Have you ever wondered how some women always seem to look effortlessly in style all of the time while others never quite get their look together no matter how hard they try? Instead of it being a case of trial and error or a series of ill planned shopping mistakes, it's no big secret. However, there is a science and a little bit of skill involved when it comes to finding a look and style that is perfect for you. It all comes down to understanding your body shape. (See the previous page Identifying Your Body Shape). Once you know which body shape you are, choosing your clothes will become so much easier.
The Balanced Body
This is where your upper body and lower body are almost equal in proportion.
What To Wear
Medium to slightly longer tops, jackets and blouses that fall approx 3 inches below the navel. Avoid drawing too much attention to nipped in or shorter length clothes fitted at the waist. The balance will look wrong.
- Either choose narrow waistbands or no waistbands on skirts or trousers.
- Dresses that do not pull in at the waist.
- Drape medium to longer necklaces and scarves from the neck.
- Avoid wearing too much pattern on either the top or lower body if you are small or petite.
- Medium heels.
The Long Leg, Short Body.
Most taller women have this kind of vertical body shape. Not only do legs appear longer, but often the waist can appear as though it's sitting higher up the body. The aim here is to bring the body into balance by lengthening the upper body.
What to wear
- Longer length blouses, tops and jackets that sit and fit at crotch level.
- Waistband-less skirts and trousers.
- Narrow belts.
- Dresses that flow rather than hug the waist or hip.
- Wear accessories that draw the eye towards the lower part of the body.
- Same with jewellery and other accessories, wear longer length necklaces and scarves.
- Avoid wearing high heels.
The Short Leg, Long Body
If this is you, you are likely to be short to medium height and your body is longer from the head to the hip line. This would give you the appearance of short legs. Often with this shape, you may tend to carry more weight on your rear and thighs, hence the trick is to make your legs look longer and your body shorter for a leaner, taller look.
What To Wear
- Shorter to medium length tops, blouses and jackets.
- Straighter styled skirts.
- Wider width belts.
- Wider leg trousers.
- Dresses that give the effect of having a waist.
- Wear accessories that draw the eye towards the face and upper parts of your body.
- Medium to higher heels for leg length.
The Small To Petite Body
The small frame and build but alas, small proportions can be just as difficult and limiting as larger fames when it comes to choosing clothes and getting the fit.
What To Look For
- Single breasted jackets that fit neatly on the shoulders, arms and around the middle as well as sit properly on the hip. A tailored, more structured look should be better for you as it will frame your small shape.
- Slim fitting skirts to the knee or shorter, minimal gathers.
- Suits that are all one colour or very nearly all the same colour.
- Dresses that fit your shape reaching knee length.
- Plain colours, small patterns.
- Narrow belts.
- Small, finer jewellery and accessories.
- Small bags and daintier shoes for trim ankles, chunkier styles for heavier legs.
The Larger, Fuller Figure
What To look For
- Single breasted or well tailored, longer line, structured jackets that fit comfortably to loosely around the shoulders and body as well as hips and thighs.
- A classic, well cut suit with no excessive frills or lots of decorative trimmings that make it appear wider or heavier.
- Slim line, A line, bias cut, panelled or gently flared skirt which drapes and falls downwards from the hips to just below the knee or mid to low calves.
- Tailored coat, wrap or single row of buttons dress.
- Trousers with a wide leg.
- Medium to soft weight fabrics that drape and hold their shape such as Georgette, chiffon, crepe, silk jersey and some knits.
- Accessories that draw the eye towards the least heaviest parts of the body.
- Wear darker colours wherever the body is heaviest to look slimmer.
- Three quarter, short or cap sleeves.
- Clothes that have a vertical pattern, straight edges or longer lines will make you appear slimmer and disguise heavier areas such as bust and hips.
- Go for neat angled, pockets.
- Trousers or skirts with a V shaped panelled or yoke front and narrow waistband. They will help a bulging tummy disappear.
- Dark stockings or pantihose and shoes to match the colour of your skirt will give height to your body.
- Wear floaty skirts or skirts that flare and drape with the gathers or pattern starting to flare out from the knee, not the waist or hip line.
- Look for skirts that have all the detail at the hemline or below the knee so that the eye is drawn away from the body towards the ground.
- Tops with scoop or plunging neckline to flatter the bust area.
What to avoid
- Double breasted jackets with two rows of buttons, bolero's, shrugs and shorter length jackets.
- Princess or A line, baggy, shapeless dresses that look like a tent.
- Over padded, over styled over-shirts that make you look even bigger.
- Stiff, clingy, heavy, very stretchy or shiny fabrics.
- Jackets, dresses or skirts with large patch pockets.
