How to choose clothes and patterns

to give the appearance of a flatter stomach

A printable version of this article is available on my Etsy shop.

So, the year was 2011.  I made a pretty dress for myself from gorgeous knit fabric (with silver threads)  and sparkling velvet to visit a class reunion. Everyone liked it and I got lots of compliments. And what happened in 2017? I put on the dress – and OMG… I see that I have a belly bulge and the dress style was showing it perfectly clear. I was really stressed out about it. Can you relate to that? Below you can see an image of the dress made in 2011. But I don’t want to show you how it looks now – it’s ugly.

I want always to look good in the clothes I make. So I started to exercise more, I tried to keep a diet but at the same time I decided to make flattering clothes for big stomach and to be very careful in choosing sewing patterns and styles.

It’s true that when there is no desire, time or opportunity to lose belly fat, figure-styling outfits come to the rescue.

A large number of women face this problem, especially after pregnancy and childbirth. It can also become an issue for women working stationary office jobs.

So let’s learn how to hide the belly bulge with clothes, and visually change the shape of the body;  how to choose a beautiful dress, a fashionable skirt, a stylish blouse, comfortable trousers and a flattering swimsuit to look perfect in any situation. 

By the way, this is the second guide in my series about hiding figure flaws with clothes. If you didn’t read the first one check it out here: “How to dress well: flattering clothes that hide figure flaws”.

Useful tips and a selection of photos will help you create a stylish image and forget about your shortcomings, no matter your shape or size.

Here are a few observations on what worked for me and made my life easier.

First of all, to hide the protruding tummy, choose loose-fitting outfits and avoid tight clothing and thin knitwear, which quickly stretches on problem areas and exaggerates what you want to hide. But at the same time, do not try to hide your belly with the help of baggy shapeless clothes – this will only emphasize your tummy.

Dresses that hide belly bulge

Peplum – “a short flared, gathered, or pleated strip of fabric attached at the waist of a woman’s jacket, dress, or blouse to create a hanging frill or flounce” (as I read in this dictionary is the perfect detail to hide the belly and narrow your waist at the same time. But be careful with it also. I noticed that it doesn’t really work if there are too many gathers from woven fabric; gathers on the waistline are good only if they are made from thin lightweight woven fabric (like silk chiffon) or lightweight knits.

A-line dresses (without seams at the waistline) made from medium weight woven fabrics can also hide belly fat, but they are only for girls who don’t mind drawing attention to their upper bodies. Consider this option if you have a beautiful bust, or a long neck, or thin arms. With a thicker constitution, the effect may not be desirable.

I didn’t think it will work for me but it really did work. I guess the secret here is to make the dress simple and not too tight.

Avoid pleats, folds and gathers at the front in the stomach area, as they emphasize the tummy. Once I decided to use this pattern from Butterick.  And when I put the dress on, I looked like I was 9 months pregnant.

And this pattern with pleats from bust to the bottom didn’t work for me.

Yet side pleats can hide the tummy very well. I had good luck with patterns like this one below. The folds are made in such a way that the stomach becomes less noticeable under clothing. Actually, I made a number of dresses using a similar pattern and I love to wear them – they really hide what I don’t want to show.

Drop waist options are an effective way to visually combat fullness in the stomach area. But the bottom part of the dress (I mean the skirt) shouldn’t be straight or tight – it’s better to choose flared or pleated skirts for drop-waist dresses. Also, the skirt should start below the waist but not too low (not under the belly).

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You can also try the opposite style; I had good luck with high-waisted dresses as well. I think they are called “empire waist dresses”.  They are very flattering for the thick waist. Actually, I like this kind of dresses the best. 

Wrap dresses will also be a great solution: they will give the figure the necessary feminine outlines and hide everything that is superfluous.

Soooooo… if you are interested in sewing maybe you should read my other tutorials also (see below). These dresses are easy to make even for beginners and (best of all) they don’t require any pattern.

Shirt dresses with button closures are another good helpers in hiding the belly bulge.

Another secret technique is an asymmetrical closure that runs not in the center of the tummy, but on the side.

