Ahhh, the dreaded muffin top. Among all the fashion faux pas, an ill-fitting pair of low-slung or too-tight trousers that cause an overspill of the area just above your hips is probably the most notorious. And part of its notoriety comes also from its power: in the Machiavellian sense, the muffin top knows it’s much better to be feared than loved.
MORE: How To Wear Leggings: 10 Ways to Style the Tricky Staple
And while most of us know what a muffin top is (and if you don’t know, here’s a great example), but not everyone knows how to combat it. And here’s another lesser-known fact: you don’t actually have to stop eating bread, start a juice diet, or generally lose a ton of weight to prevent the muffin top effect. In fact, you can remain exactly your wonderful, lovely, curvy self and still never have to worry about le muffin.
MORE: 5 Summer Trends to Try Before Fall Arrives
The trick? Use your clothing. We’ve rounded up five tips to use your wardrobe to banish it forever.
1. Get rid of your super low-waisted jeans.
These were super en vogue circa-early 2000s, when Britney Spears completely changed the way everyone looked at pants. But in these more modern times, there’s really no place for jeans that hit much lower than your belly button.
A healthy average body fat percentage for a grown woman is between 18.5% and 25%; that means, if you’re healthy, you probably have a little bit of extra padding on your lower abdomen. And that’s okay. We would all be healthier and happier if we stopped dressing like our body fat percentage is much lower than it actually is.
2. Next step: buy some high-waisted bottoms.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the pants that only our beloved Brit Brit could rock circa 2001, it’s time to go shopping. And it’s time to embrace one of the chichest modern staples (which is actually a throwback): the high-waisted pant.
Back in the days of Marilyn Monroe and other voluminous screen sirens, it was known and accepted that women’s bodies are simply softer than mens, and they have more dips and valleys. Wearing high-waisted bottoms—pants, trousers, skirts, and even bathing suits—was the norm because ladies wanted to highlight their tiny waists and minimize their plentiful hips.
Designers are now harkening back a bit to those times, and for good reason: they flatter everyone.
They serve to hold in your stomach, minimize the anterior curves of your hips, and strictly geometrically speaking, they make muffin top a physical impossibility. Without a place from which to spill out (because the bottoms rise up so high), there simply is no muffin top. (See also: How to wear a crop top.)
3. If you must wear low-rise bottoms, pair them with longer tops.
Part of the reason the muffin top is even possible is because there’s a gap between a shirt that’s too short and a pair of bottoms that are too low. As outlined, the easy way to combat with style problem is to just pull your pants up. That being said, we also understand the compulsion to keep your favorite pair of low-rise jeans, so there is another way: wear them if you must, but wear them with a top that’s gracious in its length, to ensure that none (or very little ) of your 18.5-25% body fat hangs out over the sides. You might even try tucking the shirt in. Example below.
4. Go for stretchy fabrics.
This seems like a no-brainer, but a big part of the reason muffin top occurs is that the pants worn by the person suffering from M.T. are simply too tight in the waist. But being too tight isn’t enough to cause the perfect storm required for the muffin top to flourish: the fabric has to also be stiff and unforgiving. A pair of pants in a staff fabric that are just a little too tight in the waist can reek more havoc than a pair of stretchy pants that are way too tight.
To that end, when trying on new bottoms, focus more on the fabric than the fit, and be sure to give yourself of (literal) wiggle room. In other words, buy a set of bottoms (whether it’s pants, a skirt, shorts, or otherwise) that is a little bit looser than you think is right. That way, if you put on a couple pounds or have a day of annoying bloating, you can still wear them.
MORE: How to Get Rid of Love Handles: 5 Exercises That Work!
5. Be honest with yourself.
Above all, be honest with yourself, and forgiving. If you have a pair of pants you’ve had forever and they just do not fit anymore, part ways with them. We’re not talking pants from last fall that are just a little bit too tight; we’re talking pants from college or high school that used to glue perfectly to your every curve, but now serve as a new form of torture. Just make peace and then say goodbye.
And then, tell yourself: it’s okay that these pants no longer fit me. No matter what you’ve been “taught” by society at large, your self-worth has nothing to do with your shape, size, weight, or really any aspect of your physical frame. If you have to go up a size to banish the muffin top, it’s okay. Adopting a more understanding and forgiving perspective of your appearance will probably bleed into all aspects of your life, making you a more confident and self-possessed woman overall. Who knew combating muffin top could actually make you a more well-rounded person? Win-win!