Friends, you know that the phrase, “shouldn’t wear that” gets my dander up, right? It totally does. I believe that women should wear clothing that makes them feel gorgeous and happy, and that style rules should be applied on a case-by-case basis and, even then, merely as guidelines. Wear what you love, the rest will fall into place.
But I realize that it’s often easier for me to SAY that than for you to DO it. With all the magazines and TV shows yammering at us that we shouldn’t wear certain items if we’re shaped a certain way, and how some garments and accessories are “tricky” to pull off, it becomes difficult to maintain confidence. After all, these folks are experts, right?
They are. And although their presentation of these rules as hard-and-fast drives me batshit crazy, the underlying guidelines based in maxims of traditional figure flattery can be useful. Especially if you are striving for a tall, slim, proportionate, mildly hourglass-y figure when you dress.*
So I thought I’d tackle a few “tricky” items and offer my own take on how to style them successfully, starting with accessories
Why they’re awesome: The cool-tough vibe of a boot without the calf-fitting woes that often accompany knee-high styles.
Why they’re tricky: Since ankle booties end at … well, the ankle, they divide the leg in a way that looks a bit unnatural. Cutting the calf at the ankle can make legs look shorter or “stumpy.”
How to make them work: If you want to wear ankle booties AND make your legs look as long as possible, there are two simple workarounds. Try matching the color of the boot to your tights or leggings, or keeping them in the same tonal range. Obviously, that isn’t going to work in the dead of summer, but it’s a fabulous trick for cooler months and doing so creates an unbroken line right down to the ground. For summertime wear, try to find a bootie in a color that matches your skin tone. If your skin is dark, go with black, chocolate brown, or burgundy. If your skin is light, try for tan, gray, or pastels. Don’t worry about matching your skin exactly, just keep within the appropriate color range and you’ll be fine.
Above you see ankle boots worn with pants, and here the trick is to make sure your ankle itself is showing. On most people, the leg becomes slimmer at the ankle, so a boot that’s cut right at the ankle bone or below paired with cropped or cuffed pants shows that curve.
CHUNKY CUFF BRACELETS
Why they’re awesome: Cuffs emanate power, and can inject toughness into an outfit without creating imbalance.
Why they’re tricky: A wide bracelet can obscure your entire wrist, making it seem as if your forearm doesn’t taper at all. This can convince the observing eye that your arms are bigger and wider than they truly are.
How to make them work: Since you’re going to be obscuring an area that defines the shape of your arm, balance that obfuscation by showing off other areas. Wear a sleeveless top so your elbows and shoulders are visible. Wear short or fitted sleeves so the overall silhouette of your arm is discernible. Make sure that your OTHER wrist is visible and unencumbered by bracelets.
Why they’re awesome: Obi belts are generally made from soft leather, so they conform to the body more easily and comfortably than stiff leather belts.
Why they’re tricky: Obi belts are generally very wide, so they can visually shorten the torso.
How to make them work: For starters, don’t buy an obi that has a 5″ panel in the front and narrows gradually toward the tie-ends. Unless you’ve got a very long torso and want to shorten it a bit, superwide obis can make you look disproportionate. Seek out a style that is 3″ wide or a bit wider like the Elizabeth Kelly version I’m wearing above. It’s more of a wrap belt than a true obi, but it’s also less likely to make you look like your boobs are perched atop your pelvis.
Now, consider placement. Obis and wrap belts are difficult to wear hip-slung, so you’re likely looking at your wearing waist, natural waist, or right under your bust. If you are interested in making your legs look longer, place the obi high on your torso. If you’re interested in creating an hourglass, place at your natural waist. If you’re interested in elongating your torso or balancing a larger bust, place at your wearing waist. (Wearing waist will likely work best with pants and lower-slung skirts.)
Why they’re awesome: “Statement necklaces” come in nearly infinite varieties, so their awesomeness is somewhat difficult to define. But, in my opinion, statement necklaces are large or long or both, fairly showy, and difficult to ignore. They’re fabulous for dressing up a casual ensemble, can work to balance a large bust or cleavage in some circumstances, and draw the eye up toward your gorgeous visage.
Why they’re tricky: Necklaces that are big all around – like the multi-chain one I’ve got on in the outfit above – can make your neck look short. Necklaces that sit against the collarbone can fight with other accessories. And if you’re already top-heavy in one or more ways, they can serve to enhance that imbalance.
How to make them work: Since the point of a statement necklace is to be eye-catching, allow it to be the focal point of your ensemble. Don’t do a belt, or a wildly-printed top, or a complicated dress in addition to a big chunk of jewelry.
If you opt for a necklace with some 3D heft/bulk, balance it with a scoop, v, or otherwise low neckline. Showing more skin lower on your chest will help make your neck appear longer.
If you worry about appearing top-heavy, longer styles of necklace will help. Opt for a lengthy or layered chain style instead of a collarbone-adorning bib. If you just can’t resist a necklace that sits up on your bust, try bookending your look with some unusual or showy shoes, or creating long body lines with an open-front or waterfall cardigan, monochrome outfit (possibly including hosiery and shoes).
*Which is not the only way! You make your own figure flattery priorities, dangit.