Reader Sarah emailed me this question:
I wondered if you could do a post or a question in your column or something on styling flares. I love that flares are back in style (great for balancing hips), but I am having trouble with the silhouette. Fitted on top or not? Long or cropped tops?, etc. Also, what shoes?
Oh flares, my old friends. I wore you throughout college, and well after … even when the rest of the world had switched to skinnies. And now I can’t quite believe you’re back. Already. Although, in my mind, 1990 is only 10 years ago …
ANYWAY. Flares are the silhouette of the season, and I imagine Sarah isn’t the only one who’s thrilled to see them on the racks once more. But they are a bit of an exaggerated silhouette, so they can feel challenging to style. Here are my tips:
It’s always a good idea to have your pants and jeans hemmed for the style and height of footwear you intend to wear with them, but it’s especially important for flares. There’s a lot of fabric down there by your feet, and cultivating a ragged, dirty hem will only distract from your overall look. If you are long-waisted and short-legged, consider seeking petite flares since hacking off more than a couple of inches may affect the flare silhouette and balance of the jean. (It’s true that some folks are wearing cropped flares, but that trend is still on the fringes. And not terribly practical for cold weather.)
To avoid the no-feet look, consider having your flares hemmed slightly higher in front. And remember that pants hemmed for heels shouldn’t be worn with flats and vice versa. Speaking of shoes …
You certainly can do flats with flares, but to my eye a heel makes the silhouette more fluid and graceful. Even a small heel, platform, or a wedge will work – something to give you a little boost of height and elongate your legs. Flares only make your legs look long and your silhouette look hourglass-y if there’s some distance between your hips and the flared hem. Heels can help. It’s a matter of preference, of course, but my preference is for heels with this cut.
Short or fitted tops
Flares can be worn with loose or boxy tops and jackets, but opting for something that shows at least half of your hip height and is somewhat fitted reduces the risk of swamping your figure. This is especially true if you want to wear flares either to elongate your leg line (a shorter top will do this) or create balanced curves (a fitted top will do this). For length, think three or four fingers’ width above your crotch point. And if you’re not too keen on clingy tops, try a fitted top in a relatively heavy material like ponte or a mid-weight sweater then add a looser jacket on top.
Or blouses … though consider tucking
Button-fronts and blouses are a great way to dress up your flares. In fact, some fashion experts and editors advise against going too casual with your flares-based looks to avoid an overly 90s feel. Since many blouses add volume, try tucking or half-tucking with your flares. It’s another great way to elongate your legs and keep the silhouette tidy, and allows you to add a belt to your look. You can also do a loose, floaty blouse and then bring in the float with a fitted, structured jacket.
What makes flares flares is the out-in-out shape they create on your body. A tunic-length top will cover most of your thighs, and unless you’ve got a pair of super-fitted flares that cling to your knees, that tunic top will obscure the curve inward from your hips to knees. Even if you opt for a longish top, make sure it tops above the crotch point so you can reap maximum curve benefit. Or if you want to play with proportion and use a longer line up top, try a fitted underlayer and longer jacket or duster.
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.
Hope this helps! And have fun flaring it up this season!
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