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.

Culottes Convert // The Itch to Stitch Emily Culottes Pattern

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I’ve always straddled the line somewhere between tomboy and girly girl, so it’s little surprise that growing up culottes were my favourite thing ever – a skirt that allows me to climb over railings and won’t expose my granny underpants whenever a gust of wind comes my way? YES, PLEASE. Sadly, culottes went strictly out of fashion in my teen years and eventually were eliminated from my wardrobe… UNTIL NOW.

I’ve been watching the culottes trend with great interest since they first started emerging in high street fashion last Spring, and while I was convinced that wide-legged, midi length trousers were going to be a fashion disaster on my short pear frame, I really wanted one. Needless to say, when Itch to Stitch Patterns put out a call for pattern testers for the Emily Culottes, I jumped at the chance. Thankfully, Kennis decided to allow this rookie (me) into her team of experienced pattern testers and the rest is history. You guys, I love these culottes SO MUCH and I hope you’ll give the pattern a try so you can love it as much as I do!!

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This was my first time using an Itch to Stitch pattern, and straight off the bat I found a whole lot of things I like about it. For one, the pdf pattern allows you to print in layers – this means that you can print a single size to piece together; or you can print as many sizes as you like to grade between! Another plus are the great instructions included – I had no problems at all following the instructions (and trust me, I followed them for every step, because I wouldn’t have known what to do without them). I especially like the invisible zipper insertion technique which I had never employed before – it got me my first perfectly aligned waistband across a zipper!

I opted to make the simplest version of the Emily Culottes possible ie. no pockets, waist tabs or waist tie, no lining and shortened by only 1.5cm, as it offered a classic, clean, almost tailored look that I was looking for. If I make this up again (and I’m sure I will) I’d probably attempt the welt pockets – seeing all the beautiful welt pockets by the other pattern testers have really whetted my welt pocket appetite!

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I made up 2 versions of the culottes – first the white in shot cotton, then the navy in broadcloth. As you can see from the white version (above), the shot cotton ended up wrinkling really easily and you guys, these wrinkles WILL NOT COME OUT. I have tried to press the life out of this thing, but the wrinkles will not budge… so I suppose this make is destined for the refashioning bin.

As for the navy broadcloth version – is it an exaggeration to say that it has made me a complete culottes convert? (Alliteration, yeah!) It does wrinkle when I sit, but it irons out easily and is a lot less wrinkle-prone (and cheaper) than the shot cotton I used in the earlier make.

For the navy version, I cut and sewed a straight size 2. This resulted in the culottes sitting at the natural waist, but due to my long torso and short legs, I wanted it to sit at my high waist instead. To do this, I took out about 3/4″ from the centre back seam and redrew the curve back into the original crotch curve.

A word of caution: the waistband is cut on the bias, which means it can stretch out a LOT if you’re not careful. This happened to my white pair, which caused it to sit on my hips rather than my waist! Kennis has helpfully written up a couple of posts with some helpful tips on handling the waistband here.

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I think this is a really versatile pattern which is easily customisable according to your personal style. I tend towards a more classic silhouette and due to my height, prefer a shorter length (knee-length). Despite this, I can easily imagine this pattern being lengthened to make true midi culottes, or shortened with an added pleat to make a pair of mid-thigh skorts. If you’re worried about whether or how these culottes will / can work for you, then remember to swing by here next Monday for a post on the different ways I’ve styled these culottes for my petite pear-shape!

In the meantime, Kennis is having a sale on this pattern for US$9.60 (U.P. US$12) here! She’s also giving away a copy of the pattern for free so if you’re a giveaway lover (I know I am) then be sure to enter the giveaway here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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And now I leave you with this wannabe-Vogue accidental-mohawk shot for your viewing pleasure. Come on now, any garment that lets you get THAT much movement in whilst still looking somewhat classy is a keeper amirite?

