Fashion: Knowing is Glowing
By Dina Younis
It’s hard to define what constitutes great style. But the simplest definition of a woman who has great style in my opinion is the one who knows what best suits her body, enhances her best characteristics without overpowering them, and succeeds in achieving balance in her overall look. By sharing some of that knowledge with you, I hope to help you make informed decisions about your clothing choices and most of all know why or why not that item or accessory works or doesn’t work for you.
So if I had to pick a starting point, I would start with understanding three important concepts in relation to our bodies and features: SCALE, PROPORTION and LINE. These concepts will help set you on the right path to making appropriate clothing choices.
SCALE is essentially determined by the size of your bone structure and the size of your features such as your hands, feet and head. Your height and wrist measurements matter! Knowing where you fall in SCALE will help you make your selection of fabric weight, size of texture, print, details, and size and weight of your accessories. SCALE ranges from small, medium to over scale.
For example, women with wrist circumferences of 14cm and height measurements less than 1.6 m are considered small in scale. Women whose wrists measure 16 cm and above and are over 1.65 m in height are considered over scale.
Hence, a small-scale person should avoid heavy fabrics such as gabardine or wool flannel, large prints and oversized accessories (exceptions can be made if using an accessory as a statement piece), while an over scale person should avoid selecting light fabrics, small prints and tiny accessories.
PROPORTION is the relationship of the parts of the body in relation to your whole body. A good stylist will be able to look at you and identify the areas that are “out of proportion” and strategically dress you to draw attention away from it by making appropriate fabric, color and print selections. There are proportions to consider vertically and horizontally.
Our bodies can be divided into four parts: the (1) the décolleté to the top of the head, the (2) mid-bust to crotch, (3) crotch to knee, and (4) knee to feet. If we are evenly proportioned, the line right below the crotch falls right in the middle, where the two top parts (1 and 2) equal the two bottom parts (3 and 4). When the line falls above or below the mid-way point, then we are not consideredvertically proportioned.
Knowing where we may be out of proportion also allows us to make body-specific styling decisions. For example, a person with a short waist and a longer lower body will want to avoid short jackets such as boleros and high waisted skirts while someone with short legs would look great in monochromatic clothing or high waisted trousers or skirts.
Horizontal proportion is determined by the relationship between our shoulders, waist and hips. Ask yourself, are my shoulders wide, balanced, or narrow? Is my waistline defined, semi-defined or undefined? Understanding this also helps you choose cuts that create balance. An example of how this translates to style selection would be a women with broad shoulders who understands she should select darker colors on top, large lapels and wide necklines and concentrate color and pattern on her lower half with a full skirt or wide pants.
A good rule of thumb: never put a jacket or skirt hemline across the widest part of your body.
The way our bodies are shaped and how our muscles and flesh are placed on our frames determine LINE. Our bodies can be described as angular, interjacent, or curvilinear.
Angular women tend to have angular faces (triangle, diamond or square) and straight features (i.e. eyebrows and lips). Body characteristics include straight or cornered shoulders, straight or flat hips and buttocks, flat backs, and muscles appear to lie flat on the body frame.
Curvilinear women have oval or heart-shaped faces, curvy features (i.e. rounded eyebrows and full and curvy lips), rounded shoulders, curved ribcages, hips, buttocks and backs. The muscles notably appear very curved on the body frame.
Interjacent women comprise the largest category and have characteristics of both angular and curvilinear body types. They can have curvy upper halves and straight narrow lower halves or vice versa. Facial features are a combination of angular and curvilinear.
The importance of noting the characteristics of LINE helps us choose the most suitable fabric for our bodylines. Crisp and stiffer fabrics such as taffeta and linen are best suited for angular bodylines while fabrics with higher fluidity and drape such as crepe andjersey better suit curvilinear ones. Interjacent women should note where they are angular or curvy and select and place the appropriate fabric accordingly.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
So I leave you this month with a bit of homework, make sure to stand in front of the mirror, face front, to the side and back if possible. Take note of your horizontal and vertical lines, how your features are shaped, the size of your wrists, the shape of your muscles, how curved is your back…and then go back to your wardrobe and check your clothes. How heavy or light are the fabrics? How big or small are your accessories? I assure you, you will notice characteristics and features about your body you may not have noticed before.
That’s what happened to me when I first found out about all this. In fact, I have always had a preconceived notion of my body type, which I realized developed mostly from the way people perceived me to be growing up. Although I’ve always been told repeatedly, “you’re so skinny” I was extremely surprised to find out how wide my hips are compared to my shoulders. Now, that was something I never mentally attributed to a ‘skinny’ person. My mother was always worried I wouldn’t be able to give birth naturally, due to how ‘skinny’ I was. Well, to my surprise (and my mother’s) skinny me thankfully gave birth to healthy chubby babies thanks to my great wide birthing hips!
Understanding our bodylines and features is one way to make styling decisions. But what happens when you are actually at the store and you find the right style, fabric, and pattern? But the skirt or blouse you picked off the rack doesn’t fit well. Until next month, when I’ll give you some tips and ideas on how to find the PERFECT FIT…
Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.