Where To Draw The Line

10 November 2020

One of the things that was a bit of a revelation to me when I was training to become a Stylist and learning about dressing your body shape, was the concept of considering where you are drawing a line with your clothing.  I don’t think I had ever thought about it before!

Sometimes I would try on outfits and they wouldn’t quite work and I didn’t really understand why.  Looking back I now realise that for the majority of the time it was because the hemlines of the clothing fell in the wrong place, making me look wider than I am in certain areas.  When it comes to dressing your body shape, considering these lines will enable you to create optical illusions so you can attract or detract from certain areas of your body as you wish.  I hope that the following tips help you as much as they did me!


On the left I’m modelling all of the lines that make a difference when it comes to clothing.  Some of them depend on your body shape, others are universal.  Below is an overview of how to ‘work’ these lines to your advantage…!

  • Neck – To shorten your neck if you feel it’s too long wear collared shirts or tops with necklines around the base of your neck e.g. crew, turtle, polo / roll, boat / slash necks rather than anything too wide and low.  Scarves are a great accessory!  To lengthen your neck, take care where your hair sits.  If it sits on your shoulders, consider cutting it slightly shorter or growing it longer to create more space around your neck area.  Try necklines that show a bit of skin such as scoop or v-necks which will elongate your neck area.
  • Shoulders – If you have narrow shoulders and would like them to appear wider, perhaps to balance your bottom half, try wearing tops that have a bit of extra material around the shoulder area such as puff sleeves or a ruffle for example to create width.  Boat neck, off the shoulder tops, cap sleeved and slash neck tops also work well.  Jackets with epaulettes will look great.  If you have broad shoulders, it’s the reverse.  Avoid detailing around the shoulder and go for scoop or v-necks to draw the eye in.  Ensure that shoulder seams also fall on the edge of your shoulder.  Drop and raglan sleeves can work well to make the shoulder area appear smaller than it is.
  • Upper arms – In general, if your sleeve ends on the widest point of your upper arm it can make them look wider than they are.  If this is also in line with your bust it can make your whole top area look wider.  To minimise this area ensure your sleeve falls above or below the widest point.
  • Bust – If you have a small bust tops with ruffles and frills around the neckline can help create shape if required.  Off the shoulder tops with a wide band will look great as will cowl necks and slash neck tops.  Chunky necklaces and scarves also work well.  If you have a bigger bust which you would prefer to reduce visually, avoid high necklines and sleeves that end in line with your bust as they will make your top half look bigger.  Avoid ruffles and frills as well.  Square, scoop, sweetheart and v-necks will look great.  Long necklaces will also work well to draw the eye away.  Avoid double breasted jackets and big buttons that add volume.
  • Waist – To accentuate your waist, wear clothing that nips in here.  Use a belt to draw attention to your waist.  Always tuck your tops in and if you don’t like the feel of it try doing the ‘French Tuck’ where you just tuck in the front to at least show some of your waist.  Wear trousers and skirts with the waistband on your waist rather than lower down.  If you wish to detract from your waist area, do the opposite!  Wear longer tops that finish below your waist in loose fabrics that skim your figure rather than hug it.  Be careful if you wear flowing or baggy tops that you are not adding unnecessary volume and wear more form-fitting clothing on your bottom half to show your shape.  Also consider where the top ends.  Avoid the widest part of your hips or thighs with a hem that falls above or below these areas.  If you like wearing dresses try a wrap style or empire line, in a print rather than one colour.
  • Tummy – If you wish to highlight this area, wear cropped or form fitting tops.  If you wish to disguise this area it can depend on your body shape how you do so.  If you have a smaller waist, high-waisted trousers or skirts can work well as they will draw the eye up and away from your tummy, accentuating your waist instead.  If you are more ‘apple’ shaped, you can redefine your waist with waistbands that are worn on the thinner part of your torso if it’s comfortable, or wear loose-fitting tops with more form-fitting skirts and trousers. Take care that the hem of your top falls above or below the widest point of either your hips or thighs. Asymmetric hemlines work well.  Wrap style or empire line dresses and tunics could also work well, in a print rather than one colour.
  • Hips – To accentuate your hips or help create shape, draw attention to them with embellishments in this area such as beading or stitching around pockets.  Wear lower rise trousers or skirts where the waistband sits nearer your hips than your waist.  Peplum styles are great for adding interest in this area.  Wear tops that end on your widest point.  To detract from your hips, avoid side zips and pockets (or keep them sewn shut so they can’t gape) and any embellishments.  Wear high waisted trousers or skirts to draw the attention to your waist instead.  Ensure tops end either above or below your widest point.
  • Thighs – If you wish to draw attention to your thighs wear dresses or skirts that end well above your knees.  You could also wear longer tops that end on your thighs with form-fitting trousers or leggings.  To detract from them, ensure that tops end above or below your widest point.  A-line style skirts are great if you are pear-shaped.  Show your waist to draw the eye up and choose fabrics with flow, movement or stretch that skim your curves.
  • Knees – Hemlines that end on the knee are only really issue for anyone that is petite as they do nothing to help elongate your frame.  If you are 5ft 3in or under, wear skirts or dresses that are shorter (3-4 inches above the knee) or ankle length to lengthen your silhouette.
  • Calves – Whether you have slim or fuller calves, I think it’s generally best to avoid hemlines that finish on the fullest point of your calves.  I just don’t think it’s very flattering.  If you’re petite avoid this completely!  If you like midi skirts or dresses, opt for those that finish just above or below the widest point of your calves for the most flattering look.
  • Ankles – If you wish to elongate your legs, avoid ankle straps on shoes.  Wearing nude shoes that match your skin tone will help lengthen your legs as will a more open shoe.  When it’s boot weather, opt for knee-high boots over shorter styles if you wish to draw attention away from your ankles.  If you have fuller calves or ankles, balance them with a block, wedge or platform heel rather than stiletto styles.

I hope you find this advice useful. Although fairly comprehensive, this is not an exhaustive list regarding dressing your body shape.  There are so many things you can take in to consideration!

In a consultation we look at all different clothing shapes and types to narrow down what suits you best, considering necklines, sleeves (types and lengths) as well as hemlines.  We also look at your proportions, the scale of prints, patterns and accessories, fabric types, plus how to use colour and print to balance your figure.  It’s probably the most ‘fact-heavy’ session I run!

If you find it overwhelming and would like help working out how to dress your body shape to make you look and feel fantastic, click here to find out more about these sessions or contact me for any queries or to book in.

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