Dressing the Full Busted Woman

We all have real or perceived challenges to dress our unique body silhouette. By request today, I’m sharing some tips on dressing for the full busted woman who may feel she looks top heavy.

It comes as no surprise that my first suggestion is to start by getting professionally fitted for a supportive, full coverage bra. Heavy breasts put extra strain on bras and wear their support out quickly. Once their elastic loses its strength, it sags so you sag and your bust looks larger and potentially sloppy. Be sure those girls are hiked to the proper position and held firmly.



If you want to appear smaller, a well-fitting minimizer bra can reduce your apparent size by 1 to 2 inches. They needn’t be unattractive to get the job done. They’re available with lace and other pretty details so shop for fit and aesthetics.

Tips for dressing the full busted woman on A Well Styled Life

Things to Consider

  • Beware of extra details like breast pockets, ruffles, gathers, and large patterns on top because they visually increase your bust size. Double-breasted jackets add extra bulk in front. The buttons are usually right over your nipple area drawing the eye and the double fabric adds volume where you might not want it. Single breasted styles are more flattering for the full busted woman.


  • Stiff, shiny, heavily textured or bulky fabrics are not your friend. They add unnecessary bulk where you don’t need it.


  • Tops and dresses with high necklines make the full busted woman look even larger than she is. Crew neck, high scoop, and turtlenecks are not your friend. Lower U, sweetheart and V necklines visually break up the look of a full bustline. Beware of too much cleavage as this may not send the message you intend.


  • Lack of shaping. Avoid garments that drop from the shoulder, hit your bust line and float like a tent the rest of the way down. This is guaranteed to add 15 pounds to your silhouette. Boxy tops are intended to make us look top heavy so avoid them.


  • Steer clear of snug tops and opt for fitted ones instead. Cling is unflattering for most women over 50.


  • Cap sleeves and short ones that end level with your bust line are not your best look. Opt for 3/4 or full length.


  • Light colors advance and dark colors recede so wearing a darker top will help balance your silhouette.


  • Ditch the fine necklaces that get lost in your cleavage. Bolder styles that fall below your collar bone and above your cleavage draw the eye up to create a focal point and direct attention away from your bustline.


  • Beware of gaps between buttons with classic shirts and blouses. Sometimes even going up a whole size, is not enough to prevent it so double sided fabric tape is a great tool to close that gap.


  • Medium to large scale earrings and interesting eyewear draws attention up to your face and away from your bustline.


  • Beware of tucking your tops in which can visually shorten your torso. Belts also do this, so wear them lower to create a long-waisted look. The more space between your bustline and belt, the better.


  • Wide collars, not lapels, draw the eye up and away from your bustline


  • Beware of low armholes like in kimonos and dolman sleeves. They’re very popular but these make your bust look larger.


How do you dress your full bustline?

Do you have a specific body issue you’d like me to cover?

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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  1. Jane Swanson
    July 9, 2017 / 4:40 am

    Oh this is a great list…that I needed. thank you!

  2. Ann neal
    July 9, 2017 / 6:31 am

    Thank you for all you do. I love getting your emails. Please address the “full hips and saddlebag” issue.
    Thank you,

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:29 am

      Will do, Ann! Have a great day.

  3. Margot Nowicke
    July 9, 2017 / 6:55 am

    I tend toward solid colored tops. V- necks are the most flattering and I wear a came or tank to keep the neckline modest when necessary. Button front tops are almost always a problem even when it seems there is plenty of fabric there so I don’t have very many of that style. When I do find a cut that works well on me I buy it in several colors.

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:31 am

      Front button blouses are a challenge for many women. I find mine gapping at the most annoying times. It’s smart to stock up when you find winners, Margot! Smart lady

  4. Margot Nowicke
    July 9, 2017 / 7:05 am

    Oh, and BTW, I think Soma is the best place I’ve been for comfortable fittings and variety of styles, colors and fabrics in large sizes. I never could find out why bras came in every style, color, etc. in sizes for those who didn’t have as great a need for a bra and for large breasted women, who had to always wear a bra, there was virtually no choice beyond black, white and nude.

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:32 am

      Soma has some very intelligently designed bras and panties! I love their mo slip silicone edges.

  5. Maggie Fieger
    July 9, 2017 / 7:15 am

    Thank you for this. I have awful problems with this especially since I’m short and a little chubby too.

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:33 am

      Being petite and full busted is a bigger challenge. I hope this is helpful Maggie.

  6. Laurel
    July 9, 2017 / 7:24 am

    These are interesting and helpful! I’m not *really* large, but my girls are big enough that I’ve started to avoid some of the items you mention without realizing why, although I often have to try someone on that I love on the hanger to get the message yet again. I struggle with button up shirts, which I love. But they usually gap, so I’ll have to try the double sided fabric tape.

    I also find many of the latest knits and fits really accent any loose, rolly parts in my midriff. Aging doesn’t help with most fashion problems. 🙂

    I recently found a cute sequined T-shirt for summer, but when I tried it on, I felt like the design was sitting out on a shelf. Not a good look! Ha!

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:36 am

      It’s great that you know intuitively what doesn’t work for your body, Laurel. Anything clingy highlights all imperfection so I prefer fitted over snug:)

  7. July 9, 2017 / 7:50 am

    Thank you for the tips even though they end up eliminating an awful lot of choices. My daughter and I were just talking the other day about how we won’t buy button front tops/shirts. Even if the buttons seem okay when the item is new after a few months of wear and washes the button holes stretch and the buttons slip through. You spend you day checking to see you are still done up. Going up a size means the shoulders are too broad and the entire top is baggy. I used to go with underwire bras but have been stabbed too many times as they don’t survive more than 3 months. They are expensive to keep replacing. 3/4 and full length sleeves get hot in the summer. I can see my my semi-rant that this is a source of frustration for me.

