Style is art, not science. Opinions about it are subjective. What makes an outfit flattering is in the eye of the beholder. Also, there is no one way to be stylish, and an outfit has to feel right in order for you to wear it with joy and confidence. Body type dressing guidelines and traditionally flattering outfit proportions can be helpful as a starting point, but they are by no means essential. Not at all.
Instead, I suggest creating a PERSONAL set of figure-flattering priorities. These are guidelines about fit and outfit proportions that are unique to you. They empower you to dress the way you want to, instead of being boxed into a so-called look that is based on your body type and someone else’s benchmark of beauty. After all, you’re wearing the outfit, so how you perceive it and feel in it is most important.
When I work with my clients, we establish their personal figure-flattering priorities. I listen closely to what types of fits and proportions makes them feel great, and I apply that knowledge to their style. That way their outfit creation process is set up for success, and their style is authentic. When clients are unsure whether a look is flattering or unflattering, I offer my two cents. Often the look in question IS flattering, but they aren’t yet used to the new proportions.
I’ll start the ball rolling by sharing my own set of priorities. They have evolved over time and adapted to my changing needs. I am a stickler for perfect fit, and will go to a lot of effort to create it. I do not need to look my narrowest in an outfit. I will surrender my waist, and wear boxy and baggy items if I like the look. Creating height is also not a priority.
1. Fluid Fits
I do not like to wear clothing items that are too form-fitting and constricting. I’ll define my waist and wear tailored items, but there has to be ample fluidity in the outfit too. I’m energetic and active, and need to move in my outfits (with doggies in tow). So my tailored fits are on the fluid side. Functional flow is key.
2. Oversized Structure
When I wear oversized items, like big and breezy Summer shirts and shirt dresses, I do so with structure. I tuck or semi-tuck the shirts to create a bit of a waistline. I also scrunch the sleeves of the shirts and dresses to reveal forearm skin, because showcasing skin creates structure.
3. Knee-Covering Dress and Skirt Lengths
I do not like showing my knees in skirts and dresses anymore. To my eye the look on me is better when the lengths are midi, midaxi, or just covering the kneecap. There is nothing wrong with my knees, but just because you can wear something, doesn’t mean that you need to. I enjoy the elegance and fun factor of skirt and dress swoosh, so its knee-covering lengths for me.
4. Neck Shortening
I have a very long neck, and my short hair makes my neck look even longer. So I wear high necklines and shirt collars that visually shorten the length of my neck, and stay away from scooped necklines, boat necks, low necklines, and most V-necks. I will also effectively fill the gap of a slightly too wide neckline with a pearl necklace.
5. Strong Shoulder Line
I am small framed and have narrow shoulders, so I like to keep my shoulder line structured by wearing items that are tailored on the shoulders, and by wearing a neckline with ample coverage. I can wear dropped shoulder silhouettes as long as the style has a high neckline, or shirt collar.
6. Long Enough Leg Line
I don’t have a naturally long leg line, and do not feel the need to create one by wearing heeled footwear. But I don’t want to feel overly short in the leg either. So I strive to create a leg line that looks long enough to me. I create one without high heels by semi-tucking or tucking tops into high-rise bottoms that lengthen the leg line from the hips upwards. I wear untucked tops that aren’t too long so the torso is visually shortened. Or I wear long untucked tops with diagonal hemlines.
7. Tailored Boots
I have narrow ankles and calves, which makes most booties and taller boots gape at the opening. Think of a stem in a flower pot as a visual. I do not find this flattering on my body, so I’m extra fussy about how my boots fit. They need to be tailored, streamlined and neat around my ankles and calves. Very little or no gaping is key.
8. Pant Lengths
And last, pant lengths are my thing. I will nitpick about their lengths, and how the type of footwear worn with them and the silhouette of the pants itself is affected by creating just the right length. To my eye, half an inch shorter or longer can often make a visually important difference.
Over to you. Care to share your personal set of figure-flattering priorities?