The idealThe ideal all clothes should ALWAYS achieve for ALL body types is:
- Strike up a balance between upper body and lower body. Your clothes should help you achieve a balanced silhouette and make your body look proportionate.
- Create a long unbroken line.
First things first: Silhouette, Proportion, and Fit (SPF)
SilhouetteSilhouette is the outline shape created on your body, your contours. In Kendall Farr's words:
Your silhouette, the essential frame you are born with is the beginning of any conversation you have with clothes. Our measurements change (...) but your frame remains the one constant in the equation. (Farr, The Pocket Stylist, 2004)
How to achieve it?
- Dress simply what you want to downplay or de-emphasize.
- Reserve embellishment, colour, pattern, and trendy items for what you want to highlight.
ProportionProportion is the relation the pieces in an outfit have to one another. For instance, you should avoid:
- Any garment that makes you short-waisted, ie, if you are wearing high-waisted trousers (and few look good in them), watch out for deep necklines that will visually shorten your torso.
- Any garment that makes you short-legged, for example, all but the tallest should avoid cuffed trousers.
- Wearing a baggy top with a baggy bottom: you will loose all shape.
- Wide silhouettes when you are Petite. Actually, proportion is ALL important for petites.
FitFit is how an specific garment adjusts to your body. Clothing has to be considered visually from all angles and in motion. Is something pulling, puckering, gaping, baggy or saggy?
- Everywhere buttons close, especially across your bust.
- Around your armholes and your stomach.
- Fabric across your hips and belly: are there horizontal lines? do pockets gape?
- Fabric across your bottom and crotch. Same questions.
- Bra lines: especially across your back (do the straps dig in and create fat rolls?) and at the front (can you see the shape or the seams of the bra?). Bras should be invisible under your clothes.
Designers think of new silhouettes every season or more correctly, different ways of presenting the same silhouettes. Then they go for different proportions and fits. Maxi skirts and maxi dresses with flats, blousons with skinny trousers, palazzo trousers with strong-shouldered, cropped jackets... Some of these combinations will look good on you, but not others. So ask yourself:
- Is the silhouette right for me? ie. Will the shape and cut of a garment flatter you? Imagine yourself in a certain outfit only as an outward line. Is there balance between your upper and lower body?
- Are the proportions right for me? ie. Does the garment flatter your body or does it make you look e.g. short-legged, busty, short-waisted, or that you have no neck?
- Is the fit right? Is it too tight for comfort or so loose it is impossible to imagine your shape (and consequently, makes you bigger)?
Second, consider the importance of The Right Length (TRL)
Dresses and skirtsIndependently of your body type, your best length is usually just above or just below the knee, as there your legs look longest and slimmest. That said:
- Skirts that hit at knee length are universally flattering for all body types.
- If you have great legs, you can raise your hemline a bit above your knee if that's on trend, but consider the occasion, your profession and its age-appropriateness. Above a certain age, it's time to cover up or it will look like you are trying too hard.
- Minimum length is one that hits the end of your hand when you stand with your arms resting against your body. A good rule of thumb is that, except for the youngest, skirts shouldn't be wider than longer.
- Always sit down, cross your legs, and bend in your dress or skirt to see if the length is still comfortable for you or makes you self-conscious. The upper part of your hosiery should never be on display.
TrousersAlways create the longest possible leg length, unless you have very long legs and are short-waisted. You will need to have trousers in different trousers lengths for that.
- Always hem your trousers according to the heel of your shoe: flats, kitten heels and high-heeled shoes will determine the best length for your trousers.
- Wear your trousers half and inch from the floor, this will create the longest possible line. Longer, and you will be sweeping the floor, getting dirty hems and looking sloppy. Shorter and it will look as if you outgrew your trousers.
- Creases make legs longer and bottoms slimmer. Iron them through a clean cotton cloth to make them razor sharp.
- Turned up hems make you shorter, so avoid them unless you are tall.
SleevesThe eye is drawn to any significant amount of skin on display, so your arms can become the centre of attention in certain styles. Taking that into account always think about where the end of the sleeve hits your arm and ask yourself... is that my slimmest part?
- Three-quarter length sleeves are universally flattering, as wrists are usually the thinnest part of the arm.
- Sleeveless tops are the best option for those with well-toned, slim arms.
- Cap sleeves, if you carry weight on your arms, will hit them at their widest part and make them even thicker.
Finally, achieve The Almighty Unbroken Line (AUL)All of us, except the Tall and slim, should always try to create the longest, leaner line when getting dressed. This is what Kendall Farr calls the "almighty unbroken line". She's a genius.
How to achieve it:
- Look for monochromatic and tonal colour combinations between you tops and bottoms.
- Avoid horizontal colour blocking, unless it creates strategic vertical lines (for instance, panels at the sides of the body) or horizontal lines, although those will cut your figure in half (or three, four parts), so think about that beforehand.
- Avoid any horizontal stripes created through colour or pattern. Any horizontal line at a critical point (muffin top, saddlebags), will visually widen it.
- Avoid horizontal lines created through cut. Cuffed trousers will shorten your legs. Capri trousers will do the same thing unless you have slim legs or wear at least a 2" heel.