Reader Elizabeth sent me this question via e-mail:
… lots of curvier women tuck in their tops, which feels totally daring and, frankly, scary to me, but they look fantastic. While I know it can be frumpy, I usually leave tails out in an effort to get some flowyness (is that a word?) going and gloss over my belly. Could you talk about the way tucking in tops or leaving them out affects proportion, and what it helps to emphasize (or not)?
When it comes to tucking, I believe the three main factors are proportion, desired aesthetic, and comfort.
Tucking a top into pants or a skirt alters your perceived silhouette. If you’re wearing low-rise pants and want to create a long-torsoed look, tucking your shirt may help. Since the pant waistband falls below the natural waistline, tucking fools the observing eye into thinking that the waist point has moved downward. If you’re wearing a high-waisted skirt and want to shorten your torso visually, tucking will work toward that end. High-waisted bottoms put the perceived waistline higher than it occurs naturally, so women who are self-conscious about their lower abs/bellies often gravitate toward them. With the emphasis moved upward, the tum is downplayed.
Some outfits look more polished and finished if a top is worn tucked in. Some outfits feel more natural and complete if a top is worn untucked. In my experience, tucking a top fully into a skirt or pair of pants creates formal, retro, and curve-hugging looks. Wearing tops untucked feels more casual, modern, and curve-skimming. Unfortunately, there aren’t any truly useful “rules” when it comes to tucking. Each outfit is different!
Tucking generally brings tops closer to the torso than leaving them untucked does. If you’re gonna feel self-conscious and anxious all day with a tucked top, skip it! Find a top that works worn untucked instead. Yes, it’s true that some outfits will just look better if the top is tucked in. Doesn’t mean you have to wear those outfits. Or, at least, doesn’t mean you have to wear them this second. Play around with half-tucks, belting untucked layers, and other methods for adjusting the fit of your top. Work your way up to tucking, but don’t force it before you’re ready.