Sewing Patterns That Hide Your Tummy

As many of you will know, I had a baby about a year and a half ago.  Like many women who have had a child, I've now got a bit of a mummy tummy.  The presence of my mum tum hasn't really bothered me too much.  I suppose I've just assumed that it would eventually disappear. Also, my casual lifestyle since having Annabel has meant that my preferred outfit - skinny jeans and loose-fitting tops - has disguised my tummy.  On the very few occasions when I've needed to dress up, I've got a handful of dresses in my wardrobe that fit and flatter.  So, I haven't really needed to think about my tummy.  

All of this changed last week.  With the weather getting nicer here in Glasgow, I suddenly decided that (a) I was actually quite tired of living in jeans all the time and (b) wouldn't it be nice to start dressing up a little and make a few casual skirts to add to my wardrobe?  I selected two skirts which looked both stylish and practical: Liesl & Co.'s Everyday Skirt (which has a neat elasticated back) and Tilly and the Buttons' Miette Skirt (a flared wrap skirt).  I was going to make the Everyday Skirt in our AGF Pandagarden Naptime cotton broadcloth and Miette in our Josselin light blue chambray.  However, before getting started, I had a bit of a nagging feeling: would these two skirts styles suit my figure?  I didn't have any gathered or flared skirts in my wardrobe to test this (and no time to do any snoop shopping), so I made some rough mock-ups with some spare fabric.  And I was pretty disheartened by the results: neither style looked great on me.  

A photo I posted on Instagram last week with my sewing plans.  Thanks so much to everyone who provided feedback!

With my plans out the window, I have to admit that I started feeling a little down.  However, it then occurred to me that I did have lots of things in my wardrobe that did look flattering on me - and that there were surely some other styles of clothing that I haven't tried that would also suit my new figure.  So, I started doing research on the web - and, sure enough, found some great advice and tips.  Some of the advice was conflicting, so I ended up taking notes and putting together a document for myself so I could make sense of it all (I love doing research - LOL!).  I then went through the websites of all of my favourite pattern companies and put together a series of Pinterest boards with patterns that followed the recommended styles.  I was pretty excited by the results of my research, so I thought it might be nice to share it with all of you!  I can't imagine that I'm the only one who is in the same situation (whether it's due to having a baby, general weight gain, menopause, PMS bloating (I suffer from this too!), etc.).  So, I hope that some of you will find this useful!   

Okay, here's the tips that I culled from numerous websites, articles and YouTube videos (I've put my favourite resources in the 'Resources' section at the end): 

General Principles

After reading loads of advice on this topic, it all mostly came down to two principles, which you can see in graphic below:

What does this mean in practice?  Here's the nitty-gritty.

First, you want to wear tops and dresses that draw the eye up to your neck, shoulders and face - not to your tummy.  There's lots of ways you can do this:

  • interesting necklines (i.e. boat neck, v neck, scoop neck, cowl, etc.)
  • details at the shoulders (i.e. cut-outs, embellishment, ruffles, etc.)
  • details at the tops of the sleeves (i.e. puffed sleeves)
  • details on the front (i.e. embellishment, pintucks, a bow, ruffles, etc.)
  • collars or lapels
  • wearing a scarf or a statement necklace
  • colour blocking

Second, try to refrain from adding volume or detail on your tummy.  Essentially, you want to keep your tummy area as visually smooth and boring as possible.  So, stay away from:

  • belts
  • tucking your tops into your skirt or trousers (half tucks are ok, as they give you a waist and semi-camoflague the tummy)
  • skirts and trousers with buttons, zippers and pockets across the front
  • gathered and pleated skirts and trousers
There are some exceptions to the last point.  A-line skirts with flat-ish pleats that drape gracefully over the tummy can be flattering.  Also, diagonal and/or vertical rushing/draping/pleating in the tummy region on some styles of dresses, skirts and tops can be flattering, as it distracts the eye; just make sure that it doesn't add too much bulk.  



    Here's the types of dresses that work well:

    Shift Dresses 

    These are dresses that fall straight from the shoulders downwards.  These can be flattering, as long as the fabric doesn't cling to the tummy area.

    Fit and Flare Dresses

    Dresses that have a-line skirts work well, particularly ones that have a lot of fullness to the skirt.  The shape of the skirt makes the waist seem small compared to the wide sweep of the hem.  Moreover, the fullness in the skirt causes it to flare over the tummy, which serves to camouflage it.  Pleats are okay in the skirt, as long as they don't add a lot of volume.

    Closet Case Patterns Charlie Caftan; Colette Patterns' Penny Dress

    Swing/Trapeze Dresses

    These are dresses that fall in an a-line from the bust downwards.  Their shape can be great for camouflaging a tummy!

    Empire-Line Dresses

    These can be flattering.  Choose your style of dress with care, though, as some styles can make you look pregnant!  Make sure the fabric doesn't cling to your tummy.

    Grainline Studio's Farrow DressTilly and the Buttons Zadie Dress

    Sheath Dresses

    Sheath dresses can work, particularly if there's diagonal and/or vertical rushing/draping/pleating in the tummy region.  Make sure to go for a fabric with some structure, not a thin, clingy fabric that will highlight every lump and bump. Also, make sure that your dress isn't too tight (particularly over the tummy) and that the waistline skims over your waist: anything too fitted into your natural waistline will serve to emphasise the tummy.

