Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Low-vamp Shoes with Skinnies

flats and skinnies in winter

Reader Amelia left this question in a comment:

How on earth do I wear flats/Mary Janes and socks with skinny pants/jeans? Every style image I see of that combo involves no socks or boots. Sometimes I don’t want to wear boots (think fall or spring) but it’s too cold to not wear socks. How do I do it?

In my opinion, this question extends to all low-vamp footwear and all ankle-length pant styles. The real issue is covering the bridge of the foot and keeping it warm. So. Quick answer: I don’t know. This combination stymies me, too, and I can’t say that I’ve found a solution I feel is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. So I’ll throw out a few suggestions and work-arounds, and rely on you to offer your input in the comments!

Nude fishnets or nylons

This is the solution that most folks offer, and it has some merit. The idea is to give your feet a bit of coverage but perpetuate the illusion of no socks/hose. But even close-woven microfishnets don’t actually create much of a barrier between foot and elements. Nude-to-your-skin knee-high trouser socks are probably the easiest and warmest solution.

Foot liners or Key Socks

Neither of these solutions actually gives you full foot coverage, but you do get some padding and warmth for your footbed. Liners come in all colors, materials, and fabrics but they tend to peek out from most flats and heels. Key Socks are basically foot liners with part of a trouser sock attached at the top, leaving the bridge of your foot exposed. So, ya know, only slightly helpful.

Funky socks

I have a hard enough time working tights (and therefore colored legs) into my outfit equations, so I’ve never even dabbled in funky socks. But if your outfit is more casual, you can certainly let a cool striped pattern peek out from your Mary Janes or flats. So long as your feet fit and you won’t stretch the shoes too much.

Ankle boots

Yep, we’ve already arrived at alternatives. I’m happy to wear tights with my flats, Mary Janes, and heels all winter long because they offer uninterrupted coverage from knee to toe. But I just don’t do the skinny/ankle pant and low-vamp shoe combo once it gets cold out. Instead, I opt for higher-vamp shoes like ankle boots, which cover the foot up to a much higher point and can be tucked under pant hems or worn with cuffed skinnies and thick socks hidden underneath.

See what I’m saying? Nothing earth-shattering or truly elegant here. So, my dears, help us all out! Do YOU have the magic solution to wearing low-vamp shoes and ankle-length pants in cold weather? Any other suggestions besides these? Let us know in the comments.

Images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Banana Republic (right)

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Reader Request: How to Fit a Blazer

Reader Jamie left this request in a comment:

Not sure if you’ve covered this in your posts before, but would you do a post on how to determine proper blazer fit? I have an expensive blazer I bought at Filine’s Basement over 10 years ago, but have NEVER worn it. It’s a navy blue wool Ralph Lauren made it Italy blazer, really nice, lined in silk. I’m struggling with the fit, it seems almost too long, almost covers my whole bum, even though the sleeves are the right length. And I have no idea what to wear it with.

SUCH a great question. I adore blazers and jackets, as I feel they can add structure and polish to virtually any outfit … but they can be tricky little beasts. Finding blazers that fit off the rack is challenging for most women, regardless of size or figure shape. I always recommend thrifting for blazers because they can be annoyingly expensive and are durable enough garments that they can typically last through several owners and still hold up. But thrifting for blazers exposes you to an even wider variety of  lengths, styles, and fits from bygone eras, many of which will seem almost perfect. But not quite.

So let’s start with how to determine if a blazer fits YOU.

Shoulders first

Again, very few women can waltz into Ann Taylor, grab a blazer off the rack, and have it fit perfectly in every way. And, in my experience, even women who can fit blazers relatively well often encounter shoulder fit issues. Blazers can be altered, and when you find one that fits almost-perfectly you should definitely consider getting it tailored. But shoulder alterations are complex and costly, so if you can find a style that fits your own shoulders and needs some tweaks elsewhere you’re in good shape.

The shoulder seam of the blazer should hit right about where your own shoulder ends. If it falls closer to your neck, it’s too small. If it juts out over where your shoulder begins to slope downward, it’s too big. Hug yourself while wearing the blazer. If it pulls a little, that’s fine. If it pulls a lot, it might not be your best bet. (Hug gently. You’ll be ever so cranky if you hug yourself and rip a seam. Plus you’ll be mad at me. So, ya know, go easy.)

Although full-on shoulder pads aren’t common now, a little padding or added structure in the shoulders isn’t unheard of. If you are self-conscious about your broad shoulder line, seek unpadded styles. If you wish your shoulders had a wider span, padded blazers can work wonders for ya.

