Culottes Conundrum // Styling the Emily Culottes

Up till recently, I would not have been caught dead wearing a pair of culottes. It’s not that I hated them – in fact, I loved everything about them… except when they were on me. The thing about culottes is that they have the very real potential to be the most unflattering garment ever. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve put on a pair of wide-legged culottes only to take them right off again because (a) it made my child-bearing hips look bigger than they already were and (b) the below-knee length made my legs look shorter than ever before! It wasn’t long before I wrote this trend off as a “model-only” look… but I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

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Some of you may have been following along with my wardrobe architect journey (soon to be continued – I’m sorry it’s been a while!), and it’s been really helpful for identifying the kind of silhouettes and shapes that work for me. When trying to decide how to style my Itch to Stitch Emily Culottes, I applied some of the concepts I learnt through the WA Challenge and realised it makes a HUGE difference when I follow a few simple styling rules that I’ll be sharing with you guys today.

Now I’m not claiming to be a style expert and I’m not saying that all these tips will work for everyone – the aim of this post today is to share a little about the styling rules I’ve employed to make the culottes trend work on my 5′ 3″ pear-shaped frame. I’m hoping that these tips will help encourage some of you to give this trend a shot and will be useful in helping you to figure out what works on your body and what doesn’t! Alright, ready? Here we go!

Rule #1. Dark colours on the bottom, light on the top.

Let’s start with basics, shall we? Everyone knows that dark colours have a slimming effect and light colours have a broadening effect, but sometimes we forget that this applies to loose clothing as well.

As you can see from my first version of the Emily Culottes, I was too romanced by the idea of white culottes that I forgot my own rule and made one up in a oyster-toned cream. Below you can see what a huge difference a dark top and light pants make to my appearance as compared to a lighter coloured top and dark pants.

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Rule #2. Always mind your proportions. 

This is something that a lot of you may have heard of or already apply in your styling. Personally, it took me 23 years to even begin to understand this concept and I’m still learning more about it every day! Your proportions play a huge role in determining how you appear – we can look shorter or taller, bigger or leaner, more bootylicious or less, all based on how we allow our clothing to dictate our proportions.

Credit to Style Makeover HQ.com

For instance, if you know you have a long torso, wear your culottes higher waisted to balance out your proportions. This should also have the added advantage of letting the culottes sit at the smallest point of your waist, thereby accentuating the fit and flare silhouette. Conversely, if you have a short torso, wear them at your natural waist or lower to make it seem like you have a lower waistline and to balance out your longer legs (lucky you!).

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I included two pictures of Posh (aka VB aka Queen of Not-Smiling) so that you could see how wearing a pair of culottes higher waist or lower waist makes a difference to a person’s proportions. Note how Posh looks like she has a slightly longer torso in the middle picture, and a slightly stunted torso in the right hand side one. (I can’t believe she looks great in both photos, what IS she?!)

Rule #3. Fit & Flare

Fit and flare is one way I manage my proportions and balance out my figure. Since culottes are usually flared or loose fitting, I pair them with a fitted top to balance out my figure. The interesting about culottes for pears, is that if your culottes are structured and voluminous enough, they can actually hide the size of your hips! Paired with a fitted top, this means that you will overall look slimmer.

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My favourite look is to pair my Emily Culottes with a crop top (though this houndstooth one reveals a little too much of my belly for my liking), as it doesn’t need to be tucked in and therefore eliminates bulk at the waistline. This creates an illusion of a slimmer waistline (when measurements-wise, I don’t have a clearly defined waist!) which is always a good idea.

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If you’re uncomfortable with fitted tops or crop tops, then by all means pick a longer top with a looser fit! Just make sure your top is fitted at the shoulders or the sleeves, like this boxy top below…

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Or sleeveless, to balance out the overwhelming amount of coverage you’re getting below the waist.

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I’ve seen quite a few pictures on pinterest where culottes are styled with an oversized top and sweater – and those people look great! But from what I’ve experimented on myself, that style doesn’t work for me, as it only seems to add bulk on my frame. Nevertheless, if you think that style works for you, go for it! It’s all about what you feel good in.

Rule #4. The longer the pants, the higher the heel.

This is a rule that I live by and apply universally across ALL my outfits. As I mentioned in one of my Wardrobe Architect posts, long bottoms (i.e. below the knee) create the appearance of shorter legs. By wearing heels, you restore your proportions and create the illusion of a longer leg. (Plus, if you’ve got thunder thighs like me, heels also help to create the appearance of a longer, leaner leg.)

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Compare how I look wearing heeled loafers vs flat loafers in the picture above. It doesn’t look bad, but my legs look longer and overall, I look more proportionate in the left picture than on the right. (These pictures were taken within an hour of each other… I have no idea why I look so different??)

Also, is it just me but does wearing culottes with flats automatically make one seem like they’re either channelling the boho vibe or the japanese look?

