Tim Gunn: Understanding Your Proportions

Tim Gunn, Project Runway mentor and fashion guru, solves all of your style conundrums. This month he tackles understanding proportions.

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(Image credit: Ben Goldstein/Studio D)

Knowing Is Half the Battle

"I know proportion and silhouette are vital to a flattering look, but I don't really get these terms. Can you give me a crash course in quality, style, and fit?"

Regarding silhouette, your clothes should be aligned with your natural shape. There may be elements you wish to mitigate — for example, you can balance wide hips by wearing cap-sleeve versus sleeveless tops. With regards to proportion, look at yourself as cut in thirds from your shoulders to your toes. You want either one-third on top and two-thirds on bottom (as in a shirt and pants) or two-thirds on top and one-third on bottom (as in a dress). Never divide yourself in half! As for fit, most people wear clothes that are either too big or too small, thinking it makes them look thinner. That's a myth. The more volume your clothes have, the more you'll appear to have. And squeezing into sausage casing will only make you look as though you're going to explode from it.

If the Shoe Fits

"I'm 5 feet tall and wear a shoe size smaller than a 5. I'd love to wear heels, but the only ones I can find that fit are in the little girls' section and have thick heels and Hannah Montana on the side. Any advice?"

Your predicament is shared by countless women. Petite-size women suffer from a dearth of not only shoes, but apparel, too. Plain and simple, the economy has caused retailers to analyze the profit margins of categories of inventory in relation to floor space. The yield in profits in the petite category is smaller (forgive the pun). But there are dozens of websites devoted to you. So let your computer lead the zappos.com way — a great place to start!

Control Issues

"I'm pear-shaped — a size 6 on bottom and 4 on top. I love dress trousers, but when I wear my Spanx under them, they make my crotch look lower and my pants gap up. What am I doing wrong?"

I'm a big fan of Spanx and Spanx-like body-shaping products. They help downplay the little extra something that we would like to go away. But in the case of your dress pants, I believe that your Spanx may be fighting you. Wear Spanx panties or high-rise body shapers that don't include your thighs. If you still see lines at the demarcation of the Spanx, then your dress pants may be too tight. You should be able to just slide your hand — but no more — inside the waistband. If you can't, then it's a fit issue.