- Light or pastel colours, big bold patterns.
- Sleeveless, shapeless tops, vests, dresses and blouses. When you show too much flesh, you look bigger.
- Wide or frilly sleeves or clothes that have the effect of making you look wider because of their decorative detail.
- Cowl necklines especially if you have wide shoulders and a larger bust.
- Trousers or skirts with pleats.
- Flared, tiered, full or gathered skirts and dresses.
- Wide belts around heavy hips or large necklaces around a heavy bust line.
- Linen fabrics or clothes made from fabric that leaves stretch lines identifying your shape when you sit down.
- Wearing trousers or skirts that pull across the stomach and hip. They will show off all your bulges.
- Wearing skirts with pleats or where the pattern or design starts from the waistline or hip and flares outwards above the knee.
- High waisted skirts, shorts and trousers with a waistband that is not elasticised.
- Trousers that are too wide or flare out from the hips.
- Wearing chunky shoes with even chunkier heels.
Choosing The Right Colour For You
As we age, the colours that once suited us may not suit us 10 years later. Choosing the right colour is important as when we wear colours that are flattering, we can look younger, healthier, more vibrant and far more visible drawing people and opportunities towards us. Wearing a complimentary colour can definitely get you noticed whereas wearing the wrong colours can blend you out of sight and into the background.
Because certain colours reflect up or down, they can create the illusion of radiance, which can make us appear younger, whereas not so flattering colours can create shadows and lines where we don't want them such as against the face and neck area. Certain colours such as turquoise, green, yellow, silver and gold can radiate light upwards towards our face taking years off our true age. However if we have been unwell or are naturally pale in skin tone, wearing black and the darker colours too close to our face can leave us looking drained and exhausted.
Light colours bring us forward making us look much more visible hence they make us look bigger. On the other hand, wearing black and other dark colours can be instantly slimming when worn on the body away from the face. Bright colours make us appear very visible so these are best used in the form of accessories if you want to look slimmer. Experiment with different colours to find out what suits you.
Generally speaking, most of us are a blend of two seasons, commonly referred to as a flow. It's a good idea to experiment with colours to see what suits you best. Often, the general rule is that warmer toned complexions suit the hotter and richer colours, (Autumn and Spring) while paler complexions look good in a mix of softer, paler and warmer blends. (Summer and Winter). Darker complexions often suit both warm and cool colours.
If you are darker skinned with brown or green eyes and an olive complexion and darker hair, you can usually wear both warm and some of the cooler colours. Fairer complexions suit a mix of warm and softer blends of colour. If you are fair skinned and have lighter hair colouring, you may find that some of the pastels are not a good choice for you especially against your face because it's putting pale against pale. There is no lift. Very dark colours may look too severe. Warmer, softer blends are usually right for you. Another consideration is how you wear colour. If you are a Spring season colouring but a bigger size, wearing the lighter colours against your heavier angles will make you appear bigger. Lighter colours expand and darker colours diminish so it's worth taking care when choosing the colour of your wardrobe.
Warm or cool undertones
Skin, hair and eye colour react to and absorb colours around them. They then give out a warm or cool reflection which pulls in a radiant or dull visual affect. In other words, colour can either flatten you or give you a vibrant warmth. Therefore the trick is to match your own undertones with colours that are going to be complimentary to your own colouring.
Let's start by finding out if you have warm or cool undertones. There is a science and a skill to this routine but a quick and easy way is to try the gold versus silver test. Gold is for warmth while silver is cool. Take a piece of gold and silver metallic fabric and hold each of them up against your face individually to see which is the most flattering against your own colouring. Notice which one gives you an instant lift the most. It's a very subtle experiment so it may not work for everyone but try it as a rough guide anyway. As a further simple guide to cool and warm colours, see below.
- Dark green
- Orange red (yellow red)
When experimenting with colour, be brave enough to try something outside of your normal comfort zone. Opt for colours that compliment your own colouring and that bring you to the fore rather than make you recede. Wearing the best colours to suit you, makes you look younger, slimmer and more visible. Take a friend (a bluntly honest one) and go on a shopping day out trying on as many different colours to see which ones make you look slimmer, younger and more radiant. This is really the effect you are trying to achieve. Colours that drain you, make you look tired and older, you definitely need to ditch.
Also check the mood different colours create when you're wearing them. See if darker, more serious tones suit you better than more vibrant colours. Ask yourself if some colours are better because they will help you be taken more seriously at work, while more vibrant colours bring you alive and are perfect for building your confidence while mixing, socialising and making new friends.
Colour can make a huge impact and wearing the most flattering colours can be very beneficial.
You can read more about the effects of wearing black on Nina's Article's page.
Copyright Nina Wornham