    • July 9, 2017 / 8:40 am

      Remember these are not rules, just suggestions for proportion and shape. Use what works for you. My button front tops “try” to gap too and I’m not large busted. Perhaps wider 3/4 sleeves would be cooler. Don’t get me started on underwire bras! I consider most to be torture devices.

      • July 9, 2017 / 10:50 am

        I remember getting an LL Bean catalog a year or so ago and almost every women’s shirt had two chest pockets in the front. Can you imagine carrying anything in there?. Just the most unflattering look. I like LL Bean’s quality but sometimes I think their stylists need to give their heads a shake.

        • July 9, 2017 / 1:25 pm

          LOL, you’re right! What are their designers thinking?

  8. Joi Palmer
    July 9, 2017 / 11:09 am

    How about tops for a petite frame with a pear shape? Any suggestions. Thanks!

    • July 9, 2017 / 1:34 pm

      That’s a great one, Joi! I’m petite too. In general, you want to draw attention up to broaden the look of your shoulders. Avoid tops that stop at the widest part of your hips. Skinny pants will accentuate your hips so choose a straight or fuller pant leg. Bold earrings and necklaces add volume on top to help balance your shape. Shop in the petite department or you’ll be overwhelmed bu the length of tops.

  9. kathleen small
    July 9, 2017 / 11:15 am

    Thank you so much for this wonderful and helpful information.
    I am a 38H and wear a size 10 pants. At age 70, reduction is just
    not an option. Making the girls less noticeable has been a way
    of life since I was 11 years old. Should be used to it by now!! K

    • July 9, 2017 / 1:36 pm

      Reduction surgery is not trivial, as you probably know, Kathleen. I hope some of these will help make your choices easier.

    • Barbara Gwynn
      July 10, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      Breast reduction surgery at ANY age should be considered! It can be life changing in terms of the positive rewards in terms of confidence and appearance!

      • July 11, 2017 / 5:27 pm

        Thanks for weighing in Barbara! I appreciate it.

  10. Marlene Innes
    July 9, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Hi from Australia, I’m 65, I’ve had large breasts most of my life – 52 inches of them ! Lifting the “girls” into their correct position has caused deep groves in my shoulders from the wide often padded shoulder straps fitted by professionals. These days I allow them a little more slack, and dress to disguise them. Luckily I’ve been sewing my own clothes since a teenager. Fitting the bust area has been my holy grail in life!!
    Love your blog, always interesting.
    Marlene Innes

    • July 9, 2017 / 7:29 pm

      You’re so so lucky you sew, Marlene. Being able to dress to disguise them in comfort and style is awesome. Good for you!

  11. Lisa
    July 9, 2017 / 5:18 pm

    I have a size 12 chest on a size 8 frame, and I can testify that all these guidelines work — though they do leave you with relatively few options (I have a drawer full of black v neck sweaters). Semi-fitted tops — something between clinging and tent-like — are very hard to find, next to impossible if you are petite or short waisted. Not only do the designers at LL. Bean let us down, but Eileen Fisher has slipped a cog as well: all those loose, boxy tops!

    I find turtlenecks can work if they’re black. And kimonos can work if they are very drapey and worn over a lower cut tank — this basically creates a v neckline. Thanks for addressing this issue — I am going to try necklaces.

    • July 9, 2017 / 7:32 pm

      You’re so right Lisa! Eileen Fisher boxy tops are a disaster for the full busted woman. They’re a horror show on me too because I have very broad shoulders. I can only wear her pants and sweaters, which I love.

  12. M Vanderbarc
    July 9, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    Thanks for this post. Gaps between shirt buttons can happen to all of us. Since I’ve had trouble finding Fashion Tape recently, I’ve used regular double sided tape to avoid those unlovely gaps.. Not as convenient, but it works. I’m glad to have a source for the pre-cut tape, though. Also, a pretty cami under a button front shirt allows you to leave a top button or two open, and makes a nice v-neckline. No need for tape.

    • July 9, 2017 / 7:34 pm

      Great point!! Thanks for mentioning it. Pretty camisoles are a great way to change necklines.

  13. Anne Chevalier
    July 10, 2017 / 5:17 am

    Another great post Jennifer and full of useful tips for me at 5ft 2 ins and apple shape (working on that!) with a larger bust, biggish tummy but (slightly) narrower hips and wide shoulders. Your posts are always full of interesting ideas that help me consider what I wear and why some things just feel all wrong – very motivating and confidence building! I was hoping with the photo illustration of Marilyn used the piece would guide me as to how to wear a black polo (just love those) but all eyes go to her beautiful face – I might try flicky eyeliner, three quarter sleeves, necklace and / or earrings.

    • July 10, 2017 / 6:51 am

      Thank you Anne. I’m really glad they help. Marilyn was a master at drawing the focus where she wanted it. If you figure out that flicker Eyeliner, tell me how please.

  14. Donna
    July 13, 2017 / 6:05 am

    Dressing the “girls”, actually “grown women”, can be problematic. You have listed good options. Being short, short waisted, DDD, with a tummy eliminates several styles. Probably the crew neckline is one of the worst offenders. Jennifer, I love that you address real issues for your followers.

    • July 13, 2017 / 7:39 am

      Thank you Donna, my pleasure to help!

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