Fashion Truth and Fiction

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We have hear many “rules” for fashion over the years – some which is valid, much which is not. I do believe there are some things that are universally flattering, some things that should be banned from stores for being so universally unflattering. There are a few fashion “rules” that have been around for years, I am here to dispell the myth that they are always true.

Wearing all black makes you look slimmer: FICTION
Flip through some photographs, find those where you or a friend is in a black top, black pants. What do you notice first? Not that they are looking particularly svelte. No, the first thing you notice is the negative space – that which is not dressed in black. Arms that are usually lovely suddenly look like sausages. A short neck suddenly looks positively minute. A bitty of a double chin is now emphasized. Look at that same person in a bight color – the color is what draws the eye first, then the whole package – the whole image.

Go into a fitting room with the same top – one in black, one in a happy color. Test the two with black pants. Which look is more flattering? Which one makes you look slimmer? Yes, black will camouflage bumps and lumps, but really, you can't disguise your weight or your body shape unless you wear a mumu. You will receive more compliments in an outfit that mixes color with black.

Wearing a light color on the bottom draws attention and emphasizes large hips/thighs/butt: FICTION
Yes, your eye may be drawn to the light color first, but if a good cut, a light color on bottom can be terribly flattering. Ivory pants with a black top is dramatic and elegant. A turquoise top with white capris is crisp and summery. Light colored pants can dress up any outfit, and people will not be scrutinizing your butt any more than they would if you were wearing a dark color.

If you choose to wear a light color on the bottom, ensure the pants are lined – this will reduce see-through and smooth over curves and bumps. Also wear underwear that matches your skin, not the pants. White or cream undies under ivory pants is very very visible, even with lining. Go with a nude color for the best effect.

Bangs on round faces make the face look fatter and should be avoided: FICTION
Straight bangs a la Carnie Wilson in Wilson Phillips' heyday may not be the best look, but some wispy, diagonal or sideswept bangs can be terribly flattering to most any face shape. Hair around the face draws attention to your eyes, your mouth, your facial expressions. It blurs the lines between face and space. As long as it isn't a thick curtain of hair above your brow, bangs are a great way to spice up your hair style and your image

Horizontal stripes make you look heavier: TRUTH…. USUALLY
Confusing, huh? Well as there are many styles of striped tops out there, as there are ways that stripes will or will not flatter your figure.

Wide stripes similar to boat neck tees that Gaultier made popular are hard to wear if you are large busted. A stripe usually lands right across your bustline drawing attention to the area, and not in the most flattering way. Stripes on large arms can make them look more flabby and larger.

Thin stripes can often be acceptable, depending on the colors. If the colors are similar and blending, it can go from having the dreaded horizontal stripe effect to being more like a heathered or marled look, not accentuating anything in particular. Varigated stripes can be quite flattering. I once purchased a black and white striped v-neck sweater that had wider stripes at the shoulders, narrowing stripes at the bust, mini stripes at the torso and gradual larger stripes toward the hem. This sweater gave me the ultimate hourglass figure – narrow at the waist with curve of hips and bust. Every time I wore it people asked me if I lost weight. In the 80's there was a style of one-piece swimsuit that used the same concept – varigating widths of stripes to create an optical illusion – enlarging the bust, reducing the torso.

No one over a size 6 should wear a two piece suit / I am plus size so I must wear a one piece or skirted suit: FICTION
Take a size 4 woman and put her in some of the monstrosities they sell for larger women heading to the beach, and the slim woman will look like a whale. Those little skirts are not covering – they are emphasizing. People at the pool or beach can tell you are heavy – gosh all you are wearing is less than a yard of spandex. A flippy skirt or boy shorts do not hide it – they usually make your rear and hips look larger hidden under that fabric. No one needs a skirted suit unless they like the retro look or they are 5 years old. You're not fooling anyone and you're making yourself look heavier, older, and less stylish.

As for two piece suits – tankinis are God's gift to women. Often you can find a different size for the top than the bottom (because most women are not the same size on both ends of the belly button), you can find the top AND the bottom that are the most flattering for your figure, the overlap or hint of skin showing between top and bottom breaks up the line, reducing the eye stopping on the midsection.

For coverage, invest in a gauzy coverup, a sarong, even a crisp white shirt. Tanks, boxers, sopping wet tee shirts cling to the skin, make you look messy, are too hot in the summer, and do not hide a thing. Like skirted suits, it's drawing attention to your body insecurities and what part of the body you are trying to hide.

Wearing tighter clothing will make you look smaller / wearing looser clothing will hide your figure: BOTH ARE FICTION!
We have all snarked on the woman with the skin tight pants severing her torso in two, causing her belly to hang over the waist band. Her panty line is visible, and she's wearing a thong. She may be a lovely size, but her too-tight clothes make her look fatter and as though she is clinging to her high school body.

