The Types of Clothing That Can Make Your Stomach Look Bigger

Clothing can be deceiving. It has the power to slenderize — or to pack on a few pounds exactly where you don’t need them, especially in the tummy area. Male or female, the unflattering clothing styles don’t discriminate, so make sure you’re getting the most out of a figure-friendly closet. And, beware of these eight wearables that can make your stomach look bigger and take your waist from whittled to wide.

1. Elastic waistbands

Gray sport shorts

Elastic waistbands are for athletic clothes only. | iStock.com/Tarzhanova

Wear an elastic waistband and you can pretty much guarantee the addition of some heft to your midsection — no matter what your waistline measures in inches. The problem is the material poufs out around the waistband, instantly creating more volume and the illusion of a bigger tummy. Joggers and other sporty, athleisure-style pants with this type of waistband are currently on trend. But if you really want to wear it, look for skinnier elastic waistbands and lightweight fabrics that don’t yield so much unflattering pouf factor.

2. Pleats

man trying to button his pants

Pleated pants make your stomach look bigger. | iStock.com

Pleats come in and out of vogue, whether they be manifested in loosely fitted trousers, avant-garde pants, or prim skirts. But whether they’re popular or not, pleats are usually not the best idea if you want a streamlined waistline. Take, for example, those pleated trousers (aka “dad pants”) that many a man may have hanging in their closet. While their concept is good on paper — to create a better, more comfortable fit — the execution falls flat by, well, not falling flat. Basically, just like that elastic waistband, pleats add volume where you don’t want it, such as your stomach area. They also recreate a ’90s flashback moment that you don’t necessarily want to have.

3. Horizontal stripes

view of Vintage clothing and accessories

Horizontal stripes will make you look wider. | iStock.com/JHK2303

You’ve likely already heard the stripes story: Vertical lines are best for creating the optical illusion of additional height and slimness. So, if you want to trim your tummy, stay away from horizontal patterning in button-down shirts, blouses, and dresses. Otherwise, you may fall victim to a widening effect on the waistline.

4. Big prints

Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis attends the Edie Parker SS'17 Collection 'Vices and Virtues" Diner

Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis is one of the few who can pull this off. | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Taking patterning a step further than horizontal stripes, big prints don’t do your tummy any favors. Because of their graphic quality, they can visually expand the area they’re covering, making your stomach look bigger than it is. Monochromatic shades are a safer bet for that midsection. Or, if you simply must pick prints, choose a smaller pattern to look slimmer.

5. Zippers, pockets, and ruffles

Man wearing trousers

Some pockets add too much bulk. | iStock.com

There’s a fine line when it comes to knick-knacks such as zippers, pockets, and ruffles, most of which are added to clothing as a fun, stylish flourish rather than serving a real purpose. These doodads don’t add any function but they can also take away from your good form. Improperly placed zippers, side and front pockets, and ruffles can all serve to draw the eye to your midsection in an unflattering way. When it comes to your stomach, this isn’t good news.

6. Shiny materials

Bright rippled pink satin

Stay away from the pink satin. | iStock.com/StockPhotoAstur

Shiny materials, or those that reflect light, can be a slippery slope when it comes to slimming a stomach. The reflective quality can make the area they are covering look bigger than it really is. Satin, for example, is generally one of the biggest offenders, as the fabric can be unforgivingly glossy, exacerbating lumps and bumps along the way.

7. Baggy clothing

Smiling Young Woman Who Has Just Woken Up

Baggy tops will make you look wider. | iStock.com

Sometimes people have the mistaken theory that wearing baggy clothes will hide a problem area such as the stomach and somehow shrink its size. In actuality, the very opposite happens. Baggy, unfitted clothing doesn’t conceal, it actually reveals and even highlights bigger parts of the body. The best thing is to buy clothing that is properly fitted or have it tailored.

8. Tight clothing

Three tight belts on belly

Avoid clothes that cling too much. | iStock.com

On the opposite end of the spectrum, make sure the clothes you’re wearing aren’t too tight, either. Extra-snug pieces can really enhance a stomach and make a midsection look bigger. Pants that are too snug around the waist create a muffin-top effect while skin-tight shirts or dresses leave you looking like you’re about to burst. Forget trying to squeeze into the right size on the label, and simply go for the right fit.

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