Let me tell you a secret – when it comes to what I’m willing to do every day to make sure I look my best wellll….. I’m a little bit lazy. It’s not that I’m not willing to do anything of course, but I want what I do to take the least time and energy and have the maximum effect possible. After all, life’s full of more important things to do than spend hours primping every morning, am I right?
So today I’m going to introduce one of my best strategies for looking your best – and it doesn’t take a year. I call it Silhouette Strategy. You see, when we pull outfits together, we tend to obsess about smaller details, i.e. how your butt looks in those jeans or whether that’s really the best neckline for you after all. These nuances do matter, but it’s totally possible to spend time and energy correcting them and to still not be all that satisfied with the final look. And that’s because there’s a bigger picture way to look at what suits you, but we need to take a step back to see it.
Your silhouette is the overall shape of your body plus the way the shapes, proportions, and cut of your clothing cause that shape to appear. On the most macro level, clothing can do one of two things to shift the viewer’s perception of your silhouette – it can either elongate, creating a longer, leaner, more vertical line, OR it can emphasize curves by focusing in in-and-out horizontals, or fit-and-flare as it’s often called. Because these two things are literally opposites, you can only really get a dramatic effect by focusing on one. And, for virtually every woman, one is MUCH more effective than the other.
So how do we know which one will do the magic for you? Glad you asked. A lot of wardrobe advice has this bizarre idea that whichever one your body type does more naturally, you should then balance it by employing the opposite strategy. That sounds a little bit to me like taking one person who is great at farming, and another who is great at cooking, and putting them in charge of the opposite task to “balance them out”. You’ll probably end up with two unhappy people, and some terrible food made of a meager crop. Instead, I think we should do more of what we’re already good at, i.e. more of the Silhouette Strategy that our body shape naturally wants to do.
So our next step then will be to ascertain which your body type does more of naturally – in and out, or up and down. Every woman will have some of both but in general, the taller and/or narrower in frame you are, the more elongation will suit you, and the shorter and/or wider in frame you are, the more fit-and-flare will suit you. If that sounds complicated, instead of crunching numbers, we can figure it out by grabbing a head to toe picture of you and doing a little doodling. Let me show you.
Here’s a head to toe picture in reasonable form-fitting clothing of my lovely client Shaunta on the left and yours truly on the right. I’ve gone ahead and first placed a horizontal line at the widest place on each of our torsos. Then, I made lines of that width at the shoulder and also at the ankle (for some of you, the initial line may be at the shoulder if it’s the widest point – then just add one at the ankle). Then, I drew vertical lines to connect them into a rectangle. The purpose of this is to establish a visual of each of our length-to-width ratios.
Next, to help make things clearer, I removed our pictures and just left what I drew. Now it’s easy to see that Shaunta’s rectangle is much longer and narrower looking than mine automatically, while mine veers closer to a square-ish shape, even though we happen to be similarly wide at our widest parts (which makes sense since we’re at a similar dress size in these two pictures). If your rectangle looks more like Shaunta’s, choose elongation. If it’s more like mine, choose fit-and-flare. (For those who are going to ask, if you’re rectangle is REALLY in the middle, go by height – elongation for 5’7+ and fit-and-flare for 5’6 and under. If your rectangle is more exaggerated, you should go by that before height).
That’s it! Now we can move out of analysis and scratching our heads to action. If elongation is your Silhouette strategy, that means that you’re going to choose pieces where the lines move overall more up and down than they do in and out, like straight skirts, straight or wide-leg pants, and maxi dresses, and avoid horizontals that break you up, like a skirt that flares widely at the knee. If fit-and-flare is your strategy, that means you’re going to choose pieces with lines that move more in and out than up and down, like tapered skirts, skinny pants, and skater dresses and avoid verticals that push your shape to look shorter and more square, like a floor-length column skirt.
The best part is, nailing this will make a WAY bigger difference to your overall shape than fussing about a sleeve or a hem length. This is because it shifts what the viewer sees from the perspective of seeing you from across the room, rather than the up close and personal distance from which we usually look in the mirror.
There’s way more I could say, but this quick exercise should give you the basic idea. And if you found this helpful and want more, I invite you to join the Society of Extraordinary Style, where we’ll be doing stuff like this together every single week to develop your personal style more and more – and you’ll be able to ask me your questions about it live. Our first official call is this Thursday, March 19th at 7 PM EST, and I’d love to see you there!