How to Disguise a Belly in the Summer: 5 Steps to Feeling More Confident and Looking Your Best

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dressing to disguise a belly in the summer

A reader reached out asking how to disguise a belly in the summer. Below I share her email as well as tips on how to disguise a belly in the summer with what you wear and how to style outfits to not make one's stomach take the spotlight.

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?

This post was originally published in June 2017 and due to reader requests and new styles, was updated in 2022.

Tips on How to Disguise a Belly in the Summer

1. Let's Start with the Bottom Half: Pants, Jeans, and Shorts

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. 

The three fits of the ELOQUII ‘Kady' Pant

They come in three lengths as well as three fits – their “Gena” fit is for those who have a fuller midsection and smaller hips and thighs. their “Viola” fit is for those who have hips that are one to two sizes larger than their bust, and their “Regular” fit is for those with hips and bust proportional and a defined waistline.

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Another example of the ELOQUII ‘Kady' Pant on three different body shapes

Shop the ELOQUII Kady Pant:


If ELOQUII doesn't fit your body well (we're all shaped differently, the problem isn't you but the clothes), check out Universal Standard. Offering sizes 00-40 with several pant styles in petite and tall and hundreds of customer reviews, you may find exactly the right pants to fit your frame.

I am a fan of Universal Standard pants because I feel that they are made for a body with a belly. I can achieve the sleek, slim, and crisp pants look I desire without busting out above the legs.

Universal Standard's color and fabric selection is more limited than ELOQUII, but the quality is stellar and they make for great wardrobe workhorses you can style a variety of ways.

Shop Pants from Universal Standard:


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 a dozen different silhouettes, have a curvy fit, long/tall options, petite in straight and plus sizes, pull-on styles, and extensive customer reviews to help you find the right pair for you. 

And if you think Talbots is for a certain age you haven't tried their clothes lately… you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Shop My Picks for Talbots Jeans:


tips on styling a stomach

Above I share my experience styling a stomach with visuals of different bodies tucking and not tucking in tops.

When it comes to shorts, I know this can be a difficult topic. I like a longer short which will balance the midsection. A color that is lower contrast (white, beige, and faded denim for paler skintones; black, olive, and darker denim for deeper skintones for example) will look stylish and will elongate the figure.

An unexpected place where I have found great shorts that look good, slim the midsection, and are comfortable is Spanx. Yes Spanx! Offering up to size 3X, Spanx has a great Bermuda short that is a 10″ inseam. The Spanx Get Moving Skort is 15″ making it a great length to prevent thigh chafing while still looking modern. And for those who are shorter, their 6″ Get Moving Short is a great option.

Again, I must recommend Talbots for dressing your bottom half. Talbots has a great range of shorts where you can choose rise, length, and curvy or classic fit in misses, petite, plus, and plus petite. As a 5'3″ woman who carries her weight in her belly and rear, I am a fan of their 7″ Perfect Shorts. For taller bodies, their 10.5″ Perfect Short is a bestseller for good reason.

Shop My Picks for Shorts:


how to disguise a belly in summer
Tops that create the illusion of a waist. Clockwise from top right: Torrid, Avenue, CityChic, Lane Bryant

2. Now Let's Dress the Top Half:

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. 

how to minimize a stomach in summer
An example of tops that create the effect of a waist. Shop these tops below:

top row: chambray | purple tunic | light yellow-green
middle row: white floral | yellow peplum | dark green floral
bottom row:
blue ruffled | ivory animal print | white

By creating the effect of a waist, whether or not you “go in” in the middle, it will balance the figure thereby minimizing focus on the midsection.

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.

Shop Tops To Disguise a Midsection:


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. 

how to hide a belly in summer
Tops that hide a midsection with optical illusions

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 or longer shorts (not leggings, again that’s too typical maternity and not polished) for a very chic and modern look.  

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. 

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.  

Shop Tops that Create an Optical Illusion at the Midsection:


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.

3. Consider Your Accessories:

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.

4. Find a Tailor:

This is the advice that is the least desired, but the most important to really feel confident with what you wear. Don't expect to have clothing fit you off the rack. No one can dress off the rack. Those celebrities with enviable style? They employ tailors. That really stylish woman in your office? I'll bet she has a tailor. No matter your shape, size, or age, you will look better and feel more comfortable if your clothes are tailored to fit.

