Hi Nikki! I’m a teenager who is struggling to find her style. I can’t seem to find clothes that fit me nicely and I honestly don’t know what kind of styles to try. I am 165cm tall and a little overweight. But my legs aren’t as long as other people my height. They are also thick. I have broad shoulders and my arms are also pretty chubby. My bust is average, I’m a C cup. My waist is smaller in comparison to my legs and shoulders but my stomach isn’t completely flat either. I have dark skin so I’m not adventurous when it comes to colors. My current day-to- day style includes skinny jeans, plaid shirts and T-shirts. It’s difficult to find shirts that fit well. Either the shoulders are tight or the waist is loose. I’m not thin enough to pull off the baggy and loose trend. I also don’t really like showing too much skin, especially legs. If I ever wear a dress, I always wear tights underneath. I’m on a budget and I can’t buy too many pieces so I’d appreciate if you could give me tips on layering and using clothing all year long. I live in New York and the weather varies quite a bit from season to season. Whenever I try to layer, I end up looking boxy and thicker. Thank you for all your advice!
Kaceen, 17/New York, USA
Dearest Kaceen, your email was such a tale of woe. I know it’s difficult to find something good about yourself when all you see in the mirror are your flaws. Believe me, this happens to everyone – whether you’re 17 or 70 – and I still fall victim to this self-flagellation sometimes! So this early in the game, I’m telling you that there’s more to you than just your clothes or your sense of style. Chin up, darling!
Stop Buying Into the “Perfection” Myth
The main reason why the clothes you try only fit in certain areas is because clothing manufacturers make them based on an ideal standard of measurement (plus it’s easier and cheaper to mass-produce that way). Just look at the mannequins in stores. Even supermodels like Cara Delavingne get stressed about keeping up to such high standards. It’s the same reason why your body proportions are still different even among people who have the same height because you all don’t have the same vertical and horizontal body dimensions. Check out this post to figure out if you’re short- or long-waisted.
Instead of being glum about it, let’s celebrate, my dear Kaceen, because we are all unicorns! Isn’t that cool?
Finding the Perfect Topper
If you do have a short upper torso (short-waisted), the last thing you want is to emphasize that with boxy T-shirts and oversized shirts. I’m not and will never be a fan of the oversized trend because it doesn’t look good on anyone. Want to hide your tummy and look more proportional length-wise? Make sure the hemlines of your tops hit below your natural waist (the most narrow part of your torso) and skim the top of your hips (the widest part). It’s okay if your tops are a little roomy because you need to be able to move, right?
Not confident about your arms? That’s perfectly fine. You can choose to wear tops in warm colors with elbow-length or three-quarter sleeves. I love button-down shirts that have tabbed sleeves because of the visual symmetry that they add. Guess what you can also wear? This season’s cutout-shoulder tops! Because they usually have elbow-length sleeves with cutouts at the top of the upper arm, they still have the camouflage you want but still look so trendy! Lace, subtle ruffles, colorful contrast lining – these are all great visual and textural extras to your pieces that make even neutral-colored tops pop!
As for your layering dilemma, keep this rule of thumb in mind: thin first, thickest last, especially for colder seasons. Thus for fall, a long-sleeved henley can be your first layer, followed by a lightweight cardigan or sweater, and then finished with a duffle jacket or coat. For everything else, this guide is a good starting point!
Skinny jeans are now mainstream and everybody wears them, even me. Just like you, I don’t have sexy legs but that doesn’t stop me from wearing skinny jeans. While the stretchy fabric emphasizes every imperfect curve of my body, I don’t care and so should you, Kaceen. Wear the jeans you want! But if you don’t want to emphasize your legs, then skinny jeans might not be the best style for you.
Try boyfriend jeans, bootcut and straight leg. Among the three, I like the boyfriend cut the most because its relaxed fit is perfect for wearing flats, sneakers and flat boots with the jean cuffs rolled up. The bootcut is great when I’m wearing shoes with a low heel or wedges, and it pairs so well with ALL my tops. Give those a chance!
The Right Dress Length
Just like with skinny jeans, if you’re averse to showing off your legs (or the shape of them), then it’s important to find the right length and cut of skirts and dresses suitable for your vertical body shape. But if you want a clearer idea of the basic dress and skirt lengths, check out this post by my colleague May who wrote a useful post mini, midi and maxi skirts and dresses previously.
I will always heartily endorse A-line styles because they’re just so figure-friendly and work for every season. Having several in your closet is a great guarantee that you’ll never go out of style!
There’s no rule that says you have to have everything in your life figured out by a certain age (I would certainly fail!). At 17, go easy on yourself, cut yourself some slack, and embrace the freedom that your age gives you. Trust me, when you hit your 20s, 30s, and your 50s, you’ll look back at yourself and see that you’ve changed a lot from that despondent teenager – and for the better!
P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!