Outfit Formula: Volume Beyond Body Type

Wearing volume from head to toe is NOT reserved for those who are tall, small in the bust, and super slim. Not at all. In fact, it’s precisely these types of avant-garde looks that are beyond body type and can look fabulous on anyone. The natural contours of the figure are hidden and the clothes wear you. But you’re in control, and they don’t boss you around.

I’ve seen women in Japan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and Sweden across all sizes, heights and ages wear this vibe with panache. Scandinavian retailer COS, and German retailer OSKA do a particularly good job of pulling it together.

Here are four outfit ideas to get you started. If you click on the outfits, you’ll see the components of each outfit in detail. Interestingly, each outfit has been completed with a somewhat chunky yet refined flat shoe. Heels are not the norm, perhaps because they are not as grounding. There is something about flat sturdy footwear that anchors and holds the volume upright so that it does not tip over.

1. Monotone Bulk

A flared midi has been combined with two oversized sweaters. One has long sleeves and one has shorter sleeves. Flat mid-calf boots that close the gap and cover the leg are grounding. A bulky, long, oversized and cocoon-shaped parker has been layered over the top, and everything works like a dream. The olive, grey, and black palette is not necessarily the secret, but the low contrast between the items and colours is. Your eye creates peace in all the volume by eyeballing the vertical column of colour. Feel free to create the look in any palette as long as the items are very similar in colour.

OSKA Coat Kurula 905 Wash

2. Wrapped Straight Drape

This version sports the least volume and the highest colour contrasts of the four outfits. A bold patterned sack dress is combined with a boxy and shapeless high-contrast cardigan. The unbuttoned cardigan creates a vertical line down the centre front of the outfit which draws the eye up and down. The stirrup leggings add ‘80s fun, warmth, and structure. The chunky flat oxfords are grounding and elongating in the same colour as the leggings. The scarf adds textural, insulating and happy pizzazz. I’m a high contrast outfit gal so this version is my favourite. Plus the ‘80s stirrup leggings bring back fond memories and make me smile.

ISCHIKO Dress Fallouse 902

3. Architectural Casual

Here a very oversized pullover is combined with a voluminous midi skirt in exactly the same colour. Flat black mid-calf boots ground the outfit. It’s the low contrast between the three items that gives them their structure. The low contrast allows the eye to rest and create order in all the volume. It also offsets any horizontally cutting lines. The drawstring on the hem of the skirt tempers its volume too.

OSKA Pullover Tolja 946

4. Crisp Volume

An oversized pullover is combined with a pair of very roomy lantern pants. The contrast between the top and bottom is high thereby creating a horizontal line across the middle of the body. But the contrast is harmonized and the volume is tempered in a few important ways. First, the grounding flat black footwear is low contrast to the pants which elongates the leg line. The oversized coat is the same colour as the roomy pullover which allows the eye to rest and find structure. Clever, and beautifully styled.

OSKA Kulma 903 Flannel

Never Say Never

Too many times in the fashion and style world, and on YLF in particular, people say that they will never wear a particular style, trend, colour, or vibe. But often it’s only a question of time before they do, and thoroughly enjoy the item or look. I’m guilty of the same thing, despite my efforts to keep an open mind as a fashion professional. 

Today we’re owning up to these “nevers”. I have many examples, but here are the ones that immediately come to mind. If you’ve been with YLF for a while, you might remember some of them.

Returning to Skinnies

When skinnies came back on to the scene as a fringe trend about fourteen years ago, I was not impressed. I’m an ‘80s gal at heart, but after awfully elegant bootcuts, I thought no way would I go back to tapered skinnies. It took me months to even try them on! When I finally did, I was unsure, but didn’t hate the visual effect. I took the skinnies home and in-house fashion stylist Greg liked them right away. I kept them, and eased myself back into wearing tight tapered pants. It took about a season before I was comfortable with the resurgence of my early ‘80s groove. 

Dropping the Crotch

Eleven years ago, harem pants were quite the fringe trend, and I thought they were awful. I didn’t think the dropped crotch point silhouette looked good on anyone. I headed to Israel later that year, and to my amazement saw loads of locals sporting harem pants with panache. I was wowed, and could not have been more wrong in my initial assessment. I came back to the US, bought a dressy silk pair of harem pants from Ted Baker, and loved them. They’re still going strong today and come out to play every Summer.

