Monday, January 27, 2014

That little extra in the middle: Basic principles

One of my readers, asked me some time ago about tips for dressing in that case when you have a little extra in the middle. Here they are.

Remember, the aim is to create a balanced silhouette between upper and lower body. Accessories should be also in proportion with your size. Tiny illusion jewellery will disappear on your torso, so go instead for a substantial piece that frames your face but elongates your neck.
Use the mirror to look at your body wearing whatever it is you want to wear as shapes and think of their relation to each other in terms of size. Think in 360 degrees.
Medium-weight materials.
Avoid clingy jerseys that will let see everything going on underneath (even the tiniest of love handles or a bra strap that digs in ever so slightly). Your best option is a medium weight jersey with some draping or provided by a faux wrap.
Avoid rigid or bulky materials (bouclé and the like) as well as excessive material.
Choose crisp fabrics where darts, vertical seams and peplums can do their work. 
Three words: "Structured, structured, structured". A two or three-button jacket is your best friend here.
Buttoned-down. Finding tops that button up without pulling is really difficult. It is best to by a bigger size and have a tailor take it in where needed.

Nipped-in waist. Avoid boxy items and rather go with a garment that creates the slimming structure on its own.

Slimming tips: Mid-rise jeans

Two-button Jacket by Caroline Grant. [Style: On the Run.]
Jeans with white and red is a classic colour combination, plus a lovely leopard print in the shoe-boots make for an interesting contrast.
A two-button jacket combined with a button-down shirt gives your torso all the structure and polish it needs from all angles.

Hobbs NW3 Caroline Shirt / Gap 1969 Long & Lean Trousers / Eickhoff Seaside Jacket / Hobbs Zeta Shoe Bs / Dooney & Bourke Tassel Handbag / Amrita Singh Remsey Earrings / Oscar de la Renta Seagrass Ring / Ted Baker Rambai Scarf / Tom Ford Lipstick in Narcotic Rouge / Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Coral Blame.

Asymmetry. An asymmetric neckline will create an interesting frame for your face. An asymmetric cut

Draping and ruching creating diagonal lines.

Peplums, can create a waist line that may not altogether be there and will add a slight volume to your hips therefore creating the illusion of a curvier body.
Where should the peplum hit? A peplum hitting above your mid-section would just accentuate it making you look pregnant, while a peplum hitting at low waist will direct the entire silhouette to that very mid-section. Opt for one at high waist, but beware of creating any unnecessary volume with it, like too much ruffle in a stiff material). Wear it down to high hip or hipbone length. Do check at the bottom of the post for links to specific tips for peplums and body types.

Asymmetric Draping

Asymmetric Draping by Caroline Grant. [Style: Modern Classic.] 

The colour combination of red and hot pink is quite powerful. You have to dare use it (if you are a Clear Spring, a Cool Summer or  a Clear, Cool or Deep Winter).
The draping along the left side of the dress accentuates the asymmetry already created by the neckline in this signature L.K. Bennett dress, the Davina. Unfortunately, it is not lined, which is not good, because when wearing this kind of dress (more or less form-fitting, although not necessarily body conscious), the importance of the right underpinnings becomes extreme. I would wear something like this (if I had to buy it, which is not the case, LK. Bennett often chooses truly dreadful fabrics in their dresses so you always have to check) with high-waisted tights or sheers or a nice bodysuit underneath.

L.K. Bennett Davina Dress / Mango Peplum Blazer / Jane Hopkins Clutch Print Handbag / Giorgio Armani Cutout Slingback Shoes / Andara Three Stone Ring / Jules Smith Surf Hoop Earrings / NARS Lipstick Funny Face / MAC Nail Lacquer in Steamy.

Additional tricks
Layering. Creating vertical lines that will divide the space, like a cardigan or jacket in a different colour, a scarf around your neck falling down your chest...


Strategic Colourblocking

Strategic Colourblocking by Caroline Grant. [Style: Modern Classic].

The lines to the sides and the middle of the dress draw the eye up and down the silhouette while the central cross effectively divides the middle in two. There is no weird "crusader effect" because the black stripes on the sides (also creating an illusion of a narrower waist together with the peplum in the jacket) complement the central one. Marks & Spencer produces every season a reasonable amount of office dresses with excellent colour blocking and tailoring. However, far from being made of  "noble materials", polyblends are rather used. This means they can be used and machine washed for probably a season, but not more. I think they are OK when you are starting at a low-entry position, as that is what you can afford then... but you should go on to upgrade your wardrobe when you can.
This Oasis jacket is probably the most streamlined someone with a little extra in the middle can choose.
Those with great legs will enjoy ankle boots, preferably a pair that hits the narrowest part of the ankle. If they are long-waisted, ankle boots should be paired with tights in the same colour, elongating the leg and therefore making the body more proportionate.

Oasis Leather Jacket / Marks & Spencer Grid Dress / Jane Hopkinson Lime Wedge Handbag / Clarks La Cecile Ankle Boots / Marni Earrings / Lucky Brand Ring / NARS Lipstick in Heat Wave / Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Smoke Red.

  • Peplums are a useful style tools. You can read DOs and DONTs for Peplums and follow from there links to the best tips for each body type wearing peplums.
  • Follow the labels Body type A, B, and C in the column to the right.

This post does not contain any affiliated links.
This post first appeared May 8th 2013. The sets have been changed and the information edited and expanded.