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Wardrobe challenge: shorter legs

So -- welcome to the post that kicked off this blog!

It all started when I realized that fashion blogs are mostly written by women who are easy to dress. And what I definitely couldn't find was a blog that gave ideas on what to wear if your legs are, proportionately, a bit on the shorter side. So I thought, why not start one? If there is anyone else out there looking for the same thing, this is a place to find tips and suggestions, from someone who has been there herself.


So, let's get started - this post offers my basic guidelines and suggestions on dressing shorter legs, accumulated over the years.


To give you the basic parameters, I consider myself mid-difficult to dress. What make things easier are my broad shoulders, small waist and athletic build. What make things hard are a long torso, small waist [yes, again - both a blessing and a curse] and muscular but shorter thighs combined with a ... hmm... healthy bum.


Now, the most common suggestion for lengthening short legs is to wear high-waisted bottoms – the exact thing you are told to avoid like the plague if in possession of bigger thighs and a full behind, and indeed they are right, at least when it comes to trousers. Back to square one…


So what to do if you have the same predicament? The basic paradigm goes as follows:

Making legs appear longer can be achieved either from the bottom up [with heels and/or long hemlines] or the top down [either by shortening the torso, or giving the illusion of the legs starting higher than where they actually do].


How exactly?


General rules for flattering shorter legs

The key word is leg break = top of your thighs, bottom of your bum. You want to try to avoid highlighting this part.


For this reason, beware overly fitted clothes: they show too much. Looser, more fluid silhouettes are generally better for concealing proportions, shaping and flattering. But no panic, there is no need to throw away all your fitted clothes - some will in fact be necessary, to help balance volume in other parts of your outfits [especially if you are petite and easily get swamped by fluid and oversized clothes].


Bottoms

  • Skirts and dresses work much better than trousers as they make it less obvious where legs begin and end.

  • The best skirts

  • are either as short [maximum knee length], or as long as possible; asymmetrical, not too voluminous midis can also work: when choosing these, always think 'lengthening' as opposed to 'volumising',

  • are straight cut or gently flared [this has a magical lengthening effect on the thighs], but make sure they are not clingy as that obviously does not camouflage anything,

  • are high-waisted or sit on the waist - certainly not lower,

  • are often constructed of thicker, more structured fabrics, especially when it comes to shorter or pencil skirts [a big yay for leather!] as they conceal best where the leg breaks underneath.

  • Dresses with a pronounced waistline tend to be the most flattering; you can achieve the same effect with looser ones worn with a belt [just check in the mirror that it works also from the side and the back, i.e. that you don't highlight the waist to bum ratio - medium wide belts often are the best]. Few body-cons work. Straight or gently flaring cuts are best.

  • Unfortunately our waist tends to sit lower than average, so you may find that the waistline on some dresses falls in the wrong place -- do not give up, this can sometimes even be to our advantage [with dresses that flare out and thus hide where legs begin], and even if it isn't [as is often the case with fitted shift dresses]: well, as they say, there are plenty more dresses in the sea!

  • Beware the empire-line: though often suggested for long torsos, I think it often just makes the distance between waist and bum even more obvious [at least the moment you start moving or the wind starts blowing...].

  • If you do wear trousers, hiding heels under wide/bootcut ones helps - the more your hems cover the shoes, the better. Otherwise, straight-cut jeans are better than skinnies. Skinnies only really work with looser tops that hide the waist.


Tops

  • With skirts, tuck tops in to lengthen the legs; with trousers, either half-tuck [tuck in the front only] or leave the top untucked.

  • Looser tops are best [even if tucked] as a proportionately wider upper half makes a thinner lower half appear longer. Think floaty blouses and slouchier jumpers - there has to be width in the item - just make sure they are not frumpy. Fitted tops often only work with maxi skirts.

  • Lower cut, i.e. scoop and V-neck tops shorten the torso and can work well even for a small chest. Beware the turtleneck - it lengthens the torso even further.

  • If wearing trousers: belts over voluminous tops combined with slim-fitting bottoms can be extremely flattering, as the belt breaks up the torso and improves proportions. The same applies to belts over tops with longer hems curved at the back. HOWEVER: avoid longer tops with slits on the sides as the way they fall will emphasise, rather than camouflage, where your thighs end.

  • Layering shorter, wider tops over longer, more fitted ones is a great trick, especially in slightly different colours, as this also breaks up the torso.

  • Long cardigans can be a godsend, as they can elongate thighs, but again make sure they are not frumpy. Sleeveless blazers can do the trick too if they are not too long.

  • Oversized jumpers [in lovely fabrics and roomy cuts] are life-savers in the colder months and look good even with skinny jeans. If 'oversized' is not a trend you can find in shops, simply size up [even 2-3 sizes bigger can work!].

  • Blazers blazers blazers! Medium length is best, although cropped ones can work well with skirts and dresses.

Footwear

  • Heels do help of course, but make sure to wear chunky heels with skinny trousers to balance out those thighs [with skirts, stilettos are fine]. For me, at least 1.5 inches are necessary [on the casual end of the scale] but over 3 inches just emphasise the thighs so you may want to stick to something in-between.

  • Low-vamp shoes are much, much [much!] more flattering than high-vamp ones.

  • Matching shoes to the colour of your trousers/tights helps make legs looks longer. Conversely, coloured shoes rarely work [sigh].

  • Casual outfits are the hardest to get right as it is hard to incorporate heels. Low wedges can work and do not necessarily feel too girly if the rest of the outfit is edgy in some way. Flat boots can work with dresses or with jeans tucked in. Trainers are hard to get right, as are ankle boots as both tend to 'cut off' the legs visually.

And finally: having shorter legs is not the end of the world! There are several gorgeous celebrities out there with this body type - examples are Rachel Bilson, Kaley Cuoco, Keira Knightley, Olivia Wilde, Kate and Pippa Middleton, and even supermodels Bar Refaeli and Alessandra Ambrosio. Googling them for ideas on what to wear - and in some cases, what not to... - is a definite tip! [Or, check out the case studies in this blog.]

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