Pay attention to the color blocking and use paneled pieces. Different color inserts on the sides draw a new silhouette and create a good visual deception.

Ruffles, frills, trims and all sorts of decorative elements distract from problem areas. However, this technique does not work so well for women who are larger in general. The formula is simple: the fuller the woman, the simpler the clothes should be.

It is worth using narrow belts and ties slightly below the waistline. But don’t wear them too tight. Your attempt to hide the protruding belly with the wide belt will result in failure. As soon as you take a sitting position, the treacherous fold will surely show itself. I only have an image of a jumpsuit with the belt (not a dress, but similar).


Also, this kind of dresses (see below) can hide the big stomach. I have a tutorial on how to make one of them easily and without a pattern. Check it out.   


Recently I made a very interesting dress (see the image below).

All you have to do to make this stylish flattering dress is cut the fabric – one square and one rectangle and sew only one seam. No pattern required. Super simple. You could literally make this dress in 30 minutes. And the best part is that the dress is ideal for all figure types and you don’t need to spend time fitting or tailoring it. Check out my video tutorial on making the dress.

Blouses for visual tummy loss

To safely hide the belly, choose long-cut shirts and blouses. Exclude from your wardrobe all that ends on the waistline and before it.

Choose free-cut shirts, with a light drape from the chest line, or slightly flared silhouettes. T-shirts and sweaters should not be tight. Avoid tight shirts and blouses – strung buttons look ugly.

In the first image below I am wearing a tight t-shirt – and I almost have a muffin top and my belly is visible (even if I tried to take it in and hold my breath). So I am sure the blouse in the second image is more suitable to hide my belly.

Blouses and T-shirts with a tied hemband just below the waist look very good. As in the case of a dress, the overlap masks the stomach and sides, without making the whole image larger. This option is better suited for straight pants and skirts and is wonderful combined with jeans and short pants.

Do not exclude all kinds of decorative layering, also twinsets, shirts and capes worn over the tops and T-shirts. The layering slims and distracts from shortcomings because it has double the layers.

Consider patterns with peplums or pleats starting from the waistline.

Try to shift the focus to other parts of your body: for example, wear a blouse with a décolleté, or pay special attention to shoes and accessories to distract from your belly. If you have a beautiful bust, neckline, and cellulite-free arms, you might want to accentuate these parts of your body with embroidery, applique, nice trims, decorative accents, buttons, collars, etc. (Options are practically endless.)

It’s easier to choose how to hide the stomach, if you are wearing leggings or skinny jeans. Slightly flared tunics and long male-style shirts over leggings will be very appropriate here.

I noticed that if you visually increase your breasts, your stomach will look smaller.

Do not tuck shirts, blouses, tops and T-shirts in trousers or skirts.

Make some tops that can be tied in the front above your belly.

Skirts that hide the belly

In order to correctly choose the length and style of the skirt that hides the belly, critically evaluate the size of the waist and the slimness of the legs. If these parameters also need to be camouflaged, trousers might be your best bet. The skirt is not an easy part of the wardrobe in this case. But it doesn’t mean that women with larger stomachs can’t put on a skirt. This is the wrong mindset to have. It is all about finding the right skirts and pairing them with suitable tops.

A tummy can be hidden under a slightly flared skirt, or skirts with pleats and drapes. You can choose plaid fabric and fabric with lines.

I really like skirts with yokes – they hide the belly bulge very well really.

If you like pencil skirts, choose a model with a peplum.

Or, if you love straight skirts, wear a jacket, a cardigan or an elongated vest to adjust the silhouette.

Eliminate tight skirts, as they further emphasize the bulge of the abdomen. Do not make (or buy) tight-fitting outfits, even if they’re in your size. You can see that I don’t look good in the tight store-bought skirt (in the image below).

Pay attention to skirts and trousers made of thick fabrics that can support the stomach and thus hide an undesirable shortcoming.

Best pants for a full tummy

Eliminate low-waisted pants – even if you immediately like the overall look in the mirror, after an hour of wearing it, excess fat will be visible.

