The average woman has a closet full of clothes but feels she has nothing to wear. That’s because we have clothes of different sizes that we literally can’t wear – the “skinny” clothes, the “fat” clothes, and something in between. Sometimes we even have clothes in our closets with the tags still on them. Somehow they just didn’t look as good as we thought they did when we tried them on in the store or they just don’t go with anything else we own.

All this makes the mere act of getting dressed a frustrating experience, especially if we have a special occasion or business event to attend. We try on multiple outfits, hoping something works, only to end up wearing that same one or two outfits we always choose because for some reason they look particularly good. Sound familiar?

Most of us have never been taught how to dress for our features. We just buy styles and colors we like, clothes we can afford or things the fashion industry tells us is “in”. For example, many women have a lot of black in their closets because it’s slimming, easy to match and considered “chic”. However, only a small percentage of the population actually looks good in black near their face.  Black is a very clear, cool color that is too dominating for most people, particularly Caucasians.

Test this on yourself.
Find something that is a solid medium brown color – a scarf, a pair of pants or a top – as well as something black. Put on a top with a lower neckline so that you will be able to see just the brown and black colors next to you face. Drape the brown item over one shoulder and the black item over the other shoulder. Then, stand in front of a mirror or a female friend/family member (many men don’t have good color sense!), and look at the difference. Look for a flow or harmony with your face and the colors. Harmony means that it is easy for the eye to go up from the color to your face. You look better in colors that do this. Colors that are stronger than your coloring are too dominant. When this is the case, someone might compliment your blouse or top versus saying that you look great. We want people to see us. The higher compliment is when someone tells you that you always look “together” or “great”. You can learn how to do it.

Dressing for Your Features
Like most things, dressing for our individual coloring, body type and face shape is a learned skill. When you do this, your clothes fit well, are in styles that minimize body areas you want to hide while playing up your attributes, and are in tones that flatter your skin, hair and eye coloring, giving you a healthy look. Getting dressed becomes a fun experience, because you love how you look in all your clothes. You also save money and time shopping because you are clear about the colors and styles you want to buy and avoid spending money on clothes that don’t work and end up in the Goodwill bag. You will also have more to wear because your clothes are in the same tonal range and mix and match!

In this blog series, we’re going to the learn different aspects about picking out clothes that works for you. This includes clothing colors and styles as well as makeup colors and application techniques for your face, eye and lip shape. Some of it will require outside help but a lot of it will be focused on changing your mindset about clothes buying and your willingness to purge your closet.

Lesson I: Determine What You Want to Emphasize
Where you put color on your body determines what others will notice. Do you have great shoulders? Love your legs? Have a great bust line or slender waist?  The human eye is drawn to the lightest or brightest colors and to color breaks in your clothing. Patterns, particularly large ones, draw attention, as do embellishments such as large pockets, beading, lace, scarfs and jewelry. Darker colors are slimming and are best worn to diminish areas that you don’t want noticed.

Look at the woman in the photo. What do you notice first? What do you notice second? Most likely you first noticed her blouse and her face. That’s because her blouse is brighter than her dark blue jeans, which fade to the background against her blouse. The distinctive neckline and lace of the blouse add to bringing your eye up because that is where the activity is happening. You might have then noticed the point at which her blouse meets the jeans, bringing the attention to her hips. That’s because the eye is drawn to the color break there.

This combination works great for this beautiful lady because of her Hourglass build. She is emphasizing her asset areas of her slender shoulders and waist and healthy bust line while minimizing her wider hips and thighs. If she had even wider hips, like a Pear shape, she would not want her blouse to land at her hips because that draws attention to the widest part of her body. Instead, she would want her blouse to stop higher on her hip, a couple of inches below her natural waist, so that the attention would be drawn to the more slender area.

Knowing where to but color or not put it to intentionally draw the eye toward or away from parts of your body is called Dressing for Illusion. It’s an important first step in learning about how you put outfits together. Next time you get dressed, notice where your eye goes in your outfit. Is it going where you want it? If you have a wider upper body or have a larger stomach, dress in darker colors on top with lighter colors on the bottom. If you have wider hips and thighs with a smaller upper body, do the reverse. If you are heavier overall, dress in monotone or darker shades with subtle or no patterns – you will appear more slender.

Hopefully this gives you a glimpse into why dressing intentionally for your body matters. In my next blog, we’ll begin looking at warmer and cooler coloring and how it impacts appearance. Until next time…