I don’t talk much about my book, Style Rx: Dressing The Body You Have to Create the Body You Want, which was published over ten years ago. It was so long ago, it did moderately well in sales, and a year or so after it was published it went out of print. Perhaps I don’t talk about it much because I would feel like the guy who shows up at a high school football game 10 years after graduation wearing his letterman jacket. Let it go, man. It’s not that I’m not proud of what I accomplished, it was just so long ago.
From a production standpoint, there are so many things I would have done differently with my book, things that were beyond my control and often got criticized by reviewers, like the fact that it was shot in black and white. As if I would have done that if I had a choice. I knew that photography would date the book but it is one thing I fought for because if I was speaking about a particular body issue, I wanted a reader to actually see a model who looked like her. But this plan came with some pretty insurmountable challenges. The women photographed in the book were clients, friends, and family who so generously agreed to be models. I was given all of $0.00 to photograph the book, I’m not kidding, not one penny. The budget for the photography and the photographer, who I was responsible for hiring, came out of my advance, 250+ photos were shot in three days with clothing that was sourced on no budget. Many clients showed up with suitcases of clothing from their own closets. I am deeply proud of what I pulled off with so little, but pulling off this feat nearly broke me.
Right before my book was released, I created this promotional video of what the behind-the-scenes looked like when we shot the book. It was pure chaos.
Now that the hoopla surrounding my book has long dropped away and we move past the now-dated photography and criticisms, the core of this book is what I am truly most proud of. I basically took the strategies I use for dressing the bodies of my clients and make it easy and effective for anyone to use. The book may be dated, but this strategy is evergreen. It’s called The CASE Method and it’s time to dust it off and revisit it.
How the Case Method Came to Be
Credit goes to my editor for finding the anagram in the strategies I use for dressing my clients. All frustration aside about the publication of my book, my editor truly championed for me and the publication of Style Rx. In fact, my book was originally set to be published several years earlier than it did with another publisher where my editor worked as an assistant editor at the time. She’s the one who plucked me from obscurity and put the idea of writing a book in my head in the first place. After my orginal book deal fell through with the other publisher, my editor moved on to the publisher who ultimately published my book, she resurrected my book idea and the rest is history. I truly owe her everything for the fact that I am even published.
Back to how the CASE Method became the core part of my book. It happened quite by chance. In an effort to explain to my editor how I assess a client’s body shape and map out the right approach, I shared how I look at a client’s body on the whole and basically draw lines over a photo to figure out how to balance a client’s body proportions using clothing.
Here is a recreation of what I would do. This woman is not a client, it’s just a stock image that gives you an example of my thought process. Instead of looking singularly at body parts or looking for a general body shape, I look at them as a whole and individually and then figure out what I want the end result to be, or what needs to be done to bring the body into balance.
While explaining this to my editor, I told her that for the next step I use five different strategies which are to Counterbalance, Angle, Shape, and or Shorten, and Elongate and with these five strategies, I could balance any body issue using clothing. My editor pointed out that if we combined Shape and Shorten into one letter, all the strategies spell CASE. This is how it all got named The CASE Method.
What I love about this approach, aside from the fact that I have road-tested with clients for years, it is super easy to teach to others. Instead of getting bogged down with all these different tips and tricks for balancing the body, all a woman would have to consider is the end result of what she wants her body to look like and which of the CASE strategies she would need to make that happen.
The CASE Method Explained
If you never read my book or need a refresher, here are each of them explained and along with how they can be used.
Counterbalance means to add width or weight to one body area, such as the shoulders, to compensate for the natural width or fullness of an opposite area, such as the hips– the result is an illusion of balance.
Angles are diagonal lines or diagonal shapes created in the silhouette of clothing. Wherever you add angles in your wardrobe, you create a slimming and minimizing line to that area.
To shape literally means to add shape to a body characteristic. While shaping seems like an obvious strategy, it is one of the most overlooked yet most effective ways of dressing in a balanced manner. When a woman isn’t happy with a particular body characteristic, she tends to shay away from shaping that area and instead hides out in shapeless unflattering clothing. Yet, by shaping an area, you can actually look slimmer.
Like shaping, the meaning of shortening is pretty obvious. In addition to decreasing the length of an area that is longer, shortening can also be used to widen or create fullness in slimmer areas.
When you elongate areas of your body, you not only create length but also narrow and slim that area.
What nobody tells about balancing your body with clothing is that it’s all just optical illusion. Plain and simple. By using one or more of the strategies from the CASE Method, you can balance your body any way you want to by using optical illusion to create the body you want with the body you have.
Using the CASE Method to create Optical Illusion
I am going to show you the power of optical illusion in the most rudimentary way with the graphics below. While the images are basic, you can see the difference the CASE method strategies make through optical illusion.
Remember the photo earlier and how I wanted to broaden the shoulders to counterbalance the bottom half of her body? You can see that strategy in action here and how the bottom half of the box on the right looks slimmer compared to the box or bottom half of the dress on the left. Not only does counterbalancing with wider shoulders bring balance to the hips and thighs but the wider shoulder line draws the eyes up vs. down. This optically makes the woman on the right look longer because of how the eye travels, and anytime you elongate the optical length of an area it looks longer and leaner (more on that below.) Notice where your eyes go to on the image on the left and where your eyes land on the image on the right. On the left, your eyes get dragged down to the bottom of her body and on the right, your focus gets pulled to her shoulders.
