Dressing for Your Body Type

Before shopping or creating outfits, it is important to understand your body type and what styles flatter your shape. Rather than putting on baggy clothes to cover yourself up, pick styles that show off your best features and disguise the ones that you dislike. Part of your body insecurities might be enhanced due to the fact that your clothes do not fit you properly. Rather than blaming your natural curves, remember that everyone’s body is different and while there may be styles that you don’t pull off well, there are plenty of others that you do. To find the ones that do, first identify your body shape.

First, lets review our five most common body types:

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Your upper body is smaller than your lower body.

Women with pear-shaped bodies should find clothes that emphasize their small torso and minimize their hips. Try to balance your upper and lower halves.

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Avoid patterns or light colors on your lower half, which tend to make features look larger. Also steer clear of clothing that is baggy, which hides your shape.

Styles to look for:

  • Wide leg or bootcut pants in dark colors
  • A-line skirts
  • Tailored shirts and jackets
  • Tops that draw attention to your upper body and create volume (with ruffles, patterns, colors, etc.)
  • Add layers and statement jewelry

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Your upper body is larger than your lower body.

Women with apple-shaped bodies should look for clothes to draw attention to their legs and camouflage their wider upper bodies. Pick styles that elongate the upper body.

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Avoid tops that are made from flimsy fabrics or that have busy patterns. Rather than giving you your desired structure, these will hide your body and make it look rounder. Also avoid tucking your shirt in.

Styles to look for:

  • Skinny, straight-leg, or bootcut pants
  • V-neck tops
  • Empire tops and dresses
  • Shift dresses
  • Clothing with structure

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You have an athletic build with shoulders, waist, and hips that are all about the same size.

Women with rectangle-shaped bodies should find styles that show off their arms and legs while creating the illusion of curves.

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Avoid wearing too many fitted garments at once, and pass up cropped tops and jackets. Styles like these will make your frame look more boxy and masculine.

Styles to look for:

  • Bootcut jeans or wide-leg pants
  • High-waisted pants
  • Flared skirts to create the illusion of hips
  • V-neck or sweetheart necklines
  • Tops with ruffles
  • Layers
  • Fitted jackets
  • Fabrics that drape

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Your shoulders and chest are wider than your hips.

Women with wedge-shaped bodies should wear clothes that show off their legs and minimize their broader upper bodies by creating a balance between their upper and lower bodies.

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Avoid tops with boatnecks or very thin straps, and those with a lot of ruffles. These styles draw more attention to your wider upper-body and broad shoulders.

Styles to look for:

  •  High-waisted pants and skirts
  • Colors on bottom
  • Wide-leg pants to balance your wider top half
  • Cowl-neck and v-neck tops
  • Drop-waisted dresses
  • Choose flowy fabrics

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Your waist is small, and your shoulders and hips are similar in proportion.

Women with an hourglass shape should look for styles that show off their curves and draw attention to their smallest areas.

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Avoid baggy clothing and too many layers. These styles will hide your curvy shape and make you look larger.

Styles to look for:

  • high-waisted skirts and pants
  • skinny or straight leg jeans
  • V-neck tops
  • Fitted dresses and tops
  • Wrap dresses or belted dresses that accentuate your small waist

Keep in mind that these tips are only to help you find clothes that flatter your figure and help you feel more confident in your own skin. Disguising your larger areas does not mean that they are unattractive! We all have parts of our bodies that we are dissatisfied with, so rather than focusing on them, focus your attention (and the attention of others) on your favorite parts. Check out the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Marie Claire‘s website for more on body confidence!

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If you would like to learn more about dressing for your body type, SheKnows has tons of resources ranging from picking out the right jeans to the right handbag for your shape.

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Tips for Shopping Online

Don’t you hate it when you order clothing online and it isn’t what you expected when it eventually arrives? Some things are easy to buy without trying them on, like cardigans or t-shirts; but when it comes to dresses, blazers, and pants—order with caution! If you are planning on purchasing more structured garments from an online store, take your measurements and compare them to the store’s sizing chart. Also take note of the fabric, especially whether or not it contains spandex. This will let you know how much “wiggle room” you have. Your pants still might not fit perfectly when they arrive, but you have a much better chance of getting close. If you are unsure of what all of these measurements mean and where to take them, view the video below.

A few final tips:

  • When taking your measurements, be sure that your measuring tape is level.
  • Do not wear bulky clothing when taking your measurements.
  • If you are having trouble, have someone help you!

