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Shrinking? Expanding? 5 Tips for Looking Taller and Slimmer

By Andrea Pflaumer February 03, 2024 Makeup and Fashion

The holidays are behind us and some of us might find things fitting a little snug. Also, if you’ve found that you’re taking more things to the tailor for shortening you’re not alone. Gravity and bone loss are real at our age. We can start losing bone density as early as in our 30s, and it’s not uncommon for women to lose as much as 2” (5.08 cm) by the age of 70.

So, yes, keep taking your bone-building supplements, stand up straight, and do those stretching and bone-building exercises!

But in the meantime, there are several things you can do to create the effect of being taller and slimmer.

Think “Column”

Our brains automatically associate straight vertical lines with height, and horizontal ones with width. So, the easiest way to create the illusion of being taller and slimmer is to build your outfits to create an uninterrupted vertical line.

If you tend to carry weight around your middle, wearing a jacket, sweater or tunic that falls in a straight line from your shoulder to your hips will do this. But make sure the hem of the jacket or top does not end at the mid-point between your hip joint and the top of your knee. That demarcation line will make your legs look shorter.

For a standard length jacket (not a cropped one), the hem should fall no longer than below the middle knuckle of your middle finger when your arms are resting at your side. As for cropped jackets, avoid them, as they will make your torso appear shorter. And if you are broad in the middle, a cropped jacket will emphasize that as well.

If you are a “pear” shape, look for tops and jackets that have a little padding at the shoulders. Pear shapes tend to have narrow shoulders and you wouldn’t want to create a diagonal line from your shoulders to your thighs. Adding a little bit of padding at the shoulders will help to create that straight line.

Double Breasted Blazer on Marks and Spencer

Double Breasted Blazer on Marks and Spencer

Cord Single Breasted Blazer on Marks and Spencer

Cord Single Breasted Blazer on Marks and Spencer

The Drop Women’s Blake Long Blazer

The Drop Women’s Blake Long Blazer

Now, if you are an hourglass shape, this “straight line” idea just doesn’t work very well. And, frankly, it would violate the charm of who you are, fundamentally. So, just consider some of the other tips below.

Once you’ve created that longer line, make sure the bottom half of what you wear continues the line. A midi length skirt or dress should end just about at the point where your calf muscle starts to get smaller. Proportionally it is a more flattering look. But you could also pair such a top with a pencil skirt that hits just above the knee. To make the whole outfit coherent, look to the next tip.

Longer Coats

The basic trench coat never went out of style but is having a huge revival right now. And we’re seeing them in longer lengths. That automatically creates a columnar look if you don’t belt it. Most traditional trench coats are double breasted. It’s particularly important to avoid buttoning and tying the belts on trench coats if you have large breasts. Just make sure you get the right size.

MANGO Double Breasted Water Repellent Trench Coat | Nordstrom

MANGO Double Breasted Water Repellent Trench Coat | Nordstrom

But we’re also seeing a return of the long-line cardigan coats that are either knee length or midi length. The key to wearing those is to keep what is worn underneath very simple: no patterns, no distracting sleeves, or collars. Keep your skirt or slacks or jeans simple and in similar color.

Any long coat that skims the body and has few details can work well to create that same long and slim line. You’ll see some of these in knit materials that are heavier than a cardigan but lighter than winter outerwear.

Mango Oversized Knit Coat Nordstrom

Mango Oversized Knit Coat Nordstrom

Boiled Wool Jersey High Collar Jacket at Eileen Fisher

Boiled Wool Jersey High Collar Jacket at Eileen Fisher

Think Monocolor or Tonal Color

An all-one-color outfit is very slimming. It also incorporates the “columnar” concept. That’s pretty much a universal truth regardless of your body shape or where you might have added extra weight.

Blazer with Jewel Button

Blazer with Jewel Button

100 % Linen Suit Blazer

100 % Linen Suit Blazer

Also, wearing different shades of the same color, or what is called “tonal” dressing, has a similar effect. To make tonal dressing work, make sure that the shades of the color you are wearing are 1) both of the same coolness or warmth, and 2) similar saturation level.

