Dressing for Your Shape #2

So…do you dress by the rules?

I do – most of the time. I don’t always know I’m doing it, but by god they’ve gotten under my skin.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll put thought into your outfits: whether you’re going for comfort, sex appeal, professionalism or kookiness, you’ll have an idea about heel height, silhouette or accessories. On the other hand, you’ll just be drawn to certain types of items: you simply can’t resist the drape of a pleated skirt or an animal print harem pant – and if you have to stick two fingers up at the rulebook, then so be it.

"Rules?! What rules?!"

I for one thought there was no rhyme or reason to my more daring outfits (and I use ‘daring’ in the loosest possible terms – I ain’t no Agyness Deyn), but was intrigued to learn otherwise. Being a total geek (and a narcissist, apparently) I asked Steph from the Dashing Eccentric to give her opinion on my fave outfits using her outfit analysis checklist, which she tends to use in the following way:

“I analyze a look of mine that I really like, and come up with my ‘rule’ from the results. Then I use this ‘recipe’ to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure… looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my ‘recipe’ – this process sparks creativity.”

Riding on the success of my jumpsuit experiment, I emailed her my post on how Marni helped me find my fashion formula. You can read her full post on my outfit here: Mrs Bossa Gets it Done – let her know what you think!

Faux pas #1: rolled-up trousers on a short person: rather than an unflattering decision for my legs, Steph reads it as a way of toying with silhouette:

"Just a little to the side of a 'classic' fit/silhouette, with certain unexpected details in where hems hit... trousers are rolled into cuffs, even though they're being worn with socks."

This would also explain my love of ankle boots with dresses, and of long long gloves with cropped sleeves.

And on the subject of socks: Faux pas #2: socks with sandals: whereas Trinny and Susannah would screech in horror at such a thing, it can actually make a more positive statement:

"The accessories all have a geometric feel...The pointy triangles on the sandals are made emphatic by wearing a contrasting sock underneath."

Yay me! And the sock success – should that be socksess?! – continues with Faux pas #3: knee socks on a 30 year-old:

"Wearing nubby socks instead of hose, leaving a gap between hem and sock - these are the touches that set these looks apart from the ordinary."

Who knew that a flash of shin could tip the balance?!

Faux pas #4: Chunky necklace and high neck on a top-heavy lady: Those two would rip off the jewellery and have me in a v-neck tout de suite. However, Steph thinks it’s quirky…

"Joanna uses another quirky strategy for creating the 'background' in her skirt look, by 'backgrounding' pieces which are generally highlighted in outfits, ie black necklace on black sweater."

My silhouette may be more ‘classic’ or rules aware, but my accessorising has made just that tiny bit of difference.

As I’ve said, my ‘rule-breaking’ is very gentle – there are far wilder dressers out there – but the crucial element to any outfit is comfort. I don’t mean pyjamas win hands down, but I do mean you can only wear what you love and feel good in. Some people’s rule-breaking will involve neon or spray-on leather, but I feel my own little touches – a rolled hem, a pair of knee socks, a carefully-chosen necklace – inject that essential sense of ‘me’ into what I wear.

So what’s my point? My point is: pick and choose your rules. If you’re going to use them, make them work for you.

How do you ‘break’ the rules?

What are the little touches that make a outfit ‘you’?


Look out for part 3 – fabulous outfits from fabulous ladies…and what they think of ‘dressing for your shape’…

Recommended blog posts:

Mrs Bossa Does the Do: Dressing for Your Shape #1 and Dressing for Your Shape #3

The Styling Dutchman: You Can’t Argue with Taste

Arash Mazinani: My Beef with Body Shapes

By Anika: Who Gets to Label Me and my Worth? I Do!


40 thoughts on “Dressing for Your Shape #2

  1. Wow. Reading into an outfit like that makes sense, but I think an element of instinct is also really important. To make an outfit perfect for me usually involves an extra earring or a scarf round the head 😛 And i think its very badass that you went for those shoes. Xx

    • You’re right – instinct is important. I just love rolled-up trousers and knee socks, which T+S would drag me away from…so it’s interesting to hear that it can still have a positive effect on your look, even if that was the last thing on your mind!

      And yes, the shoes are gorgeous – can’t deny it! x

  2. You have undoubtedly managed to word the unspoken rules and though processes which every stlyish person goes through when deciding what to wear!
    P.S LOVE them shoes! (even if you are wearing them with socks 😉 haha


    • 🙂 I think the shoes make it, to be honest…

      There should be (and is) a certain amount of spontaneity in our fashion choices, but I’m just intrigued by the idea that some of our choices are part of a pattern…even it’s a subconscious one. I said I was a geek!

