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How to Dress Professionally for Your Body Type

Dress professionally 071114
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It’s true that many factors go into answering the daily question of what to wear. But aside from the day’s weather and temperature, the dress code of your workplace or what you plan on doing after work, the real question you should use to determine the outfit of the day is, “What should I wear to flatter my particular body type?”

Here are tips from the experts to help you find the perfect professional fit every time, according to your shape.

Athletic

“Wear open necklines, and try wider boot-cut pants over skinny pants,” says Giselle Bowyer, assistant designer for Lauren Dresses at Ralph Lauren.

Wide-leg pants flatter muscular hips and thighs, smoothing out and softening lines. As for a sculpted top half, select delicate fabrics, dainty prints, and sheer blouses—with camisoles underneath, of course—to pair with trousers.

When it comes to wearing the classic pencil skirt in the office, muscular legs can make the skirt appear tighter, and it may ride up or bunch up when walking. The important thing to remember here is to choose one with some stretch and if you can, one with long vertical stripes that can carve out an hourglass figure. Peplum tops that exaggerate the waist and hips are a good piece to pair with the pencil.

Column

For the gals with more of a box or boyish shape, the goal is to create curves and elongate your silhouette.

To achieve this look, Kristina Michniak, global apparel manager for Spreadshirt, suggests staying away from loose-fitting shapes and monotone colors on both top and bottom.

“Instead, select wardrobe pieces that have a strong emphasis on the waist, and when in doubt, wear a belt to give the illusion of a natural waist,” Michniak says. “An ordinary boxy sweater, when paired with a thick belt, can add instant curves to your body.“

Good investments, Michniak recommends, are pants with high waists and dresses and skirts with a hemline falling right at the knee when paired with heels. “This will draw the attention to your legs, giving the illusion of an elongated silhouette,” she explains.

Curvy

Whatever you do, don’t hide your voluptuous figure in an oversized suit, Brooklyn-based dress designer Maja Svensson, of ELSA AND ME, begs.

She says fitted suits and dresses that lightly hug your body make a beautiful, professional silhouette.

“Avoid covering too much of your neck, because wearing turtlenecks and boat necks can make your bust look like a bookshelf. A scoop neck, while still conservative, will make your neck look longer, showing the great proportions your bust deserves,” Svensson says.

And don’t you dare shy away from prints and patterns. Curvy girls can wear them too with the right lines. Sandee Joseph, a New York City-based fashion blogger with a flair for work wear for shapely women, shows that even a tricky print with bright colors, like this red gingham ensemble, can absolutely work in moderation.

Petite

The most important points to note if you’re petite are length and proportion. You want to draw the eye up and create a greater stature and visual presence from head toe. This advice comes from Tania Sterl of Sterl on Style, an image consultant and seasoned designer for working women.

“Find a really excellent tailor,” she says, “or specifically shop the petites section.”

Sterl also says that blouses are best tucked in or, if worn out, they should fall just below the waist.

As for three quarter-sleeve blouses, bracelet-length jackets, and cardigans, petites should consider a tasteful skin reveal that will actually make them appear taller and not weighed down by extra fabric.

The same concept applies when it comes to picking out pants. Sterl says slim and to the ankle are best. Avoid pleats, as they create too much volume for a petite frame.

If dresses and skirts are more your thing, Sterl recommends giving yourself a boost by “wearing lengths that graze the knee, just above or midknee. If your skirt or dress length is below the knee, or midcalf, it will shorten your stature, so be careful.”

Plus-Size

Don’t think that oversized volumes of fabric hide your figure in a flattering way. They actually just add additional volume in the places you’d like to appear slimmer. Sterl says that a little bit of room between you and your clothing is much more flattering and comfortable than something overly flowy.

She offers these tips as a more positive option: Pair soft pieces with at least one tailored piece. “For example,” Sterl explains, “a flowy top, a skirt to the knee, and add a tailored jacket with structure. This will frame your professional look and convey an expert presence. Look for tucks and pleats in blouses and dresses to drape over curvy areas with grace and ease.”

Tall

Tall women who don’t want to emphasize their height should accentuate the neck, and one way Bowyer suggests doing this is to wear statement necklaces.

However, Svensson says, “Wear heels, for God’s sake, if this is something you like! There is nothing wrong with strengthening your tallness. Being tall can come in handy in the workplace and can give you perceived power at first impression.”

Just be wary of the common mistakes many tall gals make, according to Svensson: “If you’re tall, you don’t want your clothing to cut you short. Suits and dresses should be fitted to your natural waistline to avoid cutting your torso too high. The same goes for dress length and skirts: You don’t want them to end too high above your knee—just above or below.”

There you have it, folks—the dos and don’ts to dressing your body type for the office. In addition to these tips, here’s one final little nugget that applies to every one of these shapes.

Always wear something professional that makes you feel your most confident. There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in your clothing at work when you need to be focusing on your performance.

Photo: thirdfloorcloset / Flickr

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Topics:

Fashion Wardrobe Professional Attire Body Image
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Samantha Gross
Samantha Gross

I have a column shape, and I'm always belting skirts and dresses to hit my waist!

Also, FYI the clothes in this picture are from CAbi's Fall 2013 collection line, and I know that skirt and shirt are on sale in their outlet stores now! Mostly because I just brought the skirt (and it's perfect!).

For the Athletic body type: You can also wear an A-line skirt that isn't tight on muscular thighs or a high-waist skirt with straight lines.
For the Column type: Another good reason that high-waists are flattering is that it can break up your torso - also alluding to a more shapely figure.
Petite: I agree with the pleats, but also think that well tailored wide leg pants can create a longer line. If your pants taper to the ankle, thus making the thighs look wider, it can cause your legs to look shorter. You can also make your neck appear longer with blouses that have v-necks or low scoop necks.
Plus size: It's impossible to lump all plus sized women together to give them proper style tips. It really depends on the shape of your body.
Extra Tip: Heels aren't necessary if you're not comfortable with them. Instead opt for a pointed toe flat - it also elongates the legs.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Hi Samantha, You just answered what I wanted to know. I wanted to get this online, but can't find it. Is it only in outlet stores? If yes, I am afraid I don't have one around me. I love the yellow color

Esosa Ozigbo
Esosa Ozigbo

Is there anyway that pictures could be included with the different types and examples?

Anonymous
Anonymous

I was about to ask the same thing.


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