Plain to Polished: How to Dress Well With Clothing Shape Combinations

Plain to Polished: The Importance of Clothing Shape Combos

Oooh it’s been a while since we’ve done a Plain to Polished post.  Today I’ve got a good one for you!

One important thing about how to how to dress well is putting together the right combos.  To me, there are two major dimensions to “combos” to pay attention to:

  1. Do the aesthetics of your pieces go together?  Like, do the colors and designs and vibes of pieces work together?  For example, if colors are totally mismatched, your outfit likely won’t look cohesive and put-together.
  2. Do the clothing shapes work well together?  Are you putting together the right clothing shape combinations?

Here at PMT, we do quite a bit with #1 through things like outfit formulas and style guides.  We talk about combos that work, like “colored sweater + neutral bottoms + leopard print shoes,” for example.  If you’ve been following PMT for a while, that stuff is pretty familiar to you.

The second one regarding clothing shapes, however, is something we haven’t talked a lot about yet, but it’s just as important.  Possibly more important.  So, it’s something I want you to pay attention to.  Putting together the right clothing shape combos is key to great looking outfits!

Let me show you an example.  We’ll start with this pic:

How to Dress Well Using Clothing Shape Combos Example Bad Outfit

Oh goodness.  Not my best work, agreed?  You could argue that I’ve got no necklace on to “complete” the outfit, which is something I always tell you guys to do.  But trust me, the best necklace in the world wouldn’t have made this outfit look good because the bottom line is the shape of that top and the shape of the pants just don’t work together.  The top is wide and adds some volume to my top half, but also the pants are straight leg pants which add a little volume to my bottom half.  When put together, the combo is not good.

Let’s switch out the bottoms for ones with a different shape.  We’ll swap out the straight leg pants and use skinny pants instead:

How to Dress Well Using Clothing Shape Combos Example 1 Good Outfit

Ahhhhh, so much better!  And yes, that’s the exact same top as the one in the 1st pic.  What the??  I know!  It looks so different and much more flattering with skinny pants, right?  Like we said, the top adds volume to my top half, which is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.  But in this case, at least on my body shape, it needs to be paired with skinny pants to balance it out.  How you combine shapes really matters!

Alright, alright…I know you want options that aren’t skinny pants/jeans, too.  You guys know I listen to you, so I’ve got you, don’t worry!  I have another example that keeps the straight leg pants and swaps out the top instead.  Here it is:

How to Dress Well Using Clothing Shape Combos Example 2 Good Outfit Business Casual

These are the same exact straight leg pants as in the very first pic, but I swapped the loose tunic sweater for a sweater that is more fitted.  We noted that the straight leg pants add a tiiiiny bit of volume to my bottom half, but it was enough to not look great with a tunic top that also added volume to my top half.  Pairing the straight leg pants with a more fitted top works much, much better!

When I showed these pics to Benson, he couldn’t even comprehend how the pants in this pic were the same as the pants in the first pic.  That, my friend, is the power of putting together the right clothing shape combinations. 😁

(BTW, I forgot how stinking softttttt and comfortable these sweaters are!  This is the purple version of the ModCloth one I’ve shown several times in the past in navy (see those outfits HERE.)  Also, I’m actually 25 weeks pregnant in this pic though it’s hard to tell from this angle, and my regular size fit around my baby bump pretty well!  Comes in 18 prints and solid colors and in sizes XXS to 4X HERE!  I wear size M.  It’s fitted but has stretch a lot of stretch, though it retains its shape, and it’s seriously so dang comfy!)

Do you see how important it is to combine the right pieces in order to get polished, put-together outfits?  Pretty amazing!

I’d encourage you to focus on the different shapes of clothing that you pair together.

But wait, how do learn which shapes go well with each other?

There are lots of different clothing shapes and therefore lots of different combos that could be made.  On top of that, different clothing shape combos look different on different body shapes.  There’s a lot to consider, but you can learn this.

One great place to start is when you see outfits on others and try to replicate them or learn from them, don’t just look at the colors or aesthetics they combine.  That’s important, so keep focusing on that.  But ALSO, start noting the combinations of shapes they’re using, too!  Super, super important.  Like, are they using straight leg pants with that super fitted top, or are they using skinny pants?  Make note of it, then experiment for yourself to see how it’ll be on YOUR body shape.  What happens if you try skinny pants?  What happens if you try it with straight leg pants?  Perhaps both work well.  Or, like in my example today, perhaps there’s a combo that is clearly not as great.  Over time you will learn to see shapes more easily and develop some go-to combos.

If you want additional coaching and tools to learn how to determine your body shape, how to dress dress your body shape and how to create great outfit silhouettes, join us in the PMT Style Club! It opens at the beginning of each season.

But even without the Outfit Silhouettes from my course, you can do my first suggestion on your own.  Either way, start paying attention to clothing shape combinations as another tool to use to take your outfits from plain to polished!

Check out the rest of the Plain to Polished series HERE!


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