Tag Archives: proportion

How to Dress: Fit and Proportion

A-line skirt, Banana Republic

Back in my career days, I used a personal shopper. I used to shop once a season, and she was able to get me great discounts and deals. This sounds like an extravagance (and, it probably was) but in the long run I picked up investment pieces through her that I still wear today. She also taught me some invaluable lessons.

First: know your body. The first thing she did was take all of my measurements (bust, waist, hips) then she dispassionately pointed out my strengths (long, thin arms and legs, height: I’m 5’8″, my bust is pretty great, my waist is really small), and my, er, disproportionate parts. (My hips are wider than is proportionate, my shoulders are narrow, my head is a bit small compared to my body and finally the high-waisted look was not for me: my hips and shorter torso make any high-waisted pants look like Mom jeans.)

Gorgeous 30s gown, on the bias, would look AWFUL on me

I still work within these confines today. A-line skirts are usually my friend: they don’t highlight my hips. My wedding gown had an A-line skirt. On the bias is usually a disaster, unless the patterns and sleeves balance out the lower silhouette. (On the bias dresses would look AMAZING on Esperanza, whose hips are very narrow.) My hair has to be a little bit poofy: no slicked-back ponytails for me. Sleeves and tops that make my shoulders look wider are good. (I love shrugs.) Waist-cinching belts are usually flattering, low-rise pants are great. Skinny jeans, if worn correctly, can be great as they show off long legs, but they have to be carefully paired.

The other thing she taught me is try on EVERYTHING. Things that look horrible on the rack might flatter you. Similarly, clothes that you adore on the hanger might look wretched on you. You can never be sure. I try on things at Target, as well as Banana Republic, as well as Barney’s.

Even the skinniest models on the runway have disproportionate parts, with a few exceptions: Kate Moss is almost perfectly symmetrical. That’s the key to her look, not her weight. She can quite literally wear almost anything. I have a friend who is not thin at all, but her measurements are perfectly symmetrical. Her bust and hips are the same size and her waist is small. She, too, can wear almost anything.

Here’s this week’s outfit diary, with an eye on proportion:

Sweater: James Pearce, 2006. It nips in at the waist. Long T-shirt, Susan Bristol, Spring 2012. Necklace: gift. Low-rise olive pants: Banana Republic, 2010. Boots: Payless, new.

Shirt: Anthropologie, 2011. The butterfly sleeves create a widening effect for my shoulders. Necklace, gift. Jeans, Old Navy, 2011. Brogues: Payless, new.

The picture for this outfit turned out poorly, so here’s what it looks like on:

Jacket, DKNY, vintage. Skirt: (A-line) Kookai. (MiL bought it for me in France this year: not sure the availability in the US.) Navy tank top: Marc Jacobs, 2010. Navy flip-flops: Target, this year. It was hot mid-week.

Then it turned weird and foggy and drizzly.

Long raincoat that covers my hips: Dana Buchman, 2001. Black sleeveless turtleneck: INC, gift. Jeans, Old Navy, 2010. Shoes: Marc Jacobs, 2010. Pin: Darcy’s grandmother’s.

If we had a date night: this jacket and top creates an optical illusion of wider shoulders. The combination of the halter top and the tufted sleeve of the jacket widens my shoulders. Jacket, Anne Klein, vintage. Halter top: Banana Republic, 2010. Black skinny jeans, Old Navy, 2010. Patent leather heels: Banana Republic, 2010.

A note about brands: some work better than others. I should note here that Old Navy jeans generally fit me well, whereas any pair of JCrew pants pretty much look TERRIBLE on me. The fit models at JCrew must have narrow hips. Banana Republic also is a brand that fits me well. So if my wardrobe seems sort of dominated by those brands, that’s why. I don’t buy high-end brands very often (especially recently) but Marc Jacobs has worked well for me, as has Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana. (I have a theory they design for women with hips: the corset/skirts they produce are AMAZING.) Also, I loved my Vera Wang wedding dress.

Do you dress for your body? What are YOUR tips for your figure-type? Are there brands that fit better for you than others?

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