Posts Tagged: style

Reader Request: Styling Flares

how to style flare jeans

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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:

Hem them

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 …

Try heels

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.

Avoid tunics

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!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

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Reader Request: Dressing for Grief

dressing for grief and mourning

Reader Karen emailed me this question:

My question for you has to do with how to approach clothing and style while one is experiencing grief. The Victorians had dressing for grief figured out: the grieving wore black or grey or lavender to help manifest their grief externally, and to signal to others the need for extra care or sensitivity. But in our own time, for better or worse, we seem to have lost these visible markers of sorrow.

Could you offer some suggestions for how clothing and style might help me move through the world as I am managing my grief? What are some ways that I could mark my loss for myself (perhaps with a piece of jewelry, wearing a particular color, etc.)? How might I think about dressing for grief to encourage myself to actually get dressed on those difficult days? While clothing is not the first thing on my mind these days, I believe that an intentional approach to getting dressed in the midst of sorrow could help me present myself more authentically and perhaps help me to integrate the experience of loss more fully.

Karen kindly agreed to let me post our correspondence. Here’s what I wrote to her:

I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve experienced such a painful loss. I hadn’t really given much thought to how style and grief might interact before, but here are a few things that came to my mind:

Above all, be gentle and patient with yourself. There is a huge body of rhetoric out there about coping with loss, and it’s incredibly contradictory. In my opinion, this is because no two people experience grief in the same way. This also makes most advice a bit useless, if well-meaning. But the only thing I’ve ever heard that makes near-universal sense is to be gentle and patient with yourself. What you’re going through is hard. It may take a long time before you feel like you’re even starting to heal, and that is completely OK. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s time to move on and don’t force yourself to do anything before you’re ready.

I think part of being gentle with yourself could certainly involve physical comfort, which is where style comes in. If typical comfort clothes aren’t an option for your daily life, look into middle-ground pieces: Ponte knit pants and skirts, flowy maxi dresses, waterfall cardigans, flat or supportive shoes. For me, the ultimate in security-comfort is a scarf. It envelops me in softness, and I feel safe and snug.

As you mentioned, including a practice of remembrance in your daily outfit assembly can be healing. This can be anything from wearing a locket with your loved one’s photo, to wearing that person’s favorite color somewhere in your outfit every day, to keeping a wearable item that belonged to your loved one on your person at all times. Do this for as long as it feels supportive and important.

There will be days when motivating yourself to get dressed will be challenging, and I imagine that you’ll need to handle those on a case-by-case basis. Some days, you may just not get dressed. Others, you’ll have to. And for those, it might be beneficial to create a few easy outfits that you can keep in your closet hanging together so you can throw them on without having to think too hard. Or even a few simple outfit formulas that you can fall back on when creativity feels out of reach. Try to assemble these outfits/formulas on a day when you feel a little more energetic, if possible, and also try to incorporate jewelry and/or accessories. Accessorization and finishing touches are often the hardest to care about when your mind and heart are elsewhere, but you’ll feel and look more polished if you can remember to add a few. Mapping out which ones ahead of time will be helpful.

Finally, I can’t think of a truly elegant modern-day alternative to all-black mourning attire, and agree that lacking a public practice can feel odd. Regular clothes can feel almost costume-y when you are hurting badly and constantly. The only solution I could come up with – and it might not appeal at all – would be to find or create some sort of black armband for yourself. Black armbands are a relatively widely recognized symbol of loss and mourning, but can also be fairly subtle. Wearing an armband may also inspire curiosity, though, and if you don’t feel ready to field questions about your loss, might not be a good idea. It depends on how significant it feels to mark your loss in a way that others can see, and also on your peer group and environment.

I hope some of these ideas will resonate with you and be helpful, and that you are surrounded by loving support during this difficult time.

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It’s Not About How You Look


Know what breaks my heart? When a friend I haven’t seen for months tells me she was super nervous picking out an outfit to wear for our lunch date. That is NOT how I want anyone to feel, about me or anyone else. Because although I talk a lot about how to make yourself look good, my end goal is to help you feel good. One can lead to the other, in many cases, but the feeling good trumps the looking good every single time. At least in my book.

I love the quote at the top of this post because I think it captures quite succinctly an important distinction between the fleeting, surface-skimming aspects of personal style and the lasting, life-enriching aspects of personal style. There may be a world of difference between what others observe about you and what you, yourself, see when you look in the mirror. But as long as you see a strong, confident, capable woman staring back at you, how you look to other people can become virtually irrelevant.

And this applies to straight-up body image, too. If you look at your body and see a mess of “flaws,” or a disappointment, or a burden, or a fixer-upper project, you may be viewing your appearance through the lens of skewed-but-ubiquitous socially enforced ideals of beauty. You’re focusing on how you look to other people, based on what you’ve been told people “should” look like. But what really matters isn’t how your body looks. It’s how you see that body and how you feel living in it. You shape your own reality, so if you look at yourself and choose to see goodness, power, and beauty, your force of will and intentional positivity can begin to eclipse those manufactured ideals. If you look at yourself and choose to see goodness, power, and beauty, you are, in fact, good, powerful, and beautiful.

How you look is the means, how you feel is the end. How you look is the surface, how you see yourself is the core. And I hope you’re able to see yourself as the unique, exquisite force of nature you truly are.

Image via (couldn’t find original source – please let me know if you know it!)

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