Reader Question: How To Minimize a Large Chest Without Showing Cleavage


Reader Question


I am short, 5' 2" and have a large chest.  DD when not nursing and even larger right now as I am breastfeeding.  I don't feel comfortable, nor do I want to, show any cleavage.  My problem is since I am short and large chested I feel like I look rather stocky in my shirts.  Do you have any good suggestions for flattering short, well endowed women and still staying covered up?  I would love any suggestions.

Thanks so much!



This is a tough one!  Neither S. nor I are large chested, so we can’t for the life of us fathom why anyone would want to cover up the girls. We love the girls.  And one only gets to show them off for so many years in one’s lifetime. . .   but I guess this all goes back to people with curly hair wanting it straight, statuesque gals feeling awkward whilst their petite pals kill themselves on heels, and, in general, the grass being greener on the other side. 

So.  Here’s what we think: even though you don’t want to show cleavage, the basic rules of minimizing a large bosom are still the best advice here.  With some experimentation and a lot of trying-on, you can stick to these guidelines and maintain your modesty.  Here are the basics:

1.) Most flattering styles: wide v-necks, wide scoop-necks and wrap styles with cap sleeves, 3/4 sleeves and long sleeves.  And, most importantly, as you’re on the petite side, everything should hit you right at your hip bone (i.e., skip the tunics all-together, shop petites where ever you can and hem or bunch your tops up a little if you need to).    

2.) Least flattering styles: turtlenecks and round/crew necks (these increase the amount of fabric covering a voluminous bosom and make it look even larger).

3.) Most flattering fabrics: stick to thin knits and solids or small prints.  Add visual interest with accessories like stunning earrings (drawing attention to your face), hot shoes and handbags.    

4.) Least flattering fabrics: skip large prints (especially horizontal stripes–I note this because there are so many out there right now and they are not your friend), bulky fabrics, embellishments on or around the chest (including pockets), chunky necklaces and heavy knits. 

5.) Make sure you have really terrific underpinnings.  For all nursing mothers, but especially very large-chested ones, you really need nursing bras that fit well while lifting and separating.  Lifting and separating makes all the difference between a flattering fit and the dreaded uni-boob.

One of my favorite options for nursing moms in general is layering cardigans, shirts and jackets over camis, tanks and tees–these styles provide the coverage and accessibility you need to nurse on the fly–and are also a great option for large-chested moms to minimize. 

Try an open cardi like the Frenchi Ribbed Back Open Cardigan ($39).  I love it in this oatmeal color option with a cream or ivory scoop-neck tank.  Notice how the cardigan hits at the hip bone and creates a visual hourglass, cinching the waist in.  Avoid high/crew neck cardigans and stick to deep v styles instead.  Wear with your favorite jeans or plain front pants or a short twirly skirt and sandals.

One of this year’s hottest trends is the boyfriend jacket/blazer, but the oversized slouchiness will look frumpy on a petite, large-chested woman, so try something trimmer, like Old Navy’s Cotton Twill One Button Blazer ($39.50) over something like Old Navy’s Ruched V-Neck Tee ($10).  Wear the jacket open or button that single button to cinch in the waist even further.  Pair it with boyfriend jeans and sandals and you’ve got a stunning but easy mom uniform.  

A more casual but similar effect can be achieved with a classic button front shirt, like Gap’s Stretch Fitted Shirts ($44).  Please note the lack of pockets.  No pockets, please!  Wear a modest scoop neck cami that’s closer to your skin tone underneath and leave open a few buttons at the top to give the illusion of showing more skin than you are.  Wear a shirt like this untucked over skinny/straight/ankle jeans and flats with delicate layered necklaces or a knotted, washed out printed scarf. 

Frenchi Ribbed Back Open Cardigan OM Women's Cotton Twill One-Button Blazers Gap Stretch Fitted Shirt

Deep V and Wrap-Style Tops

Deep v-neck and wrap style tops are fabulous for large-chested moms because they actually draw a lot of attention to the face while separating the bust line, and they often show a lot less cleavage than one might think.  If you do find they’re still too low-cut for you, either just safety pin the neckline closed a bit higher or pair with lighter color and tone-on-tone tanks and camis to give the effect without an actual show.  

Check out Anthropologie’s Hourglass Surplice Top in grey ($48).  While it does have detailing, it’s not on the actual bust, so I feel pretty confident this should treat a large chest well.  Wear a whisper-thin heather gray or off white cami underneath for added coverage or layer a black cardi over it for those weather-that-could-do-anything spring days.  I would (and probably will!) wear this with anything from boyfriend shorts to skirts to jeans and dress pants.

A more structured wrap option is Banana Republic’s Petite Short Sleeve Wrap shirt ($59.50).  This top can easily be dressed up or down with jeans or plain front dress pants.

A third is Banana’s Petite Gathered Drape Knit Top, which has a wide, but high v-neck.  You’ll have to try this one on to see, because this type of detailing could end up adding volume, but I think the draping and gathering is simple enough that it will lift, separate and fall away from the belly, all very flattering for a new mom.

Anthropologie Hourglass Surplice BR Short-sleeve wrap shirt BR PEtite Gathered Drape Knit Top

What about you, cyber Mamas?  Do you have more tips for staying modest while minimizing a large bosom?  

Thanks for writing in Charee, hope we were able to help!

– M




  1. Hurrah! I am so excited to get trying some of these suggestions out! Thanks for the great info- there are a ton of options! I love your blog! Keep up the good work!

  2. I am NOT large chested, but I own the BR Petite Wrap top, and even I have to wear a cami underneath. I don’t know how they got that model to show so little skin!

  3. You guys have given some good advice here, but I can kinda tell you’re rookies in this area. As a big-busted short woman myself (but not a petite — just a little too tall and long-legged), I can tell you that desiring to minimize one’s bust is not a grass-is-greener situation, it’s a simple desire to look proportionate. Therefore, cap sleeves are not our friends – they make our shoulders look wider and we appear top-heavy. Also, wrap shirts are tricky – sometimes they make us look super short-waisted. And we just don’t wear button-down shirts – EVER.
    My most favorite tops have a lower neckline and are a bit drapey, so you’ve hit the mark on those things. Right on about avoiding too-long tunics, too.

  4. This question could have come from my own soul, although I’m only 5’2″ on a really good day.
    I completely agree with the desire to look proportionate. Cap sleeves are never my friend. Why can’t I remember that while shopping? Finding a great neckline that compliments my face is truly the best thing I can do for the girls. Not to mention, a fabulous bra like you said.
    Thank you for the reminder to avoid horizontal stripes, I forget that simple advice way too often.
    I’ve never looked good in a wrap shirt, but rarely I can get a wrap dress to look stunning because it has the possibility of lengthening my ridiculously short torso.
    Love your site! So glad I found it!

  5. Thanks, Elena! And tell me more about your wrap dress success…..I saw someone wearing one (who also had a short torso)..but she was wearing it layered over a tank and leggings, and had the wrap dress wrapped loosely around and tied at the hips (not the waist). It bloused a bit, and gave her the illusion of a longer torso. Is that what you’ve tried?

Leave a Reply