Hey, readers. I had a crazy week last week that left me mentally drained every night, so the blogging had to be shunted to the backburner. Thanks to everyone who has continued to visit the site and has contributed to discussion.
Okay, back to the promised second half of my post on how women can maximize their appearance. In Part 1 I discussed figure and face. Here I’ll be discussing fashion.
Sometimes I think fashion is the trickiest part of a woman’s appearance to master. Not every trend favors every woman’s figure, but many women choose their clothing based on trend, regardless of what the clothes actually look like on them. Others eschew fashion altogether as a frivolous, materialistic, ungodly pursuit and prefer to wear uniforms of shapeless T-shirts and jeans. Neither approach results in a more attractive woman.
In my opinion, good fashion flatters both the woman’s figure and her complexion and is contemporary. (Just because something was considered tasteful in 1985 doesn’t mean it’ll still be tasteful today.) In order to achieve good fashion, a woman should pay attention to the fit and drape of the clothing, the cut of the clothing, and the color and print.
Fit and drape of fabric are just as important to women’s fashion as to men’s. A garment can be stylish and tasteful and still look horrible on you if the fit and drape are wrong. You can tell that a piece of clothing has a good fit if it doesn’t gap or bunch anywhere. A button-down shirt shouldn’t gap between the buttons. Pants shouldn’t bunch around the ankles or gap at the waist. They shouldn’t sag at the butt. The seam where the sleeve meets the body of a shirt should sit at the edge of the shoulder. In general, your clothes should not look pulled-tight over your body, nor should they make you look like you’re swimming inside them. Good drape of fabric is indicated by clothes hanging in a natural way off the body, as if gravity is the only force on the clothes. Clothes shouldn’t look like they’re “caught” somewhere (like across the breasts or shoulders or thighs or stomach).
Often a trip to the tailor can correct problems with fit and drape, but if the alterations are such that it amounts to practically taking the entire garment apart and then re-stitching it to fit you right, you might want to skip on the garment altogether. Also, DO NOT buy “aspirational” clothing that “someday” you will fit into when you’ve finally lost the fifteen pounds that you’ve been meaning to lose for the last five years. Buy clothes that fit you NOW and that you will actually wear instead of hang in the corner of your closet and look at every now and then and sigh because you still haven’t lost those pounds. By the time you actually lose the weight and manage to keep it off, the garment will probably be out of style, anyway. In general, I advise getting rid of any piece of clothing you haven’t worn in three years. After three years, most clothing is dated, and if you haven’t worn it in three years, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to suddenly get inspired and pull it out of the closet and start wearing it. There’s a reason you didn’t wear it for three years, after all.
– Cut of the clothing
This is closely related to fit/drape. An item of clothing can fit and hang perfectly on the body, but a poorly selected cut can undermine much of the good of the fit and drape.
The goal of good fashion is to give the impression of the woman having ideal proportions. The ideal body proportion for women is to have a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.7 (the waist measurement is 0.7 times the hip measurement, i.e., the waist measurement is roughly two-thirds that of the hips). It is also generally considered more attractive and feminine for a woman to have long legs and a long torso. Unfortunately, most women fall short of the ideal WHR and either don’t have long legs or don’t have a long torso. This is where the principle of proper cut comes in.
Wearing clothes that are cut to flatter your figure is how you can create the illusion of perfect (or at least closer to perfect) proportions. I generally think that proper cut is a trial-and-error thing that’s unique to each woman. There are lots of fashion books that give tips on what to do if you have X body type, but following their advice to the letter won’t necessarily result in a better-looking you. And just because a garment has a specific cut doesn’t mean that that garment itself is going to flatter you. Even within cuts, you have to evaluate each garment individually. Not all V-necks are created equal. What you want to strive for is balance. If you have a short waist, high-waisted pants won’t elongate your torso. If you have short legs, really baggy pants won’t create an illusion of long line. If you have a short neck, a V-neck may be more flattering on you than a crew neck. And so on.
Usually if you do enough trial-and-error-ing, you will start to find that certain cuts work for you and that certain brands make those cuts in ways that are especially flattering on you. Don’t be above buying several of the same shirt in multiple colors if the shirt works for you. It’s better to wear a lot of the same thing that looks great than to wear a variety of things that look so-so.
– Color and print
Women’s clothing has much more vibrant colors and variety of colors than men’s clothing, so women should take advantage of that. If your wardrobe is mainly olive green, slate blue, washed-out brown, and different shades of gray, your wardrobe is probably not catching the eyes of very many people, especially not men, whose wardrobes consist largely of the same colors.