Same with larger clothing. Your husband's sweats with a giant windbreaker only will make you look like the Michelin man. Large clothes confuse the eye as to what is fabric and what is flesh. The eye will see it all as flesh, and you suddenly look wider, hippier, saggier than you truly are. Yes that puffer coat/chunky turtleneck tunic/baggy fleece may be comfortable, but couldn't you find equal comfort in something that is your correct size and flattering to your shape?

Clothing should skim some curves, never be a “second skin,” never totally hang away from the body. If you wear a tight top, compliment it with wide leg trousers. A pencil skirt looks best with a chunkier knit top or a tailored blouse that skims some areas and floats away from others. Balancing your outfit will flatter your figure the best.

Creases down the from of trousers make the leg look longer and often slimmer: TRUTH
Not sure why this optical illusion works better than others, but it surely does! A seam down the front of the pant leg, a crisp crease in trousers, jeans that are faded on the front of the thigh, gradually getting darker at the side seams – all of these effects make the leg look slimmer and longer. Those with slim legs should avoid these looks because it emphasizes so well, you often look top heavy.

Along these lines – patch pockets and applique on the thigh and crotch area can shorten and widen your body. The detail distracts the eye, causing it to stop at the thigh area and not continuing down to the ankle.

Shoes should always match your trousers: FICTION
Okay, it helps continue that elongated leg and can be slimming, flattering, and very polished looking. However shoes are a great way to express your personality. A great pointy red toe peeking out of charcoal trousers adds whimsy to a stuffy suit. Jeans with a fabulous snakeskin boot can look smashing.

If you are looking to elongate and slim, a pointy toe or elongated toe box is best. The slim line of the shoe is flattering, sticks out enough from the pant leg to make you look balanced – not top heavy. Also, shoes make an outfit. Basic pants and top become wow with the right footwear. Shoes and accessories can make any outfit look amazing and make you look pulled together and gorgeous.

Every woman needs a black skirt in her wardrobe: FICTION
There have been books written about the necessity of a black skirt in a woman's wardrobe. It seems like a staple, possibly one I would have on my list.

However I haven't worn a black skirt in four years. I own one, but I rarely wear it. Why do I need to? We don't live in the age or culture where all black is necessary for a funeral (and if it is necessary, I have a black dress). Women can been seen with respect when wearing pants in the workplace. Skirts require specific shoes, worrying about slips, hose, how to bend to pick up a pen off the floor. And most of all, black skirts are often unflattering.

A white top, tan legs and a black skirt causes a void in the look. It cuts the body into thirds. It confuses the eye, and not in a good way. Black does this, though navy and charcoal and dark brown do not. I don't know the science behind that, but it happens.

Black pants? A must have. Dress up, dress down, cocktail party or job interview in black pants. But black skirt? Only if you love skirts, you love black and you feel confident about your body from the belly button down. Otherwise I would go with a nice gray or brown.

You need to wear hose with a skirt: FICTION
I only own one pair of stockings. They are for conservative religious events and job interviews where I think a skirt may give a better effect. I have not worn a pair of stocking/pantyhose/sheers/etc. since 1999.

A see-through thin layer of synthetic fibers will not keep you warmer in the winter. They shouldn't make your legs darker, because Suntan hose on Ivory woman is really dated and tacky. The sheen of panty hose is false and not in tune with the fashions from the past… eight years or so. Hose should usually be worn only by people whose jobs, religion or culture dictate so. Anyone else – it's a fashion travesty. If your skin is properly shaved and moisturized, you won't look gross or indecent. Celebrities don't wear stockings. Fashionistas don't wear stockings. People under the age of 60 should not wear stockings. Tights with boots or patterned hose with a fabu Little Black Dress are different stories….

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I’m 5’9″, with long legs for my height. My daughter is 5’3″ (full-grown). We realised something the other day; a knee-length skirt on her without pantyhose looks fine; on me, all that naked leg just looks – naked, and certainly not work-appropriate.

    Oh, and we both have very pale skin, but mine’s rather more aged than hers – no matter how much moisturiser, they’ll still be pale and blotchy with a few spider veins.

    So I wear pantyhose, in non-natural colours.

  2. You’re wrong about the nylons too.
    Many women under 60 have veins, lumps, liver spots, wrinkles, rashes, and pasty whiteness that are all camouflaged with nylon stockings. Plus bare legs look ridiculous when it’s freezing outside. Whether stockings provide warmth is immaterial.
    I don’t know any celebrities, and I don’t really care what they wear. I happen to be a fashionista, and I wear stockings all the time. The only people who think stockings are a travesty are very young and quite ingnorant.

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