High-waisted pants and jeans can hide the belly. However, do not think that high-waisted jeans can be worn with short tops and T-shirts. It is better to wear long blouses and tunics, otherwise, the effect may be undesirable.

Straight stretch jeans and leggings visually lengthen the figure and take attention from your flaws.

Swimwear styles to hide belly bulge

How to hide your belly with clothes on the beach? Do you have to swim in a tunic? Of course, you should not rush to extremes and be shy when the vast majority of women can’t boast of what is considered “perfect” proportions. Be proud of your assets, and disguise what makes you self-conscious. For example, wear beach dresses to disguise a plump waist, or buy beautiful pareos and learn how to tie them.

First of all, there are bathing suits with various draperies, with imitation wrap styles, decorative frills, and pleats.

Wear one piece swimwear.

If you prefer separate swimsuits, then wear high-waisted shorts to mask the abdomen. But they are not for everybody.  If you are petite, this kind of shorts reduces your height even more. In this case, it is better to choose a one-piece swimsuit.

Swimwear with mini skirts looks interesting. Conveniently, if this skirt can be tied at the waist, you can remove it during your swim.

Note: This guide contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commision if you order a product through one of my links. I recommend these products because I use them myself, and being an affiliate for them allows me to make money to keep running my blog Remember that for each product, there are obviously other options out there. Thank you for your support!

Shapewear for women tummy control

Ideal to help you in this situation is slimming underwear: lightweight spandex body shapers. Did you try wearing any? I tried recently a few styles and was surprised at how comfortable it was to wear under my dress. I am not completely out of shape without it but really it helps to look slimmer.

Now, I guess, slimming underwear is ten times more comfortable and less noticeable than the corsets of the ladies of the last century. I saw online that the most popular styles that hide the belly under clothes are high-rise underwear, which goes all the way up to under the bra. So I bought it and tried it. It worked but after a half an hour wearing it these completely rolled down, defeating the purpose of buying them for hiding the belly bulge. So I do not recommend it but it may work for you as I read lots of good reviews.

Arabella Women's Shine High Waist Thigh Control Shapewear with Spacer, Black, Small

$4.06  in stock
1 new from $4.06
Free shipping
Get more info
as of September 25, 2020 7:15 pm


  • A mid-thigh short silhouette with high-waist tummy-control panels make this a staple shapewear base that can be worn under almost any ensemble
  • Offers contouring compression, our moderate level of control that smooths without squeezing
  • Take your measurements and consult our size chart to choose which size will fit you best. For firmer control, Arabella recommends sizing down.

Now I have a variety of different shapewear products. And the best ones that work for me are the full body slips shapewear with adjustable straps that I can pull on my shoulders. They look so small that it’s hard to believe the slip is going to fit,  but after I manage to put it on it provides good control and hides the belly and I feel that I look good in my tight dress. The length goes to my mid-thigh and does not ride up. Such underwear hides not only the belly, but slims the waist and sides, visually reducing fullness there and giving you that ideal hourglass shape.

Arabella Women's Firm Control Seamless Slip Shapewear, Black, Large

 out of stock
Get more info
as of September 25, 2020 7:15 pm


  • Mid-thigh shapewear slip with adjustable straps
  • Offers firm compression, our highest level of compression for increased shape and support
  • Powerful allover shaping helps create the appearance of a flatter tummy
  • Smoothes curves
  • Take your measurements and consult our size chart to choose which size will fit you best

Arabella Women's Firm Control Open Bust Slip Shapewear, Nude, Medium

 out of stock
Get more info
as of September 25, 2020 7:15 pm


  • Shapewear slip with curve-defining seams and X-back convertible adjustable straps
  • Offers firm compression, our highest level of compression for increased shape and support
  • Wear with any bra
  • Helps create the appearance of a flatter tummy
  • Take your measurements and consult our size chart to choose which size will fit you best

By the way, do you know about the new Amazon Prime Wardrobe program?

Amazon says Prime Wardrobe is a new service that “brings the fitting room to you, so you can try on the latest styles and find your perfect fit before you buy.” You can order clothes, shoes, and accessories and you get seven days to try them out. You will be only charged for items you want to keep. But this program is only for Prime members so subscribe below (through my affiliate link please)  to Amazon Prime to take advantage of the service.

