When stylish outfits aren’t conventionally flattering, but still attractive and fun, they are often what I call just flattering enough. The wearer usually achieves these proportions by creating sufficient structure, which usually means hinting at a waistline. Or the wearer has skillfully elongated the outfit, by increasing the vertical integrity of the outfit or lengthening the leg line. 

Here are ten ways to elongate an outfit. They might come in handy when you’re experimenting with conventionally unflattering proportions. Sometimes it will take only one of these troubleshooting tips to make the outfit look just flattering enough. And sometimes you’ll need to incorporate a few of them to get the outfit to work.   

  1. Wear heels: This is the most obvious strategy because heels make your legs look longer. Even low heels of one and a half or two inches count as heels. 
  2. Create a low contrast with your footwear: Keep the contrast between the colour of the shoe and your skin tone low. Or create a low contrast between the colour of the pants and the shoes. 
  3. Wear pointy toe footwear: Pointy toe shoes are the most elongating, but almond toes also count. If you don’t like to wear heels, choose pointy toe flats.
  4. Tuck or partially tuck the top: Tucking a top, or partially tucking a top in front, visually shortens the torso and lengthens the legs. This is particularly effective when wearing flats. Tucking also adds structure by adding waist definition. 
  5. Create a column of colour: I have covered this strategy in great detail. It elongates and slims the body by emphasizing the vertical and eliminating horizontal lines across the middle of the body. This is one way for petites to look visually taller. 
  6. Taper the hems of cropped pants: Making sure that the hems of cropped pants and boyfriend jeans fit closely to the calf will help to elongate the leg line. 
  7. Wear flared pant hems at floor sweeping lengths: When you wear flared jeans or trousers at floor sweeping lengths, your legs look longer. Add a pointy toe heel and you’ve elongated the outfit even further. Wearing pointy toe flats with extra long flares can work too. 
  8. Wear V-necks if you’re short waisted and short in the neck: The shape of the V visually lengthens the neck which further accentuates your long lean line. 
  9. Raise the hemlines on skirts and dresses when wearing flats: The shorter hemline, which needn’t be shorter than just above the knee, elongates the lower leg which increases the length of the entire leg line. 
  10. Leave a jacket or coat unbuttoned: The vertical line that is created down the centre front of the body by leaving a coat or jacket unfastened draws the eye up and down thereby increasing the vertical integrity of the outfit. It’s a magically slimming strategy. 

I also think that tucking away the bows of laces on boots, oxfords and sneakers helps elongate an outfit by making the eye flow up and down instead of to the side. It’s a very subtle strategy but one that can make a difference when laces are particularly long and bulky. 

I’m not saying that every outfit has to be about waist definition and elongation. Not at all. Fashion and style has moved on from that philosophy, which is empowering and liberating. You have to find your figure flattering sweet spots and incorporate them into outfits. These elongating strategies might help you wear an item or look that you thought wasn’t flattering, when all that was required was a little tweak, like partially tucking the front of the top, wearing low-contrast footwear, adding heels or unfastening the jacket.