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"This year I want to play up my curves."
"Thank goodness for Spanx!" says 36-year-old dietitian Nicholle Francis Mena as she slips into a beautifully cut jersey sheath (David Meister, $285)—a total contrast to the boxy wardrobe she used to take refuge in. "I've always wanted to wear a red dress," she admits, "but I'd say to myself, 'I can't do that! That's not me!'" Describing herself as "that big, tall girl who always stood out," Mena, a size 12, says she deflected attention by wearing darker, looser clothes—"nothing formfitting." But since giving birth to 2-year-old Simone, she's more comfortable with her voluptuous body: "When you get older, you start to accept yourself instead of always wishing you looked different." The great thing about this dress is that it's sensuous, yet not a bit risqué. The crossover bodice emphasizes—tastefully—Mena's cleavage; the raised waist makes her legs look longer; and the arm coverage minimizes broad "linebacker" shoulders, making her feel less self-conscious. "Long sleeves are a bit of a security blanket for me," she says. "Like wearing a T-shirt over your swimsuit."
Earrings, Kara Ross; ring, Replica for Jennifer Miller; shoes, Lauren by Ralph Lauren