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(size chart taken from Zara)

Now you will have a much better idea of your size when you proceed to checkout.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Article Review

We all know money can be tight, especially when you are new to the workforce. How are you supposed to buy a whole new wardrobe before you earn your first paycheck? I’ve posted about starting with the work-wear basics before, but what if your budget is nearly nonexistent? Fear not, there is a way to build a work wardrobe without breaking the bank.

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This issue occurred to me the other day when a peer asked how to buy interview clothes on a very limited budget. Not that I have infinite funds, but working at Banana Republic gets you a pretty decent discount. So I decided to look into more affordable options, and came across a great article by Morieka Johnson about secondhand clothing.

Johnson discusses the benefits of purchasing pre-owned clothing and makes some excellent points, including the low cost and small carbon footprint. Whether you need an entire wardrobe or a few final accessories, thrift stores are great places to shop on a budget. The most important thing to consider before you start shopping is the location. Johnson recommends checking out Salvation Army stores in upscale neighborhoods. As a frequent browser at these stores myself, I can confirm that they often contain high quality clothing from high-end retailers, such as Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. Do not limit yourself to the Salvation Army alone! Also search for work-wear at the Goodwill or more selective resale shops, like consignment stores.

Avoid trendy, vintage stores like Flashbacks when looking for business attire (unless you need an outfit for an office Halloween party). Johnson acknowledges that many resale shops pay donors for their clothing, which attracts teens with their worn out Hollister jeans looking for easy cash. She suggests shopping for accessories at these stores, since they are less likely to sell higher quality office-wear. I suggest that you look for scarves, cardigans, jewelry, and purses rather than foundational pieces like pants or dresses.

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As Johnson briefly mentions, asking others for hand-me-downs is another option if you have a relative or friend who wears roughly the same size as you. If asking to keep their old clothes is out of the question, see if you can borrow some items until you can replace them with your own pieces. Work out a deal with the other person, and let them borrow your clothes too. This is a great way for both of you to expand your wardrobe and save money!

Some of you might be wondering whether second-hand clothing is acceptable in the professional world. Is it clean? Will it smell? Well, you certainly have to look around for quality. Spend a few extra dollars to get the item tailored and wash the clothes a few times with extra detergent, and I promise no one will know the difference. Plus, as Johnson mentioned, used clothing stores in upper-class neighborhoods often contain expensive garments donated by successful business people that you might not be able to afford new. Be selective, and do a thorough inspection of each garment before purchasing to ensure that it is in good condition. I completely agree with Johnson’s points about used clothing, and recommend it to anyone on a budget. A few others also agree with Johnson and I. To read more about used clothing and thrift store myths, read the articles here, here, and here.

Product Review: Banana Republic Sloan Sheath Dress

I had been eyeing the Sloan Sheath Dress for a while, and decided to splurge and buy it yesterday. I am not disappointed. At $140, it is not a dress you just buy on a whim. I avoided trying it on for months, but as soon as I did, I was sold. Never have I tried on a dress that is so figure flattering. In a thick fabric with 5% spandex, the dress hugs your body and moves with you without losing its structure. The length hits me just above the knee, making it ideal for work or interviews. It is a versatile dress than can be worn from desk to dinner, which helps justify the price.

The dress comes in regular, petite, and tall sizes. Regular sizes are available in 0-16, and come in black or red-orange. Petite sizes can be purchased in 00-14, and come in black or hot-pink. Tall sizes are only available in sizes 2-16 in black. Some reviews say the dress runs small, but myself and the majority of others believe that it is true to size. To be safe, go in store and try it on before purchasing.

The only negative to this dress is that it is dry clean only. While this is slightly inconvenient, the dress is not something I will be wearing everyday, so the extra care should not be a problem. Overall, I think the Sloan Sheath Dress is a great addition to any young woman’s wardrobe.

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Business vs. Business Casual

You’re new to the workplace. As far as you’re concerned, changing out of your pajamas is dressing up. So now that you are working in a professional environment, what do these dress code terms really mean? Understanding the distinction between business and business casual is critical to dressing within the boundaries of your company’s policy. Not all employers have the same definition of business and business casual, so be sure to pay attention to what your coworkers are wearing and ask questions.

Here are simplified and general definitions of these terms:

Business: Keep it conservative and traditional. A pant suit or a dress/skirt with pantyhose are appropriate. Avoid bright colors or bold patterns, and wear basic solids instead. Limited jewelry and simple hairstyles are preferred.

