Learn how to work with the figure you have –- even the parts you don’t care for. Phillip Bloch, A-list Hollywood stylist and author of The Shopping Diet: Spend Less and Get More, helps you make the style choices that best suit you.
Head and Neck
Faces come in many different shapes and sizes: square, oval, circular, and so on. What shape best describes your face? If you have a round face, then I would suggest you buy V-neck shirts and sweaters. If you have a thin, narrow face with a longer neck, then try a turtleneck. An oval face looks amazing with a sweetheart neckline. If your neck is shorter, avoid a shirt collar that comes up higher. But if you have a longer neck, you will look good in many different collar styles and heights. You must take complexion and skin tone into consideration as well as eye and hair color, especially when you’re choosing clothing shades. Obviously, someone with blue eyes looks great in blues. If you have green eyes, you should highlight them by wearing different shades of green. If your skin tone has colder undertones, stick to tones with the same cool colors. Similarly, if you have a tanned or warmer skin tone, you should opt for the warmer shades. Olive complexions look great in greens and browns. Cooler and less saturated colors like pastel pinks, light lavenders, and soft blues work well with paler complexions. Your haircut, length, and shape are also important elements when choosing the right pieces, especially when it comes to necklines. How you choose to style your hair could directly influence your look — you don’t want your clothes, accessories, and hairstyle dueling.
Donna Karan made a fortune on the cold shoulder look and deemed it acceptable for millions of women to bear their shoulders. Strapless dresses also have become quite de rigueur on the red carpet. Are your shoulders your best feature? If so, find clothing that plays them up, including halter tops and camisoles that show a little shoulder skin or a piece that falls gracefully off the shoulders. Asymmetrical one-shoulder tops are also an excellent option.
What you didn’t get from the good Lord, you can now buy! One of my favorite tricks of the trade is something we lovingly refer to in the biz as Chicken Cutlets. They are little silicone pads designed to fit into the cup of your bra to give you that extra lift and cleavage enhancement. You can find them at your local department store or Victoria’s Secret. They are definitely a part of the “You But Better” philosophy. Why go under a surgeon’s knife when you don’t have to? Another great trick is to brush some bronzer in between your breasts — this will give the illusion of extra cleavage. And don’t forget the iconic pushup bra for a little added oomph. Maidenform’s Custom Lift Collection offers a great version as does Wonderbra.
Let’s address the age-old question of too much or too little. Of course, it depends if it’s shown in the office (show almost none) or out on a date (show some more). The bra is an integral wardrobe component. It’s one of the MVPs in a lady’s clothing lineup. And honey, those bra straps are meant to be moved! It’s crucial to lift and separate; otherwise, what was once at your chest will be down at your waist. So use the strap adjusters on your bra. To all you girls who complain about not being blessed with a bodacious bosom, have no fear! Plunging necklines can be your friend. Go ahead, sport those sweetheart necklines, plunging Vs, and scoop-neck tees. Small breasts look just as good (if not better) in those cleavage-revealing shapes.
Few women truly feel their arms are their best asset. If you’ve managed to be blessed or have worked as hard as an Olympian for some toned guns, you definitely have the right to bear arms! Sleeveless shirts will be for you. Wear those cute little tank tops without worry. If you don’t like your armpits to show, try wearing cap sleeves. Even if you don’t like your arms, it’s not a bad idea to buy tanks and camisoles. Just wear a jacket or a sweater over them. Now more than ever, sleeve lengths are as varied as the climate. The three-quarter sleeve is perfect for those who want to show a little arm but not too much. With the global warming of fashion trends, women are wearing more skin-baring strapless and corseted looks year-round, using blazers, cardigans, or wraps to take these ensembles from work to play.
Although you might not think about your back much, remember that it’s always the last thing seen when you leave. There is something about the sexiness of the curvature of the spine and the softness of a woman’s shoulder blades that stays on people’s minds. Over the last several years, designers have been doing a lot with illusion backs, cowl drapes, and detailed embroidered or beaded motifs, continually drawing attention to an area that, in the past, many people have taken for granted or have overlooked entirely.
The waist should be one of the smallest and smoothest parts of your body. And if it isn’t, let’s make it look that way. Belts can highlight, accentuate, and even create a feminine shape. If you seem waistless, then you can create one with a looser belt or a chic scarf around your midsection. Using dark colors will make the waist appear smaller. It’s crucial to differentiate and separate the waist from the bust. Many people have a high waist, which tends to make the waist and chest appear as one. This gives you a rectangular shape and is less slimming. But if you use a belt to divide and punctuate the space, your waist will miraculously appear. Shapewear is another great solution for creating and defining your waist. Hanes Smooth Illusions or any number of choices from the Spanx line of products work perfectly because they’re seamless and will slim you from upper torso to thigh. But my favorite product is the Flexees Waist Nipper, which shapes the tummy and creates a perfect feminine figure.
