At LYB, one of our biggest mantras is that every body is beautiful. We celebrate uniqueness and, instead of trying to help a woman disguise herself, we frequently challenge her to embrace what she's most afraid to show the world.
That said, the journey to self-acceptance can be a long and winding road, so a little extra dose of self-confidence along the way can be very empowering. I find that most women, while quick to complain about and eager to hide a particular body part, can, when encouraged, also identify a distinctive and positive feature about themselves that they’d like to highlight. Together, we've come up with some awesome fashion solutions!
See if, from head to toe, you can identify with any of these ten common conundrums:
1. I'm not loving my hair.
Before I go any further, I have to make a quick plug here for dry shampoo and the concept of imperfection. Until very recently, I sported sleek, flat-ironed hair most days, even if it meant having to get up early on a regular basis. One of the most liberating things happened about a month ago. I went to sleep on wet hair, woke up accidentally late the next day, and had to scrunch in dry shampoo to breathe life into what I thought looked like a dirty mop on my head. Imagine my total shock when not only my husband, but several employees and even the contractor working on our new space told me they absolutely loved my hair! My husband confessed that my "perfect" sleek, styled hair was, in his opinion, so boring! I found such freedom in being able to work the messy concept, that I now sometimes will go three or four days on my bed head before shampooing. Careful not to take it too far!
If you know me at all, you also know that I'm a devoted fan of hats, big and small, straw and felt, neutral and colorful. Hats can disguise a sweaty, post-yoga look, cover up two-inch roots, ease the growing-out process, and add an edge and air of confidence to your look. If you're on the hunt for one perfect and versatile hat, I highly suggest beginning with a small, neutral-colored felt hat. I have a light grey one from Hat Attack that I absolutely adore, is perfect for every season, and is small enough to be worn casually all day inside.
2. I'm getting older and don't like to show my neck.
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this concern! I've been working on my mom for years to let go of her issue about this and show off her swan-like neck. I'm not giving up, but it has been eye-opening for me to speak with so many clients who share the desire to hide their necks. Thankfully, fashion solutions abound!
The most obvious is to don a turtleneck. I used to believe that turtlenecks were stifling and, outside of subzero temps, just a way of hiding beneath our clothes. How things have changed! The fashion industry adores turtlenecks these days, coming out with creative designs for all seasons. Many of my favorites (look for them this fall) cover the neck, while revealing something else. Nothing is sexier than some of the new turtlenecks that showcase a cut-out back, making the turtleneck look more like a choker or collar. My styling rule of thumb here is to make sure you're highlighting something else- your beautiful back, tiny waist, great ankles, shapely legs-- if you're simultaneously covering your neck.
If you read my blog regularly, you also know what a fan I am of scarves, especially since meeting my Italian muse a few weeks ago. They're an ultra practical way to cover the neck, add interest to an otherwise basic look, stay warm while traveling, and create a sophisticated edge. If you're someone who doesn't mind showing off your arms, try one of my favorite summer looks: skinny jeans, a basic tank, and a long, lightweight scarf wrapped loosely around your neck. Also consider experimenting with scarves in their myriad beautiful shapes and sizes. My personal collection includes large pashminas that double as shawls, medium-size lightweight scarves that are great for indoors, small bandanas that I can knot at the neck, and thin chiffon scarves (keep your eyes peeled for Chan Luu's that are on their way) that look like delicate neck ties.
3. My shoulders are very narrow.
Welcome to my world! I have always looked upon broad-shouldered women with great envy. I have an especially tough time wearing dresses or tops with thick straps, as well as boat-neck tees and sweaters.
Over the past year, I am proud to share that I have taken what I thought was one of my biggest frustrations and turned it into one of my most positive, distinctive traits. After years of tops falling off of my shoulders, I finally decided to adopt the subtly sexy off-the-shoulder concept as my trademark, dancer/80's-inspired look! My go-to uniform today is either skinny jeans or joggers, ankle booties, and an off-the-shoulder top. The irony here is that many of my clients are envious of my ability, thanks to narrow shoulders, to turn almost every top into an off-the-shoulder look!
I've also discovered some tricks for making my shoulders appear broader. Halter necks are great because they themselves are narrow and create the illusion of broadness by exposing a large expanse of shoulder. Strapless tops and dresses also help to create the illusion of width. The cold-shoulder look is very on-trend at the moment, but choose wisely here. Your best options are tops with a large amount of shoulder cut out across the top (versus exposed shoulder on the upper part of the arms.) Bailey 44 is one my favorite brands when it comes to top lines for narrow shoulders. They do a great job inventing edgy and assymetrical cutouts that are flattering on more petite frames.
