Accessorization and Figure Flattery 101

accessory flattering

An anonymous commenter popped this into the suggestion box:

I would absolutely love it if you could do a tutorial post on accessorising … and maybe also something on colour and using these to suit your body shape. I have absolutely no clue when it comes to accessorising (very minimalist dress style but am trying to change as I think it’s just boring to look at). For example, tutorials on the interactions between body shape and size and the colour and proportions of your accessories, and even the colour of your clothes. Kind of an “Accessorising 101” …

So I’m gonna cop out a little and redirect the color questions, as tackling both accessorization and color in one post would be sheer madness. Here are some posts for the curious about color:

Now. Tackling the subject of accessorization in one post may strike you as sheer madness, too, but I’ll give it a whirl, acknowledging that I will be providing the most cursory of overviews. And I’ll do my best to focus on how accessories affect figure flattery.

But first, a few things to note about accessories in general and their role in personal style:

I’ve met so many women who feel like they have not yet mastered dressing because accessorization intimidates them. Accessories add personality, flavor, and interest to outfits so they are absolutely invaluable tools to every stylish woman. But don’t go thinking that you need a blackbelt in necklace selection to accessorize well! All you need is the curiosity to experiment, a few items that fit your tastes, and some trust in your personal judgment. Accessorization, like any skill, is all about practice. So … practice!

Accessories are generally considered to be the finishing touches on an outfit. You’ve got your shoes, bottom, and top covered, but what is lacking to make the ensemble complete? Here are a few questions you can ask as you’re standing before your mirror, clothed but accessory-free:

  • Look for the areas of an outfit that are not-quite-perfect. Can an accessory cinch in a waist? Cover up a hole?
  • Look for the vast stretches of empty space in an outfit. Does an accessory belong there? In a wide or deep neckline, in an unbroken swath of cloth from neck to knee, on a bare arm?
  • Look for ways in which color or pattern seem to clash. Can an accessory bridge that gap?

Now let’s dig into the major categories of accessories one by one, and explore how to find types and styles that suit your body shape.

earrings figure flattery

When selecting earrings, consider the following criteria:

Haircut and style: How do you want your earrings to interact with your hair? Is it important that they be big and bright enough to show through? If you have a super short cut, will you feel odd wearing giant hoops?

Face shape: If you want to create balance, choose earring shapes that are opposite from your face shape. If you have a round face, go for long, linear, dangly earrings. If you have a square face, go for soft, rounded shapes. If you have a long face, pick earrings that hit about mid-cheek to avoid elongating it any further.

Neck length: There are certain styles of earring that are meant to dance across your shoulders and collarbones, but generally speaking, you want a pair that is at least three inches above shoulder height. So if your neck is shorter, you might want to balance earring length accordingly. In addition, exposed earrings can either balance or emphasize neck length, so bear that in mind. Wearing bulky, chunky earrings may make short necks look shorter. Wearing long, linear, sticklike earrings will make long necks look longer.

Neckline and scarf considerations: If you’re wearing a cowl neck sweater, long earrings will get tangled in the fibers and look sloppy. If you’re wearing a thick, bulky scarf, same. Be aware of how your earrings will interact with your neckline and neckwear.

necklaces figure flattery

How a necklace interacts with your neckline can impact how flattering that necklace is on your body, so be sure to start there. But here are a few more tips on picking a necklace that works with your figure:

Neck length and shape: As you might have guessed, thick chokers will make a short thick neck look shorter and thicker. On the other hand, extremely delicate necklaces can make a short thick neck look shorter and thicker, too. That same extremely delicate necklace might make a long neck look even longer. You ladies can totally eyeball this. Put it on, see how it interacts with your neck shape, and decide if it works.

Bone structure: Some say that women with small, delicate bones should wear small, delicate jewelry no matter what their body shape, and women with larger bones can carry larger jewelry. But that rule is too confining, if you ask me. Nevertheless, bone structure can influence your decisions about how you select your necklace. If you want to create a look that is feminine and romantic, play up delicate bones with light, airy necklaces. If you want to go edgy, pick a chunky chain and think about letting the rest of your outfit de-emphasizes your bone structure.

Bust and decolletage: If you’re exposing some cleavage, necklace choice can either draw attention to or away from the girls. A pendant that nestles will draw the eye to, but a giant bib or statement necklace may cover up and draw attention from your bust. This holds true for all bust sizes, I belive. If you’re small of boob and self-conscious about it, don’t wear an open neckline and a pendant. Go for something bigger and showier to fill that naked space.

Also be aware of length issues, especially if you’re busty. A long necklace that bounces off your bust when you walk may just irritate you. Long necklaces should end about three inches above your navel, regardless of bust size. Shorter necklaces should generally hit an inch above the cleavage line, unless you’re going for an intentionally sexy look.

