Those pandemic pounds have snuck up on many of us. For me, the moment of truth came a few weeks ago when I could no longer squeeze into my jeans. Any of them. Faced with the rather unpleasant possibility of living my life in sweatpants, I swallowed my pride and set off for TJ Maxx, where I purchased two pairs of name-brand jeans in a larger size for less than I typically pay for one. After all, these would be transition jeans. They would remain in my closet only until I’d lost the extra weight that had migrated to my thighs.
I don’t think I’m alone here. After a year of cocooning in our homes and stress eating, many of us are searching for ways to look skinner in our clothes, at least till we can lose those 10 extra pounds. But how? To find out, I consulted the experts – fashion stylists who make a living helping other people look good.
I spoke with Kristine VanDerKooi, a Michigan-based independent stylist with the clothing brand Cabi, and Jenny Davis, a Dallas-area editorial stylist who has also worked with plus-size private clients, including singer Aeralie Brighton and Olympic bronze medal weight lifter Sarah Robles. Both offered strategies for finding clothes that will make you look thinner. And more importantly, feel comfortable.
“What you don’t want is to feel uncomfortable in your clothes,” emphasizes Davis. “Even if you have to go up a size, which I think can be psychologically debilitating, what you have to remember with American sizing is that there is absolutely no standard. It’s absolutely meaningless.” So, don’t focus on the numbers. Look for clothes that feel good on your body and make you feel good about yourself right now.
Focus on Fit
According to VanDerKooi, when it comes to jeans, we definitely shouldn’t feel bad if we need to purchase a roomier pair because, well, that’s the look right now. “You’ve heard the talk that skinny jeans are out? The style right now is more of that big, baggy jean. The boyfriend jean.”
Davis agrees that boyfriend jeans are trending, and they are available in a range of price points, from affordable brands like Lee to higher-end denim brands like Citizens of Humanity. J. Crew’s slouchy boyfriend jeans are nice and roomy.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should all banish our favorite straight-leg or boot-cut styles. Davis’ advice: Go with the style that looks best on you. “I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing the fit of a good pair of jeans on your body in order to be modern and stylish.”
You want jeans to fit well across your hips. Don’t worry as much about the waist. That can be taken in. You will always appear slimmer if you opt for a heavier fabric or a wider leg, like the stylish Annina wide-leg trouser jeans by Citizens of Humanity. And don’t forget the shoes. “If you’re wearing a longer pant, I’ve found what’s really slimming is a pointed toe,” Davis says.
Leverage the Benefits of Shapewear
Davis stresses that shapewear will help you look your best in any style of jeans. To avoid those pesky creases where your panties dig into your thighs, invest in footless Spanx or a pair of light-weight smoothing shorts. This will ensure that you show off your curves, not your rolls, when you rock your favorite denim. Davis swears by the Soma brand smoothing shorts. Or check out the wide range of shapewear at Skims (https://skims.com), Kim Kardashian’s trendy new line.
Another good trick to try when wearing jeans or pants, says VanDerKooi, especially if you’ve put on pounds around the middle, is adding a tailored blazer to your ensemble. “Grab yourself a blazer that tapers in and acts as an extension of your waist, so your waist appears skinnier,” she says. Smythe’s asymmetric wrap stretch blazer, elegantly tailored to nip your waist, will both dress you up and slim you down.
If you want a casual look that’s a bit more forgiving than jeans, VanDerKooi adds, consider joggers. “Get yourself a pair of joggers because you’re going to feel OK getting into those.” Joggers are more tailored than sweatpants and trendier than leggings. “Leggings are kind of like skinny jeans. They’re on their way out.”
Another good answer to the question of how to look skinnier in your clothes: Shop for figure-flattering dresses or skirts. Fun dresses in bright colors or bold patterns can be a comfortable alternative to pants, especially when the weather turns warm.
“For the longest time, I always went with skirts in the summertime because I wasn’t a fan of shorts or showing off my legs, but I still wanted to be cool,” says VanDerKooi. “I would wear a skirt with a tee and flip-flops.”
When shopping for dresses, she recommends focusing on the styles that will best complement your body type. If you’re more of an hourglass figure, for example, you’ll want to accentuate your waist. If you have great Michelle Obama-level arms, don’t be afraid to go sleeveless.
