This is one of those things that's so much easier than it seems. The problem is that we don't ask ourselves this question until we're in the middle of shopping and pulling our hair out in frustration.
You want style rules that can make it easier to find clothes that you'll love. But rules need to have a strategy behind them. And you can't come up with a strategy without understanding the issue on a philosophical level.Philosophy
I know you're itching to skip ahead and get to the rules, but bear with me. We have so much trouble shopping because we don't understand our goals, and why those are our goals.
We've all been told that we should dress to look slimmer than we are, and to make our bodies look hourglass shaped. Which, oy. It's difficult to be comfortable and confident while trying to look like something you're not. You can't look good while feeling awkward and miserable.
That's the ultimate overarching goal here - to look good. Society has this notion that you must look thin to look good. Society isn't very smart because society thinks it's actually possible to look smaller than we actually are.
So dressing plus size bodies means trying to look good, and be comfortable.Strategy
How do we make that happen? Comfort is easy - certain silhouettes look and feel better on different body shapes. It's worth noting here that plus size isn't a body shape. I was pear shaped when I wore regular sizes and I'm still pear shaped now.
For example, Pear shaped women are more comfortable in A-Line dresses and skirts because a straight skirt is too narrow for our hips. Depending on the fabric, a straight skirt might not give pear shaped women enough room to move and breathe comfortably.
The strategy isn't to hide specific body parts - it's to give your curves the room they need. I've written loads of posts on dressing for your shape, so please check those out if you're looking for more guidance in that area.
The looking good part of the equation takes some introspection. What's your personal style? Browsing through clothes, you can easily spot the things that are super not you. But the rest are either just OK or exactly your style. Knowing if you want to look professional, or serious, or exuberant, or alluring helps you identify which pieces you'll love,Rules
Your personal plus size shopping rules should include specifics, such as "Buy these kinds of shirts in shades of green." The entire process is less stressful when you've already decided if you're going to run towards wide leg pants or run away from them.
Your rules can also be extremely personal. Maybe you own plenty of black pants and want to branch out to brown and gray pants. Or you may need more jackets, or want to wear more prints.
You may even want to write down your rules so you can refer to them while shopping. And you may also want to break the rules if you find a truly special pair of black pants or find a top in a stunning solid shade instead of a print. These rules exist to make you look good and feel happy.
Back to Philosophy
Approaching plus size fashion this way can affect your entire life. Trying to make yourself seem small and tugging at ill-fitting clothing really affects your mood. Giving that up, and letting yourself take up space is liberating. Just think of what you can accomplish with all the energy you'll save.