  3. great post! thanks so much for mentioning me, I feel honored 🙂 I am in love with that last outfit of yours. When I get dressed I usually have a certain persona in mind to make the look click, as if I’m styling a movie character version of myself. F.i. what I’d look like on Mad Men, but with a modern twist 😀 for me that’s the way to keep a look coherent because you really have a cohesive persona in mind.

    • I love that idea, and now you mention it, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done that in the past. Though for me it was Catherine Deneuve in Belle du Jour… 🙂

  4. oh, and if you keep a look cohesive like that, just a bit of oddness won’t stand out, it will just blend into the entire look 🙂 and I actually think Betty doesn’t look that bad there: print mixing rocks! 😀

  5. Good grief that is a lot of thought about clothes Mrs B, I like to think about clothes a LOT but never in such depth. I did do a blog post right in the early days about how I found easy outfits that suit me and I guess I do generate towards them on lazy days, we all have our staples. I think you rock at rule breaking, they are all quirks that make your style so fabulous. If there is one thing that really winds me up is the advice in these books for short people, I get lots of comments on my blog too from people saying they could never wear such and such as they are too short. Its great because people must think I am really tall – then they meet me and laugh because I am tiny – but generally in heels. I am 5.2 and I will wear what I damn well please especially rolled up trousers and midi lengths 😉

    • Well, lets be honest – I caught the rolled up trousers bug from you, you Zara maniac!!

      It is a very ‘thinky’ approach to fashion, I know…but I think it appeals to me even more as a means of noticing patterns in your dress that you weren’t aware of. I don’t think we always realise how we gravitate to similar items or cuts or colours – and I love a bit of analysis!!

    • Hah, short-people advice is the worst. “Try to look tall!” Fack orrffff.

      Every piece of short-person advice I’ve ever ignored has turned out to be completely wrong, too, as you say.

  6. You make the salient point perfectly — what we should do is what we, as individuals, like. We have the freedom to choose, so should use that opportunity to express ourselves. Every person’s decision on where to comply or reject convention will differ — and that’s a wonderful sign of our individuality.

    I was thinking that your approach to fashion is not a bad metaphor for life in general!

  7. Such a great a post Mrs Bossa! Thank you for the info as it’s gonna help me so much as I go through my closet audit, the main aim of which is to inject a bit more colour and rejunenate my beloved neutral classic looks.

    • I think Steph’s checklist is interesting from an analytical point of view, but it’s also a great way of discovering what’s missing from your wardrobe, and identifying how you can shake things up a bit. Throwing on random items and making the look work is not something that comes naturally to everyone!

  8. Another great post. The way I ‘break’ the rules is buying things that are too big for me. 95% of the time I’ll go for things that are fitted and cut as close as possible while remaining comfortable. Certain pieces I do buy intentionally a little bit big. Maybe it’s a nod to my youth and fascination with every Hip Hop. It tends to be my more casual pieces and It’s hard to explain why I do it… certain pieces… for me just work better that way.

    • You see – some of it’s about what we simply LOVE, and not all of it can be explained…sometimes it’s all about the gut feeling.

  9. I reckon you need to know the rules before you start to break them. Because once you understand WHY they are there, you have a knowledge of how to stretch them to suit yourself. Does that make sense? Like cooking, you need to know how to cook basic recipes yourself before you can start making things up and using crazy ingredients xx

    • Yes, it does make sense; we all have ideas about proportions and lengths and colour and shapes, and if we didn’t we couldn’t subvert them. Plus they wouldn’t have the same impact on anyone else! xx

  10. Rules I regularly break:
    -High necks, larger bust (ditto horizontal stripes on the top). My reasoning is that they look fairly shapely in a good bra, so why not rock the Victorian ‘hour glass’ thing. If I want to create more length, long beads do the trick.
    -All the short person rules: cropped jeans (the secret is to buy petite or take them up so you’re still in proportion), Maxis (take em up OR wear wedges), ankle boots (I like em).

    Oh, and I break all the red head colour rules.

    But it’s how you do it really, my ultra ‘the rules and right labels’ dad once said ‘I love the way you style yourself- always unique and adorable’. OK, he’s my dad but trust me he can be a harsh critic!

    My personal rules are (1) it must fit and (2) it must be worn with poise. Ha. That makes me sound much posher than I am.

    • I’d expect nothing less from you!! Confidence is definitely the clincher, wherever you are on the minimalist/maximalist scale.

