For all of us who stand in front of a full closet each morning and still feel like we have nothing to wear, there is a new book full of wardrobe advice from the expert editors at In Style magazine. It’s called “Secrets of Style: The Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day.” Amy Goodman is an In Syle editor and she discusses the book on “Today.” Here's an excerpt:
FIGURE FLATTERY 101
Dressing with style involves more than just wearing what you like. It takes strategy. By using your clothing’s fit, fabric, color, details, pattern and proportions to lengthen, slim and direct attention to exactly where you want it (and away from the places you don’t), you’ll be able to create a look that is both flattering and in keeping with your personality.
Everything you wear should fit perfectly. This may seem obvious, but who hasn’t stood in front of a dressing room mirror and convinced herself that no one else will notice that the skirt (or dress, or blouse) is just a tiny bit too tight? News flash: That dastardly duo — puckering fabric and a strained seam — will give you away every time. Good fit means that clothes skim the body (showing curves without clinging to them) and that all the details (lapels, pocket flaps, slits, seams and pleats) lie flat. Any time clothing pulls or buckles, it not only creates a sloppy appearance, but adds pounds. The same is true for garments that are too big. In the following chapters, you’ll learn what a tailor can do for you and that sweating the small stuff — adjusting a skirt hem, the length of a jacket, or the width of a sleeve — can make a big difference in your overall appearance.
Fabrics that fall smoothly over the curves of your body are the most flattering. But the hunt for just the right drape, weight and texture can be a little like Goldilocks’ search for a satisfying bowl of porridge. If a fabric is too stiff, it takes on a shape of its own and winds up looking boxy; too thin, and it clings to every bump and bulge; too bulky or too shiny, and it adds pounds. Just right is a matte fabric free of unwanted heft but with enough body to glide over trouble spots. Fabrics like wool crepe, wool-microfiber blends, cotton or wool gabardine, cotton blended with silk, flat knits, two-ply silks and some synthetics are good choices, depending on the garment. A touch of spandex helps, too; three to five percent is usually plenty — any more, and you’ll look like you belong in an aerobics class.
FABRICS: A PRIMER
The adage “you get what you pay for” is gospel with fabric. Cheap fabrics tend to be stiff and less flattering. Higher-quality fabrics look better, last longer and hold their shape better. Many factors determine the quality of fabric: the fibers; how they’re spun into yarns; how the yarn is woven or knitted into a fabric; and any finishes applied.
Most fabrics fall into two categories: knitted or woven. Knits, the more flexible of the two, are best suited for body-contouring styles, like sweaters or T-shirts. Woven fabrics are stronger and hold form better, but because they are less flexible than knits, need a lot of tailoring for a perfect fit. Tightly woven fabrics (like denim) are preferable for heartier, semi-fitted fare, while loosely woven fabrics (like chiffon) are better for loose-fitting, gathered garments or ones that drape.
As anyone who has ever stepped out of the house in a red dress knows, color catches the eye and can make you look terrific. Here are some ways to harness color’s formidable power:
Monochromatic. There are two compelling reasons to dress in one color, head to toe: The long, unbroken line it creates makes for a pulled-together look, and an overall color can actually make you appear slimmer. Stark color contrasts draw the eye and form horizontal lines that divide your body, making it appear wider and shorter. If you’ve got a little belly bulge, for example, the line created where your white shirt hits your black pants calls attention to that very spot. A monochromatic look, however, helps the eye glide right over trouble spots. It’s this illusion that makes one-color dressing the backbone of many a stylish woman’s wardrobe. And while you can achieve the effect with any color, darker shades, which absorb light, are the most slimming. But this doesn’t mean being relegated to a dark, drab life. As long as there is a long, unbroken line on the outside (made by a suit, for example) or on the inside (with a top and skirt of one color and a jacket or cardigan of another color), the benefit remains. You can also add vibrancy without breaking the line by playing with different textures — a nubby tweed skirt with a silk shirt is one way — or by dressing in different tones of the same color (like black with charcoal gray, midnight blue with navy, or hunter green with forest).
Bright and light colors. Even though dark colors can make you appear slimmer, and lighter, brighter colors can do the opposite, there is still a place for vivid hues in your wardrobe. By strategically placing paler or brightly colored pieces near or over a part of your body that you like, you’re making sure it gets the attention it deserves. You can also pair brights with darks to balance your body. If you’re small on top and heavier on the bottom, for example, a hot pink T-shirt worn with a black skirt will give you a more proportioned look (as long as the line created by the divide between the pieces lands over one of your leaner parts).
Excerpted from, “Secrets of Style: The Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day.” Copyright 2003 by the editors of In Style. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the Time, Inc.