Davis agrees that investing in dress silhouettes that highlight your best features is a smart move. “I like to emphasize showing off what’s great rather than covering up what’s not great,” she says. Go for dress styles in flattering colors that showcase the slimmest parts of a woman’s body – the décolleté, shoulders, wrists, and ankles. “This is the time to invest in bracelet sleeves, boatneck sleeves, maybe a cold shoulder, or anything with a V-neck or scoop neck, the caveat being a great bra,” says Davis. “A great bra will take the pounds off instantly.”
In the summer months, a slimming sundress can be especially flattering. “I love an A-line sundress. The perfect [A-line] dress is a little bit lower cut, so you get the neck, and then the dress just skims away.” Brands from Ralph Lauren to Eliza J. to Eileen Fisher offer affordable options.
Scoop neck, sleeves:
Crew neck/bateau neck with sleeves:
A-line dresses, sleeveless, scoop neck:
A-line, sleeveless, V-neck:
A-line with empire waist:
An empire waist can also be slimming, but make sure the dress fits correctly, with the seam hitting below the bosom. Davis advises Prime Women to avoid dress styles that tie in the back. They tend to look either juvenile or a bit too much like a maternity dress. And while we want to flaunt those slim ankles, most Prime Women should avoid hemlines that hit above the knee. Finally, don’t forget shapewear to smooth everything out, especially if you’re wearing, say, a linen skirt. Davis notes that smoothing shorts will also help guard against the dreaded “chub rub,” or chafing between your thighs.
Both stylists agree that if you want to dress to look thinner, and more put together, pay attention to balance and proportions. When assembling an outfit, VanDerKooi tries to follow the “rule of threes.” That might mean pairing a looser pair of joggers with a fitted tee, then adding a third accent piece or accessory – a sweater, a blazer, or, if she’s running errands or heading to her daughter’s softball game, a cute baseball cap.
Whenever she’s styling, Davis likes to think of people’s bodies in terms of three sectors that need to be balanced. “You don’t want one sector to be heavier, especially at the top and the bottom,” she says. So, if you’re wearing a bigger, blousy top with your jeans or pants, consider wearing heavier shoes to balance out that top sector.
Bold accessories can also be deployed to deflect attention away from unwanted pounds. VanDerKooi suggests adding a statement necklace or attention-grabbing earrings to your outfit, but not at the same time. Instead, try pairing statement earrings with a delicate necklace or a larger, bolder necklace than you might normally wear with stud earrings.
Carry a Bag
A great bag will also do the trick, says Davis. “Victoria Beckham always had this great strategy of having the giant Birkin gab on her crooked arm, and people would see her [face] and the bag, but no one ever looked past that.”
If you’re not ready to spring for a Birkin, invest in a great tote bag, she suggests. Or buy a colorful, inexpensive tote and have your initials painted on it. If you can show style and wow with flattering color, that’s what people will remember. Not those few extra pounds.
Top 10 Tips to Look Thinner in Your Clothes
1. Don’t underestimate the value of underpinnings. Good shapewear and a great bra will take the pounds off instantly.
2. Try column dressing. Wearing all one color, say all black or all white, slims you down.
3. Push up your sleeves. You will automatically lose 10 pounds because your arms and wrists appear thinner.
4. Accentuate your best feature. If it’s your legs, wear a skirt. If it’s your upper body, go ahead and wear short sleeves.
5. Play-up accessories. A dramatic statement necklace or colorful oversize tote can balance out your look – and draw attention away from unwanted pounds.
6. Think of your body in terms of three sectors that need to be balanced. You don’t want one sector to be heavier, especially the top and the bottom. So, if you’re wearing a bigger top with your jeans, consider wearing heavier shoes to balance out that top sector.
7. Wear straight-leg pants or capris (yes, we know they get a bad rap) to show off one of your greatest assets: your slim ankles.
8. Pointed-toe shoes. For a slim look with skirts or long pants, choose shoes with a pointed toe.
9. If there are items in your closet that don’t fit, set them aside. You don’t have to get rid of them. Just move them somewhere else for now. They are taking up space in your closet, obscuring your access to the clothes that do fit, and making you feel bad about yourself.
10. Find and invest in a good tailor. Not everything you buy off the rack will fit you perfectly. But hemlines can be taken up, and a too-big waist can be taken in. When shopping for clothes, focus on particular fit points – your chest, shoulders, and hips.