      I always loved that Victorian hourglass look! My chin dictates otherwise, however. And I’m with you on the redhead rules – people expect it from us… 😉

  11. Wow! i feel like a star, Mrs. B!!! i don’t think i’ve ever been quoted extensively before ((( blush )))

    it’s so interesting reading everyone’s thoughts and feelings on these issues in this post’s comments and those on ‘#1’! my overall take on ‘rules’ is that some are good to know – so that you can use them, or tweak them, or throw them out the window at your discretion. i’ve found rules of proportion and aesthetics to be most useful in making outfits i like. ‘rules for dressing your body type’ not so much.

    this IS a really thinky-think way of looking at clothes and dressing. frankly i like to do it for maybe 10% of the time i’m thinking about clothes, and go right-brain/subcon/intuitive the rest of the time. i DO find that using both ‘sides’ of my brain, so they can ‘talk’ to each other, seems to wake up both sides so i’m quicker at both ‘thinkin’ and at ‘throwing stuff together’ without thinking. i do the left brain stuff mostly when i’m stuck or when i’ve made a look i really like and want to dress along those lines more in the future.

    and, Mrs. B., your rule breaking may be ‘gentle’, but at the same time it’s very deliberate – it’s obvious you rolled up the cuffs on those trousers, it’s not like you bought them for the color and oh well they were just a bit too short but nothing youcoulddoaboutit….. nope. you did it on purpose, however subtle ‘it’ is. i really like that – there’s something so confident about it, i don’t know quite how to put it! it’s just great, tho – more subversive than just wearing a neon tee, for instance.

    Thank you again, thank you everybody commenting – off to read those other posts! happy saturday! steph

    • Steph, you are a star. 😉

      I’m pleased that your analysis has had such an intrigued response – you know I loved it. I just hope I haven’t given the impression that you’re totally rule-oriented, when it’s obvious you’re so creative with your wardrobe!

      To be totally honest, reading that post and this comment gave me a confidence boost when I needed it. I was trying to ‘shop my closet’ and getting very frustrated. Here’s to the duo-sided brain approach!

  12. This is fantastic–and I love the original post as well from TDE. I’ve never thought about necklace size when considering my chest, so I guess I’m with you about breaking that rule! I love chunky jewelry.

  13. Fabulous post! I agree with you 100% when you say “you can only wear what you love and feel good in.” And on that note, I say throw out the rule book completely. Who wrote those rules anyway? and was it based on THEIR comfort level?

  14. I don’t think I ever analyse my outfits in enough detail to allow me to do what you’ve talked about in this post. I tend to just fling things on and if something works and I like it, I’ll stick with it.

    There are probably all sorts of rules about what short, pear shaped girls should and shouldn’t wear but I’ve spent so long being overweight and dressing in dull clothes that I’m just revelling in a chance to play around with clothes a bit now. I’ve worked out that horizontal stripes are suprisingly flattering if the item of clothing fits properly though. Oh and I don’t care what Gok or the dreaded T&S would say – I am not packing myself into control underwear!

    • Ha, right on! you do what you want.

      Don’t get me wrong – I don’t usually analyse my outfits to this degree, but it is interesting to hear such a detailed opinion from an objective person. You make your decisions – often spontaneously, as you say – but it’s gratifying to think they may have an effect you never anticipated.

    • Nice slogan!!

      There are some great posts around now about body image, and how objective the concept of ‘style’ might be. And I may be geeky in this regard, but I enjoy a bit of theoretical musing…

  15. I love your faux pas darling! I break the fashion rules all of the time, and I love it. Your looks are fab! Thank you so much for linking to my post, you are so kind. Big hugs coming your way! xx

  16. There’s some great links there, Mrs B, and as always, some wise words. I love the subtle touches of quirkiness like the flash of leg with the sock rather than the safer tights option or rolling a trouser leg up. Small additions like that inject personality into an outfit and make you own your clothes rather than being a slave to fashion.
    I wear whatever makes me happy with no interest in the rules. I enjoy being as “radical” as mixing gold and silver jewellery or adding clashing tights or fingernails. My ethos is the opposite of Coco Chanel’s, rather than checking the mirror and taking something off before I leave the house I like to add a little more. xxx

    • That does not surprise me in the least! You’re a much more daring dresser than I, but we all have our little ways of being ‘rebellious’. I know you’re not a rules kind of gal, Vix…and that’s what I’d like to aim for!

  17. Something inside me makes me just want to break the rules with my clothes. I am short and have big hips so there just seem to be so many rules to follow. I lile wearing patterned trousers and skirts which of course breaks the rules. I also love mixing patterns that shouldn’t be worn together.

    I love the idea of using the formula of an oufit that you alread have and love

    • I do – good for days when you have no inspiration!

      I read you on patterns; I love a mishmash of them on other people, and love horizontal stripes…but haven’t dared wear them yet.

  18. Such a great post! Personally, I only follow the rules if I agree with them, apart from this I create my own. 🙂 I think, style rules are more about common sense and feeling happy in your own skin (and clothes) than trying to please the rest of the world. After all, you really can’t please everyone, so it’s more important to like your own reflection in a mirror that sticking to the rules invented by someone else. 🙂

    • “it’s more important to like your own reflection in a mirror that sticking to the rules invented by someone else.”

      Exactly – bob on! Formulas are great on certain days…but it’s all about your gut instinct.

  19. Pingback: Dressing for Your Shape #1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s