How Can You Dress to Look Slimmer? (Part 1)

February 8, 2013

What is the No. 1 fashion rule that women embrace when they want to look slimmer? All together now: Wear black! This is a fashion mantra for many, and it results in closets that are seas of darkness. On the other hand, what is the top style women avoid if they don’t want to appear heavier than they are? I bet you can guess it—horizontal stripes.

Let’s explore whether there is truth to these two widespread beliefs and I will also share ten tips for how to dress to look slimmer and avoid the illusion of extra pounds. To allow you to digest all the information slowly, I will reveal the first five tips now and the next five in two weeks. Let’s get started:

1. Black is slimming. Yes, there is truth to this often-repeated style tip. Black is slimming because it does not reflect light, so we do not notice shadows that are created as the material flows over our curves. Please note that if the fabric is shiny, the benefits of wearing black are lessened because the light does reflect and create shadows. Then the overall effect is less forgiving. So, yes, black can be slimming, but when worn excessively, it can feel heavy, lackluster and overwhelming, especially on someone with light, delicate coloring. Another potential drawback for black is that it can create harsh shadows on your face thereby accentuating lines and wrinkles. This might not make you look heavier, but it will make you look older!

Luckily, there are other dark colors that can have a similar slimming effect without the barren quality that black can sometimes have. These colors might actually be more flattering with your natural coloring and will give you some relief from the endless parade of black in your closet. Mix it up a bit. For example, try aubergine, dark forest green, mahogany, midnight blue or a very deep maroon.

2. Good fit is essential to looking sleek and slim. When you wear your clothes too tight, you draw attention to every lump and bump, which makes you look like you are too big for the outfit you are wearing. Conversely, when your clothes are too big you get lost underneath all the fabric, and it is easy for others to assume that your body is as big as the clothes you are wearing. The best way to show off your figure in a flattering way is to wear clothes that skim your body. They don’t squeeze you, but they don’t overwhelm you either.

These cropped pants are a "do" -- Slim, lighter colored and the shoes have a low vamp to lengthen her legs.

3. Cropped pants make everyone look shorter and wider. Because the eye stops when the pant leg stops, cropped pants give the illusion that the wearer’s legs end there, too. If you are 5 feet 10 inches with long legs (compared to your torso), this is less of an issue for you than if you are 5’4” or less and have short legs. You can circumvent this a bit if your cropped pants are slim, which means they don’t add extra width at the hemline, and are a soft color that blends with, or is the same as, your skin. This creates a long continuous line, and if you also wear shoes to match, the line continues all the way to your toes. This look is more lengthening than wearing contrasting colors, but a full-length pant will always make your legs look longer and your body taller in comparison.

4. Beware of shoes that draw focus to your ankles. Ankle straps are often considered an alluring style, but they really don’t flatter everyone’s legs and ankles. As with cropped pants, they make your legs look shorter because the eye stops at the strap instead of continuing down along the top of your foot. You have heard me talk about how my legs are not my favorite feature, and part of that, aside from being knock-kneed, is because my ankles are not as slim I would like them to be. I avoid ankle straps because they draw attention to my ankles, in general, and the thin strap makes my ankles look larger in contrast. If somewhat heavier ankles are a concern for you, too, keep the top of your foot as open and clear as possible so as to allow someone’s gaze to flow easily past your ankles rather than lingering there. High vamp (the part of your shoe that covers the top of your foot) shoes add to the shortening and widening effect by encouraging the eye to stop where the shoe begins rather than continue on to the end of your foot. It does not mean you have to get rid of all your high vamp shoes. You can still wear them with jeans or long pants and the fact that they have a high vamp will not be an issue since the pant leg will cover the top of the shoe.

5. Stand up straight. How many times did we hear this from our mothers? While we might have whined or even ignored them, the truth is they had a point. When you stand up straight with your shoulders back and your chest held high, some of the lumps and bumps smooth. You also have a more charismatic and engaging presence when you stand tall instead of slouched, and the position is better for your body. When you don’t feel good about how you look, however, it is easy to understand why you want to hide. But hunching or slouching only adds to the problem by making your clothes look bunchy and forcing the garments to hang funny. So, regardless of whether looking slimmer is an objective of yours, Mom’s advice has merit. And, even if your wardrobe is not exactly where you want it to be yet, this is one tip you can put into practice now with instant results.

Take a look at what you are wearing today or think about what you have in your closet at home. Have you ever put an outfit on and thought that something didn’t look quite right but you couldn’t put your finger on what it was? The next time you are perplexed about why you feel you look like you’ve gained 10 pounds, refer to this list and see if it gives you any insight. Then stay tuned for the final five tips (coming up in two weeks) for how to dress to look instantly slimmer!

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