Sunday, July 12, 2009

15 ways to help you look your best

Expert fashion tips on ways to max out your assets and play down your flaws.

1. Bold, colorful accessories attract the eye.

If you're self-conscious about certain parts of your body, make arresting accessories the visual star of your look. "Wearing a beautiful, eye-catching necklace certainly keeps the focus at the neckline," says designer Amy Vennema of A.V. Max accessories about the company's riveting choker in shades of blue. "You can even wear it with another bright for real impact."

2. If you're plus-size, don't settle for bland basics.

Women who wear sizes 12W to 38W can instead choose fashion-forward lines such as Silhouettes. A kimono dress "accentuates all the right areas," says Silhouettes VP Fran Kauchner. A back tie creates an Empire waist, the loose sleeves provide coverage, while the V-neck pulls the eye up and away from hips.

3. Make necklines work for you.

A sexy neckline draws attention to the shoulders, neck and a winsome face. A wide neckline also balances the hips.

4. Play with proportions.

The juxtaposition of light top and dark bottom focuses attention on the upper body, which helps petites. If you have a long torso and your legs are short, a high-waist skirt makes you appear taller. Keeping the silhouette close to the body is key. An above-the-knee length makes legs look longer, as do heels.

5. Flowy, full skirts camouflage thighs.

Forgo stiff fabrics and narrow pleats for a skirt in a silky material. "This skirt flatters because the silk moves when you walk and plays up the swing in your hips," says Waleed Khairzada, creative director of Cynthia Steffe. Adds Tim Gunn, co-author of "A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style," heels work better than ballet flats if you want to lengthen and slim the leg.

6. Lengthen legs by matching your shoes to your legwear.

Wear a shoe that's the color of your pants or hose to create the illusion of longer gams. Going bare-legged? Try a stiletto in a hue that's close to your skin tone.

7. Embrace prints.

Contrary to popular opinion, dresses with allover patterns are flattering to most body types. They keep the eye moving, says designer Steve Madden. To ground a large-scale print, add simple accessories -- like a wide belt, dark tights or a structured bag.

8. Ruching and gathers can enhance a bust.

Gravitate toward tops that have subtle but effective built-in help like ruching. "The gathers on the sides of this liquid jersey tank define and enhance the waistline," says Cynthia Steffe's Khairzada. "The twist detail and extra layer of fabric at the bustline give you added support while creating the illusion of a fuller top."

9. An Empire-waist dress can help if you're small on top and large below.

Designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss has long spotlighted real women with real curves. The Empire silhouette on a snappy two-tone dress from her fall line benefits those lacking in the décolletage department. Second, the buttoned placket creates a long line. And third, the dark bottom provides excellent camouflage. "Having the details at the top, which is all white, really does draw the eye up," says Lonstein Gruss.

10. Rely on a strong shoulder.

Strong shoulders make everyone look slimmer, but be cautious of overly exaggerated ones. An A-line silhouette is easy to wear, while the slightly high waist works brilliantly to highlight the narrowest part of the torso. A pump sans ankle strap helps to extend the unbroken line of the leg and makes it look longer.

11. Use volume up top.

A voluminous top makes the bottom half of your body appear slimmer. An open neck beautifully frames the face. A sash defines the waistline, thereby avoiding a tentlike silhouette. Slim-cut black pants are an ideal counterpoint -- go monochromatic to make the body look long and lean. Forget flats. You need height here. Peep-toe shoes strike the right note.

12. A coat in a beautiful hue is the ultimate cover-up.

A statement coat can disguise flaws and help you look great head to toe. "Wear one with a black turtleneck and narrow black pants -- it flatters almost all body types," says designer Tracy Reese. "It's particularly useful for someone with broad shoulders or a large bosom."

13. Wear jewelry that is in proportion to your body.

Accessories are said to be fashion's great equalizers, but even jewelry is size-specific. Happily, there are companies that cater to full-figured consumers. Avenue, a purveyor of plus-size clothing, offers a well-priced assortment of bijoux including bold cuffs and rings that are scaled and sized to look flattering on larger women.

14. Adjust the height of your boots to flatter your calves.

If you have issues with your calves, "scrunchy boots let you pick the height that's most flattering for your figure," says footwear designer Taryn Rose. Try scrunching boots low to the ankle with a short skirt, or pull them up for a lengthening look with a longer skirt.

15. Get shorty.

Super-cropped jackets were all over the fall runways, but the most universally elegant way to wear them is to layer a longer shirt underneath. "These short jackets flatter women with long torsos by creating the illusion of a shorter torso," says São Paulo's Genie Parada-Fishman.

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