Posts Categorized: proportion

Reader Request: How Does Your Hairstyle Interact With Your Outfit?

how hairstyle impacts outfit

Sources left | right

Reader Andrea had this request:

I would be interested in a post on how different hairstyles interact with outfits. How much does wearing hair down vs. in a bun affect the formality of an outfit? How much can the hairstyle you wear with an outfit change the overall look? I always seem to wear my hair the same way with the same pieces, and I’m not sure why I only ever visualize those things with those hairstyles. (I’m also contemplating a major hair change right now, so hair is on my mind a lot recently.)

When my hair was longer, I had the same experience: Certain outfits definitely called out for an updo, while others looked better with hair worn down. And even now with supershort locks, I occasionally wear something that looks slightly off with messy waves and much better blown dry.

I asked Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook to let me use some of her photos to illustrate how hairstyle impacts outfits. As you’ll see balance, formality, structure, and genre all play in. Let’s take a peek:

hairstyle volume outfit

left | right

Here are two outfits in which hairstyle is a factor in enhancing or balancing volume within the outfit. On the left, the volume within Wendy’s outfit is all toward the top, mostly from the waist up. Her hair, worn down, adds yet more volume but also works organically with the loose layers. On the left, the orange sweater is the only voluminous piece. With her hair in a high bun, she avoids adding more volume to her top half.

hairstyle formal casual

left | right

Here are two decidedly formal looks. Some updos and buns can read as casual, but paired with outfits that already give off a dressy vibe, they generally add yet more formality. Definitely the case with the bun Wendy did with her black dress, although the addition of the headband keeps her hairstyle from being formal to the point of stuffiness. The green dress outfit has a much more relaxed vibe. Although the dress itself and structured clutch are quite fancy, the open-toed shoes and loose wavy hairstyle overtake them to create a dressy but not formal look. Switch the hairstyles and the black dress outfit would be more “night on the town” and the green dress outfit would be more “black-tie affair.”

hairstyle structure

left | right

Structure within the outfit is at play in nearly all of these examples. You can see how updos often align with structured looks, and hair worn down aligns with unstructured ones. But here are two more great outfits that show how you can juxtapose structure and looseness using your hairstyle. Wendy’s cropped trench and pencil skirt are decidedly structured, but wearing her hair down adds some soft, flowy lines. Her white trapeeze top is loose and breezy, but her headband and bun balance it out.

hairstyle genre

left | center | right

Finally certain hairstyles lend themselves to certain genres. At left, Wendy has on a preppy/classic look that could’ve come direct from the J.Crew catalog, and has chosen a bun/headband combo to match. The middle outfit has both Boho and preppy elements to it, and the loose ponytail complements them both. For the beachy outfit on the right, Wendy wore her hair down and loose to match.

Hope this was helpful! And thanks again to Wendy for use of her gorgeous photos.

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Crop Tops: Surprisingly Versatile

crop tops with skirts

one | two | three

I steered well clear of the crop tops during the 90s. They scared the living daylights out of me, since they were worn with low-rise jeans and therefore would’ve exposed the entirety of my middle-jiggle. When they came back around again I was initially skeptical, but people were styling them so differently that I converted fairly quickly: Nowadays you’re more likely to see a crop top worn with high-rise pants/jeans or a high-rise skirt. Much less torso is exposed. In fact sometimes you can’t see any torso at all and it’s just the short-top-longer-bottom proportions that become the outfit’s focus. A whole different ballgame.

But even in this revised form, some people still feel that these tops should be the exclusive domain of the slender and lithe. A couple of weeks ago, an article appeared in Oprah’s O Magazine with the following text:

Q: Can I pull off a crop top?

A: If (and only if!) you have a flat stomach, feel free to try one. For more coverage, layer the top over a longer shirt as shown in look two.

Aaaand the world responded with a cheerful – and completely appropriate – middle finger to that one:

crop tops collage

Source left | right

Because, ya know, it’s BULLSHIT. First off, everyone can wear everything they want all the time because no garment in the world will cause a body to spontaneously combust. Second, stuff like that is a form of body-shaming; Telling people that if they lack figures that fit the current beauty standard, they’d sure as hell better keep those figures out of sight, instead of accepting that if you see someone wearing something you don’t like, you can just look away. And third, even if you’re going for a relatively traditional set of figure-flattery priorities, crop tops are great on a wide variety of figure shapes and sizes.

Which brings me to the main reason I wanted to cook up a crop top post: I’ve found them to be a handy solution for the shirt-skirt proportion issue.

As a general rule, tops worn with skirts should be a bit shorter than tops worn with pants. With a skirt, an untucked top should hit about two fingers’ width below your navel. With pants, an untucked top should just about subdivide your butt or hit two to three fingers’ width above your crotch-point. (Whichever looks better to your eye.) These are incredibly loose guidelines, mind you, with the main point being that longer tops tend to suit pants, shorter ones suit skirts.

Most brands are designing all of their tops in incredibly long lengths these days, so if you want to wear a skirt-top combo you pretty much have to tuck. Which drives some people bananas because tucking can be constricting and uncomfortable … yet finding skirt-length tops has been well-nigh impossible for ages. Even petite tops tend to be a bit long in the torso, not to mention that many have shorter sleeves and adjusted armholes to fit actual petite figures, not just regular-sized women hoping to find shorter tops. (And rightly so – that’s how petite sizing works.)

