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Friday, April 27, 2012

Smoke and Mirrors

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." ~St. Francis of Assisi

Often we choose hemlines, necklines and sleeve lengths based on what feels comfortable 'emotionally' rather than the objective knowledge of what makes us look our best. With hemlines you'd be surprised how much of a difference as little as two inches can make. The right neckline can seemingly visually change all your proportions, and frame your face much more attractively. And so it goes with all the variables in the design lines of a given garment.


Your best hemline(s) is/are a combination of two things, really- your proportions and the shape of your legs. As a general rule, the places where your leg is at it's slimmest are probably going to be your best spots for your hem; the other factor is how each potential length works with all the other proportions in your outfit and figure. How the length interacts with your proportions can only be determined on an individual basis.  Spend a little time looking at different hem lengths in your mirror and you'll get a feel for it.


In general, necklines are a bit more complicated.  I'll go out on a limb here to point out that most women don't look good with a crew neck; it seems to add 'bulk' to the upper body, and sometimes the upper arms- it can lack a certain 'grace.'  One way to determine how far down to drop your neckline is to measure the length of your face using your hand, then use that 'measurement' from the chin down- this is one 'face length' down from your chin.  This 'drop' is flattering for most people (this is a generalization- on some people the proportions will dictate otherwise.) The best neckline shapes are dependent mostly on your upper body proportions. I find often more important than the shape of the neckline is how it interacts with the style and length of the sleeve. Which brings me to...

Sleeve lengths

Again, this has to do with how your arms' proportions relate to the rest of your body. If your upper arms are heavy, short sleeves may not be flattering- it's in part due to that pesky design-line-ending-at-the-widest-part thing again. Add to that a crew neck, and voila- you've just added chunky, visual 'bulk.' Not the goal. Also important in sleeve length is the length of your arms, and how this length relates to the rest of your body. If you have long, slim arms, and a small upper body, then short sleeves and a crew neck may be just the thing to create a pleasing visual aesthetic. It just depends on your body and proportions.

Below are two examples of me in dresses illustrating the above points, as well as the concepts of color, contrast and intensity.

In the photo on the left you'll see me in a dress with EVERYTHING wrong for me. (Boy, I had a good time finding THIS dress.) The neckline is a little bit too high, any higher and it would have made me look like I was being 'choked,'  which in combination with the short sleeves (my arms look 'heavy' with short sleeves) is just awful on me.  The hem stops at an unfortunate place on my legs, making them look heavier and somehow shorter.  The general shape of the dress all wrong, too- I can wear a slight flair, as in the example on the right, but this dress is too much of an A line. It adds pounds. Lastly, the colors are too 'bright' and the contrast too high for me- my contrast is medium, and my coloring is not bright, but muted- so I need to wear medium contrast and muted colors. (Most people can wear some brights, but these are NOT the ones I can wear, and definitely not in such a high contrast combination.)

In the photo on the right you see an entirely better choice. The neckline is lower, 'opening up' the upper body; it's sleeveless, which is one of my 3 'good' sleeve lengths. The hem stops mid knee- my very best hem length.  As for the design lines, it has only a slight flare, so it's slimmer overall.  And again, lastly, the color is more muted and the print is lower contrast, so you'll notice me, not the dress.

I hope I've come a bit farther in making my point that it's really not about what you've got, it's what you do with what you've got. Starting with showing self respect by taking good care of yourself, of course.  Often just a few seemingly insignificant changes can add up to create a huge difference in your image. If you have a good 'eye,' you can see what hemlines, necklines and sleeve lengths are most flattering for you; if you don't, maybe you have a friend who does. Or…you can always hire me…  :-)

Happy Dressing!