Nikki’s Inbox: Pants, Pleats and Colors to Please

Hi Nikki! I am a Muslim and a university student. My style is very simple, like just wearing a T-shirt and slacks to class.

Aside from wearing pants to class, I also wear them to go out with my friends and I find out that my outfit looks messy. I want to change my style, but I don’t really know what suits me. I want a simple and not really girly look because I like to look smart in every outfit.

My skin tone is not bright and a bit dark, and I don’t know which color suits me. My height is about 161cm with an average weight of about 47kg, so I am not too skinny.

Hope you can help me change my style since I will be graduating soon and hope to be a stylish person in the future.

Akilaa, 22/Malaysia


Hello, Akilaa, and thank you for your email. I admire your dedication to looking smart in every outfit because it takes plenty of decisiveness to do so.

There are many factors you have to consider first, the most important of which is FIT. Color is another concern but it’s fairly easy. I do wish you mentioned what kind of colors you usually wear or like to give me a better idea. Last is self-confidence. Any advice I give here won’t work without that magic ingredient – because that can only come from you. So if you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone, here are my suggestions.

On- and Off-Campus Trouser Picks

Wearing trousers to class all the time is perfectly fine, especially if this is in keeping with your university’s dress code for students. I only hope that your pants fit you well, especially in the inseams. If your trousers don’t have the correct inseams, the pants will look saggy and give you an unfavorable impression.

Straight-leg or slightly tapered cuts do well for petites like us, Akilaa. I suggest sticking to a straight-leg style for the pants you wear to class. They’ll look great with a blouse or shirt, with or without a collar, or even a simple, plain-colored crewneck T-shirt.

For a slightly more stylish option, especially if you plan to unwind after classes or on weekends, alternate your straight-leg styles with wide-leg trousers. This will be suitable for Malaysia’s tropical climate while still in keeping with the Islamic religious requirements to be modestly dressed. Some of the wide-leg pants also feature vertical stripes that flatter petite frames as well as provide visual illusion to avoid any fashion emergencies. I do advise that you pick a pair with lining, or if there isn’t one, to wear an inner layer.

Pleats Please

One advantage you have living in Malaysia is you can always wear summer styles all year long, like pretty, pleated maxi skirts! The pleats add structure and volume while the maxi silhouette is generous, forgiving and concealing as well. It’s more than girly — it’s chic and womanly. You can go for minimalist patterns such as florals or dots, or go for a bold combination like a metallic-tone skirt paired with a long-sleeved white blouse. Maxi skirts are also usually lined so you don’t have to worry about being too sheer. Again, if you feel you need more coverage underneath, please wear the appropriate underlayer

Choose Warm Colors and Relaxed Fits

Since I really have no idea about your skin tone, Akilaa, I’ll have to make some safe guesses. Most tanned skin tones pull off warm colors beautifully. Orange, red, yellow, and purple are some great examples. White is a neutral color but can look dramatic on warm skin tones. I advise you to experiment when it comes to color because that’s really the only way to find out what suits your complexion best. Once you’ve gained confidence about the best color palette for you, incorporate patterns or prints into those colors so your outfit isn’t restricted to just color-on-color combinations.

As your pants and skirts are already loose and flowy, tops should have a relaxed fit so you don’t feel uncomfortable or awkward. Do note that I said “relaxed” and not “oversized.” Again, fit comes into play here so do choose carefully. Slightly tailored tops in the right fabrics (for your climate) should be part of your arsenal, too. A tailored top that fits well across the shoulders, sleeves and bodice ensures you pull off that smart-chic look effortlessly!

Good luck, Akilaa!

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!

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