It’s great if you have curves like Marilyn Monroe. But beware: Curves can be dangerous. This is another area of the body that is improved and smoothed with the benefits of shapewear. Products like Flexees Boy Short or High-Waist Thigh Slimmer will definitely make you look like you . . . but better. Flowing skirts are great for minimizing larger hips, while pencil skirts are perfect for accentuating them. Again, darker colors are more slimming. Longer tops are a great way to camouflage your curves, especially when the hem of the top falls below midhip, which will help break up your shape. These tops also work if they have a plunging neckline or an empire waist in order to pull the focal point higher on the body. Opt for pants with flat fronts and minimal pockets. (For less bump and bulge, many of my clients often have their tailors remove the pockets from their pants.) Try boot-cut pants or ones with just a little flare. This will balance the curves above.
When Beyoncé’s original term “bootylicious” appeared in Webster’s, we knew that this part of the body was no longer just something to sit upon. This is an area that causes most women to cringe and many men to drool. Even if you choose not to accentuate it, never underestimate the power of the posterior. Comfort is always the key when it comes to the draping dynamics of the derriere. Be careful with jersey fabric, as it can often be far too clingy and accentuate cellulite. Jeans that are too tight should be avoided. Yet, you shouldn’t wear pants that are so loose they look like large sacks. A little focus on the booty is a nice touch. A great slim-fitted skirt can sexify the secretarial look. Now more than ever, designers are using fabrics with Lycra. This gives clothing some stretch for increased comfort and flexibility, especially in this hard-to-fit curvaceous zone. If you really want to camouflage your backside, billowing fabrics will hide your booty. Shapewear is another fantastic solution when attempting to downplay the derriere. If your aim is to keep it up and poppin’, I suggest products like Flexees Boy Short or Spanx’s Power Panty for a little extra lift.
The rise and fall of hemlines has become increasingly tumultuous as fashion’s seasons change. Your thighs need room for flexibility. Whether they are thick and powerful or elongated and lean, you must keep in mind your own personal comfort. Microminis, leggings, and hot pants are great looks. But for very muscular thighs, they can be a little overbearing. Instead, try flowing fabrics and camp shorts for summer fun. Wide-leg trousers, A-line dresses, and full skirts are perfect for winter wear. Another multipurpose cover-up is the tunic top. Balloon-cut and empire dresses can do double duty as tops, if they are worn with leggings or slim pants to make a more contemporary statement, which is also flattering to the thighs. Beware of distressed denim that is shaded lighter in the thigh area, which only serves to highlight what you might want to hide.
Knees are a difficult zone because there’s nothing you can do, exercise-wise, to get them into shape. You either have good ones or you don’t. But if you don’t have the bee’s knees, your legs can still cause a buzz — you might be best suited for pants or tights with different textures and tones (but avoid anything shiny, as this will make legs appear bigger). Ignore the trends and follow your own intuition to pick a hemline that works for you.
How you feel about your calves will help determine your wardrobe style. If you like your gams, fill your closet with above-the-knee skirts, cute shorts, and even a miniskirt or two. If you’re not comfortable with your legs, go for kneelength skirts and city shorts rather than the Daisy Duke version. Less shapely calves can be deemphasized with knee-high boots, whereas a nude shoe will add more length and emphasis to your legs. If you have larger calves, go for fitted capris that hit halfway between the knee and ankle. Clam diggers look good on thin legs.
Ankles and Feet
It may seem like hitting way below the belt to focus on ankles and feet, but we all have our idiosyncrasies. Unless you’re born with slim and trim ankles, less is definitely best when it comes to this area. Accentuation of the ankles is all about letting them be. Don’t get bogged down with bows and buckles. The gladiator sandal look is probably not for you unless you love your ankles. Instead, elongate the ankle and the silhouette by wearing a flesh-toned shoe or a strappy little sandal, mule, or pump. The shoe boot and the ankle boot can be fashion forward, but they don’t work on everyone. Look before you buy, as the style has a tendency to crop and shorten the length of your leg.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The premier fashion stylist to the stars, Phillip Bloch, author of The Shopping Diet: Spend Less and Get More (Copyright © 2010 by Phillip Bloch), works with Hollywood’s A-list, including such celebrity clients as John Travolta, Sandra Bullock, Faye Dunaway, Selma Hayek, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
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