Boho Light

I used to say that my style was about as bohemian as Karl Lagerfeld’s look. That is, not bohemian at all. Yet over the years I have been drawn to the soft, flouncy and romantic integrity of boho blouses. I’m totally owning up to wearing a boho-lite look and loving it.

Shorter Lengths

I thought I would never wear full-length flared pants and jeans shorter than at floor-skimming perfect pant lengths. But this year I surprised myself by loving and wearing the new shorter full length with flats and sneakers because it’s a lot more practical for my urban and often wet walking lifestyle. It’s fun to have the trendy bottoms bug, even if it means I have to eat my words.

All the Rest

Although I never said never to small crossbody bags, I said it would be highly unlikely that I would sport them. Same goes for earth tones, chunky soles, Seinfeld sneakers, a monogrammed gold necklace, denim with a polyester content, and a style rich in fashion sneakers. Well, the joke’s on me because I regularly wear these items and adore them.

You can never say never when it comes to fashion and style. Sometimes it takes five minutes for our perceptions to adjust, and sometimes it takes several seasons. Often we are pleasantly surprised by the outcome and what was previous a “never” becomes a wardrobe workhorse. These days when I think “never” about a style, trend, colour, or vibe, I laugh at myself and remind myself to wait and see.

Your turn to fess up. What are you wearing today that you never thought you would?

Weekly Roundup: The Richness of Fall

With the addition of earth tones and patterns, Fall retail is looking particularly rich, interesting and luscious. I also see brights, neon, jewel tones, pastels, dark blue, cream, the usual black and grey, and loads of solids and textures. So there’s something for everyone. 

Personally, I’ve found it to be a disappointing dress season, but an excellent jeans and pants season. There are some fab skirts too. I guess you can’t have it all. This week’s selection includes a wide assortment of items, silhouettes and price points. Be sure to browse the colours and sizes, because there are many options and extended sizes.