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There’s nothing wrong with the boho or japanese styles, but they just aren’t for me. If you love them, then more power to you! You get to wear your culottes with comfy flats while my toes get pinched and blistered for the sake of vanity (cue crying emoji).

Note: Conversely, the shorter the hemline, the lower the heel. When a skirt or shorts hits more than 2 or 3 inches above the knee, I opt to wear flats – this helps to tone down the skankiness of the outfit and is also a LOT more comfortable! This may be why I am able to get away with wearing kitten heels in these pictures – because my culottes are only knee length!

Rule #5. Experiment on yourself!

And last, but certainly not least, if there is only one rule you should remember… it’s that there are no rules! I know this is extremely lame and cliched, but it IS true. Nobody should dictate how you dress, or what you feel comfortable in – what’s important is that YOU feel good about how you look.

Some of the places you can look to for help are fashion websites or pinterest for inspiration on how to style your clothing – just remember that what works for fashion bloggers and models may not look or feel right on you or me, which is fine! With a little time and experimentation you’ll be able to identify what shapes and styles look good on you, even when it’s someone else wearing it (psst, this also helps with online shopping!). I’ve put together a pinterest board of culotte styles that I really love and will be trying out here – check it out if you’re interested!

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Plus… if you’re loving my culottes, the pattern is still on sale over on Itch to Stitch’s website! To read my review on the pattern, click here

If you’ve got a pinterest board of your own or recommendations to style or fashion blogs, feel free to share them with me in the comments below, I would love to see them! Also, if you would like to see more of these posts or recommendations on articles for proportions and styling that I’ve found useful, shout out and let me know!

Note: All photos used in this post that do not belong to me have been sourced from my pinterest board here.

Wardrobe Architect 2015 : Weeks 3 & 4 – Shapes, Proportions and Silhouettes

If you’ve been following along on my WA Challenge 2015 journey (here and here), you’d have heard me rant on about loving styles that don’t fit my body shape or proportions. Growing up, I had a lot of problems figuring out what looked good on my body and what kind of shapes I ought to be looking out for. I’m kind of short (162cm, which is 5′ 4″ for those of you who count in imperial units), which is inconvenient, but I also happen to be a pear-shape, and my legs (to me at least) seem disproportionately stumpy. I also love heels, but hate wearing them. The end result of this is that I often feel short and squat because the styles I love tend to work better on leggy, straight-figured people. You can imagine I was really excited to find out that today’s worksheets address my problem exactly by helping me determine what I feel the most comfortable in and what sort of proportions or silhouettes work best on my body! If you’ve ever had this problem, then keep on reading to find out more.

Week 3: Exploring Shapes 

This weeks’ worksheet was a short and relatively painless affair that had me rank different shapes according to what I feel the most comfortable in. Though I thought I already had a good idea or what I liked and disliked, this exercise really helped me pin down the kind of shapes I ought to be looking for in clothing (particularly helpful in online shopping!) Here is what I discovered I love:

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Knee-Length, Somewhat Full Skirts that start from the High or Natural Waist

Knee-Length, Somewhat Fitted Dresses with Full Skirts that begin from the Natural Waist

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Somewhat Fitted, Mid-Thigh Length, Natural-Waisted Shorts
(apparently I don’t like pants very much at all… which is true)

Somewhat Fitted or Somewhat Loose Tops that hit above the hip 

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Boatneck Necklines and Major love for Sleeveless tops and All Types of Sleeves (except Capped ones) 

ALL types of cardigans (except very fitted ones) 

All pictures were taken from ASOS which to me, is basically pinterest, without the pinning.

Week 4: Proportions and Silhouettes 

This next exercise takes what we discussed one step further – from identifying the shapes we feel comfortable wearing, to matching the silhouette they produce with the types of outfits we can put together. Like Sarai, I’ve opted to use Polyvore to create these sample looks to show you a little of the silhouettes I love (or what they would look like if I had access to the unlimited clothing on Polyvore).

Fitted Top and Loose Skirts (the classic Fit and Flare)

I suspect this has more to do with my pear shape than anything else. I love that this silhouette can be made formal for the office, dressed down for date night, or shortened to create a fun casual day outfit.

(Fun fact: That work outfit above is almost exactly what I wore to work today! Plus the Ann Taylor Signature Tote pictured above? Totally worth it. It fits my laptop with no problem and always looks professional, I love it! )

Sleeveless, Loose Tops and High-Waisted Pencil Skirts 

To balance out all the coverage (till my knees!), I prefer to keep my top simple, loose and sleeveless. This is more of an office-look and one that I would avoid if I knew I’d be having a big lunch that day! Of course, this look necessitates heels, so it helps that I’d be spending most of the day sitting behind a desk.

Structured top and high-waisted shorts 

I always feel like tailored shorts need a structured top to even it out. This is a style that I’ve been dying to try but haven’t yet figured out – it’s on my list this year!

