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How Can You Dress to Look Slimmer? (Part 2)

Two weeks ago we started the discussion of how to avoid wearing clothes that add width and make you look heavier than you are. You can review those first five tips here. Now that you’ve had a chance to experiment with those ideas, let’s continue on with the next five:


6. Pockets can ruin a good outfit. While, pockets can be a very handy addition to a coat or jacket, there are plenty of other situations when you have to wonder what the designer was thinking. Patch pockets (a big square pocket sewn on the outside of a garment) are big offenders when it comes to adding physical and visual bulk, yet they appear on blouses at the bustline, on jackets or sweaters at the waist and on the hips of your skirt or pants. Not only are they large but they often gap or sag unattractively, drawing more focus to the part of your body they cover. Are there exceptions? Yes. If you are small busted, for instance, you can handle a pocket on your chest because you can afford to add volume, but if you are larger breasted, avoid it. It will just make you look bustier than you are and draw focus to that part of your body.

My recommendation is to avoid patch pockets anywhere on your body where you do not want to draw attention. So if you carry weight in your tummy, you certainly do not want to wear a jacket or sweater with pockets at your mid-section. And, if you have a few extra pounds on your hips and thighs, then patch pockets on your longer sweater or cargo pants with pockets on your legs will not do you any favors. Also, while we are on the topic of pockets, angled pockets that are often in women’s dress trousers should be banished. For most women, these pockets just pull and gap and make you look and feel heavier than you are. This does not mean you have to pass up a pair of pants that has them. In most cases, you can apply an easy fix. Just have the pockets removed and sewn shut by your tailor, and the front of your trousers will be nice and smooth.

7. Use color strategically. By this, I mean use color placement to your advantage. One great way to use color well is with color blocking. This just means that instead of wearing all one color or a smaller pattern of colors, you wear large blocks of colors in one outfit. Dresses often demonstrate this idea well. For example, a slimming design is one that has dark side panels (often with the dark panel indenting at the waist to create an hour-glass shape) and a brighter color down the middle of your body.

Take a look at the first dress pictured at the right. The eye automatically goes to the brighter pop of color, and the darker side panels recede, which appears to whittle your waistline. The dress pictured at the bottom offers another example using black and a print so your eye goes to the print and the curve of the floral design accentuates or gives the illusion of, that curve of the body.

You can do this with separates as well. Match your tank top to your skirt or pants, and then wear a long, sleek, dark neutral cardigan or coat jacket. Leave the sweater or jacket open, and you create a long central column of color with the outer jacket fading into the background. Of course, monochromatic dressing—wearing an outfit all in one color (or slightly varying tones of one color) from head to toe—will also have a slimming effect because the eye doesn’t stop or is not drawn horizontally as it would when, for instance, the hem of your yellow sweater contrasts with the brown of your pants.

8. Gathers or pleats around the waist are no one’s best look. While there are exceptions to every fashion rule out there, very few women can pull off gathers around the waist which we sometimes see in skirts that have an elasticized waistband and tiny folds of fabric pulled together known as gathers. This extra fabric adds width and fullness at the waistline. Pleated pants or skirts also add volume at your tummy and hip area and will automatically make you look heavier than you are. Sleek, flat front pants and skirts are always more becoming.

9. An ill-fitting bra adds pounds. You have most likely heard me talk about wearing a bra that fits you properly, and that’s because it is so important in creating a flattering silhouette. When your bra fits you well, your breasts are supported and lifted, and there is more space between your bustline and your waist. And, back fat is reduced when your bra fits your body. It’s a winning solution all around.

10. Accessories can add pounds, too. Yes, even accessories can add the illusion of pounds and a big offender is the choker necklace. Thankfully, chokers are not often a popular fashion accessory, but they do come into style now and again. When they do, choose wisely as they are not always the most flattering embellishment. Wearing a choker is not a big problem if you have a long thin smooth neck—in which case you can wear a thick or thin choker if it really makes you happy. But, in general, if your neck is short or full, the choker will just make your neck look shorter and wider, and, as you get older, it can draw attention to a softening jawline. Chokers can also have a somewhat unsettling effect—dare I say wearers look beheaded?—which is not usually a fashion statement anyone chooses on purpose. In general, a more flattering look is to wear a necklace that hangs down a few inches on your chest creating the illusion of a longer neck.

Did you notice that something was missing in the list of looks that add pounds? I’ve saved horizontal stripes for last.

It has been ingrained in women from a young age that horizontal stripes are universally unflattering and make every woman look heavier than she is. As a result, women everywhere avoid them like the plague. And, this isn’t always necessary. One general rule: the wider the stripe, the heavier it will make you look, and the thinner the stripe, the more slimming it is. Here’s a perfect example. Where does she look the widest?

You can also go one step further. If you want to wear horizontal stripes but worry about looking heavier, choose a thin stripe in related colors, such as medium blue with navy or pink and orange as in the example pictured at the top right, and the effect will be softer and more forgiving (than black and white, for example). You can also experiment with stripes that are wiggly or with patterns where the lines are diffused. These will also have a softer effect as you can see in the dress pictured at the bottom right. That said, it is not all lollipops and roses when it comes to donning a striped garment. As stripes—which are traditionally straight—navigate over your curves, they can look distorted and draw attention to the parts of the body they cover.

Believe it or not, for some women horizontal stripes are a blessing. Women who are tall and thin and feel a bit on the lanky side can use horizontal stripes strategically to add width and break up the vertical line. The point here is that you might not want to dismiss stripes so readily—unless you just don’t like them—and allow for the possibility that you might one day find a beautiful horizontal stripe that looks great and that you enjoy wearing.

I have yet to meet one woman who wants her wardrobe to make her look heavier and wider than she is. That’s why this checklist is so important. Whether you are mixing and matching from your existing wardrobe or out shopping for new items, keep this list handy as you make adjustments to each outfit you put together. In fact, here’s a distilled version of the list so you can refer to it often:

  1. Expand your dark (a.k.a., slimming) color repertoire–black is not the only option.
  2. Choose clothes that skim your body—not too big or too small.
  3. Pair slim cropped pants with shoes with a low vamp to elongate your legs.
  4. Ankle straps and high vamp shoes shorten your legs so be careful what you pair them with.
  5. Keep your posture tall and straight.
  6. Notice the pockets on the garment and make sure they do not detract or add bulk.
  7. Use vertical columns of color to create a slimming effect.
  8. Avoid gathers or pleats around the waist or hips.
  9. Wear a bra that fits perfectly.
  10. Avoid wearing a choker necklace unless you are sure it is flattering.

Practice applying these ten powerful tips and watch how those changes make you instantly appear taller and slimmer.

And, watch for an expanded version of this article in my upcoming book, That’s So You! Create a Look You Love with Beauty, Style and Grace due out next month!


4 Responses

  1. Great tips Ginger!! I feel slimmer already…good luck with your new book sales. I for one can’t wait!

    A faithful fan,

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.