Nikki’s Inbox: “Help! I Have Man-Shoulders!”

Hi Nikki! I am an avid follower of your advice and I’ve been saved from many potential fashion emergencies thanks to it. I checked your older posts to make sure I didn’t miss anything for my problem, but unfortunately I found nothing. I am about 5’7, closer to the thin side, and in the words of Regina George, “I have man-shoulders.” Typically, this isn’t even a big issue for me, but recently I’ve been interested in some of the more feminine/dainty types of clothing. How can I wear cute clothes while not making myself look like a cross-dressing man? Thanks so much!

Amanda, 17/Florida


My dear Amanda (love that name!), first of all, thank you for doing your homework! I’m glad you took the time to search through my archives because I think I’ve covered some, if not the most common fashion problems people usually ask about.

For your dilemma about your shoulders, honestly, I’d choose “man-shoulders” over “man-feet” any day. No offense meant to those who require bigger shoe sizes, but broad shoulders are easier to conceal. You just need to know what you should avoid, so make sure you say a vehement “No!” to the things listed below:

  • Tube tops
  • Spaghetti strap tops
  • Big/wide/exaggerated collars
  • Cap and puff sleeves
  • Shoulder pads and the ‘sharp shoulder’ look
  • Scoop and boat necklines
  • Horizontal stripes

“I Enjoy Being a Girl!”
No matter if your shoulders are as wide as Atlas’ (y’all know that guy in Greek mythology?), don’t forget that you also have other body parts that can’t be all that bad. My first advice to you, Amanda: Invest in good bras. If you’re already broad around the neck, you want to create curves. We women already have curves but for some reason, we end up hiding them for all the wrong reasons. So get your girls measured properly at a lingerie store and invest in several ones that will give your silhouette a good curvy shape. Sometimes, a good “push” is all you need.

Keep It Soft and Drapey
Those with an inverted triangle shape – which is probably what you are, Amanda – look best wearing clothing that hangs loosely at the neck and shoulders rather than pieces with a tight fit in those areas. Cowl necks and draped necks are your best bet since they only show a little bit of your neck area and camouflage the rest. The same goes for V-neck lines, with an added bonus: they draw attention to your chest area. So make sure you go buy those push-ups!

Balance With Your Waist
As your figure becomes more narrow top to bottom, you can remind people visually that you do have a waist! Look for tops that have set-in or well-defined waists, such as peplum tops. The same rule goes when you’re looking for outerwear. Jackets, coats and cardigans are usually bulky and you don’t want to look bigger. Look for vertical and princess seams in outerwear since they give the illusion of a more hourglass shape.

Go Astray and Be Collarless
It’s a good thing you like soft frilly things, Amanda, because that will work well in your favor. When it comes to tops, choose some with smaller, narrower collars such as Peter Pan collars. Should you want to skip the collar, look for a Mandarin neckline as this style usually has a notched opening at the neck which draws attention to your bust. Wear a lacy camisole underneath for better effect! For sleeves, follow the “soft and drapey” rule and consider kimono or dolman sleeves that are cut closer to your body.

Look Longer and Leaner
I always mention balance in every advice. In your case, you have your height as an asset (lucky girl!) so use that! Look even more statuesque by choosing hip-skimming tops, jackets and cardigans. Wear tunics and shift dresses, or those with a drop-waist style. A-line or flared skirts also deserve a place in your wardrobe. The frills and ruffles that you can’t wear on top can be worn at the bottom, specifically in tiered skirts or at the hem where they will balance your shoulders perfectly. Avoid too-short skirts and bottoms that draw attention to your upper torso.

Use Color and Cut
The simplest way to fool the eye is to wear a lighter-colored top with a dark-colored bottom; doing the reverse will only make you larger than life. For cuts, look to pieces that end at the hip and for jeans, go for straight-leg or boot-cut styles. Like the A-line skirt, the slightly flared hem will keep everything almost looking vertically symmetrical.

Repeat after me, ma cherie: “I am not a man – I am a beautiful woman.” Rinse, repeat. Ciao, lovelies!

Nikki

P.S. Even Nikki commits typo mistakes! I inadvertently only put 5′ as Amanda’s height when it should be 5’7. Sorry for the confusion, Amanda and my other darlings!

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