I’ll preface this post by saying that it isn’t at all essential to de-emphasize a large bust. Following guidelines to create perfectly balanced outfit proportions is only one way to look stylish. This is 2016, and you can look stylish creating all sorts of outfit proportions, as long as you feel fabulous wearing them. 

Some of my clients have a full bust and don’t follow the guidelines below (except for #1, which applies to everyone). Others do want to visually minimize the size of their bust because that’s how they feel fabulous in an outfit. Here are 12 visual techniques that might be useful if you fall into the second category. You can use more than one of them in the same outfit.

1. Get the Foundation Right

If you haven’t been professionally fitted for a bra, get that sorted asap. Too many women are wearing the wrong bra size. It’s a common mistake to go too wide in the band and too small in the cup. Wearing the right size bra in the correct shape for your body type smooths out your silhouette, defines the waist, and makes clothing fit better. 

2. Try a Minimizer Bra

If a supportive and comfortable regular bra does not achieve the bust shape you’re after, you can visually reduce the size of your bust with a minimizing bra. I have never worn one, but clients tell me there are effective and comfortable options available. 

3. Lower Necklines and V-Necks

Showcasing skin above the bust helps to break up the expanse of the chest. Wear V-necks, scoop necklines, key-hole necklines, and open boat necklines. An open shirt or blouse collar will work because it creates a V-shape above the bust. 

4. Tailored Tops & Jackets 

Wearing tops and toppers that follow the contour of the bust and waist visually reduce the size of the bust because you’re showcasing the narrowest part of the torso. Unstructured tops with high necklines in stiff fabrications maximize the size of the bust because they create a cube-shape from the bust down to the hip.

5. Large Necklaces

Large statement necklaces worn on the skin of low necklines do a marvelous job of visually reducing the size of the bust because they create a focal point away from the bust. A delicate pendant necklace tends to get lost. That said, if you prefer daintier jewellery and have a large bust, choose a necklace that has spaces between the beads or pieces so that your skin peeks through. 

6. Knitted Tops

Knitted fabrics stretch over a large bust, which prevents gaping and whiskering. The fabric skims the contour of the body and is more comfortable too. A classic knitted V-neck mock wrap top with side ruching magically minimizes the bust like few others do. They work well on a defined waist, but tend to cling onto the midsection of apple shaped body types.  

7. Shoulder Detailing

Garments with interesting shoulder detailing — like raglan cuts, shoulder embellishments, epaulettes, and in some cases shoulder pads — focus the attention away from the bust.

8. Higher Cut Armholes

Armholes that are cut closer to the body of sleeved garments create a snugger fit, which reduces the size of the bust. Baggy fits around the bust — especially in stiff fabrics — tend to make the bust look larger. 

One exception: Batwing and dolman sleeves can work very well with a large bust when the drape of the fabric is great (that is, the fabric collapses back onto the body nicely), and the neckline is low. The photo below provides a good example. 

9. Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines are magical. Think asymmetrical hemlines and diagonal stripes because they straighten curves in ways that balance out proportions. 

10. Optimum Sleeve Lengths

This is a subtle strategy, but quite effective. Wear sleeve lengths that do not finish near the same height as your mid bust point. Wear sleeves shorter or longer, so think sleeveless, diagonal sleeves, three quarter sleeves or long sleeves. 

11. A Focal Point Away from the Bust

We’ve covered two ways to do just that by wearing large necklaces and shoulder detailing. But you can also draw attention to other parts of your style by wearing dramatic hair, footwear, trousers and skirts. 

12. A Line Down the Centre Front of the Body

Wearing a tailored topper open over a top creates a vertical line down the front of the body which slims down the size of the bust. Vertical seaming, like darts and princess seams are subtle, but can have the same effect. 

City Chic Top

In my experience of dressing women for a living, I’ve found that the first four dressing strategies are the most effective. The right bra is essential. Lower necklines break up the expanse of the chest, and outfit structure is your friend.