You know how they say a great outfit can totally make your day and boost your confidence? Well, it’s true! Think about it: We all have that one dress that makes us feel sexy. And we all have those pair of shoes that makes us want to strut down the street. But we can’t just rely on certain pieces of clothing, alone. On days where we just don’t feel so hot and all the clothes in your closet suddenly make you feel frumpy, that’s where certain styling tips come in.
Yep, choosing clothing wisely and implementing a few clever tips and tricks can have an enormous effect on the way you look and feel. So on days when you’re not feeling your confident, badass self (because we all have those days), see our 12 styling tips below.
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 make you look slimmer, 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.
Choose a seamless pair of slenderizing briefs, boy shorts, camis, or full-body pieces that have reinforced panels to pull 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
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 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 shirt 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. 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-fitted pair of black pants or a skirt, and add a bright-colored blouse.
To hide 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 you 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 more tone, as can a light dusting of bronzer on your cheeks, forehead, and sides of your nose.
A version of this article was originally published in September 2013.