4. My boobs are huge.
Although I don't identify with this challenge, I totally empathize. One of the most common fashion questions I hear is, "How can I keep my curves up top from making me look large all over?"
In this case, one of the worst mistakes women make is trying to disguise their challenging trait. A big top, tunic or dress that is shapeless and hides her chest can create an overall shapeless silhouette that makes a big-bosomed woman look larger than she is. What to do instead? Embrace those curves!
If you're large-chested with a smaller waistline, one of your best looks is a lightweight blousy top tucked into a pair of jeans or a pencil skirt. Work that waist and those gorgeous legs, while tastefully embracing your bustiness! Avoid thick, heavy fabrics on top, instead looking for more delicate, whimsical pieces that can be paired with denim, leather and more solid fabrics on other parts of the body. Also look for cardigans, jackets and dusters that fall below the hips. The goal is to create a sense of overall balance, versus more cropped pieces that center the attention exclusively on the upper half of the body.
When it comes to accessorizing, rock your bracelets and cool cuffs, clutch hand bags, and great shoes. Necklaces and big shoulder bags are another way to center the energy around the top half, so a good styling technique is to spread it around. A clutch carried at the hips, a fabulous set of bangles on your arm, and get-noticed shoes will help to create both edginess and overall harmony.
5. I don't like my wobbly arms.
Some days I feel like no amount of encouragement on my part will get a woman to drop her inhibitions about her upper arms. I can't tell you how frequently clients will protest against sleeveless looks despite what I think is the nonexistence of a flaw. Sometimes, this makes me challenge my own ideas: perhaps, at times, it's not as important to toil over finding acceptance and it's easier and more effective to find a way to feel good right now.
One of my favorite clients has amazing personal style and refuses to display her upper arms, even in summer. I've learned so much by working with her! She seems to follow two key styling principles: great layers and accessories up top, and awesome range and experimentation on bottom.
Her standard uniform on her top half almost always is built on the foundation of an easy tank. You'd never catch her without a layer on top to cover the arms, yet she's got such great style that you'd never think she looks "covered up." During colder months, she loves blazers, tunics and long cardigans. Her top layer in summer consists of a denim jacket with rolled sleeves or a blouse tied at the waist. A favorite tactic for adding style up top is her fun collection of necklaces and the occasional hat.
On bottom, pretty much anything goes. Her pants foundation consists of an array of cute jeans or black leggings. Shoes are her true addiction. With boots, heels and sandals in a rainbow of colors and fabrics, the attention couldn't be further from her upper arms!
6. I have no waist.
This is such a common concern among my clients. Some women were born with more straight up-and-down shapes, while others like myself had a small waistline at the start that seems to have vanished with childbirth. I used to adore showing off my shape with pants or a dress that tied at the waist! Now, no amount of sit-ups seems to be effective in cinching in my middle. What to do?
As long as you’re not ultra busty (see #4), a great seasonless look that could easily turn into your favorite “uniform” is the tunic or shift dress. Oh, the variety that exists! LYB is the perfect spot to shop for these straight-bodied pieces that come in lengths that range from just below the hips to mid-calf. My favorite way to don a shift/tunic is over my skinny Parker Smith jeans. For summer, pick jeans or leggings that are capri-length, and pair them with a little pair of heels for a long, lean look, or cowboy boots from Bed Stu if you’re going more casual. During colder months, I love a tunic with tall boots or a cute pair of Sorels. Finish your look with a fantastic pendant necklace or get-noticed earrings and the last thing anyone will be thinking about is your nonexistent waistline!
What if you’re struggling with both an ample upper half and no waist? One of my favorite looks on a woman with this body type is a flowy ensemble on top, complemented by a more streamlined silhouette below. Look for a drapey, v-neck cotton or silk top, pair it with a long-ish cardigan, and finish the outfit with skinny or straight-leg jeans. Wedges or comfortable stacked heels and a short chunky necklace or bracelet are the perfect accessories to complete this casual, but sophisticated look.
7. I have no butt.
I always giggle when a woman comes in complaining that she has this “problem.” It makes me realize that the grass really is always greener on the other side! I have spent my life trying to figure out how to disguise my round backside, and there are woman trying to find ways to amplify their roundness. Isn’t beauty so subjective?
Parker Smith is one of my favorite denim lines I’ve ever come across because its jeans seem to be universally flattering. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow their super-soft stretchy fabrics create a sleek, streamlined look on women with rounder butts, and at the same time manage to make a woman with a flatter butt look gorgeously curvaceous. So, my first suggestion is always to seek out that perfect pair of jeans that fits like a second skin.