But now? Now we have crop tops. And some of them are very, very short and clearly designed to show some skin, but others are longer. And if you find the right length, shape, and cut, they can turn out to be the perfect length for wearing untucked with skirts. I’ve snapped up a couple from Topshop and Kohl’s that are working beautifully with my summer skirts. Many of them are actually sweaters – if you search for “crop top” you’re likely to get tees, but “crop sweaters” gets you knitwear.

The best way to tell if a crop top will be long enough is to measure any tops you currently have that work untucked with skirts. Get within an inch or two of that length, and you’re likely in the sweet spot. Most websites will offer length measurements so you can compare before ordering. You can bring your tape measure to the mall, too, or just shop wearing a favorite skirt so you can see how various tops look worn with it.

If you’re long-waisted, crop tops still may be mighty short worn untucked with skirts – even crop tops that are cut on the longer side. But if you’ve got an average or short waist, this workaround might be worth exploring. Getting tops tailored to be skirt-length certainly works, but if you can get them off-the-rack at the right length it saves you time, money, and aggravation.

Crop tops can also be layered. They work worn over dresses for a variety of effects, from breaking up the outfit’s lines to offering more coverage. Pop a long-sleeved crop over a sleeveless dress and you’ve got interesting proportions and covered-up arms. If you buy them snug enough, they can also be layered under dresses and I’ve seen designers layering tank crops over button-front shirts for fall. So if you don’t like them on their own you might love them layered.

No one can force you to try this style, but I hope you won’t let anyone scare you off it, either. I’ve seen petite, plus sized, tall, curvy, curve-free, teenaged, and middle-aged women rocking crop tops in various ways and in a marvelously diverse group of outfits. They might just be the missing puzzle piece in your own wardrobe, too.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Reader Request: Dressing for a Post-pregnancy Midsection

dressing post pregnancy belly stomach

Reader Liz asked this question over on Facebook:

I would love it if you could share some tips for working around a post-twin-pregnancy belly. Snug tops make me look like I’m still a few months pregnant, though it’s been about 3 years and I’ve lost all but 5 or 10 of the 50 pounds I gained; I have abdominal muscle separation and a fair amount of loose skin there, but can’t afford elective surgery, so I’m trying to just work around the protruding belly. Fitting pants has been tricky, as anything that works in the waist tends to be baggy everywhere else, and skirts don’t sit evenly around my middle. With tops, I need extra length to cover a triple-D bust *and* my belly, and even then it seems to be really hit-or-miss with just about everything except peasant-style blouses.

I am always both honored to be asked post-partum style questions, and a little leery that – as a non-mom myself – I’ll suggest items and practices that would work in theory but are useless in practice. So, as always, I’ll offer my two cents and ask you all to continue the conversation and offer more resources in the comments.

Soft but structured jackets

This piece is a solid bet for anyone hoping to add shape to or downplay her midsection. Drapey cardigans will just add volume, but if you can find some blazers or jackets that are soft but structured, they can help streamline your silhouette. Think heavy knits, twill, and ponte, though some linen and tropical-weight wool may work, too. Blazers may be among the only options if you need a jacket that is both long and structured, but moto style jackets (like the one shown above) and utility jackets are good alternatives if shorter length works for you.

A snug camisole underlayer

I know that some women opt for shapewear to make loose skin a little less loose, but I also know that shapewear every day is neither comfortable nor healthy. If it’s not too hot for layers, adding a snug camisole under your lightweight sweaters or blouses may help re-shape your abdomen a bit. I’m a huge fan of Karen Kane’s Supersoft Tanks for this purpose since their nylon/spandex fabrication means outer layers slide over without sticking, and they come in plus sizes, too. But if you need something more breathable, a cotton blend will work. Old Navy’s v-neck camis are 94% cotton and come in regular, petite, tall, and plus sizes. A color that’s nude to your skin tone will work under everything, including pale colors and white. This may help pants and skirts fit better at the waist. Speaking of which …

A friendly tailor

Fit issues with pants and skirts can be addressed through tailoring. If you can find pants that fit comfortably at the waist but that bag out elsewhere, buy them and have the seat and legs taken in. (Always buy to fit your largest or hardest to fit feature, then have the rest altered.) Skirt length and waistband width can be tailored, too. Otherwise, you might be limited to knit bottoms or styles that are meant to be snug and therefore created with lots of stretch. If jeans, dress pants, and skirts are proving impossible to fit off the rack, consider getting them tailored.

Tall size tops

If length is an issue for tops, you’ll get more torso length to play with buying tall sizes. If you’re not actually tall, you may find sleeves to be long and shoulders to be wide in some cases, but those can be tailored as needed. If fitting your bust is a specific concern, Hourglassy has lots of great resources and recommendations.

Long over lean

Tricky, it’s true, especially if leggings and skinny jeans won’t work. But one of the best ways to balance out the volume of loose, flowy tops – which are currently working well for Liz – is with slim bottoms. Mid-thigh length tunics worn with leggings, skinny pants, skinny jeans, or jeggings will skim your midsection. J.Jill is a great resource for tunics, as is Eileen Fisher.

What else would you suggest to Liz? Are others of you having similar fitting challenges? How have you dealt with them? Other styles or resources to recommend?

Top images courtesy Nordstrom – left | right

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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