Amazon Prime is a paid membership program that gives you access to free shipping on Amazon, as well as many other services, for example, you can stream video and music. There are several Amazon-specific services and deals included in the membership. It costs $119 per year or $12.99 per month.

Want to know more about Prime Wardrobe program?

Check out the Prime Wardrobe website for more details.

When choosing corrective underwear, feel the seams; they should be flat so as not to stand out under the clothes. For summer, buy a correction with mesh inserts when choosing panties, so that they are not hot. And don’t look for cotton in the material list – such products are produced only with synthetics.

If you follow these simple rules, you will not only be able to hide your shortcomings, but turn them into real virtues. Most importantly, you should not focus on your figure’s problems, since “ideal” women simply do not exist. If you overcome your complexes within your own mind, none of those around you will even notice what you consider as flaws. Remember: a less-than-perfect figure is a mere trifle in life. The main thing is that you are a kind, sympathetic, and sincere, and that you believe in yourself and in your right to happiness. Fortune will surely smile on you then!

Now, I wonder: what do you think? What is working for you? What styles do you choose that are comfortable and flattering and suit your body?

Ready to take the next step in your sewing journey?

Check out more step-by-step tutorials from my blog




    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you for your question! I think you may try the following.
      1. Use layering, make capes, shrugs, ponchos and all kinds of overlays. It’s easy to find free patterns for them all over Internet. And they are really easy to sew, sometimes all is needed is gorgeous silk fabric (and one or two seams). I have some nice images on my Pinterest board here (no patterns, just inspiration)
      2. Find patterns with an empire waist. They will work for sure.
      3. Make your upper body look bigger – find patterns with pleats, gathers, folds, interesting drapes, unusual sleeves.
      4. Wrap dresses and tops are good also.
      5. Go to the Goodwill store and try on things – you will see what looks good on you, then you can make your own patterns from those garments. There are some good tutorials on how to make a pattern from ready-made clothes.
      6. Look in pattern catalogs – they always have plus size patterns, they are not always suitable for your body type but maybe you will find something. For example, I looked at Burda patterns and I see their new plus collection – here is the link Or maybe you will like McCalls patterns M7655 or M7368?

      I hope it helps.

  2. Cheryl

    Dear Ageberry,
    Thank you so much for all the time you put in to help those with serious flaws.
    My belly bulge happeed when I wasn’t watching. Between getting spayed and chemo,voila, there it was. I found a great big silver lining in my black cloud. I can just about anything I want, gain a few pounds that disappear within just a couple or three days. The drawback is that my legs look like a Sharpai dog, pleats and skin layering in cute little ripples and folds. My arms could have been the original bright idea for crepe paper. I love ❤️ all kinds of tunics worn with leggings. I’m so glad leggings are “. My question is this. I want to wear jumpsuits and not too short jumpsuits. There is one huge drawback. Is it possible to put snap in the crotch? After having so many surgeries on my bladder, (bladder cancer), and being totally incontintinent, I would really like to up my game. Any suggestions you or your followers have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for giving me enough room to share my rather gross problem and ask for any ideas anyone has to offer would be so much help. I absolutely hate having to wear diapers, but what’s a lady to do. As soon as I stand up, I get a ten second warning. I’m just not that fast.Sincerely, Cheryl. Help!

    • Olga Balasa

      Dear Cheryl, sorry to hear about your cancer problems. Obviously, chemo is not good for the body and the skin, but if it fights cancer skin problems and the belly bulge are just a small complication. You can certainly hide them with proper clothes and I think tunics and leggins are great for this. As for your question about a jumpsuit, I think I would make it a FAKE jumpsuit – like a top and pants sewn from the same fabric, but separate. I made a few jumpsuits before but I really had problems taking them off in the washroom so I decided to make them FAKE. Much easier really. Look at this image- can you say that it’s NOT a jumpsuit and just a top and pants from the same fabric? Fake jumpsuit

    • Robyn

      Olga has the best tip there on a faux jumpsuit for you. The possibilities there are almost limitless.
      However, in regard to leaking, I endure the annoyance of urge incontinence, which I know will only get worse as I get older. A product that I have discovered that makes me still feel human is Icon undies, now known as Speax (only available online, I believe. Dr Google can sort it for you.). They are meant for light to moderate leakage and feel really lovely on the body. I love their high waisted panties as they don’t roll. After my spay, I found that I cannot wear bikini briefs anymore as they roll under the bulge that has formed where my girl bits used to be.
      I hope that is of some use to you, and best wishes.

