Leveling the Playing Field


Rules of proportion are one tool the expert fashion eye uses to decide whether a look works or does not, is in or out, is Do or Don’t. Do the horizontal lines, created by each swath of our ensemble chop us up pleasingly from head to toe?

In the past couple of years designers have played with lots of lines in layering. Pants get chopped by a long skirt, then topped with a duster vest, mediated by a cropped top, and crowned with a choker.  Having more pieces in an outfit gives us extra options to create unique looks. Think about how unique we can be with jeans and a t-shirt–not very.  It’s the unexpected pairings or extra elements that make it our own, as does the way we accessorize.  Layering can give outfits a certain atmosphere.  Reference exotic with a long tunic over flowing pants.  Create a cool look with layering, when masculine and feminine elements are combined. Minimal, strict cuts look hip with different levels of proportion. Also, adding more cuts to the whole gives freedom and flattery to all sorts of ages and body situations.

Am I Too Old…?

First, let’s digress a bit to the age-old (see what I did there?) debate about when we need to stop wearing short skirts. Ugh, what a tired subject! Our beloved short skirts that we wore in our mod phase with a chunky-heeled loafer; or maybe with strappy stilettos at a club in the 80’s. I say we don’t necessarily need to give them up. If you’ve got great legs, then push it a little.  You go for a hemline that is just shy of what makes us all comfortable, while still keeping it tasteful.  For me, right now (I am not giving up) the line is drawn at the knee (except with dark hosiery or tights). “A woman is as young as her knees,” said Mary Quant, iconic Mod fashion designer. If like me, your legs aren’t so great, we need a little coverage.

I’ll Save the Day!

Enter the heroes in our wardrobe—leggings and a myriad of pant cuts. All sort of materials, widths and lengths now level the playing field for we who have varying states of bad feelings about our legs. With lines of layering, dresses that are too short become more like tunics when paired over skinny, cropped trousers. A short knit dress goes luxe over a pair of wide-leg knit pants.  Shop your closet and see what a little layering can do for a favorite that you haven’t worn in awhile.

The past couple of years I’ve eaten my way through so many great New York restaurants.  Ok, and there may also have been a bit of emotional eating too.  And, when I visited my sons, I never got the memo that I no longer have the metabolism to eat like I’m in college too.  So I’ve needed a bit of smoke and mirrors with style–layering gives us a bit of flow to move the eye around.


PA152146_533Natalie Joos (right)  Photo:  Diego Zuko @theoutsider.us

For All Levels

But it’s not just for added function that some sort of pant underneath looks chic. Layering with longer skirts and dresses feels sophisticated and stylish. Leather leggings peek through sheer maxis for some funk. It was layering with longer pieces on top at Chanel’s Fall 2015 Collection, that originally drew me in to horizontal swaths. Chanel’s ordinary skinnies and a simple piece of black grosgrain ribbon-as-belt, stole the show from stunning suiting and romantic chiffon!

Then BCBG Max Azria Spring 2016 was a fresh mash-up of tribal, flowing, California surfer layering. Looks that are so cool you’ll feel like a Venice Beach native. Dude! Another casual and easy translation of the layering trend is with jeans. Skinny, flared or jeggings, denimed pins stretch out from length this season.  Or add relaxed interest with a pair of capri leggings under a shirtdress, with the last few buttons left undone.

So, stop being so levelheaded and play around with this form…this week. Try it!


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