  • SCOTCH & SODA Wrap Look Blouse: These types of wrap blouses can be oversized, and too drapey. This one is neat and tidy, and glides over the contour of the body. Gorgeous shade of paprika.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Stripe Sweater: A super easy, dainty, refined and comfy dressy knit for bronze and brown lovers. The sporty stripe rib adds a fun and striking juxtaposition, which is typical of Scotch & Soda. Fab with black bottoms.
  • KUT from the Kloth Side Inset Ankle Flare Jeans: These looked great on my curvy client, although they will need waist adjustment if your waist is defined. The side inset is subtle and super cute. The stone wash is quite even and they run a size big.
  • Madewell Fleet Jacket: Crisp, utilitarian, and the pockets lie flat against the body. Loads of rave reviews. Comes in paprika this season and goes up to a 3X.
  • Levi's Cotton Oversize Military Jacket: This garment is tailored in just the right places, and creates a sharp yet soft effect. Remix it with a romantic skirt or dress for a fab juxtaposition.
  • FitFlop Women's Uberknit Slip-on Sneakers: An extremely soft sock sneaker to wear at home or out and about in very relaxed settings. Works well on higher volume feet.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Reversible Wool Blend Coat: Gorgeous REVERSIBLE coat in two shades of houndstooth. It comes with an optional belt. Click the link to see all the combinations. Beautifully made, and a great length to wear with midi skirts and dresses.
  • Talbots Classic Houndstooth Long Blazer: A trendy long blazer in a classic plaid that works well on a curvy body type. Fab for Team Tall too. Well made.
  • SOMETHING NAVY Crewneck Cable Cardigan: Super cute cabled cardigan that buttons up like a fun top. Fab over high-waisted bottoms, skirts, or to layer over a dress. Comes in bubblegum pink and grey.
  • Maeve | Anthropologie Kelly Velvet Midi Skirt: Very pretty and luxe cold-weather bias cut skirt that comes in three fun colours. A rich teal is one of them. Looks better in person. Fab length, and good fit. Works on straighter and curvier body types. The finish on the hem is just as you see it in the stock photo, which flutters out, grins, and does not lie flat. Make sure you are okay with that. The yellow is more mustard than citron, and just earned a place in my wardrobe. It's longer on me too. LOVE this skirt.
  • Madewell Slim Emmett Wide-Leg Crop Pants in Check: Fabulous substantial fabric and well-made slim wide crops in a rich earthy check. They work on an assortment of body types, and do not crease. Great check to pattern mix with.
  • Topshop Side Button Sweater: This pullover is for those who enjoy wearing form-fitting tops that cling. They can be dead right to pair with a flared skirt if they're not too long. Runs small.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Long Logo Cardigan: If you like thick and cosy sweater coats, this one is gorgeous. Casual and sporty, but with a polished integrity. The pattern mix is fun, and the drape is hefty.
  • Jeffrey Campbell Dash Flat: I haven't seen these in person yet, but because trendy and refined eggplant oxfords are a unique find, I had to add them to the roundup. They look like they could use the addition of a cushioning insole.
  • Halogen Tie Neck Long Sleeve Top: If you like pussy-bow blouses and V-necks, try this style that comes in solids and patterns. Size down. Fab under a blazer and cardigan too.
  • Paul Green Calissa Sport High Top Sneaker: Paul Green has mastered their fit so they work for lower AND higher volume feet. It's awfully clever. Lower volume feet might need to size down half a size in these beautifully made and very comfy hi-tops. Come in navy.
  • DICKIES Plaid Straight Leg Crop Work Pants: I haven't seen these in person yet, but they look great for $70, and I'm having a good run with Dickies bottoms this season. They look like they might work for a straighter or curvier body type. Nice tailored silhouette that does not cling.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Colorful Stripe Pullover: Statement Warm Stripe Fabness. A good example of a classic cut that looks trendy because of the stripes and colours. Make sure you're okay with the itch factor of the 10% alpaca wool.
  • L'AGENCE Velvet Blazer: A trendy classic forest green velvet blazer is a rare find. The cut is classic but the longer length is on trend. Luxe and beautiful. Dress it up or down. Read the rave reviews.
  • Nic + Zoe Every Occasion Button Side Top: A fun swingy pullover in a rare rich jewel tone that works well on a larger bust and/or apple shaped body type. Nice drape and good length.
  • Club Monaco Viveca Trench Coat: If you're after a modern classic teal trench coat, check this one out. Crisp, well-made, tailored, but not too tight.
  • Club Monaco Long Sleeve Ribbed Sweater Dress: Super cute sweater dress with a good amount of room and length on the bottom. The viscose component gives it great drape.
  • Lucky Brand Utility Pants: Utility pants that work quite well for a curvy figure. Not too tight on the leg, and not calf-sucking either. Fab with ankle boots.
  • Topshop Elijah Corduroy Trousers: If you enjoyed high-rise pleated pants in the '80s and early '90s - try these because they're really cute. Fun in the chunky corduroy too. They are very defined on the waist, roomy on the thighs, and tapered on the hems. Comes in rust and cinnamon.
  • Veronica Beard Soren Linen Blend Sweater: One of my size US10/12 curvy clients wore this over a white tank with high-rise jeans and blew me away. Gorgeous! It's fluid and tailored in all the right places, fably trendy, and great on those who wear V-necks well. Soft and drapey, yet sufficiently structured.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Colourful Striped Cardigan: A coloutful slouchy statement cardigan if ever there was one. Super cute on, and in this season's trendy colours. Make sure you're okay with the itch factor of the 10% alpaca wool content.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Classic Pea coat: BEST mustard peacoat of the season. Impeccably made, extremely rich shade of mustard, fab slightly longer length, and good fluid fit. Curvy body types might need to size up.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Checked Wool Blend Coat: An impeccable quality wool coat in a fun pattern mix. Makes a bold statement! The cut is quite straight, much like an '80s blazer, so you've been warned.
  • SCOTCH & SODA Patterned Crepe Shirt: A beautifully polished and crisp blouse in a fluid fit. GORGEOUS drape and they've lined up the checks. I love this crepe blouse, and considered getting it. But since I don't wear blouses in cold weather, it would languish in my closet till late Spring.
  • White House Black Market Asymmetrical Scarf Skirt: I haven't seen this skirt in person yet, but it looks awfully fun and unique. Great with tall brown boots. Probably runs a size big if you need a narrower fit.
  • Levi's Hooded Fishtail Parka: A fun FISHTAIL utility parka so click the link to see the back. No hectic pockets on the bust. Streamlined. Great adjustable definition in the waist. Comes in burgundy and navy. Works on most body types, but sleeves will be long on petites.
  • Madewell Northall Plaid Scarf: A casual scarf for those building a navy and mustard capsule. Comes in a mustard, pink and red check too.
  • Eva Franco | Anthropologie Danette Tiered Corduroy Maxi Skirt: A very long printed corduroy skirt in a tiered prairie silhouette. It's unique, makes quite the statement, and caught my eye. Lovely quality, and can be hemmed to some extent if you need a shorter length.
  • Talbots Beagle Sweater: If you have or love beagles - try this. All emotion and no logic, and why not!
  • Talbots Long Quilted Coat: A practical and flattering quilted coat for a curvy body type. Nice room and tailoring. Great length, and good reviews.
  • Talbots Italian Wool Lady Coat: A great fit on a curvier body type with a larger bust, or an inverted triangle. Lots of room up top and in the sleeves. Well-made, and a fabulous classic. The blue is sold out, and the best colour!
  • Maeve | Anthropologie Viviette Flounced Lace Midi Skirt: Gorgeous dressy skirt that's structured, but flares out with movement. Works on an assortment of body types. Dress it up or down. Season-less and with a high longevity factor. Fab in motion.
  • WASH LAB Pieced Denim Midi Skirt: A fashion-forward denim skirt with architectural drape. Works on an assortment of body types. It's dramatic and very long at its longest points.
  • Free People Love Letter Floral Print Tunic: Your answer to a Johnny Was top at a less expensive price. Runs big, and comes in three colours. You'll need to take a chance with 100% viscose.
  • Donna Morgan Donna MorganLong Sleeve Twist Front Fit and Flare Matte Jersey Dress: An easy pull-on-and-go EARTHY modern classic jersey dress that does not crease or pill. Streamlined, but not too tight. Flattering on a range of body types. A dream to launder. Tailored up top, with ample room at the bottom. I'm 5ft 6, and it's longer on me in person.
  • Donna Morgan Donna MorganShort Sleeve Mock Neck Matte Jersey Dress: If you like to wear T-necks, give this a whirl. It's flattering on most body types as long as you can wear the neckline. Does not crease or pill. Launders and travels like a dream. I'm 5ft 6, and the length amply covers my knee. Fun and different pattern too. Comes in purple snakeskin.

