One of Hope's biggest tips centers around accessories: "For us curvy women, much of fashion, in terms of clothing, is dictated by fit," she says. "But when it comes to accessories, the sky's the limit and the opportunity to create 'focus' on meaningful attention and expression abounds. The plus-size woman should revel in this opportunity."
Here are some of Hope's tips on using accessories to create a stylish image:
— Strive for consistency in order to build a wardrobe, according to Hope. "A little of this and a little of that or 'this is cute' won't get it done." She suggests doing some people watching. Then cut out pages of accessories you love from magazines and choose the design elements you like. "This will serve as the common denominator for all the accessories you select."
— Avoid spending a lot of money on accessories, even if you like the expensive ones in the magazines, admits Hope. "The malls are full of stores with terrific accessories," she says. But if you can afford it, obviously, more upscale accessories will 'boost your wardrobe a great deal,' but the same rules of design apply regardless of what you can afford."
— Begin to collect special accessories one at a time, Hope urges. "You do not need several of one item or sets of accessories," she says. "Begin with a stylish handbag, tote, umbrella, scarf, pair of sunglasses, raincoat, pair of leather gloves and hat. Strive for items that are bold, impressive and strongly evidentiary of your emerging style."
— Don't get too matchy matchyü says Hope. However, there must be a distinctly unifying influence among all the accessories. "There are times I have to run out on an errand and don't have time to dress the way I want," she says. "Give me a pair of black jeans and a well-cut black top with a colorful vest or a warm-up suit, matching top and bottom with a great set of accessories and I'll appear well-dressed and pulled together, casually and effortlessly."
— Focus on the handbag, according to Hope. "Firstly, they never suggest they would look a lot better if I lost 10 pounds. Secondly, I trust my handbags to carry and organize my busy life. Thirdly, good handbags allow me to make a statement about my lifestyle or, frankly, the lifestyle of which I dream." Hope firmly believes in the saying, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." "I believe that and I'm willing to bet my pocketbook on it," she says.
— Plus-size women should concentrate on getting the "proportion" right when it comes to accessories, says Hope. "Large women need large handbags," she notes. One of her favorites is the square satchel similar to the Birkin bag. This trick also goes for sunglasses, watches and jewelry. "The only 'small' earring I can abide is a large diamond, at least one carat, real or faux, or a 10 millimeter or greater pearl stud," she adds.
— Color is a must when it comes to accessories for plus-size women, says Hope. "A plus-size woman gets the benefit of looking svelte in the darker colors of her clothing, but gets the added benefit of 'wow' as her accessories contrast against that background." She also encourages larger women to choose bold textures and embellishments when choosing a handbag.
— Create a "best feature" like a signature piece of jewelry that is bold and memorable. "Make sure it enhances you," she says. And don't worry if it's real or not. "I admire women who lavish jewelry on themselves, layering pieces that share a unifying quality — metal, stone or material — for impact. I think of it as a composition displayed against a clean, monochromatic background of soft, neutral colored clothing."
Her favorite signature jewelry is a set of interlocking silver bracelets. "Let the clothing create a svelte look and the jewelry explode!"
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.