How to Dress Like A Grownup, Part 2: Does it Fit?

One of the most important things about putting your look together properly is having a good fit. So I’m going to talk to you a little about how to be sure your clothes fit properly.

It should go without saying that anything that shows your underwear is out. That means sagging pants, super-low rise jeans (those went out of style a long time ago anyway, why do you still have them?) and anything tight enough to show a panty line. Also, if your t-shirt comes down below your pants pockets, it doesn’t fit. Tunic styles notwithstanding, standard shirts shouldn’t hit more than a couple of inches below your waistband.

Pants or jeans should stop at the top of your foot while you’re wearing the shoes you’re planning to put with the outfit. Too short and they look outgrown; too long and you look like a child playing dress-up in a parent’s clothes. Either way, it’s important to know what length you need. If you wear heels, get another pair or two of pants that are longer, especially to wear with your heels. If you’re short and can’t find pants that are short enough, either get them hemmed or get friendly with a sewing machine. Barring that, there’s iron-on hem tape that you can get that will hold lightweight fabrics temporarily, but don’t count on it being a permanent fix.

Your pants shouldn’t gap at the waist. This happens a lot with people whose hips are significantly wider than their waists. If you can’t find a fit to accomodate your shape, taking them in at the waist is an option.

The thing about dressing a body that doesn’t fit off-the-rack sizes (hips fit one size, bust/chest fits another size, waist is something else altogether) is that you’re not going to be able to put an outfit together that’s all the same size. Take me for example. My hips are the largest part of my body. My bust and waist measurements both correspond to a smaller size. I live and die by separates rather than dresses. That way I can buy the size pants/skirt that fits my hips, take in the waist, and buy a top in the size that actually fits my bust. Don’t buy the smaller size and think you’ll squeeze into it. You won’t. Say no to muffin tops, gaps at waistbands, and sagging thigh and crotch.

You know those horizontal ripples that you sometimes get across the front of your shirt? That’s the fabric pulling because the shirt’s too small. It’s especially conspicuous in button-front shirts, where the front placket (that’s the part where the buttons and buttonholes are) will have gaps instead of lying straight and flat. It’s OK to go up a size. The number on the tag is just a number.

If you require a bra, make sure it fits right. The band should go around your body straight across. If it slides up in the back, it’s the wrong fit. If an underwire digs into your armpit, the bra doesn’t fit. Your breast tissue should all fit into the cup, no spilling out of the sides or the top. A bra to be worn under clothing (as opposed to a just-for-fun bra, but that’s a different story) should give a smooth look under your clothing and be of a color that doesn’t show through what you’re wearing over it. (I’ll come back to this in the color article, but if it’s a “close enough to skin tone not to show under light colors” shade, it’s perfect for underwear, but don’t ever wear it as clothing.) I know it’s awkward to do, but going to a lingerie store (not Victoria’s Secret!) or a nice department store (someplace like Dillard’s, Lord and Taylor, etc) and getting actually measured to find your bra size can be very helpful. It’s been quoted that something like 70% of all wearers are in the wrong size bra, and having the right one will make all the difference in the world.

Finally, accept that some things just aren’t going to look good no matter what size you try on. No one piece of clothing can be flattering on everyone.Don’t be afraid to change your original idea when it becomes impractical. If you get good quality clothes in a good fit, then a few high-quality outfits will do much more for you than a million cheap, ill-fitting ones.

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