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 Challenge : Week 1

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Last week I spoke a little about wanting to define my personal style and to collate a capsule wardrobe this year – a project on”closet control” if you will. The problem was that I had no idea where to start or how I would implement it. So imagine my excitement when I saw this post by Kristen issuing an open invitation to work through the Wardrobe Architect series with her this year – lucky me!

Kristen has undertaken the very brave challenge of not buying any RTW clothing this year – I don’t quite feel that I have the necessary skills (or time) to rely wholly on me-made clothing as yet so I’m just hoping to be able to keep up with this series and to use what I’ve learnt to focus on making clothes I will actually wear, as opposed to clothes that are simply fun to make!

My plan is to post every Monday about my progress on this series, starting today. Since there are only 3 weeks of January left, I’ll be covering week 1 today, and week 2 on Thursday.  If you guys are interested in joining in, please do! I would love to hear all of your input – often my sister is my only fashion critic, so any other feedback on how I could further define my style, or what would work on my body type would be amazing. Now, are you ready? Here we go!

Week 1 – Making Style More Personal

I found this week’s activity rather difficult – we were asked to reflect on how each of these 7 factors (your personal history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location and body) affect your fashion choices. I had some problems tackling some categories of the worksheet, but was really surprised by how a few of these factors have really shaped my personal style and what I choose to wear on a daily basis!

For one, I had always thought that my activities for the day and the need to dress comfortably played a major role in determining what I was to wear that day. As it turns out, a more significant factor is how I perceive my body and whether I feel that a certain outfit looks and feels good on me. Fit and my body image are probably the main reason why the styles I like on others (and most of the things I pin) are not looks I actually wear in real life.

(Source: Song of Style/A Little Dash Of Darling)

For example, I’ve been loving the midi skirt trend over the last year or so and have actually amassed a number of midi pieces of my own. In my mind it was the perfect piece for a pear shaped person – slim on the top, cinching the waist and flaring at the bottom to hide our child-bearing hips. In reality, I’ve worn a midi skirt maybe twice in the whole of last year, mostly because I thought it looked strange on me. My waist isn’t as small as a model’s and my legs aren’t long enough to even out the longer skirt length without the added height of heels – the end result is that I feel stumpy in them so it never makes it out past my bedroom.

This picture is here because… THAT YELLOW DRESS. Am I the only one who wants to steal the entirety of Taylor’s wardrobe?!

Another interesting discovery is how my culture and religion have impacted my preference for clothing. I’m ethnically Chinese and a Christian from birth – this means that both my culture and religion value modesty and purity. This doesn’t mean I dress like a nun (my bow-back Sabrina crop top is evidence of that), but it does mean that I’ve grown up being lectured by my mom about my “too-short skirts” and “too-low tops”. I’m guessing the nagging actually worked, because some time in University I decided that (1) I didn’t like figure-hugging clothing, (2) I didn’t like short skirts and (3) tube tops and plunging necklines fit me badly and made me feel uncomfortable due to my distinct lack of bewbage.

Like this modern rendition of the cheongsam by Lark & Peony which I wish I could afford

Being Chinese also means that I grew up admiring the classic silhouette of the cheongsam (or qi pao, as some call it), and still do! I think this has influenced my love for clean lines and classic, elegant styles that are both sexy but modest at the same time. I’m talking illusion backs, sheer mesh panels, and sheath dresses that skim your curves instead of hugging them. As Emma Watson once said “The less you reveal, the more people can wonder” – dang, girl!

Are any of you guys joining in #WAChallenge2015? If so, link me down below, I would love to see how you guys are getting on! For anyone else, what do you think of this week’s challenge? How has your background or location (or any of the other factors) impacted your fashion style?

If you would like to follow along with my Wardrobe Architect Challenge journey, here’s a list of all my posts so far:

January

Week 1

Week 2: Defining a Core Style

Weeks 3 & 4: Shapes, Proportions and Silhouettes