2/6 What Fashion Tells You - an Interview with Christian Dior: for the Large Lady

In my last post, I shared the first part of this 1953 interview with Christian Dior that focused on tips for petite ladies.  Many of you loved the insight he shared in the introduction as well, with fashion-wisdom such as, "Good taste is to resemble oneself."  I'm excited to share the next section in the series that is tailored for the voluptuous ladies among us!

As in the first post, I think it's important to read this article knowing that fashion was different in the 1950s than it is now.  It is clear in parts of this article that Dior considers a thinner figure to be more desirable (hello, 1950s), but at the same time he doesn't believe that larger women are doomed to dowdiness.  He says, "You see, I am determined to give her every chance to enjoy herself. I want her to feel at her best--to be happy."

What Fashion Tells You: an Interview with Christian Dior

The Large Woman

Imagine a rather large lady about 5 feet 5 inches in height with not so much a waist as a place which measures less than her bust and hips, but for all that, a nice face and an attractive personality.

Her personality is very important to her.

We must set about dressing her in a way which is becoming and flattering to her face and which is inconspicuously right for her kind of life.

Undergarments and Jackets

First, of course, if she hasn't got one already, I would tell her that a really good corset is vital.  It doesn't matter so much if a woman is large so long as her figure is basically the right shape. A corset will do that for almost anyone.

The suit--or tailleur as we call it in Paris--is necessary to any woman's wardrobe.  For my lady, I should make one with a straight skirt and loose jacket.  The shoulders should be rounded to detract from her own width and the jacket would be rather long.  If she preferred a fitted jacket, I should make it with a wide-open V at the front and single-breasted--a double-breasted jacket adds bulk.

Tops and Coats

If she has rather a low bust, I would tell her to avoid high-necked sweaters at all costs. A buttoned cardigan over a blouse is much better.  Though I know that jerseys are comfortable to wear, full figures really do not look well in them.  A wool blouse is preferable for warmth.

Her topcoat should be loose, swing-back in style, with rather important revers (i.e., lapels) and a line which moves from neck to hem.  It is quite a usual mistake of many large women to think that loose coats make them look plumper, whereas the truth is quite the reverse.

Day Dresses

I would make her a wool day-dress along rather tailored lines, with vertical buttons, interesting revers to the necklines and pockets on the bodice.  These pockets would be meant to deceive the eye and, so to speak, take up the space!

Since she has no waist to speak of, we don't want to draw attention to it, so I would give her a narrow belt. The skirt might have pleats below the hip or quite simply bell out from slightly below the waist; but I would avoid gathering or shirring of the skirt.

Flashback Summer: What Fashion Tells You: an Interview with Christian Dior - for the Large Lady


Older women have an idea that pale gray is a good color for them to wear.  Alas, they are sadly mistaken. Pale gray can be elegant but this color enlarges. It is not helpful to the complexion and is hard to wear.

I would tell my not-too-slim lady to avoid light colors.  Even young girls look better in navy blues, dark greens and dark reds if they are not slim. For winter I would dress my client in black and brown, both together and separately, and I believe there is nothing pleasanter than navy blue for springtime.

Afternoon and Dinner Dresses

Afternoon and dinner dresses are usually by far the most becoming garments for a large woman.

The tops of her arms are seldom her best point and so she should wear fichus, epaulettes, or little cap-sleeves.  But she often has a smooth neck and very pretty shoulder-line and décolleté; so she can wear a dress which is wide and low, as bare as possible as long as she covers the upper arm.

If such a dress is worn with a glittering necklace and earrings, all attention is led to the personality in the face.  Figure defects are often quite unnoticed. 

Slim women of any age, can wear lace; but lace is a very aging material to a plump woman, even if she is quite young.  For her the best and most becoming materials are crepe, fine wool or anything with a matt surface.  Obviously satin is to be avoided and tulle can only be worn by plump people when they are still very young.

(From the photo above)
The larger woman can wear these:
- A blouse with fullness from the shoulder to the bosom, a neat fit below (left). A coat with interest in its collar, a deep V opening, a loose fit.
- A suit with a slim skirt, a loose, rather long jacket (right).
- A low-cut décolleté with a little jacket to cover the upper arm.

...But not these:
- A fitted coat emphasizes the place where her waist should be, may make her look overstuffed.
- A dress with a gathered skirt spotlight the width of the waist and hips.

A full-busted figure can always be flattered by the cut of a bodice.  Blouses and dresses should always have a little softness--a little fullness from the top of the shoulder to the bosom. But below the bosom they should be neatly fitted so that there is no extra material or blousing at the waistline.


A rather too large figure is likely to go with a rather full face.  So I would talk to my not-so-slim lady quite severely about her hair.  I am sure it would suit her best to wear it smooth and flat at the sides, brushed back and away from the face.

A hat is very important to a woman who cannot be really proud of her figure.  To balance the rest of her, she must wear hats either well forward or else to one side.  A little pillbox sitting quite straight on the head of a lady whose face is round looks rather funny.

Hem lengths

The truth of the matter is that nothing will really conceal the fact of a figure which is considerably overweight. But it can be much helped by the use of straight lines and apparent fullness in the right places.  Such as a straight skirt under floating panels; or an evening dress caught up in a bustle. These things are trompe l'oeil--they deceive the eye.

The length of skirts for the plump lady depends on whether she has good legs and ankles.

Many a woman who is quite fat has neat feet and ankles. In which case, the current fashion for daytime can be her guide.  Otherwise a hemline on the ling side is advisable--though not long enough to make her feel dowdy of course.  But for evening I would not advise a short dinner dress.  Full evening dresses are better for the no-so-slim--and much more romantic.

You see, I am determined to give her every chance to enjoy herself. I want her to feel at her best--to be happy. I think I rather like our imaginary plump lady. She is usually a pleasant person who laughs easily.

So what are your thoughts on Dior's advice for the plump lady?  Have you tried out any of these tips in your own looks?  


  1. That can be rather true about grey and lighter shades on more mature complexions for sure. Not universally, of course, but definitely for some folks.

    Reading this and the previous post in this series really makes me stop and reflect on what Mr. Dior might say about the state of current fashion (across the board) were he still with us today (or until quite recently at least, given that he'd be 111 years old if he was still alive). One wonders, would he have changed with the times or remained more firmly rooted in a mid-century approach to things. Sadly, as he passed far too young, we'll never know, but it's interesting to ponder all the same.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

    1. Oooo, SUCH a good question! You're sadly right, that we'll never know for sure, but it is definitely an intriguing thing to think about!

  2. I absolutely agree with larger bust and fuller figures avoiding higher necklines, I am both and look much better in lower neckline, especially V necks and that advice is still applicable and given today if you look up how to dress an apple shape. I also agree with avoiding the gathering of skirts and opting for a stright, or pleated alternative.

    1. It's like he knew what he was doing or something, haha! That Dior. ;)

  3. Good advice! Especially wearing garments along more fitted, tailored lines, and necklines that are not too high. And wearing looser overcoats is a surprisingly good trick too! Thanks for sharing these posts, I really enjoyed them!
    The Artyologist

  4. "We must set about dressing her in a way which is becoming and flattering to her face and which is inconspicuously right for her kind of life."

    Ah yes. Fat ladies, make yourselves invisible!

    Though I will say, as a fat lady with very little in the way of waist, I avoid all details there, so I'm with him on not drawing attention to that area.

    1. Well, I don't know that he was seeking invisibility as much as a style that isn't "trying too hard," perhaps. He recommends far too many other tips that would make a lady look too fabulous to be invisible!

  5. Love this - thanks for sharing! His matter of fact advise is so charming and delightful...