Hi Nikki! Recently, I’ve developed an interest in outerwear. However, I’m not sure where to start and what types would complement my figure. Currently I only have a couple of neutral-colored zip-up hoodies, and I want to be able to wear coats, loose/drapey cardigans, etc., without looking too big and baggy. I’m also not very adventurous with prints, patterns, or colors, so I also want to change that.
I’m around 5’3, weigh about 114 lbs., and I have light skin and dark brown medium-length hair. My shoulders are kind of wide, which discourages me from wearing thick outerwear because it makes me look even bigger. Most of my clothes are pretty plain and basic — my usual style is a sweater, some jeggings, and sneakers. If I’m feeling fancy, I might even wear some booties instead. Anyway, thank you for your time and effort, Nikki! I’d really appreciate your opinion.
I love your name, Merry! I also love that your question gives me the perfect excuse to discuss more styling options for autumn.
Image: “Mean Girls,” Paramount Pictures
As someone who also has broad/”man” shoulders (mine are 20 inches wide), I know how precious one or two inches make when it comes to garment dimensions. However, Merry, it also helps to know how your shoulder measurements compare against the rest of your body. If you have a smaller waist and hips that are also as wide as your shoulders, then you’ve definitely got a figure that skews more to the hourglass side. If you’re simply an inverted triangle (wide at the shoulders then tapering towards smaller hips and waist), the right choice of tops and outerwear can make you more visually proportional. You can’t just accommodate your wide shoulders, right? What about the rest of your body? So let’s figure this out together!
Outerwear: Relaxed, Loose, Longer
I often recommend wearing structured pieces to readers but this time, it’s the exception rather than the norm. Because wide shoulders are already quite angular (that span!) on their own, we want to create a softer effect instead. Bomber jackets and varsity jackets with raglan sleeves are great because they’re cut diagonally at the shoulders. Instead of the sleeves starting at the edge of the shoulders, they start at the neckline and create a sloping effect.
Look for loose (but not oversized), longer outerwear that hits your hips and mid-thigh, at the longest. Anything shorter or longer will make you boxy or even smaller. Parkas, jackets, and coats that are single-breasted and have no shoulder pads or epaulettes downplay your shoulders. Again, note that if you do have an inverted triangle or hourglass shape, more structured pieces will look better on your figure.
Knits and Layers: Soft, Open-Front and Draping
Since you can’t go around wearing your coats and jackets indoors forever, your inner layers must also adapt. As I mentioned last week to Jordan, fall fashion is wonderful because it allows you to incorporate both texture and color into your wardrobe. But for autumn as well as winter, there are more choices aside from the usual cotton and polyester: suede and other types of leather, faux fur, down, knits, tweed, flannel, fleece, etc.
For your knit sweaters and cardigans, soft, slouchy knits are preferable as well as baby cable-knits with scoop or V-necklines. These help to seemingly narrow your shoulders by showing a little more skin as opposed to boatnecks and turtlenecks. Skip the wide collars and large chest pockets, and go for small lapels and narrow collars such as shawl necklines instead which draw the eyes up and down instead of across.
When it comes to colors and patterns, Merry, you might just find that it’s easier to mix and match when you’re working with an autumnal palette, as well as the basic black, white and blue denim. Since you mostly want to put less emphasis on your shoulders, you can go for darker colors on top and lighter ones for your bottoms. In addition, you can also use accessories to keep the attention away from your shoulders. A cute backpack, choice bracelets or a set of lovely cocktail rings, and some nice boots should do for starters!
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!