The plight of
modern dressing goes back to not knowing your body type—or worse, having a distorted perception of its shape. “We’re extremely critical of ourselves and focus on things we don’t like,” says Rachel Matthews Burton, a Toronto-based celebrity stylist. “By doing so, we’re doing ourselves such a disservice.” Matthews Burton breaks down the science of shopping for your body type to look great no matter what, and explains why no fashion trend is ever really off limits.
1. Dress for your body type
There’s actually a formula to the art of dressing for your body type. “Once you figure that out, you can
shop more efficiently and effectively,” says Matthews Burton. In fact, focusing on proportion and adding the illusion of height is key to determining what trends will work for you. “I don’t like age-appropriate rules,” she adds. “It’s about trial and error.”
To help determine your body type—petite, apple-shaped, athletic—look for a celeb whose frame resembles your own and analyze what they choose to accentuate and conceal. (“Or tweet me a photo, and I’ll tell you!” offers Matthews Burton.) Do they choose mini dresses or maxi dresses? Skinny jeans and oversize cardis or harem pants paired with tank tops?
2. Create the illusion of length
As a basic rule, aim to create outfits that elongate your frame—this helps with appearing leaner as well. “Look for pieces that create a long line, like a V-neck instead of a turtleneck,” says Matthews Burton. Or add a jacket that’s fitted at the waist, as opposed to a boxy, boyfriend-style blazer.
Same goes for jewellery—opt for a longer necklace to continue the elongated look. “Avoid chokers, which truncate the neck.”
3. Oversized is not for everyone (and that’s OK!)
While we’re on the subject of boxy frames, keep in mind that architectural looks aren’t for everyone. “On a short person, it can make you look bulky,” she explains. Any garment that isn’t form fitting and creates lines that move away from the body plays into the illusion of added bulk.
That said, sometimes an extremely tight fit (think a figure-hugging bandage dress) can actually make you look bigger. Unless the garment will stretch with wear, look for pieces that fit just a fraction larger than your frame, says Matthew Burton. “That will help you to look smaller.”
More tips on which runway trends suit your body type on the next page…
4. Accentuate your best assets
Play with cuts and hemlines to draw attention to your best features. Try a blouse or jacket that nips in at the wrist, which is the narrowest part of the arm. “It’s one of the most flattering looks,” she says (for this same reason, avoid cap sleeves, unless arms are yoga toned).
While we love
metallic pleats and layering this spring, it’s important to note one of Matthews Burton’s cardinal
rules of dressing: “Bulk adds bulk,” she emphasizes.
5. Pants are all about proportion
Skinny pants, capri pants, pleated pants—they all serve their proper function, depending on the shape of the wearer. “For example, a skinny pant and boxy top on an apple-shaped figure exaggerates the worst shape,” she says. “Long legs look great in capri and cigarette pants—but they’re the worst nightmare for a shorter person!”
6. Try mixing in prints
“Most people are afraid of wearing prints
and stripes because they fear it will exaggerate parts of their body,” explains Matthews Burton. The key is to
mix in prints strategically so they both draw the eye and camouflage at the same time. “The trick to wearing prints is to not wear anything too large in scale for your body.” For example, a huge floral print on a petite person will look disproportionate.
Good news? You can wear colour other than black. “It adds proportion,” she says. Try adding in a
punchy accessory to distract the eye and draw attention to the parts you want to focus on.
7. Heels—they’re important, too
Adding the illusion of length only works when it’s streamlined from head to toe. “A bootie is a great option for pants, skirts and dresses,” she says. Avoid kitten heels if you have heavier calves—opt for a wedge heel or stiletto instead to balance out the proportion. And if you’re tights-free, keep your heel in the same neutral palette as your skin tone to add length. “It’s more flattering than black on a bare leg.”