When the temperature drops, it's natural to pile on layers of bulky clothing. After all, giant parkas and chunky knits are great for beating the chill—but they also have a tendency to be not-so-flattering.
“This time of year, we focus so much on warmth that we forget to take into account silhouette,” says wardrobe stylist Natalie Tincher. “Bulky clothing, while warm, typically has no shape, or it features styling details and trim in unflattering places.” The result? You get lost in your wintry duds and look bigger than you actually are.
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Of course, no one's suggesting that you freeze in skimpy fabrics just to look slimmer and more fashionable... and you don't have to! You just need to know how to choose and style your outfits so that you stay toasty and look great at the same time. Since figuring out that magic recipe can be a challenge, we took it to the experts. Here are their top (and bottom) tips to keep warm and stylish all winter long:
Mistake #1: Wearing form-fitting tops made of bulky fabrics
Silhouettes that hug your body and are made of heavier fabrics are a one-two punch that can visually magnify your frame, especially if you prefer tops in light colours. “The best way to avoid this is to scale the fabric to your particular frame,” says wardrobe stylist and personal shopper Dina Scherer. If you’re slim and petite and going for a fitted look, choose lighter-weight knits and fabric blends. If you have a larger frame, you can opt for some of the thicker fabrics; just make sure they don’t gather in areas you want to camouflage and look for drape that creates a flattering silhouette.
Mistake #2: Wearing long, droopy cardigans
Sure, they’re super-cozy and warm, but long cardigans also give off a shapeless vibe that can make you look bigger, says personal stylist Ginger Burr. (The worst offenders: long cardigans with dropped shoulders, wide or extra-long sleeves, patch pockets, or exaggerated shawl collars.)
This doesn’t mean you have to banish long cardigans from your wardrobe (phew!), so long as you keep a few strategies in mind. “Look for sweaters that have a seam at the edge of the shoulder and a sleeve length that ends somewhere around where your thumb joins your wrist,” says Burr. If a cardigan has patch pockets, make sure they’re small or don’t open them—otherwise, they’ll sag and look droopy. Also, consider ditching the shawl collar for a sleek no-collar look.
Mistake #3: Wearing shapeless down coats
“Most puffy down coats hang on you like a sleeping bag and do nothing to flatter your shape,” says Tincher. Fortunately, there are plenty of stylish puffers that not only have structure and shape, but also provide all the warmth you need to get through the winter.
Instead of donning a waist-length jacket, which can look boxy and add inches to your look, opt for a longer puffy coat that has a belted or cinched waist, says image consultant and personal stylist Annette Harris.
Mistake #4: Wearing an oversized top with wide leg pants
Head-to-toe volume drowns your figure in fabric and makes you look larger overall. “You always want to balance width with slimness,” says Burr. If you’re wearing an oversized top, pair it with skinny pants or leggings for contrast. If you’re wearing wide leg pants or a pleated skirt, make sure your top is fitted and isn’t too long (or tuck it in).
Also, be sure to wear your wide leg pants very long—no more than 3/4” off the floor in the back. “The shorter they are, the wider you’ll appear no matter what top you’re wearing,” says Burr, who notes that a lot of retailers show models wearing wide leg pants that are much too short. Unless you’re tall and super-thin, it’s best to choose flat-front wide leg pants, she adds, since pants with pleats will make you appear fuller at the waist and hip.
Mistake #5: Wearing a boxy jacket over something sleeveless
When you’re cold and all you can think about is reviving your body temp, this fashion faux pas is a tempting one to make. But two things happen when you give in: “You lose the beauty of the top or dress because you’ve added a heavy sweater over it while also adding volume to the outfit and your body,” says Burr.
A better bet is to add sleeves underneath or trap some warmth by adding a fitted, slim camisole underneath.
Mistake #6: Wearing too many bulky layers
Yes, it is possible to layer to stay warm without adding extra bulk to your frame. The trick is to choose pieces that complement each other and tell a story, says Scherer. She recommends graduating the fabric weight as you layer: Start with thinner pieces on the bottom, leave your heaviest fabrics for outerwear, and keep the proportions uneven for more visual interest.
“The closer the layer is to your body, the more fitted it should be so you can easily add more layers,” says Harris. As for your bottom half, try insulating with tights. You can also skip the layering and stay warm with a pair of slim-fit corduroy pants instead.
Mistake #7: Wearing clunky boots
“Boots are a winter necessity, but if the shaft height doesn’t hit at a flattering spot, they can visually shorten and widen your leg line,” says Tincher. A general rule: Knee-high boots should hit above the widest part of your calf and ankle boots should hit at or just below the narrowest part of your ankle. “Be careful of bunching at the ankles or boots that fold over, as this extra material will also visually widen your legs,” she adds.