Posts Categorized: proportion

How to Do Long Over Lean

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

long over lean

Even with my style shift, once the weather gets warm, I’m all about dresses. Typically dresses with knee-length or shorter hems, nipped waists, and full or A-line 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:


This is a combination of pieces and set of proportions that isn’t often discussed in traditional fashion writing: I can’t remember the last time I read a magazine article highlighting tunics and leggings as an alternative to separates or dresses. It doesn’t work for everyone’s figure and it doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, but for those of us who love it it’s borderline magical. Let’s talk about how long-over-lean works.



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, leggings, and ankle 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. In most cases, this means mid-thigh. 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 jacket. If tunic and leggings/pants are in one color family and jacket is in another, the combination re-creates the proportions of a top and pants. You can also do a jacket or cardigan that is approximately the same length as your tunic, as shown at the top of this post with my cargo coat. When going this route, my preference is to wear cardigans that fall within an inch or two of my tunic or dress for a clean look.

Already Pretty outfit featuring drapey vest, LAMade tunic, Karen Kane faux leather leggings, Maxstudio booties, J.Crew rhinestone bracelet

Long-over-lean can also work with other toppers, especially vests. This long, drapey one works well as would some of the “sleeveless blazers” we’re seeing these days. Experiment with shorter vests, too, and cropped jackets to play with the proportions a bit.

Already Pretty outfit featuring white tunic, cropped skinny jeans, blue goldstone Max & Chloe necklace, gray suede pumps

Here I’ve done a floaty white tunic and cropped jeans with heels for a funky, summery variation. If cropped leggings 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, as will matching your shoes to your leggings/pants.
  • 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 materials 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 utilized. I can’t imagine my life without the tunic/skinnies combo, and feel like it strikes a marvelous balance between comfort and chic!

More on this topic:

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Reader Request: What to Wear When Your Weight Is in Flux

clothes for weight loss

Reader Dona had this question:

I’m curious about how to shop/what to shop for when you are trying to lose weight. I know people, sometimes, say to wait until you get closer to your goal weight, but I’m not patient. I wonder what are some good garments that you can wear when your weight is fluctuating, whether up or down.

A great question, and relevant to many, I’m sure. No matter what your weight is doing, you’ve still gotta get dressed! If you’re gaining weight unexpectedly, you may want to wait to create stylish looks until that weight has come off … but sometimes it doesn’t come off, and dressing your new body stylishly may feel challenging but is important to maintaining a positive relationship with yourself. If you’re losing weight unexpectedly, you might try to make do with clothes that no longer fit your frame … but experimenting with new sizes and styles is a good way to make your new body feel more familiar. If you’re gaining or losing on purpose, it may be tempting to wait until you level out before shopping, and that’s not a bad plan. Unless the changes are gradual and you’re swimming in or squeezing into what’s currently in your closet.

So! Here are my shopping tips for anyone whose weight is in flux:


It’s true that you still need to wear clothing even when your weight is fluctuating, but if you haven’t reached a resting place yet spending big on clothes that might only get worn for a few months is a bad use of your moolah. Thrift and consignment stores are incredibly useful during this transitional time, and allow you to spend less, get more, and do so without hitting the fast fashion shops. It’s best to thrift in person during these times since you might feel unsure of what will fit you, but if you’re lacking decent secondhand options in your area, try online outlets like Twice, thredUP, and Tradesy. If you’re in the size 10 -32 range, you could also give rental service Gwynnie Bee a try.

Play with prints

Big blocks of solid color show far more of your body’s nooks and crannies than prints and patterns do. Printed dresses, blouses, skirts, even pants can be fabulous for making slight fit issues less obvious. Irregular organics like the print on the wrap dress above are especially great since regular geometrics like polka dots and stripes can sometimes be almost as revealing as solids.

Embrace scarves

You may be more likely to go this route in cool weather, but the volume and flow of scarves can downplay both weight loss and gain. Pick printed and patterned scarves to add more motion and color to your outfits, especially if wearing bold colors all-over feels uncomfortable for the time being.

Try draped detailing

Wrap dresses are fantastic for people whose weight is going up or down, since true wraps can be let out or cinched in without a single alteration. Wrap blouses and tops can be great options, too, but really anything with draping, ruching, or asymmetric design elements can benefit a body in transition.

Swap in some skirts

Pants are considerably less forgiving than skirts in most cases. Once they become too big or small, there’s only so much that belting tight or covering with loose tops will do to conceal their ill fit. Skirts – especially non-pencil styles with flat elastic waistbands like this one – can generally expand or contract along with you. If you dig the look of drapey pants, those styles may be more flexible but jeans and dress pants will be tough to fit when your weight is changing.

Do long over lean

If your workplace and/or lifestyle can accommodate a slightly more casual bent, consider a few tunics-and-leggings looks. Long over lean is a formula that can work regardless of which way your weight is swinging since the tops are generally loose and forgiving, and the bottoms balance with slimness. If you’re gaining or losing in your legs and are self-conscious, this might not be the best route, but if weight is shifting within your upper body it’s worth a go.

Shifting weight can be thrilling, aggravating, scary or confusing. But if you find yourself in a place where your body is changing shape or size, remember that dressing it with care and love can be a wonderful way to remain connected and grounded.

Images courtesy Nordstrom left | right

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Reader Request: Cropped Pants for Cool Weather

cropped pants for winter

Reader Ali left this question in a comment:

I’m hesitant to buy all these cute short pants that are in style because I don’t know how to make use of them in the fall or winter, or on cool spring days. I realize it’s still stylish to wear in the winter, but it seems impractical. When would you wear a wool coat and scarf and NOT want to wear socks? So how do you wear those pants AND stay warm?

Ali, I feel ya. As a person living in a climate that regularly includes -30 degree winter days, I am bewildered and frustrated by the current glut of ankle-length and cropped pants. I have a couple of suggestions, but would love more if anyone has ’em!

Pair with ankle boots

This is my go-to solution. Taller ankle boots can typically slide under the hem of cropped pants, and you can wear your thickest, wooliest socks with them if need be. It’s also well within the realm of current chic to have your pant hem and ankle boot top bump up against each other. (Pinterest will back me up on this one.) If you go this route, you can still do socks – just pull them up beyond the pant hem, pick a neutral color, and don’t worry too much if a sliver peeks out.

Go skinny and tuck

This won’t work for dress pants, but anything in the casual levels below is fair game. Hem length ceases to matter if you’re tucking a skinny pant leg into a boot. Boot styles that hit mid-calf and higher will conceal everything, including hems and socks.

Do funky trouser socks with heels

I am not a huge fan of the ankle pant/sock/flat combo, but ankle pants worn with textured trouser socks or tights and wedges or heels can be cute. Like this or this. Thicker socks will make your shoes uncomfortably tight, so think heavy nylons. Speaking of which, you can certainly try nude hose for this same purpose. Both options will offer a bit of coverage, but relatively little protection from real cold.

And I’m out. Got any other advice for Ali (and me)? How do you make your cropped and ankle-length pants work for cooler weather?

Image sources left | right

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