Confident Personal Style – part 8 – proportions

One of the most important inputs to gaining real confidence in your style is to understand proportions.  What this means is understanding what your physical differences are, and selecting clothes appropriately.

Too often people regard their own proportions as a problem.  Whether it’s a big bust, wide hips, a small waist, short legs relative to your torso, sloping shoulders, a short neck – the list goes on – I regularly hear the complaint that ‘they don’t make clothes for people of my shape’.

This is generally not true.  What we usually mean by this is that we don’t know how to manage the things that make us different from the ‘average’ shape – whatever that is.

Here are some examples of how you can minimise or camouflage your ‘unusual’ proportions:

  • If you have a very small waist relative to the rest of your body, don’t buy things that draw attention to it such as very wide belts, especially if they’re a different colour as these will make your hips look wider. Instead, look for something that doesn’t accentuate your waist, like a skirt with a not too fitted jacket. You could go for a dress with a waist detail, but ensure that it is of the same fabric.  Here are some examples:



  • If you have wide hips, the trick is to balance out the shoulder area. The look you’re going for is an upside down triangle where the shoulder line balances out the wider hips.  Look for shirts, tops and jackets with wider shoulders or interesting detailing around the shoulder area that draws the eye away from the hip area.
  • Short legs relative to your torso can be mitigated through sensitive adjustment to skirt lengths.  It’s a good idea to get specific personal advice with this, though, because it really does vary according to people’s height and length of torso.  The one thing I would say is keep away from full skirts and flat shoes.
  • Sloping shoulders can be padded out.  But you should do this very carefully.  The 80s-style massive shoulder pads that go past the shoulder are not the look you want – it’s more about gently building up the shoulder area so the slope from the neck is more gradual
  • If you have a short neck, you should avoid high necklines and choose one that stands away from the neck.  Make sure the rever is not too closed-in.  And don’t have your hair too long as it pulls the face downwards, emphasising the short neck. Scoop and cowl necklines are very flattering; and avoid high buttoning jackets and dresses.
  • The advice for a short neck also applies to a big bust, but here it rather depends on the positioning of the bust. When trying on jackets, I would go for a two button rather than a one button jacket.  But again this really where you need individual help from an expert: in general, the problem with a one button jacket is that it can gape over a large bust, but I have also seen it look very, very beautiful. (You can find more tips for the bigger bust in this post from last year.)

These are just a few of the more common proportion-type issues that we help with on a regular basis.  I’ll be happy to address others if you have concerns about another aspect of your body shape, so please let me know.

The advice here is general and it’s always good to ask for personal advice when buying as everyone’s proportions are different; and you will find that stylists in the better shops will be able not only to point you to the right clothes, but also work with a tailor to alter clothes to suit your proportions.

Next time: how to use fashion magazines


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