How to dress when you have a small bust

by Liz Hands

How to dress when you have a small bust | 40plusstyle.com

If you’ve ever felt disheartened about having a small bust, you’re not alone!

There are lots of times when I’ve wished for more curves. But I’ve (just about) learned to live with what I have. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned over the decades on how to dress when you have a small bust.

By the way, if you have a large bust, you may enjoy our article on how to dress for a large bust.

Here are some of the ideas I’ve put into practice to improve the look of my bust.

1. Add curves with your clothes

Just because you don’t have the curves that you would like to, it doesn’t mean you can’t create the illusion of curves. Simply add them with the clothes you choose.

You can wear flounces and frills, pockets and extra volume in a way which someone with a larger bust might not be able to. On other women, a flouncy top could add unwanted bulk. On you, it creates shape.

Ruffled top outfit ideas | 40plusstyle.com

Sole Society mulesSwat Fane emerald green topJules Kae blue crossbody bagLysse wide legged trousers

2. Go for masculine tailoring

If you’re small busted, then it’s likely you have a rectangle body shape, or an inverted triangle.

Even if you’ve always longed to be an hourglass, don’t despair. Many models are rectangles and inverted triangles. So, you’re in good company.

Instead of working against your lack of curves, work with your body shape and embrace androgynous, masculine tailoring.

By adding in a little femininity, it can look beautiful, and not too tomboyish.

You can wear a double breasted blazer to add extra width to your top half, pairing it with a feminine silk camisole.

Masculine outfits for women | 40plusstyle.com

Madewell jeans – J. Renee slingbacks – Leith blazer – Habitual camisole

3. Show off your back

Who says it’s just your front which can be sexy?

Play up another part of your body. If you’re not keen on drawing attention to your (lack of) cleavage, how about showing off your back instead?

Stylish dresses that compliment your back | 40plusstyle.com

Clover and Sloan open back dressWillow and Clay solid wrap midi dress – Bardot vera open back dress

4. Show off your shoulders

Another way to show off the parts of your body you do like, while playing down those you don’t, is to bare your shoulders.

This dress is a great option as, not only does it show off one shoulder, but the ruffles also add volume to your bust.

Off shoulder dresses that are mod yet classic | 40plusstyle.com

Adrianna Pappel sheath dress – Sole Society ruffle clutch – Pelle Modal t-strap sandal

5. Skim over your body

Most women have areas of their body they aren’t so keen on. If you’re apple-shaped, for example, you may wish to opt for clothing which doesn’t cling to the belly. And, the same applies for those who are small busted, and who don’t have much of a waist.

Shift dresses, for example, can be just as flattering for those who don’t have many curves as they can for those who are conscious about having curves in the ‘wrong’ places.

You can choose dresses and tops which skim the body, making you look long and lean, and skimming over your small bust.

You can also add extra bulk to your top half in the colder months with chunky knits and ponchos.

Stripes and how to wear them | 40plusstyle.com

NYDJ ankle jeansBP block heel bootie – Mavi indigo denim top

6. Wear stripes

Stripes have been my pattern of choice for years. And, when I watched 40+ stylist Ruth Essex’s video here in this piece on how to dress the rectangle, I realized why!

It’s because, when you are angular rather than curvy, stripes work with your body shape. They just go together.

Opt for thicker bands to create the illusion of curves.

How to wear stripes that compliment you | 40plusstyle.com

Splendid striped topWit and Wisdom crop jeansShiraleah tote bagSam Edelman white mules

7. Wear lighter colors on top

Just as those who are pear-shaped often look best when they balance out their body by wearing darker colors on the bottom and lighter colors on top, the same rule can apply for those who have a small bust.

Wearing a lighter color on your top off gives the illusion that your top half is wider than it is.

Chic tops for women with small busts | 40plusstyle.com

Splendid white topWit and Wisdom black jeansLinea Paolo slingback pumpSole Society oxblood bagTasha statement necklace

8. Add a scarf

I always think a scarf adds extra style to any outfit.

It adds a certain I-just-threw-this-together attitude.

It can pull together different colors. Plus, it can effectively cover up your bust, while adding extra bulk to the breast area, so it looks like you have more than you do!

For more ideas also visit how to wear scarves.

9. Choose the right underwear

There’s no shame in adding a bit of padding if that’s what you want to do. Sometimes I wear a padded bra and sometimes I just wear a bralette. You can effectively add a cup size or two whenever you want to. Just think, women who are large busted can’t just take away a few cup sizes.

10. Wear whatever you like

Having a small bust actually gives you a lot of freedom. You don’t need the same support as larger busted women, so you can wear all sorts of dresses and tops that would be impossible for others.

Spaghetti straps, strapless, or plunging designs. You can get away with it!

Tops and dresses which may look overtly sexy on larger busted women can still look demure and more casual on you.

Chic outfits that you will love to wear - romper | 40plusstyle.com

Knot Sisters floral jumpsuitTed baker bagBauble Bar acrylic earringsMadewell brown sandal

What are your own tips for looking stylish with a small bust? I’d love it if you shared them with us!

Author bio: Liz Hands is a fashion journalist and stylist from the UK who has styled fashion shoots for newspapers, magazines and high-end clients including 5* hotels and BMW. She’s now happiest either blogging about style, or donning her favorite Barbour jacket and Brogini boots for a hack out on

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How to dress when you have a small bust | 40plusstyle.com

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