Go to the collection page if you would like to see the images alongside my descriptions.

Talbots
Beagle Sweater
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5
Talbots
Long Quilted Coat
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4
Roundups

Fabulous Fabrics

The tops picks this week showcase great fabric, and there’s a fun roundup of shoes too.

Read More

Assorted Items

A few fab items that worked well on clients and forum members.

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Dog Days of Summer

An assortment of casual and dressy top picks for warm weather.

Read More

High and Low

This week’s top picks range greatly in price point and quality.

Read More

Comfy White Sandals

My Summer top picks for white footwear.

Read More

Cute, Casual and Comfy

This week's top picks in tops, toppers, bottoms, dresses and shoes.

Read More

Button-Down Shirts Are Gaining Momentum

The shirts I’m talking about today are not soft and silky button-down blouses. These button-downs — also referred to as button-through or button-up tops — are SHIRTS and there is a difference. They are more stiff than the silky blouse variety, and look more like a traditional menswear item. I know that some cotton, linen-blend, velvet and flannel shirts are soft and drapey, but when they’re in that typical menswear silhouette, they’re shirts and not blouses in my mind.

This collection shows examples of what I mean.

Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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3
Zara
Chain Print Shirt
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4
Mango
Buttoned Flowy Shirt
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1
Mango
Animal Print Shirt
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1
Mango
Animal Print Shirt
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1
Mango
Buttoned Flowy Shirt
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1
Mango
Printed Flowy Shirt
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1
Mango
Buttoned Flowy Shirt
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1
Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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1
Nordstrom
Hunter Plaid Shirt
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10
Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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9
Nordstrom
Hunter Plaid Shirt
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9
Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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13
Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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6
Boden
Modern Classic Shirt
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Top Pick
4

When I started my style consulting business almost 14 years ago, very few of my clients wore button-down shirts of any description. Many had them languishing in their closets, either perfectly dry-cleaned or in need of a press. The perception was that button-down shirts were too boxy, corporate, stiff, strict, dowdy, formal, severe, uncomfortable and unattractive. And the maintenance of button-down shirts was enough to put most people off, even when they were lukewarm about the style.