      • Kemkamma Okabie

        Nice work mam, love to learn

      • Anne Edwards

        I really like your fake jumpsuit. The pattern and the style make you (and I think it would me) look taller and slimmer. I am short and not as thin as I would like to be. Thanks for all of the ideas.

    • Edna Mae Walker

      Hi, I read your comment on jumpsuits and I was reminded of McCall’s 7954. It has a drop crotch and look like harem pants from the waist down. I love harem pants and made four that I wear all summer long with tunic length or hip length tops, since I have a tummy that makes me look 7 months pregnant. LOL Do a search and see how you like it. You could put snaps or even a separating zipper on the low crotch inseam. Just an idea.

  3. Christina Prakash

    Thank you for all your research and work that went into this article. It is very helpful. However, have you tried adding a supportive panel to pants, skirts or dresses like there is in ready-to-wear? Is there something that could be used in fabric stores? I’m very effective by heat and often travel to warm climates. I would like to look and feel my best and having to wear heavy undergarments is very uncomfortable in hot, humid weather.

  4. Debbie

    Hi, I am so glad I read your article about jumpsuits and getting them off for using the bathroom. I never thought of this! Thanks.

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you very much, Debbie! I am happy to hear you liked my idea!

  5. Joyce Santos

    Amei suas sugestões, seu blog é maravilhoso, quando comecei a ler suas dicas não tive vontade de parar, a cada clique uma dica legal.
    Você tem bom gosto

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you very much! I am happy to know my blog is useful. I don’t speak Portuguese but I used Google Translate and this how Google translated it: “I loved your suggestions, your blog is wonderful, when I started reading your tips I had no desire to stop, with each click a cool tip. You have good taste” (just in case others want to know what you said).

  6. LM

    Thank you for your great helpful ideas 🙂 SUGGESTION: make yourself a great real silk slip to wear under all those dresses and skirts – it will hang ever better. I don’t bother with spandex or anything that is tight underneath … I can’t bear the discomfort of tight things … but … a great silk slip will not allow your dress or skirt to hug areas that you’d rather it did not. It doesnt have to be fitted at all – just a loose plain maybe A-line slip. Dresses and skirts will slip over your curves rather than get stuck in unflattering places – because the slip runs interference in a good way. 🙂 Difference is so noticeable. I always cringe when I see women wearing clothing without slips now that I’ve seen the way! 🙂 Hope that helps someone. (Oh – and I don’t bother taking time to create linings in my garments now if I’ll be wearing a slip. I wash my silk fabric somewhat aggressively BEFORE cutting it and sewing the slip – spin out excess water – then hang dry and even iron it. No need to dry clean or complicated care. Heavier silk takes a lot more abuse than folks think – think china silk also called Habotai I believe. In fact, I had an old dress-length shirt that I converted to a slip for no cost – and I wash it all the time and iron it without ruining it.) Sorry to ramble on! 🙂

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you for so detailed comment! I appreciate your idea very much! Actually, I always make myself silk slips – I cut it on the bias if I am making it from silk charmeuse or silk Habotai and sometimes I am using silk jersey (excellent fabric for slips and underwear) and I often make it with a built-in bra. But I guess I was too busy to notice the flattering effect on the body. You are absolutely right though – now I looked and I agree: it helps a lot! So I plan to make a tutorial now on making a silk slip.

  7. Shirley

    I love your comments, your advice is wonderful and extremely helpful.

  8. Jenisa

    Do you recommend any places to buy good quality fabric?

