One of the most common questions I get asked is how to choose clothes to look slimmer. In a world that's obsessed with fitting into a perfect ideal, it's easy to forget that - according to a survey carried out this year by Heat magazine - the average UK woman weighs around 10st 2lb, stands 5ft 4in and is a size 14 (around a US 10-12 / EU 42) with 36C boobs, a 34 inch waist and 40.5 inch hips. 47% of UK women are over a size 16, yet that's the biggest dress size many high street stores sell. Isn't it ironic?

Up until very recently, that average woman was me, give or take a few pounds and inches. Because of that, I've become a bit of a pro at dressing slimmer! I always despair of curvy women who complain that they can't wear fashionable clothes. Rubbish! Half the battle is having the confidence to say "Well, I'm not super-slim, but I have boobs most women would kill for," or "Ok, so I have a bit of a belly, but I have a great set of legs to go with it". And the rest? Tricks of the trade and a good dollop of common sense...

1. Buy clothes that actually fit
This may seem like stating the obvious, but the main reason most women look bigger than they are is because they're squeezing into clothes that are too small for them. On the other end of the scale, some women drown themselves in clothes that are far too big because they're 'comfy'. This is just as bad. Be honest. Are you really a 12, or would the size 14 jeans fit better? Pick clothes that fit and you'll instantly lose pounds in other people's eyes. Try things on before you buy them. They shouldn't be digging in, but they shouldn't hang off you. Trousers and jeans should fit snugly but with enough room to sit down comfortably and no unsightly overhang. Tops should button up without gaping and fit properly around the shoulders without pulling, but they shouldn't hang off you like a tent.

2. Wear the correct underwear
Even if you have a shirt that fits perfectly, if your bra digs in at the back, you'll still get those unsightly lines. Get measured professionally every now and then (especially if you know you've lost or gained weight) to ensure a perfect fit, and never buy a bra that feels tight. With knickers, always go a size bigger if you're in doubt. Go for seamless microfibre styles that don't show under your clothes. If you've got a belly or flabby thighs, avoid boyish styles with thick elastic waistbands - they dig in and cause that 'muffin top' effect! Be careful with hoisiery too. Try hold-ups instead of tights to avoid a line where the waistband digs in.

3. Choose your colours and prints carefully
We all know that black is the universal 'slimming' colour, and there's nothing more flattering than a gorgeous pair of tailored black trousers or a well-cut black dress. But don't dress like a widow in mourning just because you're voluptuous. Try alternative dark shades like chocolate brown, navy and charcoal, and inject some colour into your wardrobe whenever you can. A flash of a bright colour like pink or green on your favourite part of your body will draw attention to it (try a deep v-neck top if you love your boobs, or a great pair of heels if you like your legs). Horizontal stripes might add pounds, but vertical ones are slimming (perfect for swimwear). Panelling and chevrons ('V' shaped patterns) are also great for elongating the body.

4. Stick to old faithful styles
Certain styles will always be flattering, which is why they've become classics. Don't be fooled into wearing faddy fashion if it won't suit you, but stick to what you know, experimenting with prints, colours, fabrics and accessories instead. The wrap dress (be it from Diane Von Furstenberg or the Next Directory) is perfect for women with big boobs and great waists, while a classic knee-length shift dress looks great on 14+ women, especially under a long-line jacket. Bootcut trousers and jeans will balance out childbearing hips or large upper thighs, while well-tailored straight trousers (with or without turn-ups) flatter just about everyone! On top, go for fit and flare styles, simple floaty fabrics, and low necklines that show off ample cleavage. If you have big boobs, need I tell you to avoid high necks (Edwardiana is not your look, unfortunately).

5. Don't listen to your skinny friends
Slim friends are (probably) not the best people to go shopping with if you're a couple of dress sizes larger than them. They will probably tell you stuff looks great even when it doesn't. They do this because they know you want to hear positive stuff (don't we all) but also because they love you and you'll always look great in their eyes. But that's all well and good until you try those skinny jeans on at home (without the tilted mirrors and flattering lighting) and realise how awful they look with your ample hips. You need someone who'll be completely honest when you're buying new clothes. Try your mom. If she's anything like mine, she won't hold back!

6. Stand tall and accessorise with a smile!
As cliched as it sounds, half the battle of looking beautiful is thinking that you look beautiful. It doesn't matter how fabulous your outfit is, if you're slouching around, hiding in corners and covering your stomach with your bag because you feel self-conscious, you'll never look your best. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and tell yourself you look beautiful, and you will do! There is nothing wrong with some self-belief and confidence, and don't let anyone tell you there is. It is not the same as arrogance. Confidence says "come over here and talk to me." Arrogance says "Come over here and listen to me talk about myself!"

The curvy girl's must-have list
- A perfectly fitting bra that lifts, separates and generally makes boobs look fab
- Seamless, well-fitting undies in dark, light and skin colours
- Slightly stretchy bootcut jeans (Gap is the best for these)
- Fully-lined, flat-fronted black trousers (Try H&M, Next, Gap and Dorothy Perkins)
- Longline secret support stretch spaghetti strap tops (H&M sell them for £7.99)
- Floaty chiffon tops for going out (Try Designers at Debenhams)
- A jersey wrap dress (try Next, New Look, Marks & Spencer or Oasis)
- A great pair of heels (to add inches to the leg. Try wedges if heels are too painful)
- Confidence!