Also consider building a colorful collection of patterned yoga pants. While solid neutrals tend to create a streamlined silhouette, prints can add the illusion of volume. Consider yourself very lucky, as trends right now are in your favor! Come into LYB and check out the beautiful patterns on our NiyamaSol and Onzie leggings that can easily be worn from down dog to date night.
I also advise women with more petite backsides to avoid pairing big, blousy tops with slim-fitting bottoms. This sort of pairing is actually perfect for the woman trying to minimize the appearance of her backside! Instead, look for fitted tops and don’t be afraid to match them to fitted bottoms. If you’re at all self-conscious about an all-over close-fitting outfit, create some distraction with a lovely pashmina wrapped around your shoulders and delicate jewelry (nothing too heavy—remember, heaviness everywhere else is only going to make what’s small look smaller.) Keep the feet slim as well, with streamlined ankle booties or delicate sandals or flats—nothing too chunky.
If you were born with a smaller waistline, go for items that accentuate it. Tops and dresses that tie at the waist, pants that hit right at the waistline, and belted looks will all help draw the attention to your middle and make what’s right below it look more ample.
8. My hips are wide.
First, I implore you to embrace your femininity! Having complained about my hips and backside for years, it has been such a relief to hear repeatedly from my husband that he loves my lower curves. What we find frustrating is, ironically, often viewed by others as one of our most attractive traits.
Nevertheless, dressing can sometimes be a challenge with curvier hips, particularly when it comes to ready-to-wear styles that are cut to fit an evenly-proportioned mannequin. That said, my first piece of advice is to generally avoid dresses that are tailored to a specific shape and made of non-stretchy fabrics. If you’re gong for a dress, sheath or tunic, look for something with a very slight A-line (stay away from extreme flair, as it only exacerbates the hips,) or something with a straight cut in a stretchy fabric. Good Hyouman, Feel the Piece and Hard Tail all excel at making these types of tunics and dresses.
When choosing a top, look for something that hits anywhere but the hips. A more cropped top can be beautifully paired with a long open cardigan or blazer without calling attention to the hips. A longer flowing top over a tighter bottom half is also a flattering look on this type of figure. Avoid extremely fitted tops (unless you’re pairing them with a flowing jacket) as they tend to accentuate the wideness of the hips. Chunky necklaces and earrings, as well as flowing scarves and pashminas, are a great way to accessorize, as they draw the eyes and energy upwards.
9. I have “cankles.”
As with other traits you may be trying to minimize attention to, if your ankles aren’t your proudest feature, work on shining light somewhere else.
Calf-height and tall boots will be your best friends in terms of footwear. How lucky for you, because boots are the best! I devoted a whole blog to soliloquizing about the joy of boots year-round. Ankle-height boots can be tricky because they stop right at that spot you’re trying to deflect attention from, and can create the “cankle” look so many women (you’re not at all alone here!) fret about.
Strappy shoes—particularly those that wrap around the ankle—can be especially tricky. If you like shoes that are intricate or edgy, look for embellished sandals or thongs, embroidered flats, or tall boots that lace up the back or are fringy like my favorite pair of Bed Stu’s.
In addition to shoes, consider how you style your legs from the top down. Shorter looks that hit above or just below the knees, or, alternatively, pants and maxi dresses that hit the very bottom of the leg are your best choices. Conversely, you draw attention to your ankles with mid-calf-length skirts/dresses and capri-length pants.
One of the best ways to deflect attention from wide ankles is to emphasize your upper half. Go wild and have fun! This is a great opportunity to play with vivid colors, sparkly jewelry, scarves, hats, funky jackets, you name it. Celebrate what you enjoy, and ignore what isn’t serving you. Apply this advice liberally not just to your ankles, but to all of life!
10. My feet are humongous.
This is another great example of how beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! Personally, I find long feet to be incredibly elegant. My paternal grandmother had long, narrow feet and she was one of the most beautiful women I’ve known. So, my first piece of advice, as with many other “problem” traits, is to see if you view your issue through a different lens.
The shorter-term solution for the foot-shy woman is to choose shoes with a more delicate silhouette. Heavy combat boots, chunky sneakers, oversized platforms and moto boots will only emphasize what you believe is too large. Gravitate, instead, towards lightweight sneakers, flats and sandals, and tall, narrow boots. Color and a lot of novelty features (e.g. sparkles, straps, embroidery, buckles) will call more attention to your feet, so keep it clean, simple and neutral.
Remember, too, that your feet appear bigger to you because you’re looking straight down at them. Someone standing across from you has a different perspective and probably wouldn’t think twice about whether your feet are exactly proportionate to your height!
Please feel free to respond with any of your own fashion solutions or questions about dilemmas I haven’t addressed here. I’ve learned so much by listening to and watching my clients—most of the good advice I offer is thanks to all of you!