Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Learning to Dress Yourself

Sometimes, we women have difficulty dressing for our body types. The answer to this is that it’s all about proportion. What might look good on your leggy, 5’10” friend is not going to look the same on a 5’3” frame. Same thing in reverse—tall women are not going to look good in petites. Being featured in a magazine or your favorite store’s window display, or it has a great sale price associated to it doesn’t mean you should buy that piece of clothing and wear it. Instead, take a look at your body. Use that full length mirror you’ve now hung inside your closet and look at your body’s proportions. Until you know what your body actually looks like, you are never going to know how to dress it. We come in different shapes and sizes and looking in that mirror will help you determine what part of your body tends to carry more weight than others.

I distribute weight evenly throughout my body. I think of myself as having an hour glass figure, but with some slight differences. My shoulders are about the same width as my hips, I have a small waist and I have fuller legs. However, I don’t have the stereotypical heavy bust line. Because of all of this, I have learned how to dress accordingly. I finally figured out what looks good on my body shape and how to hide imperfections. Wrap dresses work really well because they skim across my mid-section and hips but cinch in at the waist drawing the eye away from the lower half of my body. I wear straight leg jeans that are roomier in the hips and thighs. Very infrequently, I will wear a skinny jean, and I make sure that my top or sweater is long enough to cover my hips and the top parts of the thigh while still keeping the appearance of long legs. Boot cut jeans are great if you are heavier in your lower half. They create a flair which evens out the look of your leg.

My upper body is a little more sculpted, not from years of working out, but from day-to-day upper body activities. In the summer I tend to wear sleeveless tops and dresses but avoid anything with a cap sleeve. Cap sleeves cut you off at the “fattest” part of your arm. (They hit right under the underarm and at the base of your shoulder creating a negative effect on the length of your arm.) If you feel uncomfortable in sleeveless, reach for a short-sleeved version instead. I also love the look of a top with a boat neck or ballet neck. Halter tops are great as well.

Things to avoid with this body type:

  • Straight skirts, as they will cling to your curves not skim.

  • Tops with bold patterns, ruffles, and added details if you are busty. This will only enhance your bust line.

  • Baggy clothes. We need clothes that create shapes. Otherwise, we will look heavier than we really are and that’s what every woman tries to avoid.

If you find that the top half of your body is smaller than your bottom half, you want to try and take the focus off your lower body and move the eye upward. Unlike those of us with curves, you can wear tops with bold prints, ruffles and details to add fullness to your bust line. Scoop and V-neck tops are great as well. Find jackets with puff sleeves to help create volume. Empire waist dresses are perfect for this body type. They create fullness in the bust while skimming over the mid-section and hips, thus creating a nice balance. You also want to find bottoms that are fuller. Go for an A-Line skirt in dark colors such as black or charcoal gray. Pants with a full leg or slight flare will help balance out your hips.  Again, go with darker colors, especially in jeans.

Things to avoid with this body type:

  • Bottoms with side pockets, pleats, and large details.

  • Bottoms made with fabrics that are bold in print and in bright colors. These will only accentuate your hips not slenderize.

  • Jackets that hit lower than the waist. These will hug your hips.

  • Tapered, narrow, and skinny jeans and pants are not for you.

When the top half of your body is larger than the bottom half, the opposite rules apply. You want to play down your bust and mid-section and add volume to the lower body to create proportion. V-necks and scoops are tops that work best and should be in solid, darker colors. It will downplay wide shoulders and draw the eye to your waist. You want to create the illusion of a waist so wrap tops and dresses with an A-Line cut work well too. Jackets with belts help cinch the waist and should fall a little lower than your natural waist. Empire waist dresses work well for this body type as well. Small graphics will work, but try to get a solid color around the bust. One with a tie will create a waist. Your jeans and pants should have a slight flare at the bottom, so go with a boot cut to add volume to your lower half. Also, keep the rise lower than your natural waist. You should have pants and jeans with flap pockets to add shape to your derrière. That’s the only time I hope to say that!

Things to avoid with this body type:

  • Tops that have bold graphics and bright colors, and fits that are baggy. This will only create volume, making you look larger than you are.

  • Steer clear of anything with a high-waist and/or pleats. These clothes will make you appear thicker in the mid-section.

  • For jackets and tops, you don’t want anything that rests on or at the hips. If they graze your hips in length, try a shorter version.

  • Remember to keep the leg of your pants and jeans full. Tapered legs will only make your mid-section thicker.

If you have what the industry refers to as a “boyish” figure, you are probably fairly thin with small hips and a smaller bust line. You want to create the illusion of curves and with that, you need to wear dresses, jackets, and pants that lend themselves to amping up your assets. Tops with ruffles, pleating, details, prints, and gathers will do the trick. Wrap dresses and blouses will cinch the waist creating that hour-glass look. Dresses that are cut on the bias will hug your body and help create curves, as well as A-Line and pencil skirts. Skinny jeans look the best on this body type. Also, if you can find jeans with detailed pockets, these will produce a rounder bum. 

Things to avoid with this body type:

  • Flared leg jeans and cargos

  • Full skirts

  • Sweetheart necklines and baggy tops

  • Sheath dresses and anything with a drop waist

(These items will only enhance the boyish frame and could eliminate a bust line all together.)

If you still have issues defining your frame, rely on stylists and personal shoppers available at some major retailers. Nordstrom, J.Crew, and Ann Taylor Loft all offer these services. Take along a trusty girlfriend for feedback or check out your favorite celebrity. Fashion magazines do spreads on this issue all the time so look for your mag of choice or go online and do some research. Some items that every woman should avoid are the new “Daisy Duke” denim shorts that literally look like bikini underwear and bare midriffs. They are so inappropriate for all body types. Use your full length mirror to your advantage. If you are spilling over, spilling out, or you appear larger in the areas that you are trying to minimize, those would be the items not meant for your body type. If you discover pieces that are right for you, let me know! I would love to hear success stories and see the outfits you put together! Good luck!

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