Reader Request: Bending Trends

How to make trends work for your figure and style

rb wanted to know: What to do when current fashion isn’t right for your figure – pencil skirts, skinny jeans.

As I’ve said many times and with great fervor, you do NOT need to wear anything that you do not like or that does not flatter you. Period. And part of me wants to end this post right there because there should be no force in this world capable of coercing you into wearing garments or styles that don’t suit you, don’t work with your natural assets, and don’t make you feel like your own magnificent self.

But I’m someone who loves riding the trend waves, and I know that sometimes other factors play in. Sometimes you love how a garment looks on OTHERS, but just can’t make it work for you. Sometimes you already own a trendy item and are all set to wear it … but realize you have no idea how to style it. Sometimes you are sick to death of your “classic” wardrobe and just want to add something fresh and current.

So here are some workarounds.

Check specialty retailers

If you’re a plus-sized woman who wants to wear skinnies, check Torrid first. If you’re a petite woman who is dying for a pair of leggings that don’t drag on the floor, check J. Jill’s petite’s section. If you’re a tall drink of water longing for a miniskirt that doesn’t expose your ladyparts to the world, check Long Tall Sally. Sometimes you just need to know where to shop to nab trendy items that actually fit your bod.

Get as close as possible

Pencil skirts look a MESS on some of us. But a similar skirt with a sliiiiight A-line flare will flatter nearly every figure. You might not like how your legs look if you stick your skinny jeans into a pair of tall boots. But pairing those same skinny jeans with a sexy pump can look quite different. Tunic tops might swallow up your slight frame, but a shirtdress worn open atop something formfitting will show off your figure, minus all that unnecessary volume. Trends are looser than we tend to realize, so don’t be afraid to put your own spin on them.

Take it to the tailor

Should you be in the fortunate position of knowing a trustworthy tailor, make good use of that tailor’s expertise. Bring in a trendy garment that ALMOST works and get some advice on how to perfect it. Or bring in a photo of something you’d love to wear and ask how it might be altered to work with your figure.

Go for accessories

OK, the short-necked might want to avoid chunky bib necklaces and the waistless don’t often do obi belts. But, overall, accessories have fewer fit issues than clothing. They’re also cheaper, and a fantastic way to add some trendy overtones to your wardrobe without throwing a bunch of money at garments that won’t appeal to you after a single year’s wearing.


Sometimes the reason a trendy item “looks wrong” is because you haven’t put enough effort into experimenting with it. Take that faux fur vest into the shop’s dressing room with a frock, some jeans, a ruffled blouse, a leather skirt, and a sweater. Mix and match until you love the look, and then decide if the vest is worth the investment. Did you have fun honing? Do you think you could cook up at least three or four more great looks with it? If you’re so afraid something won’t look good on you that trying it on isn’t even an option, ask yourself this: Will you spontaneously combust if it’s hideous on your figure? I have forced plus sized clients into pencil skirts and small-boobed clients into wrap tops, and watched them stare at their miraculously flattered figures in amazement. Just play. Clothes are fun, and they seldom bite.

Once more, with feeling: You need never wear clothing you hate simply because it is trendy. A woman can be perfectly stylish without owning a single magazine-endorsed seasonal item, I promise you. But if you long for a dash of trendiness and just don’t know how to incorporate potentially unflattering or challenging pieces, see if one of these five tricks won’t help ease the transition.

Images courtesy Banana Republic.


Originally posted 2010-03-01 06:43:00.

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19 Responses to “Reader Request: Bending Trends”

  1. Rebecca

    Great help (as usual) for those of us who wonder AND wander.

  2. La Historiadora de Moda

    Great tips, Sal! I completely agree with you about playing with clothes until you find the silhouettes that make you feel like a million dollars.

  3. Julia

    Thanks for this post!

    I especially agree with the last point. I find that sometimes trends look wrong on me because I'm just not used to myself in the look. But after playing with an item or just wearing it around my apartment, I feel more comfortable and it doesn't seem so wrong anymore. The next step is I'll wear it out running errands, even if it's hidden under a coat. Soon enough after playing with it and experimenting, it feels right and I feel comfortable.

