Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chip on your shoulder?

Shoulders come in three general types: square, average-tapered, and sloped. Any neckline that is horizontal and shallow, such as a bateau, will make your shoulders look broader, even more so if they are square. Conversely, the opposite line, deep and narrow, such as a V-neckline, will make shoulders appear narrower and less square. (Ladies, avoid a halter top if you have either too-broad or too-narrow shoulders, as this line is unflattering to both). In summary:

Too broad or square shoulders:
Best Bets: Deep and narrow necklines. Raglan sleeves, drop shoulders, dolman sleeves, full coats, V-necks, strapless tops.
Avoid: Wide and shallow necklines. Full-cut big tops, largish coats and jackets, turtlenecks, bulky fabric.

Too narrow or sloped shoulders
Best Bets: Wear shallow and wide necklines. Extend the shoulder line by slight padding. Set-in sleeves, small collars, boat necks, halter tops.
Avoid: Wear narrow and deep necklines. Raglan sleeves or too-tight sleeves. Limp, dropping fabrics. Strapless tops.

A lapel is always more flattering than a plain neckline if your shoulders are not your best feature. Lapels that point up and out broaden the shoulder, while lapels that point down narrow them. Buy whichever kind is appropriate for you. Scale the size of your lapels to the size of your body. A large lapel on a tiny body is overwhelming, but a flouncy collar that extends over the shoulder bones is flattering to all shoulders and is appropriate even for the small framed person if the fabric is not bulky.

Your shoulder seam is extremely important in creating the illusion of a good shoulder. A set-in sleeve is most flattering and can be adjusted to create a slimmer or wider look, depending on your need. For the broad of square shoulder, keep the placement of the shoulder seam right on the shoulder bone. You may even cheat by moving the seam in a quarter inch if you have enough fullness in the sleeve to allow arm room. The overweight individual can look slimmer in clothes with a crisp, narrow shoulder line and judicious placement of the shoulder seam.

Your shoulder treatment affects the look of your entire silhouette. For the sloped or narrow shoulder, let the seam extend a bit beyond your shoulder bone, to widen. the seam will give your shoulders the definition of shape they may lack. (A woman with a very large bust also may use this trick to call attention away from her bust and draw the eye up and out).

Such sleeve styles as bat wing, kimono, and raglan require a broad or squarish shoulder. The raglan, especially, tend to drop the shoulder downwards, so if you have sloping or narrow shoulders you should avoid this line. It is even chancy on shoulders with an average taper, though you can alter the line of these styles by adding a lapel or collar that points up or out.

In sleeveless tops you should follow the same principle as with the shoulder seam. Keep the edge of the garment on the shoulder bone for broad or square shoulders, slightly beyond the bone for narrow or sloped. A sleeveless top with the line inside the bone will accentuate either problem. This line is best for individuals with good, average shoulders.

Any detail on a shoulder with broaden or accentuate it. Epaulets, for example, should be removed from your outfit if you wish to minimize your shoulders, but they are great for adding dimension to shoulders that are too narrow, assuming an epaulet is your type.

There is no such thing as a right or wrong shoulder line, simply whatever is right or wrong for you. Remember you are creating balance: your hips and shoulders should visually look the same width (though men often want their shoulders to look broader). Perhaps the upward-pointed lapel is okay because it is balanced by pockets on the hips (or by a skirt with some fullness). The exception is the overweight individual, whose hips usually are wider than their shoulders and arms. It would be best to create a "slim" shoulder look rather than extending their shoulders to balance our their hips. Later, after they loose weight, they can compensate for a too-narrow shoulder.

Don't be afraid to be creative. Your tailor or your sewing machine has the power to improve the line of your outfit. Remove or add shoulder detail, change the direction of a collar, or change the placement of a shoulder seam. These are not difficult alternations, but do remember that you may need to lengthen a cuff if you're nipping in a shoulder.

Next week, find out about visual illusions using clothing for those arms and legs!

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