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How To Build a Wardrobe: Part 1, Understanding Your Body Type

August 27, 2013 4 min read

With Fall just around the corner, it is a great time to clear the closet congestion, say goodbye to pieces in your wardrobe that are bringing down your style potential, and make room for new ones. As a personal stylist, I know the importance of being ruthless during a wardrobe edit. It is just as important to edit often, shop with a plan, develop a uniform, and not fall victim to fashion. Now, this is not to say that I have not made fashion blunders along the way or wasted money on ill fitting clothing or items I never wore. Of course I did. I am human after all! But, over the years, I have learned how to better avoid these style mistakes by developing a system that works for me. I use  this same methodology with my clients. While this is a tedious process, it is also extremely rewarding. Empowering, even. There is something about just getting rid of the items in your closet that don't represent the best version of yourself. Once you define your personal style (maybe that will be another blog post), understand your body type, and create a few rules that work for you, you can create a uniform. If you ask anyone who knows me, I bet they could tell you that my uniform is a a bottom, top, and some sort of topper (be it a jacket, blazer, or cardigan). I also wear dresses a lot. But, 9 out of 10 times, I have my third piece, finishing off my look. I also love chunky jewelry: Necklaces, cocktail rings, men's watches... My wardrobe is small. And, I don't mean small as in what other women consider small. I have 4 pairs of jeans, a handful of dresses,  a few tops, about 6 cardigans, 2 blazers, 2 denim jackets, 4 skirts, 2 pairs of black pants, about 20 pairs of shoes, and 7 bags. I rarely repeat an outfit. While it is perfectly fine to do so, I don't particularly like it for myself, so I try to come up with original looks each day. I am able to do this because I have a wardrobe with pieces that work together and I use different belts, shoes, jewelry, and toppers to mix things up. If you are ready to start building your own interchangeable wardrobe then read on. Here is what you will need to get started: Good lighting and a full size mirror.


First, strip down and in good light, examine the contours of your body. Really look at your shape. This is not the time to pick yourself apart. Actually, there is never an appropriate time to do that. So don't do it. This is solely to gather information. You might want to run to grab a measuring tape but don't. This is more about understanding your basic silhouette. This understanding will help you choose the most flattering clothing. Take mental or written notes, whatever works best for you but stay positive. Pretend you are assessing your best friend's shape instead of your own body if you have to. This is a fact finding mission. Go find facts. Notice if your waist is defined or if you are more straight throughout your torso. Examine your hips. Are they about the same width as your shoulders are are they smaller or larger? Are your legs long? Short? What about your torso? You can determine whether  your torso is average, short, or long by placing your hand under your breasts width-wise and measuring the distance to the most narrow point, your waist. If 2 hands fit you are average; more than 2 - long; less - short. Are your breasts full and large or smaller and perky? Are the sitting higher on your chest or are they lower? Here are some basic ideas: If your waist is defined and your hips and shoulders are about the same width, then be sure to accentuate your waist. To have this shape you do not have to have a large chest, just symmetry and definition. Girls with smaller chests: Look for a slightly padded bra to help balance you out. hourglass If you are more straight up and down with shoulders that are wider than your hips, you can get away with pretty much any pant including those with all the bells and whistles: embellishments, zippers, studs, patterns, prints, etc. Keep the tops solid to elongate your torso if you are short or full waisted. If you are more on the slender side, be sure to accentuate your waist. Stay away from pieces that draw attention to the shoulders.

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If you are larger on the bottom than on the top, focus on creating balance between your upper and lower body. Keep your bottoms dark, solid and simple. Choose items that create a straight long line or that drapes well and moves with you. Pants are best with straight and bootcut leg openings and should be worn without cuffs unless you are tall. Petite women with this shape should lean more toward a straight leg. With your tops, go nuts! Stripes, embellishments, shoulder detail, puffed sleeves, patterns, prints, colors....whatever! Just keep hemlines at high hip and not pulled down around your hips (your widest point).


Three-quarter length sleeves look universally flattering. If you are long or short waisted, it might be a little more challenging to find tops that hit you in the right place because most pieces are made for average proportions. But don't worry! Keep hunting and in the meantime, accentuate your long waist with belts, shirts tucked into skirts, and look for higher empire waist dresses; create length in your torso with low slung belts, a-line skirts and dresses with vertical pleating, and check out the petites section for tops even if you are over 5'4". If you are 5'4" or under, shop in the petites section. Understand too that, no body type is ideal. No body type is better than another. Body types are just different. And that is a good thing. It provides the opportunity to express creativity using a different mold from everyone else. Embrace your shape and learn how to highlight the positives and play down the perceived negatives. No matter your budget, once you understand your unique shape, you will be able  to make smarter purchases, clothe your body in the most flattering cuts, and develop a personal style that is all your own! Stay tuned for Part 2: The Closet Clean Out!

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