As for coolness or warmth, colors that lean toward yellow are considered warm colors, those that lean toward blue are cool. (We tend to understand this concept intuitively when we choose our lipsticks.)

So, for example, you wouldn’t want to pair a teal jacket with a sky blue skirt. But wearing a darker shade of teal on top with a slightly lighter shade of teal on the bottom does work. Or wearing a dress with a jacket in a darker shade of that dress color does the same thing.

The Tailored Double Breasted Long Blazer in Tweed

The Tailored Double Breasted Long Blazer in Tweed

Loveland Cowl Back Midi Dress Grape | Selfie Leslie

Loveland Cowl Back Midi Dress Grape | Selfie Leslie

The concept of “saturation” refers to how much pigment the color contains. The example I used in my book is that when you apply one coat of a nail polish you have a sheerer shade than when you have applied multiple coats.

The reason this is important is that even if the colors are in the same color family and warmth/coolness category, if they are vastly different in saturation, that will create a demarcation line. Any time you create a demarcation line you truncate the length of the body.

Lastly, and this also pertains to the previous tip about wearing mono color, make sure your stockings or leggings are in or very close to the same color as your shoes, skirt, or dress. And by the way, colored stockings are back!!

Vertical Stripes or Asymmetry

It’s kind of a no-brainer that anything with vertical lines is going to fool the eye into seeing length. We’ve been seeing so many horizonal striped sweaters and French-style bateau striped tees in the past couple of years that it’s very tempting to lean into that very stylish and perennially popular trend.

But especially if you have added a few pounds around the middle, or have a large or heavy bust, horizontal stripes are not particularly flattering. They will bend and “wave” around your bulges, drawing attention to them.

But vertical stripes, particularly during the warmer season, are also perennially fashionable. You’ll see them a lot in blouses, sun dresses or tunics. If you tend to be on the slim side already and long waisted, but short legged, you could even incorporate one of the styles that has horizontal stripes up to just below the bust, and then vertical stripes below in a longer skirt length (Amazon has some of these). That will make your legs look very long and will camouflage wider hips.

Women Button Down Shirts Vertical Striped Turn-Down Collar Blouses

Women Button Down Shirts Vertical Striped Turn-Down Collar Blouses

Petite Striped Relaxed Perfect Shirt

Petite Striped Relaxed Perfect Shirt

Halife Women's 3 4 Sleeve Stripe Elastic Waist Casual Dress with Pocket

Halife Women’s 3 4 Sleeve Stripe Elastic Waist Casual Dress with Pocket

levaca Women's Casual Short Sleeve Striped Swing Midi Dress with Pockets

levaca Women’s Casual Short Sleeve Striped Swing Midi Dress with Pockets

The Drop Women's Britt Tiered Maxi Tent Dress_DUP

The Drop Women’s Britt Tiered Maxi Tent Dress_DUP

Lengthening Shoes

The currently popular MaryJane style flats and heels are a fun way to bring a touch of youthful playfulness into your outfit. But they will definitely make your legs look shorter. Anytime you wear a shoe with a strap around the instep it does this. They will also make pudgy feet look more so. (If you have particularly long feet, and want them to look smaller, these could be a nice style for you.)

Mary Jane Shoes Woman | ZARA United States

Mary Jane Shoes Woman | ZARA United States

To elongate the look of your legs, continue the lengthening line from your outfit into your shoes. The best way to do this, unfortunately, is with pointed toe shoes – heels, sling-backs, and flats. I say “unfortunately” because too often these shoes are extremely narrow in the toe box area. It’s a menace to womankind, particularly if you tend toward having bunions or neuromas.

But it is just the case that pointed toe shoes make your legs look longer, especially if they are in the same color as your pants, skirt, dress and/or stockings. There are some shoes with pointed toes that have ample width for your toes below where the point starts. Look for those. If you shop online, it’s hit-or-miss, so make sure the item is returnable.