Shift or Swing Dresses

I love shift dresses. They strike the perfect balance between fitted and loose and usually manage to camouflage my pear-ness. Since shift and swing dresses are relatively shapeless, I prefer to wear ones of a shorter length with flats or sandals. As a general rule, I like to pair shorter length clothing with flat shoes and longer lengths (ie. below knee-length) with heels. I’ve seen quite a lot of girls about who are able to pull off midi skirts with flats, but I suspect that has something to do with their taller height and longer legs – woe are the short-legged!

Loose top and Skinny Jeans or Jeggings 

This is a look that I wear to the office quite often on casual Fridays. Though I love pairing this outfit with heels (so classy!) I usually keep it comfortable and casual with flats.

When I was prepping this post I suddenly realised that I tend to apply these 3 golden rules in choosing my outfit silhouettes:

1. Fitted on top, flared at the bottom (to hide dat booty!)

2. When hemlines are short, the heels get shorter.

3. Balance out tight bottoms with loose tops (after all, when you compare China with Russia it doesn’t seem that big anymore doesn’t it?)

So there you have it! The 5 main silhouettes I apply to my dressing; I hope you guys (especially fellow pears) have found it helpful! What cardinal rules do you have for styling? I would love to hear them!

Wardrobe Architect 2015 : Week 2 – Defining a Core Style

I know I know, I said I would post ages and I didn’t… to make up for it, you guys get 4 posts in quick succession – hurray! (Or sorry, depending on whether you like hearing me babble on or not.) Just an update in case you guys are worrying that my sewing mojo (sew-jo?) has gone – I’ve recently gone back to work after a break to study for the Bar Exams last year, so I’m still getting used to juggling a full time job, family time and a rather time-consuming hobby (as you can tell, it isn’t going well). This means I haven’t sewed anything at all this year (cue horrified emoji), but I have been doing a lot of planning and thinking about my next makes in between churning out affidavits and writing letters…

…which bodes well for this post because today’s task is to define my core style! The premise of this week’s activity is that everyone has a certain preference for an aesthetic or a quality in clothing that reflects their own personality, taste or lifestyle. This quality can be interpreted in various ways depending on the season or current trends – this is known as one’s core style. Once we are able to define our core styles, we will be able to adapt the trend of day to create a look that is uniquely us. To help us along, Sarai has prepared a worksheet to help us gather our thoughts – keep reading to see my answers below!

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?

My favourite clothing are almost always comfortable and convenient. This means they fit well, the skirts don’t ride up, the necklines don’t sag down and the straps stay where they ought to – on my shoulders. Mostly they make me feel confident, well put-together, poised, polished and generally allow me to pretend that nobody will notice if I say anything bimbotic or trip over a rock because I look so legit – ie. like I know exactly what I want and how to get there. #girlpower

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When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Some clothing make me feel like I look really good, you know, the ones where you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and give yourself a mental high-five. At the same time, these types of clothing come with the constant insecurity that I’m flashing someone, or that my love handles are showing, or that my behind looks like the size of Texas, which doesn’t make for a pleasant experience at all. These clothing are basically the garment equivalent of 6-inch heels that you can stand around in… but would have you turning back for flats not more than 5 steps out your front door.

There are also clothing that don’t fit right – they’re too big around the waist, you’re constantly checking to see if your bra is showing or you feel like it makes you look like a walking lemon. This category of clothing just makes me feel really inadequate, downright dowdy and you tend to imagine that everyone who looks your way is sizing you up and judging your attire. You want people to be impressed by how polished you are, not how unflattering your clothes look on you!

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

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When I first read this question I thought of the usual ‘classy’ icons, like Audrey Hepburn, Alexa Chung, Emma Watson and (my favourite) Taylor Swift. But though I think they look amazing and I love their style profiles, I don’t necessarily think the clothes they wear would work on me. So I flipped through my pinterest and realised that I’ve pinned an awful lot of style inspiration from Kate Middleton – I always knew I was royal material! Kate’s style is on point, timeless, elegant and appropriately modest.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

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Elegant, tailored, leggy – Think cigarette pants, blazers and high waisted shorts a la Taylor Swift

Heels – I have so many but get such bad blisters from wearing them

50’s – I basically love everything that Brittany Snow / Amber wears in the Hairspray movie

Colourful, quirky – think Stylenanda (a Korean fashion brand if you aren’t familiar with them) or Roisin’s Home Sewing is Easy Flora dress (or anything that Roisin has made, really) , I love kooky styles but don’t have the guts to go too bold or whimsical

Cute – Peter Pan collars – I love them, just not on me

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:

Basics, Comfortable, Practical, Neutral, Modest, Classic, Fit, Understated, Timeless, Simple, Cool (temperature-wise), Safe, Elegant, Lady-like, Matching

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Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Timeless, Modest, Practical and Understated

I realise this may well translate into “boring” but my style is what it is I suppose! What do you guys think – boring or classic? If any of you are following along the WA Challenge as well I would love to hear about it!