If the dress that the woman photographed above is wearing above had a wider neckline, like a boat neck, or had a stronger shoulder line, she would look a lot less bottom-heavy because her bottom half would be counterbalanced and the eyes would be pulled upward.
Angles placed anywhere on the body will optically create the illusion of the area being slimmer as opposed to horizontal lines that have a shortening and widening effect. See more about how horizontals shorten and widen below. Visually, you can see that the box on the right looks longer and thinner because of the angled lines.
Referencing the photo of the woman above, she would benefit greatly if the stripes on her dress were angled instead of being horizontal.
Shaping the body is like a woman’s kryptonite. Who wants to shape a part of the body that a woman wants to hide? Nobody is asking you to pour yourself into clothing, but consider the two dresses to the left. Not only does the dress woman on the right look slimmer she looks balanced.
Shaping often just works with a woman’s natural body shape, particularly when she is naturally curvy. Take the example of the woman in the photo above. Emphasizing the natural waist she has vs. covering it up with something shapeless works with her natural figure vs. working against it. The shaping of the seaming on the sides of her dress also helps make her look optically leaner.
If shortening an area makes that area look bigger and wider, who would use it when it comes to getting dressed? While it’s true, many of us have little use for a strategy like this but it does come in handy in situations where someone has a long waist and wants to shorten the visual length of their torso or has really narrow feet or wants them to look wider.
Understanding the power that shortening has is also important in understanding why something might not work. For example, the woman in the photo above has a short torso. To create length, the last thing she should wear is a dress with horizontal stripes that only make her torso look shorter. The horizontal stripes are also shortening the visual look of her hips and thighs, which also makes them look disporptionately larger. Knowing the CASE method not only can help you fix the problem but it can also help you diagnose it.
Elongating the visual length of an area to make it look slimmer is probably the most common approach women use. You can elongate your body using monochromatic colors in an outfit or through the use of vertical stripes or seams.
Elongating any area of the body has a slimming effect. So let’s go back to that woman in the photo. The monochromatic color of her shoes and tights help make her legs look longer and leaner than if she wore black shoes with bare legs but she can also use elongating to make another body part look leaner. Look at her sleeves. If she wants to make her arms look slimmer, the last thing she should do is wear horizontal stripes across her arm. Vertical stripes or simply eliminating the horizontal stripes altogether for something solid would help her arms look slimmer. Plus, a slim slightly longer sleeve would create a leaner look in her arms than the shorter sleeves that cut across the widest part of her arm.
Seeing the CASE Method in Action
This is another little promotional video I did after my book released and what is happens when a song gets stuck in your head. In all these examples, the CASE Method was implemented.
And a little side note. It has been said many times how I didn’t take my own advice in these photos of me. In addition to proving how absolutely cruel the internet can be, over the course of the three days we shot the book, I got about 4 hours of sleep total and even if I had a microscope I couldn’t have located my interest in what I wore. If I learned anything from those comments it’s to think twice before I assume anything about a situation.
The CASE Method puts You in the Driver’s Seat
The best part of the CASE Method is it’s completely subjective and puts you into the driver’s seat. You get to decide how to use the strategies to enhance, camouflage, minimize or showcase whatever parts of your body you want. A funny thing happened when was writing my book that explains this. I was writing on the topic of having a flat butt, something I don’t have, and whenever I didn’t have firsthand experience of a particular body feature, I would call those who did to research their experience with it so I could write about it. When I called one person to tell me what it was like to have a flat butt, they rattled off a laundry list of problems it caused them with their clothes. When I called the second person they simply said, “I had no idea it was a problem.” The point is, what is considered beautiful or easy to one person isn’t to another. The CASE Method allows you to decide for yourself how you want to use it.
The CASE Method is also a lot more effective than categorizing yourself as a shape like an apple or a pear. There are so many body charactristics that never get addressed through this method of just looking at the general shape of a body. As I said in Monday’s post on body shapes, it’s rare for two women to share exact body characteristics as another woman. Therefore a strategy like the CASE Method vs. a one-size-fits-all approach that has general recommendations just isn’t as effective. The CASE Method looks at the body holistically but can also be used in a singular manner to more effectively balance whatever the makeup of your body is.
Another way the CASE Method puts you in the driver’s seat is by giving you a feeling of control. What I have learned is that women have an easier time accepting their bodies when they know how to dress them because the CASE Method can be used on any body part. It’s much easier to accept something when you know what to do about it.
Test your own CASE Method Skills
When I teach retail associates I train in personal styling this strategy, I have them analyze this photo of women I swiped from a magazine article and ask them to tell me what they would do to bring each body into balance. Can you do it?
The publication of my book in 2008 put me on the map and opened doors for me that would have been harder to open otherwise. I have the experience of writing a book and calling myself a published author, which few people can say they have done. I am grateful for and proud of all of that but probably the thing I am most proud of was my book was a reflection of a commitment I made when I started my business, which was to not only help women in this area but show them how they can help themselves. My hope for you is something clicks from this advice and you will feel more in control when choosing the right clothes for you body.