Greatonu Womens Nude Sexy Pointed Closed Toe Comfortable Slingback Pumps Court Shoes

Greatonu Womens Nude Sexy Pointed Closed Toe Comfortable Slingback Pumps Court Shoes

Journee Collection Cait Flats | Zappos.com

Journee Collection Cait Flats | Zappos.com

However, there are some flats with almond or slightly squared shaped toe areas. This is a nice compromise if pointed toe shoes are something you just can’t abide.

Bow Flat Ballet Pumps | M&S US

Bow Flat Ballet Pumps | M&S US

And lastly, as mentioned, keep the color of your stockings the same color as your bottoms or shoes. This is especially important if you are wearing a midi skirt.

Longer Hemline in Pants

You’re going to be seeing a lot of cropped trousers and jeans plus the new “carrot” and rounded shaped jeans in fashion. They are being worn with fitted tops (tees and sweaters) and kitten-heeled shoes and loafers. It’s a cool and very fashion-forward look, but generally, it will make you appear shorter.

If you have shorter legs, you want to create the illusion of length by having a pant hem that just skims the back of the heel of your shoe. These longer types of pants or jeans are being worn with kitten-heeled pointed ankle boots. Both elements, the hemline, and the pointed toe shoe, will create that illusion of length.

The most effective styles of pants for this idea are looser in general and can include pleating at the waist in fabrics that gently drape from the waistline. But you will also soon start seeing narrower leg flared jeans with this longer hem. If you aren’t carrying a lot of weight in your legs this is a fun trend for you that echoes an almost 70s’ look. Wear them with one of the new silver ballet flats, or even sneakers.

Women's Harlow Pants | Madewell

Women’s Harlow Pants | Madewell

So, as you can see, for us shorties (I’m 5’1” – 152 centimeters – on a good day) there are solutions. And for those of us for whom the holidays were a month of sweet treats, there are workarounds. Stand up (tall) for our petite compatriots in arms! (And legs…)

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you finding that you have to have your things tailored more now? Have you bought anything new to accommodate weight gain, and if so, what? How are you managing a shrinking frame?

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23 Comments
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Jensy

Invaluable advice! Thankyou from Australia (coats not being worn right now!)

Andrea Pflaumer

Thank you Jensy. (Australia sounds very appealing right about now. It’s blowing like crazy here, rainy and coooold. Two of my dearest friends live in Sydney.)

Cathy

5-1 Getting a bone density test soon and hope it’s okay. I don’t want to take medication for it either.

Linda

I had one last year, the result was within the limits but I have ostopenia so I was advised to take Vitamin D3, calcium tablets and to swap my usual brand of mineral water for one with high calcium content. I don’t have milk or cheese in my diet to I was also advised to eat Skyr high protein yoghurt instead of my usual Greek yoghurt.

Joyce

Some beautiful and sharp styles shown in this writeup. Very inspiring! Many thanks to the author for great ideas in fashion.

Andrea Pflaumer

Thank you Joyce! I’m so glad these were helpful. Andrea

Liss

I am the mother of the groom this summer, I have been tasked to wear 1) a dress, 2) in dark green 3) without lace ruffles or patterned fabric, and IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY! This column is the most helpful thing I’ve seen so far,

Andrea Pflaumer

So glad it helped. I just received a request from a client about the same dilemma – mother of the groom, she’s pear shaped, but not petite. It can be nerve wracking. Good luck! And thank you for commenting. Andrea

Renee Lovitz

Good suggestions for the fun sized women! It will make me more aware when I shop! Thanks!!

Andrea Pflaumer

Thank you Renee! And I’m stealing that! Not short, fun sized!!!

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The Author

Andrea Pflaumer is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Shopping for the Real You, and an e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans. She has been a regular contributor to Sixty and Me for more than five years and blogs from her home in the San Francisco Bay area. Her most popular online course is Discovering Your Inner Style: an Adventure in Dressing Authentically.

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