    Wrap Dresses

    Wrap dresses work really well because (a) the v-neck draws draws the eye to your neck and chest, and away from your tummy, (b) the eye is also drawn to the smallest part of your torso by the fabric tie (which also serves to create a lovely cinched-in waist), and (c) the wrap skirt provides two layers of fabric which drape nicely over your tummy.  In making a wrap dress, try to choose a fabric that drapes nicely and doesn't cling.  Also, designs that have rushing or draped details over the tummy are great, as these can further camouflage your tummy.

    Vogue 8946; Sew Over It Eve Dress


    Any loose-fitting top, shirt, blouse or tunic will be flattering.  Make sure that it fits at the bust and then skims over your tummy, without clinging to it.  It's a good idea not to go too loose-fitting, as a really oversized top will make you look bigger than you are.  Also, make sure that your tops don't end at your widest point on your hips, as this can be unflattering; your tops should end either above or below this point.  

    Grainline Studio's Archer Shirt; Grainline Studio's Scout Tee

    Here's some other specific styles of tops that work well:

    Swing Tops

    These can be flattering, for the same reasons discussed above for 'swing/trapeze dresses'.  

    Empire-Waited Tops

    These can be flattering, for the same reasons discussed above for 'empire-line dresses'.  Follow the same guidelines as discussed for 'empire-line dresses'.

    Grainline Studio Hadley Top; Made by Rae Washi Top

    Wrap Tops

    These can be flattering, for the same reasons discussed above for 'wrap dresses'.  Follow the same guidelines as discussed for 'wrap dresses'.

    Blouson Tops

    These are tops where the fabric falls softly over your tummy and pools/gathers underneath it.  This works well to camouflage your tummy!  Make sure to choose a drapey, lightweight fabric.

    Vogue 1387; Burda 7200

    Peplum Tops

    These can be flattering, as they nip in at the smallest point on your torso and then flare out over your tummy without clinging to it.  The peplum also serves to camouflage your tummy.  Choose one where the peplum isn't gathered or pleated, as you don't want to add extra bulk to your tummy area.

    Tops with Draping and/or Rushing

    These can be flattering, as any draping/rushing going over the tummy area distracts the eye.  The draping/rushing can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal.  Make sure, though, that it doesn't add too much bulk.  

    Colette Patterns' Hawthorn TopBurdaStyle 02/2018 #129


    Skirts and Trousers

    The general principle with skirts and trousers is that you want to go for something that is high-waisted, made in a structured fabric, and free of details in the tummy region.  This will work to: suck in your tummy; create a lovely, smooth silhouette (avoiding a muffin top); and won't add bulk or draw the eye to your tummy.  Wide waistbands are good (they provide further support), as are zippers at the side or the back.  Remember that it's better to leave your tops untucked.  

    With regard to trousers, all styles work (i.e. skinny, straight, boot-cut, wide-legged, etc.), as long as they are high-waisted.  Leggings can also look flattering with a long top or tunic.

    Closet Case Patterns Ginger Skinny Jeans; Deer and Doe Narcisse Pants

    With regard to skirts, the only skirt style that is really recommended is the pencil skirt. Unlike other skirt styles, the pencil skirt doesn't add bulk on the tummy and can look good with untucked tops.  High-waisted styles in structured fabrics will suck you in and create a smooth line.  

    Colette Patterns' Selene Skirt; McCall's 3830


    Jackets, Cardigans and Vests

    Layering is a very effective way of disguising a tummy!  Cardigans, jackets and vests distract the eye from the tummy region. They can also make you look slimmer, as they make the torso appear narrower by drawing the eye in.  Long cardigans, vests and jackets are especially good, as they create a nice vertical line that serves to lengthen you.  The longer they are, the longer and leaner you will look!  

    Sewaholic Cordova Jacket; Vogue 9065


    Prints are usually great, as they distract the eye.  Just make sure that your print doesn't draw extra attention to your tummy, though!

    Vertical stripes also work well, as they serve to elongate the body.  Horizontal stripes aren't as good, as they can make you look wider.  


    Sewing Patterns

    As discussed above, I've put together a series of Pinterest boards with suggested patterns.  They contain not only patterns we sell, but also patterns from other companies that we don't sell.  Right now, the boards contain over 270 patterns and I've categorised them by type of garment (i.e. 'Dresses - Shift', 'Dresses - Full Skirted', 'Dresses - Trapeze', etc.).  I haven't had time to look at a tremendous number of companies.  So, there's undoubtedly some good patterns out there that I've missed! If you have any patterns that you'd like me to add to the boards, do let me know by emailing me or by leaving a comment below!  



    Here are some resources that I found particularly helpful:

    '11 Sure-Fire Ways to Hide Your Belly With the Right Clothes' on 40+ Style

    '20+ Tips to Hide your Tummy' on Busbee Style [YouTube video]

    '35 Dresses to Hide Tummy and Hips' on Fashion Lady

    'Big or Bloated Tummy?' on Gorgeous Me

    'Clothing that Will Disguise a Tummy' on Style Studs and Lace

    'Eighteen Fabulous Frocks to Flatter the Tummy' on So Sensational

    'How to Dress a Mummy Tummy' on Lisa McLatchie 

    'How to: Dress If You Want to Hide Your Tummy' on Tigers in Dresses

    'How to Hide Your Tummy' on Fabulous After 40


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    May 09, 2018 by Amy Lloyd