Back in the ’80s, it was very popular to determine which colors looked best on you by classifying you as a “season” according to your hair and eye color. “Springs” looked good in neutrals, “summers” in pastels, “autumns” in rusts, and “winters” in bolds. While I don’t think it’s necessary to be that strict, every woman has colors that she favors more than others. In my opinion, it’s more important to pay attention to the tone (the lightness or darkness) and the saturation (intensity) of the color than the hue itself. Don’t limit yourself by saying, “I can’t wear green.” No matter your coloring, you probably can wear green; you just won’t look as good in all tones or saturations of green.
As for prints, be aware of the expanding property of prints. I tend to avoid them because they make me look wider; as lovely as all the flowery skirts are that are out there, they often make me look like a wide load. My feeling about prints is that they should accent your outfit, not be the focal point of the outfit. If the print is the main thing drawing attention to what you’re wearing, be very sure that the printed garment flatters the part of the body it’s on.
Re: stripes – I rarely buy anything striped, especially if it’s horizontal. Sometimes large, blocky stripes can be okay, but for the most part, stripes often tend to be too busy and too casual…plus, there’s the whole widening thing.
A few other things I thought of:
Not being overly burdened with wealth, I don’t own a lot of accessories (bracelets, earrings, necklaces, scarves, shoes). Well-chosen accessories, though, can dress up (or dress down) an outfit and provide a contrasting accent. Often just the accessories can make the difference between a casual and a dressy look. Different accessories can also multiply the number of outfits you have (like wearing the same shirt with two different scarves).
– Wardrobe basics
Once you’re out of college, it’s a good idea to start building a wardrobe with items that will last you years, rather than just a season or two. These are the items that are more timeless and are worth spending a little more on. Having high-quality basics will make your entire wardrobe look pricier. Here are some items that I think are indispensable to a contemporary (and usually professional) woman’s wardrobe:
– Dark wash jeans – Jeans are ubiquitous these days and are now made stylishly enough that they can be used in both casual and dressy settings. Dark wash is the most versatile, so if you must buy one type of jeans, buy these. They can be dressed up with a nice top and heels, or dressed down with a T-shirt and jeans. I like high-end jeans (>$150) due to their not stretching out with wear, but you can find dark wash jeans at any price point, from Old Navy and Target on up. A classic straight leg or slightly boot cut will flatter most women’s figures and look the most sophisticated.
– Black pants – Black pants are also extremely versatile and can go from office-wear to date-wear with a change of your top and shoes. Express’s Editor pant is an affordable, medium-quality cut that is flattering on a lot of body types. Banana Republic and J.Crew also make pants that work for this purpose and are a little more conservative in their cuts.
– Knee-length black dress – There’s virtually nowhere the “little black dress” can’t go. You can dress it up or down with shoes and accessories, and if you choose the cut wisely, it may never go out of style. If you have figure flaws you’re looking to cover up, it’s hard to go wrong with an A-line silhouette.
– Cardigan – Cardigans came back into style in the mid-’90s and refuse to leave. Cardigans are an excellent layering garment for those times when you can’t tell what the weather will be like. They can also add modesty to a sleeveless or strapless dress or top. Black is the most versatile color, but gray and other neutrals can enhance any wardrobe as well.
– Knee-length coat – Depending on where you live, you probably should have one for spring/summer/fall and one for winter. The belted trench is a classic style that’s “in” right now, but unbelted is fine, too. Knee-length is versatile enough for just about any occasion except the most formal, in which case calf-length is more appropriate. Make sure the coat does not add bulk to your silhouette.
– A bra that fits right – Your clothes will drape and lie better if you’re properly, um, arranged. If you have never had a bra fitting, it’s something worth looking into. At the very least, it will confirm that you’re already wearing the correct size. You can have a fitting at any major department store or lingerie shop like Victoria’s Secret. If you want to measure yourself, VS has a how-to guide.
– Underwear that doesn’t give you Visible Panty Lines – Your butt shouldn’t look like it’s divided into fourths. That is all.
Okay, I think that about covers it, at least for now. Overall, a wardrobe is an investment, and if you treat it like one, it will repay itself many times over over time. Don’t be afraid to spend now for something that fits great, looks great, and is a quality garment that you will wear many times. And while you’re at it, clean out your current closet using the Three Year Rule. You’ll feel much better about buying new things if you have room for them in your closet.