Fabulous reader Emily – who I was lucky enough to meet and chat with when I was in New York last summer – e-mailed me a while back asking about making the long-over-lean formula work on a petite frame.
Lately, all I want to wear are leggings and longer things on top – which I realized is: Sally’s Long-Over-Lean formula. Thing is: I own 1 pair of ponte pants, 1 pair of cheap leggings, and 1 pair of sort-of-skinny jeans. I’m 4′ 11″ as you might remember. I carry my weight in the belly. Literally in the belly, as in, could be 5 months pregnant all the time (I ain’t). Clearly if I want to make this happen as My Look, I need more leggings. And more long swinging / pooch-hiding sweaters. BUT!!!!! (Here’s my question): DO I want to make this happen as My Look? I’m short. If I wear a long sweater on top, I think I go 50%-50% in terms of body division. Not the Golden Mean by any stretch.
Emily was kind enough to let me use some of the photos she sent along to me in hopes of helping others struggling with the same questions. So here’s what I told her:
The thing about the Rule of Thirds is that you can totally forget about it absolutely whenever you want to. If this is what you want to wear – tunics and leggings in various combinations – and you feel comfy and fabulous and like yourself wearing those items, then you absolutely should. Rules be damned! Now if you’d like some middle ground – if you want to make the long-over-lean look work and incorporate a couple of traditional figure flattery maxims – here are a few things you can try:
Visually elongate your legs
Try wearing like-colored leggings and boots. I say boots because even a little peek of ankle breaks up the leg line. Boots that are the same or close to the color of your leggings – even like-colored ankle boots – would be super. And they can be flat! Visually elongating your leg line by wearing similarly colored leggings and shoes will help this look feel more balanced.
Be strategic about focus
Take charge of where the observing eye lands. In the gray tunic/black leggings outfit, Emily is divided just about in half and where those two pieces meet is a high contrast break. The eye goes right there. She could draw the eye upward and break up her figure a bit by wearing a scarf or necklace. This will achieve two goals: It will create another segment of her figure, and it will keep focus away from her midsection, which she’s self-conscious about. For a different tactic, she could draw the eye up and down her figure by wearing a long necklace. I know that may seem counterintuitive, but it will help elongate the figure a bit.
Do low contrast layers
The gray tunic and black leggings are totally cute and I told Emily she should absolutely wear them. But a charcoal gray, dark brown, or other darker colored tunic would help her create a column of color – an unbroken line of color from shoulders to feet – which helps unify the look and create a taller-seeming silhouette.
This yellowish tunic is probably too tight. Since it’s a cardigan, it could be worn open over another tunic-length layer instead of buttoned and belted. Another way to do the column of color with this formula is to wear a like-colored long cardigan and leggings, but a different color on the inside. Of course, to do this Emily would need yellowish leggings, so I told her not to pursue this option with this specific piece … but maybe give it a shot with others.
Don’t worry about it
Emily sent me a photo of herself in clothes that she says create a more traditionally “flattering” silhouette on her – the top and skirt on the left. And she looks dynamite in that outfit, it’s true. But she looks cool and funky in her tunics and leggings, too. As I said above, some of the things you want to wear won’t “work” with your figure in ways that Tim Gunn would embrace. But Tim Gunn isn’t here. When it’s important to you to create a visually balanced, tall, slender silhouette, do that. When it isn’t important to you to hit those marks, don’t worry about them. Figure flattery is limiting, but personal style is unlimited. You’re the boss.
Any other petite women out there wondering about the long-over-lean formula? Are you doing any of the things I suggested? Other recommendations for Emily and other petites who love leggings and tunics?
PLEASE NOTE: Emily is not a blogger herself and has very generously offered to let me post these photos to illustrate how she’s attempted to tackle this specific dressing formula. If you chose to comment on this post, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published. I’m happy to participate in a discussion that includes contrary opinions, but will not tolerate cruelty. Also be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.