Do not wait until you've lost weight or just for your fancier or more expensive pieces; everything in your closet will likely improve with some tailoring. Not only that, when you have clothes that fit your current body, you will have less of a desire or need to shop, and find you achieve more style with fewer items in your closet.

I'm telling you, properly fitting clothing will minimize the appearance of your stomach, make your body look more proportional, improve your posture, and emphasize the parts of you that you want to be the focus. It's a real game-changer.

Shop for the largest part of you, whether it is your stomach, bust, hips, rear, or a combination. Then a tailor (or seamstress or sewist) can modify the rest of the garment to work with, not against you. Start small; have a tailor shorten the hem on a pair of pants or the sleeve on a jacket. But when you find a tailor you trust, they can achieve amazing things. For example, my tailor will take a pair of pants and slightly taper them below my rear and on the sides of pants so there is room for my belly and bum, but no sagginess underneath which just makes those curves look both bigger and less firm.

Where to find a tailor? Check Yelp, ask on your local Facebook page or NextDoor. If there is a bridal shop in town, ask if they have a seamstress who will take outside projects. A local theater likely knows of a seamstress that helps with costumes; that person may also do alterations. If there is a pageant community nearby, they likely know of quality tailors and seamstresses. An unexpected place is a bra boutique; they often have clients who have had body reconstruction and know of individuals who have helped their clients modify their wardrobe to accommodate the change.

This may seem intimidating or overwhelming, but if you keep shopping but feel you still have nothing to wear, if you are uncomfortable in your wardrobe, if you find what is in stores doesn't seem to work with your body… a tailor will transform your relationship with clothes and in the long run save you money. And tailors are like therapists… they have seen everything and your body is nothing weird or awful or bad. You are a client and they want their client to feel great.

how to hide a belly this summer

5. The Most Important Styling Tip:

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.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I found the article very interesting but, as others, my shape is not ‘regular’. With a large belly, large bust, very short chunky legs and fat ankles, dresses and/or skirts are out for me. I currently live in jeans but when I buy any, I have to take about 10 inches off the length, so any shaping disappears. Dressing tips for very shot people (I am 5 foot tall) would be much appreciated.

  2. The ideas with pictures in this article are very helpful, but here is my scenario. I have a large belly. Along with that, I have had a bilateral mastectomy due to bilateral breast cancer. Having said that, My chest is pretty flat and I have a hard time finding tops or dresses that won’t sag on top, yet will hide my belly. It is a difficult styling issue! Any suggestions? Thank you!

  3. This is another one of those posts where you read my mind. What excellent, well-researched useful advice! Thanks for sharing all the various examples.

    1. This is terrific advice! I recently started using a tailor, and it IS A GAME CHANGER! Thanks for sharing!

  4. For as many women that have commented that they are this shape why can’t plus size clothing designers realize that not all of us are hour glass or pear shaped? So many times I try on plus size clothes, pants in particular and discover that there is room for another person ()k, maybe just a small person, but still.) in the way the thigh portion is cut. I’m 5’2, wear a 38-40 h cup bra and I have a belly. My hips and legs are relatively slim. I have often described my shape as being deep, not wide.

      1. Oh my! As a retired teacher I am mortified by the typos in my comment. I will most definitely proofread better going forward.

        1. Don’t you find the typos worse in sending a text? And those auto corrects, oh my! Your response to your own text did make me laugh!

    1. 1000 percent agreed. I’m apple shaped, and have always had issues finding pants that didn’t swallow my thighs & butt, being that I had to buy a larger pant size in order to accommodate my large belly. My stomach is actually larger than my hips!
      I’ve always said… if I ever had the money, I’d start a clothing line —for straight & plus sizes —that accommodated each shape, and not just the main 4. The clothing world REALLY needs this; the plus size area needs a revamping, altogether. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to create the same styles/design aesthetics in plus–sized clothing, that exists so prominently in straight sizes, without breaking the bank or having to search all over creation!

      1. I am this way and I have found Judy Blue Jeans to be the best. They have amazing stretch without sagging in the bum, even the waist band has stretch. I get all of mine at arcrossroads.com I say they are the pants you can wear to eat at the buffet and never have to unbutton when done. Lol

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

  6. 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.

      1. 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!

  7. 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!)

    1. 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.

      1. 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

    2. 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.

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

      1. ???
        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.

        1. 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.

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

  12. 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!!

    1. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

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

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

  15. 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.

    1. 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.”

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

      1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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!

  21. 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!

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