In warm weather, I’m all about dresses. Typically dresses with knee-length or shorter hems, nipped waists, and full skirts. That silhouette feels perfect for spring and summer. Ya know, a little something like this:
But as soon as the weather starts to cool off, I switch to the “long over lean” formula and stick to it until the sun returns. You’re well familiar with this look by now, I’m sure:
Since it’s been my dominant look for months now, I thought I’d dissect the formula and talk a bit about why and how it works for me. I’m also curious to hear your opinions of “long over lean” looks, as they don’t work for all body shapes or situations. Let’s dig in, shall we?
In its most basic iteration, “long over lean” is simply a longer-than-shirt-length top worn over a skinny-silhouette bottom. In the outfit above, I’ve got on a tunic, skinny jeans, and boots. Long layer over lean bottoms. This differs from:
A more traditional blouse-pant pairing. Here, the top is loose and the pants are slim-fitting – so there are some similarities – but the shirt is not long enough to capture the long over lean silhouette. And, of course:
Long top layers can be paired with other long, flowy, or full layers to create very different silhouettes. Maxi skirts, wide or straight leg pants, trousers of any sort. But for long over lean, you need a top that hits mid-thigh or lower, and a pair of tight pants or leggings.
There are multiple options for both elements, of course: Some very short dresses or very long shirts will serve, but tunics are most commonly employed on top. Length is your choice and will depend on your preferences and proportions, but the idea is to pick something that is shorter than your typical dress length to show off a bit more leg. If your top is long enough that you feel comfortable wearing tights or sheer hosiery, it’s likely more of a dress and hitting lower on your leg line. Possible bottoms include ponte pants, skinny jeans, skinny pants/cords, jeggings, and leggings.
When I worked in an office, I reserved my long over lean looks for Fridays and weekends. Plenty of my coworkers wore this style during the work week, but it just felt too casual to me. It’s all down to personal preference, of course, and you can gauge your own environmental factors, but I feel this dressing formula is inherently more casual than blouses and slacks, sweaters and skirts.
That said, there are ways to make it feel more formal:
Long over lean works marvelously with boots, but swapping in a pair of heels gives the look a more polished appearance. Adding an eye-catching necklace or other formal accessory alters the look, too. This particular outfit feels closer to traditional workweek wear, but to my eye, it still skews a bit casual. More flowy and less structured, more comfy and less formal.
This is my most common variant on the long over lean theme: Just add cardigan. My preference is to wear cardigans that fall within an inch or two of my tunic or dress for a clean look.
Although I generally reach for a long cardigan, shorter top layers can be utilized. Here, I’ve done skinny jeans, a button-front tunic, and a v-neck sweater. Still long over lean, but gives a different impression and a slightly different set of perceived proportions.
I realize that much of the world loathes cropped leggings, but I dig ‘em. Here I’ve done a cropped jacket, tunic, and cropped leggings with low heels for a funky, summery variation. If leggings like this irk you, try clamdiggers instead. Any style of sandal or low-vamp shoe should work with this exposed-calf version.
This formula works marvelously for my figure because I have a small waist compared to my hips, a small bust, and average length legs compared to my torso. I also have thighs that are 3″ longer than my calves, so tunics work well on me. This pairing of garments will be more challenging if you have:
- A long torso and short legs: If you want looks that lengthen your leg line, long over lean may challenge you. Shorter tunics may help.
- A large bust and small waist: If you want to accentuate your waist, doing so in a tunic can be tough. Belting may help.
- Any self-consciousness about leg shape: This is a pretty leggy look in most cases. If you are shy about your legs – even when they’re inside pants or leggings – long over lean might make you feel uncomfortable. Bottoms made from thicker material like ponte or denim may help, but if you’re just miserable, forget it. Not worth it. Plenty of other options.
If you’re concerned about how a long cardigan, tunic, and pants might interact and feel like it’s a lot going on, try staying within color families. Low contrast versions will look less busy, especially if the tunic and pants are close in value.
If you opt for boots – as I frequently do – be aware of how your top’s hem and boot’s height interact. If your boots are really tall, a longer tunic may hit you in an odd place and shorten up your legs. If your boots are calf length or shorter, long tunics will give you the appearance of an exaggeratedly long torso. This is the part of long over lean that trips me up most often, and I don’t feel like I’ve completely nailed it every time or landed on a perfect formula. So I’ll just say this: Experiment, be aware, see what works on your figure.
Long over lean is an absolutely fantastic option for women who are sick of doing jeans and tees on the weekend. It’s a slightly more polished casual look, but can be as comfy as PJs if the right garments are deployed. I can’t imagine my life without the tunic/skinnies combo, and feel like it strikes a marvelous balance between comfort and chic.
Do you wear the “long over lean” silhouette? What are your favorite pieces to employ when creating this look? If you avoid this look, what turns you off? Anyone wear long over lean to work on a regular basis?