    • Olga Balasa

      Jenisa, I see that you hail from Alaska (from the IP address), a place that I do not really know well, so you might have good stores locally that I would not know about. Online, I really like even if I am not really crazy about some prices. If you are looking to buy high quality organic fabric you may want to refer to my interview with a shop owner from Spokane, WA Personally, I visit the stores in New York, NY (39, 38 st, between 7 and 8 ave) whenever I can get there, I buy mostly silk, they have by far the best selection and prices, so if you ever find yourself in NYC, give it a try. Also I am not against frequenting estate sales or garage sales, sometimes (not often enough) you can find things that may surprise you.

  9. Debbie Deck

    I just ran onto this post and got so excited I had to comment. I have PKD and my belly will never go down in size unless I have my native kidneys removed. I love all the patterns! How do you find the correct size to account for the different body sizes?

    • Debbie Deck

      BTW- I had a kidney transplant 2018 and I am short. Don’t know if that makes a difference.


    I could not believe This site I just happen to see it on my phone. So many tips . Awesome.

  11. George Bernstein

    Hi Olga. I am a 70 year old man, just developing an interest in sewing and learning to use a sewing machine. I found your blog in looking for different ways to make masks in the current environment. In modeling your clothes, I wondered whether it wouldn’t be more flattering to increase the length and cover the knees. Maybe it’s a more northern perspective vs southern Florida where I think you are. Anyway, thanks for the benefit of your knowledge and experience presented in such a clear and thorough way. And do you have any simple projects for men beginners?

  12. Trisha

    Hi Olga,
    The tips for clothes for a big stomach is wonderful, and so helpful. You’re so cute, and look so good in all of the clothes you made. I hope I can look half as nice. I will try some of the patterns you recommended, I just wanted to thank you for this article I learned so much.

  13. Linda K

    I want to make the short dress in orange and pink tie dye that you show on your blog. What is the pattern number and type. I also like the blouse with the collar and bow at dropped waist. Need that pattern number and type too please.

    • Olga Balasa

      The pattern for the dress in orange and pink is Vogue V8353; as for the blouse, I made the pattern myself.

  14. Emmy M. Ziegler

    Hi Olga. So glad I found your blog and all the helpful ideas, and patterns that you have shared. I made several of your masks successfully, due to your thorough and easy to understand instructions, (videos are really helpful). I believe you are in Florida. I live in Miami. Unfortunately, we no longer have any good sewing stores where we can go and learn new things. Closest I can get to any instruction is Orlando and also Naples(Flash Sewing). I love all the clothes that you made and model. Thank you for taking the time to share!! I have a Babylock Ellisimo and Ovation serger. I had an Elna before that I loved, and also a Janome 10000. Both of those have unfortunately kicked the bucket, and nobody wants to repair them. GRR. Thanks again, and keep sharing!

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you Emmy. I am in Naples, indeed the Flash store has good classes (or had, should I say).

  15. Pru Clayden

    Hi Olga, I am in New Zealand, I have just stumbled upon your site with my twitchy fingers. I am getting back into the sewing mode which means by summer I may be in dresses and not trousers full time. Yes my big tummy has been the stumbling block. So thanks again for all the helpful advice and coments from the other people.

  16. Carolyn

    I do like most dresses on you. I think I could use most, too. Even have some styles already. Gave me some ideas.
    Only thing for you, I think if you lengthened your dresses you would look taller. Either AT THE BEND OF KNEE or right below knee.

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you; I may try this.

  17. Anne Hemsley

    Hello from the UK. I too have just found your website, and I’m sure it’s going to be a lifesaver. After abdominal surgery last year I find that my tummy has grown beyond belief, and I am getting back into sewing for myself out of necessity, but like many sewers I have found that mass market patterns need so much alteration. I’ve also downloaded your guide to making a bodice block.
    Thank you for making it all sound achievable.

    • Olga Balasa

      I am sorry that you had health issues but even without, we all probably have this problem after an age. May be hormone imbalance, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating, stress – many reasons. My findings are not really groundbreaking just common sense things that sometimes I arrived at the wrong way – by trial and error, if you look at some of my “creations” here you will probably agree with me. Glad I could help a little.


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