Sewing to flatter my figure

1 Oct

Of late in my sewing I have been working with the colour, style and wardrobe structure tips I gathered from Kerryn at Kerryn’s Fabric World while on holiday in QLD’s sunshine coast this May. I had read many of Kerryn’s articles in the Australian Stitches magazine and couldn’t wait to see her myself. It was fantastic! Sooooo worth the visit. So was the fabric shop she runs her image consulting business in. However, for all that I learnt, I have decided to take it all with a healthy grain of salt – as I am sure Kerryn would think appropriate!

I understand the “how to look good” industry is about giving women confidence in themselves, and (hopefully) to help liberate themselves from society’s merry-go-round of feeling bad about their body and image.

But the underlying presumptions of what constitutes an ideal figure – where are they questioned?
It seems to me we are supposed to be trying to look as tall, skinny, and as tiny femininely curved as possible. And if we don’t have it naturally, it is all about illusion, baby.
Is this “ideal” what I really want to strive for?
I understand proportion. I am a graphic designer. I understand the effect of colour and line and volume. This is my work. It isn’t that hard to apply it to my body too. But… aren’t pleasing line and proportion come in more variations than a tall, slim slightly curved rectangle? I understand these guidelines are for women who don’t have that innate gift of design. But the underlying presumption of what we are trying to achieve as women drives me barmy.

In Imogen Lamport’s Image Consultant  terms, an X shape. A low-hipped hourglass.
Here are a few figure “flaws” I have

Big muscly thighs
Short stature, all 5″3′ of it.

Let’s look at Kerryn’s suggestions for those wide hips/thighs.

  •  bootleg trousers will pull the sillouette in, narrow the hip-region down, yet the slight flair in the calves will bring the whole leg line into flattering proportion.
  • Shoulder emphasis to balance out the width in the hip.
  • No A-line skirts. Straight skirts to minimise the width of that whole area. At most, a tiny flair at the hem. Interestingly, Imogen Lamport actually recommends A-line skirts for this figure type.

Kerryn also made a number of other suggestions for balancing the figure that affect the look of that area, however I aim to take just one isolated element, the hips and thighs, and test the guidelines.

So…. here goes.

Trousers: In my wardrobe I have mostly wide-legged 3/4 trousers  because they are looser, so cooler. I swapped my usual wide-leg 3/4 length trousers with the closest thing to bootleg 3/4 trousers I own.  Wow. Spot on, Kerryn ! I look fantastic in them.
I chose as simple a top as possible so as not to distract, and took a sewing mugshot of myself.

I put on my wide-leg trousers again, I can see the difference easily, and think “Yeah but having that slight hip emphasis actually shows off that tiny waist really well.” (or is it that these are my fave, most comfy trousers and I am totally biased? 😉

Shoulder emphasis? Here is the bootleg trousers with a top that emphasises my shoulders. With bootleg trousers, does this top make my shoulders look just a tad “big” now?

Next, the wide-leg trousers with shoulder emphasis. To me this looks nicely balanced, and very feminine with a touch of quirkiness in the way I pieced the lower trouser legs together (It was a lot of fun to sew, actually!) I certainly don’t look as “slim” as I could with closer-fitting clothes, but the proportions are pleasing, regardless.

Skirts – most of my skirts are A-line. It’s the heat again. Stand with your legs close together like you need to in the average straight skirt. Try this in really really hot, humid weather.
Now bring your legs apart to shoulder-width or more, like you can stand comfortably in an a-line skirt. Understand why my skirts are all A-line, now?

Well alright… all except for one, long, straight elegant skirt I  rarely wear, that I can test Kerryn’s suggestion with!

A-line skirt with plain top
Straight skirt with plain top
A-line skirt with shoulder-emphasis top
Straight skirt with shoulder-emphasis top

I can see the differences, but not as clearly as with the trousers. Not enough skirt variety in my wardrobe means I introduced two variables in the skirt experiment – different length as well as different style. Darn! Not good Science. Never mind. I actually think the length is what makes the biggest difference, not the style though. The longer they are, the taller and slimmer I look.
As to whether Kerryn is right about avoiding A-line, or Imogen is right that they are ideal for us big-thighed x-shaped lasses, I think my climate will have the last laugh.

So, what have I learnt from all this? Well, that the “guidelines” do actually affect the way the figure is perceived. And in the way they are held to do so. Hey wow!



Can I go play again now? Can I go back to using the choice of clothes to express different styles and suggest different shapes and lines? This tall slim, slightly curvy rectangle business is pretty boring.

However, this time, I have more options to play with. I understand more clearly than before how the different style lines change the way my body appears. When I feel like being a long slim, tall elegant young woman I know much more clearly how to achieve it. When I feel like being the earthy, hip-centred woman with her feet placed firmly on the ground, I know which clothes in my wardrobe to reach for.

5 Responses to “Sewing to flatter my figure”

  1. Laura October 2, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    >Fascinating stuff. I'm slightly overwhelmed by how the slight changes make such a big difference in the look. How lucky to like doing something that actually has a practical application. Keep posting about it!


  2. Thread of Light October 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    >Hi Laura, thanks for the encouragement :-)It is fascinating how much difference the style makes, isn't it? I tell you, it was really confronting to stand there and take a "mugshot" of myself, without posing to make the best of the cloths, or just not put up the photo coz I didn't like the way I looked.Honesty. Ouch.But worth the exercise!


  3. everetteseven October 6, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    >Hey there!I really like your blog. It's creative and fun and smart. This post is great because you actually tested things out and posted the results so readers can figure it out right along with you.For what it's worth, I don't get why she says to stay away from A-line skirts. I think they look great on you. I do understand her point about the trousers though. Those bootleg ones really show off your figure while the other ones seem to hide it. Also, I love the shoulder emphasis. It lengthens you or something, I don't know the right words. It's appealing.I so admire people who can create with their hands, especially textiles. I learned to knit but I rarely do it. When I see what others create I think, "omg I wanna do that!" But nothing ever comes of it.Holly


  4. Thread of Light October 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    >Hi Holly, thanks for the comments. It was fun to test these ideas out, and quite a vivid result. I am glad you too think the A-line skirts are just fine. They are the most comfortable skirts for this climate.You make a good point about showing off my figure. I was looking with regards to figure "flaws" rather than showing off my figure, but now you mention it, it is a lot more fun to look at it that way than hiding perceived flaws! I was re-reading some of the literature Kerryn gave me and it explained shoulder emphasis creates a sense of height in the wearer. Considering how short I am, and what you said about lengthening, it seems you are picking up on that. Thanks for highlighting it for me.LOL re the knitting. I am a bit that way myself about that. But sewing? Ah! I love my sewing!



  1. Blue rose skirt refashion « Tropical Threads - June 3, 2011

    […] year during a colour and style consultation with Kerryn of Kerryn’s Fabric World, I mentioned the issue with this skirt. Indeed it is an […]


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