Generally my clients are a lot less concerned about lengthening their leg lines than they used to be, which is empowering and liberating. If you do want to lengthen your leg line, heels are one obvious strategy. If you’re not comfortable in heels, here are ten styling strategies to achieve the same effect in flats.
1. Create a Column of Colour
This means wearing a top and bottom in the same colour (neutral or non), or colours that are very low contrast and tonal to each other. You can leave the top or tunic untucked. Tops with high-low hemlines, asymmetrical hemlines, and rounded hems tend to create more structure and look flattering.
The column is more subtle when it is broken by exposed leg (e.g. a dark midi dress with dark flat footwear when you’re pale skinned), but the bookending is still effective.
2. Wear Low-Vamped Pointy-Toe Flats
A low vamp visually extends the length of the lower leg. A flat pointy-toe boot or shoe elongates the foot. The length of your pants can be regular, ankle or cropped shorter, and are particularly effective when the hem is skinny or straight.
3. Wear Low-Contrast, High-Vamped Shoes with Pants or Jeans
Wearing any type of full-length pant with a pair of shoes in the same colour (or tonal and low contrast) will lengthen the leg line. It’s not as visually punchy as contrasting footwear, so you need to pick your priority.
4. Wear Cropped Pants or Jeans with Footwear that is Low Contrast to Your Skin
Wearing shoes that are a similar tone to the skin on your feet and legs creates the illusion of a longer lower leg. The shoes needn’t be nude-for-you. For example, they can be blush or metallic if you are pale skinned. My watermelon ballet flats are much lower contrast against my skin tone than a pair of red or burgundy flats. Strappy low-contrast flat sandals can almost look barefoot, and effectively lengthen the lower leg and foot.
5. Wear Flatforms
Flatforms are shoes with an even height platform across the entire sole of the shoe. They can be as high as two or two and half inches, but feel flat because your foot is not arched. They raise your height in a sneaky way.
6. Tuck or Semi-tuck Tops into Bottoms
Wearing a mid/high-rise skirt, pair of pants or jeans, and tucking or semi-tucking the top lengthens the legs from the thighs upwards. That way you can wear any of type of flat with the outfit, and bookend your hair with contrast footwear. You can also wear high-contrast tops. This is one of my favourite styling strategies, which I prefer to a column of colour because I enjoy combining high-contrast tops and bottoms.
7. Raise the Hemline of the Dress
The shorter your dress, the longer your legs look under its hem because you’re raising the horizontal line created by the hem. If you don’t like to wear short dresses, keep the hem just above or on the kneecap, and sport a low or high-vamped flat that is low contrast to your skin tone. You can also manipulate the colour of your skin tone with hosiery and wear shoes that match the hose.
8. Wear Dresses with Waist Definition
I’ve found that wearing silhouettes with waist definition, like fit & flares, effectively lengthen the leg line from the hips upward. That way you can wear most types of flat footwear with the dress. Midi dresses with waist definition and asymmetrical hemlines are even more flattering with flats because the diagonal lines do magical things to the body. I tend to keep my footwear low contrast to my skin tone by sporting flat white or blush loafers, mules, sneakers or sandals. White footwear also effectively bookends my light hair.
9. Wear Sack Dresses That Taper At the Hem
Sack and shirt dresses without ties have no waist definition, but when they’re slightly tapered at the hem at midi length, they gain structure thereby making them easier to wear with flats. Straight midi silhouettes with rounded hems are also more structured than a straight hem.
10. Wear Cropped Tops with Wide Pants
Wide crops or full-length wide pants worn with a shorter untucked top lengthen the leg line from the thighs and hips upwards and shorten the waist. Combining this look with footwear that is low contrast to the bottoms is effective.
I use most of these styling strategies since I seldom wear footwear with a heel height of more than an inch. I don’t wear flatforms since I prefer the look of refined and dainty footwear. I also wear high-contrast footwear and tops because I like the strong visual effect. So I sometimes forgo a little leg lengthening because high contrast makes me happy.
Here’s a collection of my Summer dresses and the flat footwear I wear with them.