Sleeves next

Sleeve alterations are relatively simple, although they’ll be more expensive if your blazer is lined. Regardless, be sure to consider sleeve fit. 3/4-sleeve styles have considerably more leeway, but full-length sleeve fit is fairly specific. (I’ll admit to letting this one slide myself, but I mostly cover my tracks by cuffing.) A full-length blazer sleeve should hit just a little bit above the top joint of your thumb if you’re standing with your arms at your sides. Your wrist itself should be covered. Simple as that.

Then bust

In most cases, if a blazer doesn’t fit you in the bust you will TOTALLY know it. In my case, there is often excess material that causes extremely amusing sagging. Like someone has tacked wet Ziploc baggies to my chest. For women with larger busts, you may experience pulling. A blazer that fits properly in the bust will cover about half of each breast (measured from vertical outside working in toward the navel) and skim over the covered area without bunching or wrinkling. Ideally, it should fit beautifully both buttoned and unbuttoned. However, a blazer that fits great buttoned but looks wonky unbuttoned won’t be as versatile as its opposite. In my opinion – and Angie’s got my back on this one – a blazer that fits properly in the shoulders, bust and torso but cannot be buttoned all the way without some pulling is just fine. Most of us wear our blazers unbuttoned most of the time anyway, so if it comes close but can’t quite button properly, you’re good.

And, of course, torso

Again, you’ll likely know, here. But generally speaking, you want the blazer to follow the natural curves of your body without pulling or sagging. If you’ve got wrinkles at the sides or across the back, the blazer is too small in the torso. If you’ve got gobs of extra fabric around your midsection, the blazer is too big in the torso.

Other resources on fitting blazers properly:

Now let’s talk blazer styles.

Pants blazer vs. skirt blazer

If you’re wearing a skirt and top, you want your top to be relatively short – between two and three fingers’ width below your navel. If you wearing pants and a top, you want your top to be longer – between two and three fingers’ width above your crotchpoint. This also applies to blazers. Let’s take a look:

Proper blazer lengths for skirts and pants

Although the blazer on the left is being shown with pants, it’s actually more suited to being paired with a skirt or dress. It hits higher on the hip and is shorter overall. The blazer on the right will look slightly off if worn with a skirt, but is a good length for wearing with pants. So, shorter blazers with skirts/dresses, longer blazers with pants. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, of course, just a guideline. Much will depend on your figure and preferences, but in working with my clients I’ve found that most look best pairing short styles with skirts and long styles with pants.

Buttons and stance

“Stance” describes the highest point where the blazer buttons. Blazers with higher stances tend to have more buttons – at least two or three. Lower stances are frequently one-button jobs. Let’s look:

blazer button stance

The blazer on the left fits beautifully … but that high stance can look a little dated and matronly. The blazer on the right also fits well, and the lower stance seems more modern. NOW. I realize that bust size and stance interact. Busty women may find that low stance, single-button blazer will open up awkwardly at the chest while higher styles sit a bit quieter. Other busty women may find high stance blazers intolerable due to where the bustline falls. It’s all extremely personal. Some three-button, high-stance blazers are gorgeous – I own a few myself! – and if that style works for your figure, then by all means wear it. But if you’ve got blazers in your closet that aren’t getting worn and you can’t figure out why they seem “off,” see if it’s high stance.

Overall length and shape

Length and shape are other factors that may make your thrifted or decades-old blazers seem dated or frumpy. Yes, it’s true, “boyfriend” EVERYTHING means that long, loose styles are everywhere we turn. But today’s long/boxy will look slightly different than 80s long/boxy. Well, most of the time. Let’s look:

blazer fit

I’m flabbergasted to report that the blazer on the left is current. Designer even, and expensive as hell. (Theory, if you’re curious.) To me, that super long, super boxy fit is very vintage, although most 80s styles have more buttons and a higher stance. The blazer on the right is also current and also long – appropriate for pants – but more fitted and contemporary looking. Now, again, you get to have taste. If you love the look of a oversized, loose blazer, embrace that look! But if, as Jamie did, you feel like your butt-covering blazer might date you, opt for shorter, more fitted styles moving forward.

Finishing touches

blazer lapels buttons pockets

Lapel width, button or closure type, and pocket design and placement can all affect how a blazer works with your shape. With lapels, consider scale: Petite women often favor smaller lapels or lapel-free designs which work with their smaller frames. Flap pockets can jut out awkwardly if placed wrong, but can define and complement your curves if placed correctly. And button and closure style and placement will impact the overall look and fit of any blazer.

And even though that post was impressively long, it is far from comprehensive. Definitely check Angie and Kelly’s posts for more details and information. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So! What fit challenges do YOU face when shopping for blazers? Where are you willing to compromise? Anyone out there a stickler for stance? Lapel width? Let’s hear it all in the comments!

