One of the very cool benefits of my job as a personal stylist is to see how a minor tweak in the proportions of an outfit can make a huge difference. Something as small as shortening the straps of a tank, hemming a skirt every so slightly, or wearing the right top with a pair of pants can make a woman look taller, thinner, and more balanced.
How to Get the Proportions in an Outfit Right
Below are four outfit examples that will give you some tips on how to choose the proper proportions in your looks.
Big slouchy sweaters may be incredibly popular and comfortable but they can also look sloppy if not styled properly. To look proportionate, large, relaxed tops need to be paired with slimmer bottoms. Another tip for looking less lumpy in oversized cardigans is to pair them with slimmer tops underneath. This is particularly helpful if you have an hourglass figure.
In the outfit above, I styled this long cardigan from Nordstrom that I layered over a long sleeve t-shirt from J. Crew and paired with leggings from Theory. I finished the look with boots from Frye, plaid scarf from Banana Republic, black backpack from Skip Hop, bangle from Stella & Dot and knit beanie from Vince.
Just like bigger tops need slimmer bottoms, the same is true the other way around. Wide leg pants and full skirts need slimmer tops to look proportionate. There are a few exceptions to this rule which, unfortunately, usually only apply to tall, very lean women.
For those of us not lucky enough to win out in the gene pool, big all over just makes people look big, it doesn’t camouflage. I know it seems counterintuitive, but hiding out under all big clothes eliminates shape and adds the look of bulk.
I styled these wide leg pants from J. Crew with a slim sweater from L.K. Bennett. Over the sweater I added a cognac moto jacket from Reiss and finished the look with a pair of nude pumps from Michael Kors, a brown bag from Hobo, plaid Bp. infinity scarf and tassel pendant from Panacea.
Next I want to talk about pencil skirts. They can be a staple in the closets of most women. The problem is heels aren’t. Heels are typically essential in making pencil skirts look proportionate on the body, particularly if they are at the knee or longer. You don’t have to select super high heels to make a pencil skirt look right on the body, even a small 1″ heel can make a huge difference.
Additionally, when wearing pencil skirts the tops you choose are equally important. Tops that are too long look disproportionate when worn with pencil skirts that are hemmed at or just below the knees. You don’t have to necessarily tuck everything you wear with your pencil skirts, but try to select tops that hang no longer than your pelvic bones.
In the look above, I styled this pencil skirt from Boden with a cropped sweater from MM. Lafleur. I finished the look with a pair of cognac boots from Sam Edelman, a pair of earrings from Anna Beck and handbag from Serapian Milano.
If you prefer flatter shoes and want to wear skirts, proportionately, shorter styles will work better with flat shoes and boots. Next, when choosing tops with shorter skirts, longer tops create a nice balance with shorter skirts.
In the outfit above, I styled this grey tunic sweater from L.K. Bennett with a shorter skirt from Banana Republic with a pair of flat black boots from Sam Edelman that would great worn with a pair of black opaque tights to create a longer, leaner look. I finished the look with a grey bag from Vince Camuto and black fringe scarf from Prana.
There are plenty of other tips that I can give you about the getting proportions right in your outfits. Perhaps I will post more tips in the future. For now, I hope these help get you started.
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Thank you so much for this post!! I love pencil skirts, but have noticed when I wear flats with them there is just something off with the look..Also I’ve pair a longer shirt with a longer pencil skirt..that look too is just off…Thank again, for these helpful tips..You’re the best!
More, please!! Great tips, Bridgette….when something’s off I know it’s proportion, but don’t always know how to fix it with items currently in the wardrobe. Each top has a different length, hem type, some too long for skirts, too short for pants, on and on and on. I do advocate use of a tailor but sometimes changing an item limits future use and versatility. What’s a girl to do???
Please consider sharing more proportional tips and tricks….your fans love them.
a faithful fan,
I would also like more suggestions when it comes to proportions. I’m short-waisted and I wonder how long of a cardigan I can get away with. I see a lot of cool looks in the stores, but when most tops are long on me (and petite clothing still hard to find), how much longer can my topper piece (cardigan, blazer, unstructured jacket) be without drowning me?
Would love more tips on proportion. My mum always said I was short waisted and now with age have no waist…would love to learn more how to get the proportions right.