Ugh, we know, the best way to feel confident in our bodies is to stay healthy through good food and exercise—but sometimes we just need that extra boost. Which is why it’s key to know how to look thinner using nothing but your clothes and a couple nifty styling tips.
Yes, it is possible to look as if we’ve been eating clean and SoulCycling daily simply by choosing clothing wisely, and a few clever tips and tricks can have an enormous effect on the way we look. Read on to learn how to look thinner using fashion.
1. Invest in shapewear
By now you’re probably tired of hearing about Spanx and the other gazillion types of stretchy devices that promise to shave off of pounds, but here’s the thing: They really work. At its core, the right piece of shapewear works as a means to help distribute bulges while smoothing you out and holding you in.
To look thinner, it pays to choose a seamless pair of slenderizing briefs, boy shorts, camis or full-body pieces that have reinforced panels to suck in your stomach, slim your thighs, boost your derriere, and define your waist when wearing bodycon dresses, clingy skirts, tight pants or evening gowns.
2. Take a length and fit lesson
If you’re trying to give off a thinner appearance, it’s key to be mindful of hemlines and unwanted volume. This means staying far away from things humorously associated with tourists: Capri pants, pleated khakis, long baggy shorts or shapeless calf-length skirts.
Instead, opt for straight dark jeans that have a bit of stretch and hit exactly at your ankle or an inch or two below. This will elongate your body, especially when paired with heels, ankle boots or pointy flats (which actually make you look taller). On top, try longer shirts, blazers, or sweaters that aren’t too oversized. Same goes for trousers: Choose dark colors (black and navy are your best bet) without any upper pleating.
In terms of skirts, a knee-length pencil skirt is the most universally flattering silhouette, as are fitted A-line skirts that hit right above the knee.
To look leaner, it’s crucial that every item in your closet fits you properly (if you have to become BFFs with your tailor, so be it). With blazers and jackets, always make sure the seams sit perfectly at the bony tops of your shoulders, and that the sleeves hit exactly at your wrist.
3. Choose heels with a low-cut vamp
Here’s small trick that can change the way you shoe shop: Footwear that features a low-cut vamp instantly elongates and slenderizes your leg when you’re wearing skirts, shorts, dresses, and even cropped pants. What’s a vamp? It’s the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot at the front. So, a low vamp cuts across the base of the toes, while high vamp can come up the foot and possibly up to the ankle. If you’re able to find a pair that matches your skin tone, all the better to give the illusion of slim legs.
Speaking of shoes, a heel—think two and a half inches and above—lifts the body and makes clothes fall better, which gives a slimmer appearance. Look for pumps with slightly pointed toes and thin heels. Of course, if you can’t walk in them, skip the heels—there’s nothing less flattering than wearing an item that’s obviously causing discomfort.
4. Wear all black
Using one color to enhance a slender illusion is the oldest trick in the book, and for a good reason: It helps create a long vertical line. While wearing head-to-toe black is the most effective—and eternally chicest—option, other darker hues work well too, such as navy, oxblood, and green. The trick to monochrome dressing: Keep each silhouette crisp and tailored, and stay away from pale shades like beige.
5. Don’t discount maxi skirts
It’s a common fashion myth that curvy women simply cannot wear floor-grazing skirts and dresses, but luckily that’s been proven entirely false. In fact, a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking longer and leaner.
Choose solid versions that skim the length of your body, which will create a long vertical line (forego anything with pleats, bulky pockets, thick elastic waistbands or too many layers). Be sure to keep your top fitted—a tucked-in T-shirt and a cropped leather jacket or a well-cut blouse in a dark color, for example—so as to not drown in fabric.
Also, make sure the skirt’s hemline is as long as you can go without tripping, and add a pair of high wedges or heels underneath.
7. Say “yes” to higher rise jeans
High-waist bottoms get a bad rap, but when worn correctly, they can trick the eye into thinking you’re leaner by elongating your lower body. The most slenderizing item to choose are slightly high-rise slim-fitting jeans that hit your ankle with a bit of added spandex for stretch and movement.
Be sure to make the elevated waist visible by tucking in a tailored blouse, tee, or opting for a slightly cropped top. Don’t choose garments with a super high-waist that button up or have an elastic waistband. Instead, go for a rise that hits directly above your belly button and has a zipper fly.
8. Rock out with vertical stripes
The second oldest trick in the book: Vertical stripes create long lines, thus making you look, well, longer. And while we’re on the subject of stripes, it’s common fashion folklore that horizontal lines can make you look wider. Yes, a skin-tight bodycon dress featuring horizontal lines might be a little hard to rock, but things like a well-fitting classic Breton striped shirts tucked into dark jeans or a tailored skirt flatters everyone.
9. Cinch with skinny belts
To look slimmer, cinch dresses and tunics with skinny belts—they help define your natural waist in the most flattering way possible. A thick belt, however, can cut you in half, which can cause you to look stumpy.
10. Mask problem areas with dark colors and highlight assets with bright colors
If you don’t want to wear all black, just try masking your problem areas with the shade. Not thrilled with your legs but love your upper body? Mask ’em with a well-fitting pair of black pants or a skirt, and add a bright-colored blouse.
To hide larger arms, midsections, or hips, choose a tailored black blazer, a black silky button-down, or a well-fitting black flat-sweater and show off your great legs with a pair of printed pants, colored jeans, or a bold skirt.
11. Buy a new bra
Did you know that over 80 percent of women wear bras that are the wrong size? It’s true, and it can make your look larger due to the appearance of sagging breasts. When there’s proper space between your waist and chest, you appear leaner. The solution? Head to your nearest lingerie store to get measured by a pro, or learn to measure your own bra size at home.
12. Fake a tan
A subtle glow makes a world of difference when it comes to looking slimmer. A light spray tan can make your legs, arms, shoulders and neck look pounds thinner, as can a light dusting of bronzer on your cheeks, forehead, and sides of your nose.
Originally published October 2013. Updated April 2017.