Volumes have been written by experts on how to dress for our individual body type. We curvy or busty women are often advised to embrace our curves, and dress in a very feminine way that enhances them. Periodically over the years I’ve tried following that advice, and often received compliments when I wore more fitted, hourglass silhouettes. But I didn’t feel like myself in va-voom or girly clothes. Yes, certain styles are better designed for some bodies than others, but what if our bodies and style personalities seem to be in conflict?
It’s taken me a while to reconcile a short and womanly shape with my attraction to a more minimalist, architectural and sometimes androgynous style in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m in a constant battle with my physical self. Finding the balance between dressing for our shape (or coloring) and dressing to express our personalities and aesthetics is challenging for many of us.
For some (lucky) women, this comes easily. Their personal style works almost seamlessly with their body type, OR they’ve prioritized figure flattery as the most important aspect of their style, OR they’ve scoffed at those guidelines most of their lives and just worn what pleases them. Any of these are valid choices.
For most of us, there’s a continuum with what works (i.e. is most conventionally flattering) for our bodies on one end, and the styles that best express our sense of self on the other. Finding the place where our inner and outer selves feel aligned is the the goal and the further the distance between those ends of the continuum, the more compromise is required. Hitting that sweet spot takes some considerable trial and error, and sometimes knowing when to sigh and move on.
So what does work? My own version of the minimalist look has evolved with pieces that I call “softly structured,” knits mostly with some inherent shaping, but without a lot of extra volume or distracting details. Open or v-necks help keep my bust from dominating the scene. A long-over-lean silhouette balances my proportions, skims the curves and provides a clean foundation on which I can build and express style personality with accessories. If I’m going for a more polished, classic look it might be pearls and pumps. For something more edgy, boots and a moto jacket. I can get architectural with bold jewelry, or add scarves to soften.
If you’ve been struggling to find a style that works with both your aesthetic and physical form, or if you find that you vacillate between style personalities, having a wardrobe of basic, simple pieces and using accessories to direct and focus the look is a strategy that works well for those of us who don’t have unlimited funds or space, or a professional stylist on speed dial.
I’ve also learned to adjust my thinking, and have come to understand that the same item will look different on different body sizes and shapes. Different doesn’t mean wrong. The same sweater that looks good on a 5’11” model may also look good on me, but it will fit differently. I’m learning to evaluate each piece I try by how it looks on my own body, rather than by comparison to how it looks in the magazine or ad.
How do your own style preferences work with your body type? What are the strategies you’ve found that successfully reconcile the two? Or do you seem to be most attracted to styles and silhouettes that are also flattering to your shape?