Face shape: As with earrings, try to choose necklace shapes that will balance or counteract the aspects of your face shape that are the most pronounced. Round faces will look rounder wearing decidedly round necklaces made from round beads, etc.


bracelets figure flattery
Can a bracelet really be unflattering? Actually, it can. Keep these things in mind:

Wrist and forearm shape: Unless you are extremely slender, a giant cuff that masks your entire wrist will make you appear to have forearms that are the same circumference from wrist to elbow. Just as a pair of boots that shows off your ankle is more flattering than a tubelike boot that masks them, a bracelet that shows the curve of your wrist is more flattering than a massive cuff that masks it. It’s an aesthetic choice, and sometimes you just don’t care. And since giant cuffs are seldom worn on both wrists, the masking isn’t complete. But if you’re hypersensitive about your arms, as so many women are, choose bracelets that show your wrist off instead of hiding it.

Tightness: This may seem obvious to the extreme, but I want to cover all my bases. Elasticized bracelets can sit snugly against your wrist, but NO bracelet should squeeze your tender flesh.


I’m pretty sure there are zero unflattering ways to wear a brooch. Do what feels right!


Audi’s guest post on flattering hats for every head should get the ball rolling, but here are a few highlights:

Body shape: Consider hat shapes that will balance your figure shape. Petites might want to avoid enormous, wide-brimmed hats or anything truly oversized. They’ll do better with a small brim and low crown. Tall ladies, consider avoiding anything overly narrow, pointy, or high as it will just add to your natural height. You can sport the wide brim that our petites may avoid, and try a shorter crown.

Face shape: Again with the balance thing. If you have a longish face shape, choose wide hats with curled or floppy brims. If your face is round, you’ll want to go for hats with high brims, angular shapes, and that are, overall, wider than your face is. This means that most caps are right out. Square-faced women should consider asymmetric hats, which can help balance strong jawlines. And if you’re an oval, a wide variety of hat styles will work for you. Play around and see what you like!

Hat position: There’s no right or wrong way to wear a hat, of course, but many people choose to push hats to the back of their heads. It might feel natural, but it’s not always the most flattering look. Experiment a bit in front of a mirror before you settle on a position. You never know what’ll work best until you tinker.

scarves figure flattery

Scarves can be worn a trillion different ways, and if you’re looking for new ways to tie yours, I’ve got a few tucked away on this Pinterest board.

Neck length: If you’ve got an average or long neck, an outsized scarf or bulky cowl may work … but those styles will only make a short neck appear shorter. If you’ve got a very long neck, skinny scarves worn long and loose down the body will emphasize that length. As always, consider seeking balance with your natural features.

Face shape: My face is rectangular, so I can have a giant wad of scarfy material up by my face and still look relatively angular. If you have a round face and are concerned about emphasizing it, winding a giant pashmina around your neck is not the way to go. Try a long rectangular scarf that hangs down on either side of your neck, drawing the eye up and down. Experiment with various ties – paying special heed to how loosely or tightly you tie the scarf around your neck and near your face – and see what looks best.

Bust size: Consider how a scarf will interact with your bust, and how that interaction affects your overall silhouette. A giant pile of scarf atop a large bust may just make you look like an ice cream cone. A long, limp scarf dangling across a small chest may just emphasize small breasts. Consider the girls when you slap on a scarf.

belt figure flattery

Waist, or lack thereof: Figures lacking a somewhat defined waistline can have a really tough time belting. Depending on belly size, hip-slung belts may work on the waistless as may belting with elastic or tie belts instead of stiff leather belts … but it’s still tricky. On the flip side, women with pronounced hourglass figures can generally do small and medium-sized belts, but extremely wide belts may conspire with boobs and butt to create a boxy silhouette. Experiment with belt styles and widths until you find a few that work for your waistline.

Shoulders and hips: If you’ve got broad shoulders or a big bust AND pronounced hips, huge belts can be unflattering. However, if you’ve only got one of the three, they can totally work. Play around a bit.

Placement: Just as there’s no right way to wear a hat, there’s no right way to place a belt. Depending on how you’re built, the cut of your clothes, and the style of belt, you may look fantastic buckled right under your bustline, high waist, natural waist, wearing waist, or hip-slung. Eyeball multiple placements in front of a mirror.

Accessorization is affected by your clothing color choices, too, of course. Bright, vibrant colors may work better with small matte accessories, muted tones can allow sparkly, eye-catching accessories to shine. But that call must be made on an outfit-to-outfit basis. If you’re going for a sleek, minimalist look then soft or dark colors and quiet accessories will work. If you’re feeling bold, go bright and loud with both colors and accessories. I couldn’t say there are any figure flattery guidelines specific to pairing color and accessories, at least none that I know of. Focus on how the colors and accessories interact, and then step back and make sure the overall silhouette is one that pleases your eye.

Pay some heed to overall accessory balance. Any body that is absolutely dripping with accessories is going to look a bit off. Your personal rules for amount and size of accessories may vary from mine, but just be sure you know what your parameters for balance are before you head out the door weighed down by belts and jewelry.

And finally, HAVE FUN. This is a lot to digest and may seem awfully confining, but you should definitely experiment and play and make your own accessorization rules. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

Originally posted 2016-02-15 06:48:11.

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3 Responses to “Accessorization and Figure Flattery 101”

  1. Maryhelen Tapio

    Great post, excellent suggestions. I’m going to print it and hang on my closet wall!