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Business Casual: A nice pair of pants or a skirt/dress without pantyhose are acceptable options. Rather than a blazer, go for a cardigan over your outfit. Jewelry can be more expressive and you can add color and pattern in moderation. 

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Since we are on the topic of dress code, it is important to understand what “casual Friday” means at your workplace. If you have a strict business dress code, “causal Friday” might not even exist. When in doubt, dress more business than casual. Again, pay attention to your colleagues attire and ask questions!

Pantyhose: To Wear or Not to Wear?

If you are like many women that I have encountered at work, you avoid dresses and skirts for interviews because you are unsure of whether or not you need to wear pantyhose. Many of us young women have never needed to wear stockings, so where do we even begin? There are positives and negatives to nylons, which leave us with a lot to consider. Sure, they keep your legs warm and look professional, but aren’t they a little outdated? Autumn Whitefield-Madrano describes her enduring love for pantyhose despite the changing opinions of others throughout the years. She feels that they speak to the lifestyle of a professional woman. Additionally, many pantyhose have a control top, which smooth lines and make you look slimmer. On the other hand, some feel that they are obsolete, uncomfortable, and too hot to wear in the summer months.

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So, are they necessary? There are numerous opinions out there. The overall consensus seems to be this: it depends. Wearing stockings is not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a matter of occasion. Emma Newcombe gives some great pointers to pantyhose in her article about wearing nylons to work or interviews, including when to wear them and when you can go bare. The most important thing to keep in mind is your employer’s dress code policy. It is always better to lean on the conservative side if you are unsure (both in interviews and at work).

If you decide to wear nylons with your dress or skirt, be wary of the color. Nude colored pantyhose should match your skin tone, so avoid the “suntan” nylons unless you are actually that tan. Black stockings are another option, and can be worn with darker colored clothing. Either the sheer or opaque options are acceptable, depending on your outfit and personal preference. Nylons for work are different from the tights that you might wear on your day off, so avoid patterns or colors in favor of a more traditional look.

Hopefully this will help you make a decision about whether or not pantyhose are necessary for your lives in the work world!

Building a Basic Work Wardrobe

With student loan payments, rent, gas, car insurance, and groceries to worry about, it is difficult to even think about shopping for non-essentials. Though as I’ve discussed, it is important to dress appropriately to establish your professionalism and be taken seriously in the work place. Many of us are just beginning our professional careers. We are not making very much money yet, but we are supposed to look like we are. How do we create an entire work wardrobe on a budget?

The key is to buy a handful of items that you can mix and match to create a variety of outfits to last you throughout the week. Follow my tips to build a basic work wardrobe to last you until your next promotion!

Before we discuss the fundamental garments, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, consider the job you have. What is the dress code? What sorts of things do your coworkers wear? Is your dress code business or business casual? Keep these things in mind when you go shopping.

Secondly, you want to stay within a broad color palette. For example, stick to either warm or cool colors so that your accessories and layering pieces can match with most of your outfits. This will help you create a multitude of looks using the same few articles of clothing.

With these considerations in mind, we can begin discussing the actual articles of clothing that your basic work wardrobe will be composed of.

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–  Choose a variety of blouses in various fits and styles. Keep them within the same broad color scheme though.

– The pair of pants that you choose should be the same color as the skirt and blazer. Go for either black or grey if you chose a cool color palette, and perhaps black or beige for a warm color scheme.

– As I mentioned, the pencil skirt should be the same color as the pants and blazer. Make sure the length is within two inches of the knee!

– You want to choose a dress that has structured, clean lines in a basic color that falls within your color palette.

– A few cardigans in different colors add a little something extra to your outfit. Avoid anything oversized or in a chunky fabric for a clean, professional look.

– The blazer should be the same color and fabric as the pants and skirt. You can use this blazer to dress up any combination of outfits for presentation days, interviews, or important meetings. Get measured for a blazer to ensure you purchase the correct size.

– At least two pairs of shoes are necessary to the beginnings of a work wardrobe. Choose simple styles in a color that will match with all of your other garments.

– Accessorizes complete your look, so pick a few necklaces, a belt, and a watch to bring your outfit together.

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Now that we have the basics of your wardrobe picked out, lets start building a few outfits. For this example, I chose clothes in cool colors that can be mixed to make a lot of different outfits. If you decide to wear a shirt + pants/skirt (as opposed to a dress), here are your options:

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For a dress, you can pair it with the following:

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Here are a few complete outfits to give you a better idea of how you can mix and match all of these pieces to create new outfits.

Now that you know what to look for, go out and get shopping! Good luck!