Super Size Me

Will women want to cover their fit bods in this season's exaggerated shapes? Harper's Bazaar features editor Elisa Lipsky-Karasz investigates.

There's a new silhouette on the horizon this fall and it's about as unmissable as the Goodyear blimp. Gone are the body-conscious looks that have been clinging on the last few years — no longer does chic mean shrunken. From extreme artists like Marc Jacobs and Comme des Garcons to discreet design darlings like Céline and The Row, the big message off the fall runways was oversize. Pun intended. 

Which leaves legions of the fitness-focused — those who put hours of care into sculpting and whittling and aren't inclined to hide all that hard work beneath folds of fabric — unsure of whether this season, it is even possible to be both fit and fashionable.

"I think there can be something quite flattering about big-on-big action. You're creating an overall shape," says Meenal Mistry, the Wall Street Journal's fashion editor. "Fashion is all about proportion; width has to be balanced with height." 

Céline showed elegant examples proving this theorem, with relaxed haute-sweatshirts topping low-slung wide trousers. Meanwhile, Proenza Schouler boxed out the athletic department with squared-off sweaters and jackets over extra-wide minis, and The Row proposed super-chic tops and skirts with room to breathe as well as a tented, minimalist gown for evening. These looks are spiked with strong accessories: sharp shoes and clutch bags (just imagine the tangle a shoulder strap would cause!). 

It's a trend that's about to literally swallow up any smaller garments, whose tight lines now look too obvious.

"I prefer this sort of easy elegance to a super tight look. I actually think slightly looser, more suggestive clothes can be sexier on a woman," says style-setter and filmmaker Maggie Betts. "The idea should never be (or feel) like you're trying to hide or disguise your body in some way. We're not talking about sweatpants here, just great, easy draping where you get the sense and feel of the body beneath without putting the whole store on display."

So what does this mean for all the endless hours spent in the gym, whittling a runway-ready body? Well, it depends. Since the clothing itself is already so big, many think it demands an even more disciplined body (due to that special kind of fashion math, which dictates that curvaceous bodies are more flattered by fitted clothing, and vice versa). "Drapey dressing, without attention to detail, often accentuates the negatives instead of concealing them," says workout devotee and fashion insider Annelise Peterson. "If you have an hourglass figure, you're better off calling attention to your feminine curves in Roland Mouret than wearing a tunic, which can make your designer Miu Miu look more like a Moo Moo." And when in doubt, wear a heel. 

Many of these exaggerated looks also expose isolated body parts, which are sure to get extra scrutiny: skirts cut well above the knee at Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga, or the bare shoulders and arms at The Row and Alexander McQueen. Wasp waists are shown off by belting large layers, as evidenced at Lanvin and Haider Ackermann. 

However, there are those that fear that without care (and extra workouts), these inflated clothes can hide a growing problem. "When trapeze dresses were a phenomenon, a lot of girls found themselves gaining weight," says Mistry. "We jokingly called it 'Dress Fat.'" But if that happens this time around, you can always hide away under Comme des Garcons' paper-doll trompe l'oeil dress. Just call it the high-fashion equivalent of a blousy bikini coverup.