    Polka Dot Biker Shorts

  4. Kristin

    Hear, hear!

    Playtime in my closet has grown to be a semi-weekly occurrence, and it has yielded many combinations that I would never have thought of wearing if I stuck with trying to put together outfits in the morning before heading to work. You never know until you try!

    Bird on Your Shirt

  5. WendyB

    Play is my favorite piece of advice. It irks me when people say something doesn't suit them and they've never tried it on.

  6. Kelly

    Great post, Sal. Especially about the playing – I can look epicly lumpy in one getup, but if I just switch a few pieces around, suddenly my new (fill in the blank) looks as fabulous as I always wanted. It's not always that the garment and you are suited to each other – it's just that you're trying to make the wrong combo with it!

  7. myedit

    I totally agree… especially with 'play', if you don't try, you don't know. That said some trends should never be followed and need a 'warning' label on them so that the masses don't get seduced by their unflattering trendiness. End rant.

  8. Rad_in_Broolyn

    Hey Sal, thanks for these tips. I spend a lot of time playing, but I feel pretty foolish when I do it. My apartment is small, and only has one mirror in the bathroom. I guess I haven't gotten over the idea that spending time playing with outfits is a perfectly good use of time. I'm getting there, though!


    I like it when you mentioned 'play'!
    should keep it fun most of the time~

  10. lisa

    Fantastic advice as always, Sal! I love what you said about accessories because it is indeed an inexpensive way to update the classics in your wardrobe. And what you said about playing with clothes is spot-on–trying things on is always worth a shot! Even if you don't love the item on yourself, it's not like you can't take it off and put something else on.

  11. Tarryn

    Ah, I've been listening to, and watching, your youtube channel. You are so awesome. Has anyone told you that today? ANYWAY.

    PS: I am a huge fan of the "play" principle, because I know girls who look so good in skinny jeans, who were really freaked out by then to start off with. But they tried it, and it worked. So there! Take that, lame body image!

  12. Sal

    Tarryn: You doll! You totally made my day. I'm glad those vids are making you smile.

  13. angie

    Nice post, Sally! I especially encourage the part about “playing”. So often, my clients say that they can’t wear something when they totally can. It’s a question of ironing out the details and finding the right fit and flavour for their body type and fashion persona. Patience and tenacity is key, coupled with lots of practice.

    May I suggest Calvin Klein straight legged jeans for plus sized gals. They are flattering, affordable and streamlined.

  14. Anonymous

    I can't really afford to buy new trends all the time, particularly since I'm pretty picky about quality/construction. I just pick a trendy item or two (that I love and works with my body and style) every few years, and buy the best that I can afford. That way I have a semi-trendy item in my closet always, and hopefully after I get tired of it it can languish in my closet until everyone has forgotten about that trend, and when I pull it back out it will look different and cool again!

  15. lopi

    And let's not forget the "time" factor! Once upon a time I would have not imagined I would wear many of the styles I do now, namely high-waist skirts, oversized tops, platform wedges. But, by throwing some time at the problem you give your eyes the chance to adjust to a new trend that for the moment being just looks obscene AND to work out the best possible way for you in particular to wear it successfully.

  16. Alli XT

    Great post! I love that you emphasized not wearing anything that doesn't make you feel great. I have one more tip to offer – before going to the tailor – hit the men's section for jeans. After having the worst time trying to find any sort of jeans that fit my petite, short torsoed, booty-ful, frame, I hit a jackpot with skinny jeans and "boyfriend" jeans from the men's section of certain trendier stores. It's probably my favorite tip to share and it's helped a lot of my fellow petite friends find great looking but "trendy/stylish" jeans.
    I never would have had the guts to start doing this if my partner hadn't encouraged me to "play" in his closet after I'd uttered an exasperated "I give up!" while searching for jeans.