am

      I think you’re wrong in thinking tucking in is out. You may be surprised by how it can work for you. Try what they call a French tuck, where you just tuck in the front at the pant button, and let the rest hang out. It can really create an hourglass shape without exposing a lot.

  9. Carole
    April 11, 2019 / 3:09 pm

    I have ok ar, large chest, & tummy but small hips and slim legs and ankles. I also have a very short torso, with no waist line., so tucking in is out for me. What shape would I be? And what tops would suit me best.

  10. Bev
    February 11, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    It’s a little hard to see if these clothes really hide the belly when using a very thin model .

    • February 12, 2019 / 3:54 pm

      No models are used in this post, just flatly products of regular as well as plus sized garments.

      • Holly
        May 14, 2019 / 12:26 pm

        ???
        There are a lot of pictures of models above. And most of the models above, whether plus-sized or no, have rather flat stomachs. Bev is correct.

        • May 14, 2019 / 12:29 pm

          Are you speaking about the widgets that are offering the items at the retailers? I don’t have control over the models that retailers use on their websites. If you visit newer content on my site you will see that I (a woman who does not have a flat stomach) regularly models the clothing myself to give a better feel for how the clothing hangs. All graphics that I have provided in this post are “flat lay” which are images of clothing without bodies.

          • Holly
            May 14, 2019 / 12:34 pm

            Gotcha. That’s fair. I’ll check out your newer content for non-flatlay ideas. Thanks!

  11. Elisa
    April 7, 2018 / 11:55 am

    I cannot figure out my body type. The only way I can think to describe it is a barrel! I am big throughout my back, shoulders, chest and arms. My stomach is big and I have back rolls! I do have long, somewhat shapely legs and an ok butt. Help!!

    • Emmy
      August 2, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      Sounds like maybe apple type, that’s what I am…bigger on top, like bigger boobs and tummy, and even when I was skinny, I’ve always had muscular shoulders. Then little more narrow through the hips and butt, and more shapely legs/ calves.

  12. Heather
    March 11, 2018 / 6:37 am

    Oh so good to see and read something for us not so perfect body ladies!! I to suffer a large tummy. I find hippy type pants in block and patterned. I have the same in tops .. my style of top is anything with bling or unusual neck or sleeves short and long. All hang loose from my large bust! What do you feel of my style.

  13. Jayne Rooksberry-Price
    July 17, 2017 / 7:12 am

    The DP choker wrap top . . . LOVE! The red is a fabulous red, but sure wish it came in more colors! Grabbing it NOW! Thank you!

    • Jayne Rooksberry-Price
      July 17, 2017 / 8:10 am

      I’m still shopping and have several more lovely tops in my shopping cart! Do you know how the sizing runs for DP, Allie?

      • July 17, 2017 / 8:19 am

        Hi Jayne, I have never actually worn Dorothy Perkins, but I know a lot of bloggers love the brand. From what I’ve read it seems they’re pretty true to size, occasionally veering on generously sized. Let me know how it works out for you!

      • Jayne Rooksberry-Price
        July 17, 2017 / 3:18 pm

        Well, ended up not placing my order. While googling about sizing I found several complaints from people ordering in the US and their items being held until they paid an additional fee for customs . . .also, horrible customer service.

        • July 17, 2017 / 3:24 pm

          Oh no! I thought they also sold DP at SimplyBe but just checked and nope, at least not now. Sorry to hear that 🙁

  14. June 24, 2017 / 11:12 am

    Ha, I have the opposite problem! I actually am 6 months pregnant and want to look pregnant (while not wearing anything too clingy as I have also put on a bit of weight). I find it a bit disturbing that some people who haven’t seen me for months don’t seem to notice my condition even though my stomach is over twice the circumference it used to be! When I mention it, some say they didn’t want to say anything just in case it wasn’t and some genuinely didn’t notice… maybe it goes to show that at least some people really don’t pay that much attention to how we look.

    • nobodyssister
      July 7, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Nobody says anything because they have all been told, “Never ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless (maybe even if) you see a baby emerging from her at that moment.”

  15. janejetson
    June 17, 2017 / 10:22 am

    OMG – you are me. In summer I like to wear slim pants, with.a longish tank top and cute sandals (either flat or with a heel). Ankle pants help too. I have a big bust so I need to be careful about that too.

  16. Linda Poston
    June 16, 2017 / 6:09 pm

    This is sooooo my problem. Thanks for the ideas!

  17. DD
    June 16, 2017 / 1:36 pm

    This is the first time I’ve seen this issue laid out on a fashion site, and with so much detail to boot. Thanks you, this is FANTASTIC.

      • AnnieB
        May 18, 2019 / 7:47 am

        OMG – finally some help! It is so wonderful to have specific examples! I’m heavy in belly and hips but also have issues because I’m big busted and very short (4’ 10”). Thank you for doing this!!

  18. shessomelicious
    June 15, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    Also … tailoring. Fit to your biggest area and have the bum and legs taken in/reshaped if necessary. Very few of us find a perfect fit right off the rack. I think it’s worth it to invest a little more to get a wardrobe that is perfectly shaped for you. The confidence that comes with knowing your clothes fit the best they possibly can is absolutely invaluable.

  19. Kim Reynolds Rader
    June 15, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    This is the greatest and most relevant style post I have ever read. Thank you! Also, I want ALL those shirts in the one photo that doesn’t have links.

    • June 15, 2017 / 3:35 pm

      I made the pictures with an idea in mind not thinking that architectural styles was last year and this year is ruffles and I spent a good two hours trying to find similar to no avail. I considered deleting the picture, but then I was thinking these styles always return in style, may be found at more artsy boutiques, places like TJ Maxx that sell last season, and likely will return in style this fall. So frustrating!

  20. Lisa Whitmore
    June 15, 2017 / 1:29 pm

    I love this post! Any tips for casual summer clothes to minimize the belly? I’m a teacher so I’m off for the summer, but still don’t want the “when are you due?” question! Thanks for such a fantastic blog.

    • Piachka
      June 15, 2017 / 1:45 pm

      Yes ditto this please! I love the post since I’m a classic apple shape. Thin legs and ankles, big bust and belly. I know generally what’s flattering but I love how you have curated it. Id love to see a more casual take too!

      • June 15, 2017 / 3:51 pm

        I’ll try to fit it in, these posts take a lot more time but they are much more rewarding to do! Glad you and @disqus_FvMHXZry73:disqus both liked it!

  21. sheistolerable
    June 15, 2017 / 11:48 am

    If the concern is specifically not appearing pregnant for job-related reasons, heels, pointy flats, or other visibly non-comfortable shoes may help too. Anything a pregnant lady wouldn’t want to wear!

  22. Cynthia Peterson
    June 15, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Wow. So much information packed into this post. Thanks — I have exactly this problem!

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