The Wardrobe Architect Week 4: Proportions and Silhouettes
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Last week, we discussed the shapes of garments that you are drawn to, and those you like to avoid. This will be the stepping stone to this week’s exercises on creating silhouettes for yourself.
What is a silhouette?
What do I mean when I say “silhouette”?
Just like the shape of each garment emphasizes certain areas of the body through ease and length, putting those garments together into different proportions also creates emphasis.
Once you’ve figured out several silhouettes you like to wear, you can use these as templates for future outfits, and even for planning your capsule wardrobes. I promise, having a list of known silhouettes you love makes wardrobe (and sewing project) planning so much simpler.
Here’s an example of a silhouette I like and wear often:
Knit dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) + tights + flat shoes
Let’s ignore any details for now (like jewelry, hats, etc). Right now, we’re just focused on the overall lines and proportions. Even though this is totally bare bones, you can see that it ticks my buttons: Classic, simple, cozy, sultry, lush.
(Lush is a bit of a stretch, but for me that usually comes from texture, color, and accessories, which we’ll be discussing later.)
I might vary this silhouette by adding to it like this:
Knit dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) + semi-fitted pullover sweater + tights + flat shoes
Or I change out the shoes:
Knit dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) + semi-fitted pullover sweater + tights + mid-calf boots
Right there, I’ve got three of my most common silhouettes, at least in the Fall and Winter. Admittedly, they look a little plain since I didn’t include accessories or color really. But this is a foundation and it’s good to be able to just look at the shapes.
You can see that what we’re starting to do now is build up some uniforms that we can vary over and over.
So how do you figure out the right silhouettes for you?
Start with the shapes you rated last week and pick out the ones you rated highly. You can feel free to add to this list if there are other types of shapes you love and wear often.
Now start brainstorming how you would combine these favorite shapes with other items to create balanced silhouettes.
What is balance?
What do I mean when I say “balanced”?
Think of it this way: A silhouette either covers or emphasizes different parts of your body. It does this either through ease (how tight/loose or full/tailored it is) or thorough length (how much it covers up).
I think each of us has a comfort zone with how much of our bodies we want to show and which parts we like to emphasize. Our silhouettes should reflect these preferences.
For example, I have a short waist and long legs, so I like shapes that show off my legs, like cigarette pants, shortish skirts, or pencil skirts.
I balance these fitted or short areas with other elements that are a bit looser or make me feel more covered up. For example, I might wear a loose and casual button down oxford shirt with skinny pants. Or I wear a loose sweater with a mini and tights.
I’m not saying that you have to cover up one part to reveal another. What I am saying is that you should find the point of balance that makes you feel comfortable. Some women like very fitted clothing, but want to be covered. Other women like to show skin, but keep things loose and flowing. There is no right answer, and there is no bar of modesty you must meet. Your body, your life, your personality, your decisions.
By the way, preferring to cover up a body part does not mean you are necessarily ashamed of it. I have a large bust and don’t like showing cleavage. It isn’t because I dislike my chest. I just don’t want that to be the first thing people see. It has much more to do with my identity and how I wish to be seen in the world than anything else.
Of course, there are parts of my body that I struggle with, as I mentioned earlier this week. And that is something that deserves to be worked on too.
Build your formulas. Look over your shapes and ratings from last week. Start combining them and list out 5-10 silhouettes that you believe would make good outfit formulas for you. I plan to use Polyvore for this exercise. I’ve created a collection called Silhouettes, and I’ll add several sets to it.
If you live in a place with dramatic seasonal changes, you might want to make a warm weather list and a cold weather list. Sometimes it’s hard to think of silhouettes that will work for both, depending on your climate.
For inspiration, the blog into-mind has a fantastic proportions catalog to get you started. Her blog is all around awesome!
- Bonus: Create variations. If you want, you can create a few variations for each silhouette, like I did above. This can be helpful in spurring creativity and getting you to start imagining real outfits you could create from just a few items.
- Add to your inspiration. If you have an inspiration folder or Pinterest board, it might be helpful to start adding some of these silhouettes to your inspiration. After I’ve created my silhouettes in Polyvore, I’ll pin them to my Pinterest board. We’ll return to these silhouette formulas later when we start planning capsule wardrobes.
What are some of the silhouettes you already find yourself wearing a lot? Are there new ones you want to incorporate after doing this exercise?