These negative perceptions went on for a decade. I was one of the few people I knew who loved and wore button-down shirts. But in the last few years, the tables have unexpectedly turned. Many of my clients are into wearing button-down shirts these days, thanks to a wider assortment of fabrics, playful patterns, flattering cuts, and the semi-tucking styling technique. The fact that shirts are less rigid and formal has made all the difference. They do not need to be fitted at the waist, which was how we used to think a button-down should be. That’s a dated style concept and things have moved on. Most of my clients prefer their button-downs soft, fluid to very roomy, and with a semi-tuck. Some will wear more fitted styles too.

There is no consistency across my clients. It applies across all bust sizes and shoulder widths. Apple, hourglass, inverted triangle, rectangular and pear-shaped figures alike. Size US00P up to 20W across petites, regular and tall are enjoying a shirt their way. Some wear casual versions instead of T-shirts because they look more grown-up and polished. The button-down shirt has gained momentum.

Despite my love for button-downs, I did at one point force myself NOT to wear or buy button-down shirts for three years because it was a style goal to soften my style and amp up the romantic and pretty. That meant wearing all sorts of soft blouses and no shirts. I passed on all my old button-downs to Dress for Success apart from one tartan shirt. This was hard because shirts are a very easy and natural fit for my body type. I can try on a button-down shirt and it’s a slam-dunk winner 99% of the time. My long neck loves a popped shirt collar. I like their preppy and crisp integrity. They are marvelous for my tucked and semi-tucked top style. But I throughly enjoyed my own “no-shirt challenge” which was a fun change in itself.

On this leg of my style journey, I’m back to wearing button-down shirts because I’m in the mood for classic tops. Absence makes the heart grow fonder! I started wearing my old tartan shirt with white jeans in the Spring and Summer because my shirt bug was back. This time round though, and very importantly, my shirts need to be softer, looser and more playful. I’ve since added four more classics to my tops capsule. Some are strictly Summer shirts because they’re linen blends. I reach for my shirts all the time because they’re like T-shirts for my style. Now that I also layer them under pullovers “school-uniform style”, I wear them in colder weather too.

Here is my current modern classic shirt collection, and I will happily add more.

Over to you. Do button-down shirts feature in your style, and has this changed over the years?

Good American Good Curve Straight with Frayed Hem

Universal Thread Labette Denim Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt

Team Nike or Team Adidas

Today’s poll asks you to choose between two of the biggest athletic brands in the world: Nike and Adidas. Nike is American, and Adidas is German. Adidas is the slightly older company, and Nike is the slightly larger company. For as long as I can remember, these brands have competed with each other for market share, sales, and brand loyalty. 

I’m not athletic, but I greatly appreciate both of these brilliant brands and their products. Their items have a high longevity factor, and are always in style. Their logos are amongst the most recognizable in the world. There’s a Nike or Adidas item for everyone.

I bat for Team Adidas for a few reasons. First, the brand is nostalgic to me. As a child in the ‘70s I fondly remember people wearing Adidas everything and everywhere. My brother, Mum and Dad wore Adidas. I had a red Adidas track top. Along with Dunlop, I thought Adidas was the only athletic brand.

Second, I usually have an Adidas item in my wardrobe. I have a red lounging sweatshirt at the moment, and would like to get their track pants. Adidas sneakers would be fab but I have yet to find a pair that are sufficiently narrow for my low-volume feet.

And last, I’ve never owned a Nike item! If I was athletic, I’m sure I’d have a Nike capsule because it’s a great brand. But for now, I’m an Adidas gal.

Over to you. Do you bat for Team Nike or Team Adidas? Tell us why and no batting for both teams. If you can’t choose a side, feel free to hang out on the bench where I’m serving reverse puff pastry veggie pizza with a green salad, and lemon curdy pud for dessert.