First four images courtesy Macy’s, next two courtesy Nordstrom, final two courtesy Macy’s.

This post has been revived from the archive.

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Reader Request: Long Over Lean for Tall Women

tunics and leggings for tall women

Georg Sand Left this comment over on Facebook:

Would you be willing to augment this post [on long over lean for petites] for tall girls (where all our height is in our legs) that’s me and I love this silhouette too! I also, however, seem to constantly have proportion issues. Do the same rules apply?

And my response? But of course I’m willing! And I’ve called in another expert, everyone’s favorite tall tunic-wearer, Gracey of Fashion for Giants. I’m going to get the ball rolling with my own tips, and then hand the mic to Gracey to round us out. Here we go:

Length affects proportions

A tunic should cover your entire butt as well as your crotchpoint, and many women look best in a tunic that hits at mid-thigh level. However, if you are tall and your height is in your legs rather than your torso, a slightly longer tunic may balance you out a bit more. By covering more of your leg above the kneecap – which the observing eye believes is the midpoint of your leg – you visually shorten and balance your frame. It’s your call, of course, but if balancing your proportions is a figure-flattery priority try keeping your tunic length at least one hand’s width above your kneecap and/or at least two hands’ widths below your crotchpoint.

Boots complicate matters

This is true for all people wearing long-over-lean outfits, but for tall gals minding where your boots hit is especially tricky. Boots that end far below your kneecap give the impression of very long legs. Pair those short-ish boots with a tunic that hits high on the thigh and you’ll look leggy indeed. Nothing wrong with that, of course! But if you’re seeking to balance your leg length, a boot that hits just a couple of inches below the kneecap and a tunic that hits mid-thigh will help. Want to avoid the boot issue altogether? Choose a pair that matches the color of your leggings or skinnies. Yes, this is a technique that is often employed to create a long, unbroken leg line, but it also eliminates hard breaks to create a more unified silhouette.

Cropped bottoms are a great option

As you can see from the first two outfits pictured above, ankle length and cropped slim bottoms are wonderful in long-over-lean mixes on tall women. Even though this combination creates a nearly half-and-half figure division on Gracey, it just works. Her leg line is unbroken from tunic hem to pant hem which means fewer chunks. The cropped pant length visually shortens the overall leg line a bit, but that serves as a balancing factor here. Harder to do in winter, of course, but a fun option for warm weather.

In terms of comparison to the post on long-over-lean for petites, there is some overlap: Visually elongating your legs may not be a priority, but wearing like-colored leggings and footwear will prevent lots of distracting breaks in your figure. Being strategic about focus is always wise, and you can choose a statement necklace to draw the eye to your face or add a like-colored belt to your tunic to accentuate your waist without breaking up your lines. Low contrast layers are great to prevent loads of breaks in your figure line, but not as essential here as they are for someone who wants to look taller. “Don’t worry about it”? Always applicable to advice-y posts. If you prefer to just wear combos you love, you should do exactly that.

Now, let’s hear from Gracey:

Try prints and colors

Gracey from Fashion for Giants wears tunics over lean pants

Why try prints and colors? Mostly just because you can. As a tall person, you have a little more leeway when it comes to long over lean because you can ignore those guidelines that exist to help the less-tall avoid the often-stumpifying effects of long over lean. As Sally mentioned, low-contrast layers are exceedingly helpful to those who want to look taller, but if you’re already tall, you can wear contrasting prints and colors without much worry. Especially if you pay attention to the rest of the tips Sally laid out.

I will say that with printed and colored pieces, proportion matters more than with low-contrast pieces. In the first look, for example, the tunic is a bit long for the length of the pants.  And the ankle strap flats aren’t helping matters. But, in the second look, the longer pants help balance out the length of the top. And, of course, a nude or black flat would help even more but I am currently unable to resist the lure of a brightly colored shoe. Perhaps someday…

Make sure your lean is truly lean

Gracey of Fashion for Giants wears leggings, a white tunic, blue sweater and black flats

In this outfit, as with the leopard and yellow outfit above, I have a LOT of volume up top. Here I’m wearing an over-sized sweater layered over an over-sized shirt. It’s a lot, it really is. But, keeping the lean portion of the outfit truly lean helps balance that volume. That’s why when I wear my long-over-lean outfits I stick to skinny pants, skinny jeans, and leggings. Those bottoms tend to offset whatever nonsense layering I have going on up top. And that’s important because I tend to do a lot of nonsense layering.

Anyone else have tips or suggestions for wearing long-over-lean outfits as a tall person? Proportion preferences? Do you do boots with your outfits? What else would you tell Georg?

Images courtesy Fashion for Giants.

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