Help me to dress my petite, size 20 frame


Style clinic: I am over 60, but not old in any way (no one would think I am anything like that age). I’m only 5ft 2in tall, but I am a size 20-plus.

If I try something to fit my width, it will be so long on me it will sweep the streets. I have some dresses, but they show off my hips or my spare tyre. I don’t feel good with undergarments that nearly stop me breathing. Could you help? There must be more than me with such a problem. Eithna

First things first. Nobody feels good in undergarments that nearly stop them breathing, so don’t feel as if you have failed to achieve what others can. At best, we endure them; at worst, we wear them for a few hours and, after the third glass of wine, remove them in the bathroom. (I’m talking about a friend of mine, obviously.)

In terms of finding clothes that won’t show off your hips or tummy, your best bet at your height and dress size, is to think of finding items that will give you a clean vertical line, and eliminate any horizontal ones.

So dresses with long cardigans, for example, will be better for you than skirts and tops, which will cut your midsection in two. You need to think about elongating your torso, rather than about covering up any lumps and bumps; if you get the right silhouette, the rest will follow.

A decent slip will be great for smoothing things down. Marks Spencer does a great range of soft, cool cotton slips that don’t ride up or roll down (just don’t get the control version). There isn’t a dress on earth that doesn’t look better with a slip beneath it.

When it comes to clothes, Evans is the obvious choice, although it often feels as if Evans designs clothes for fat women, rather than designing beautiful clothes in larger sizes. Their tunics and oversized sweaters can feel a little obvious. You could try to look for boutiques that cater to larger sizes.

At the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in Dublin, Hourglass (below) caters for sizes 12-24 and has a great range of flattering and, crucially, nice pieces. Marks Spencer and Kilkenny also stock good plus-size ranges.

Get me through the day and into the night

I have a busy job and frequently end up getting up early, going into the office, out to lunch with clients and, after work, out to dinner . I need to get a few outfits, but not jeans, that will work for day and night and will make me look professional but also dressy enough for dinner and nice enough for a date. Any ideas?

Leonie, by email

Ah, the old day-to-night dilemma. It’s a classic, but not one that’s solved easily. What you need are a few hard-working dresses that will work for the office, teamed with black tights, a blazer and court shoes, dinner with family (lose the blazer, add ankle boots), or a date with himself (lose the blazer and the tights, add jewellery).

This M Missoni dress (€700 at Arnotts) is far from cheap, but it is hard-working. For daytime in the office, team it with a long-sleeved black polo and tights. For night, pare it back with minimal accessories and killer heels. It’ll also look great with a waist-cinching belt, and the length is just demure enough for the office.

On the other end of the price scale, this knitted Jacquard panel dress (€91 from Topshop; £60 from is a stunning colour. It’ll look very work-appropriate and reserved under a black blazer, but wear it alone with a chunky necklace for more of a “wow” factor. Plus, the panel detailing is super-flattering and will give the illusion of an hourglass figure, even if you do not have one.

Somewhere in between the two, financially speaking, is this silk stretch shirt dress by Theory (€375.16 at The gorgeous zesty orange colour will really stand out, while the demure neckline will keep things on the straight and narrow. For night-time, loosen a few buttons and let your hair down.