How To Dress For Your Body Shape
Tall, short, muscular or slim – everything to know about getting the perfect fit
It doesn’t matter how well-made or stylish you consider your clothes to be, if they don’t fit correctly, they won’t look good. The cliché that Italians are the best dressers in the world is well-worn for a reason. Quite simply, the residents of that particular nation are more likely to frequent a tailor. We are not saying you ought to alter everything you own (although, if you have the time, money and inclination, do go ahead), but there are certain things you can bear in mind – whether buying off the rack, or bespoke – to ensure you are wearing clothes that fit, and work with your body shape. From the well-rounded chap, to the shorter gentleman, here is our exhaustive guide to getting it right.
THE MUSCULAR MAN
You’ve spent hundreds of hours in the gym sculpting yourself to demi-god perfection, but knowing the best way to stylishly accommodate a well-built body isn’t always straightforward. When you’re pumped-up, it’s hard to find items of clothing that’ll fit well; while most trousers may fit you around the waist, they are typically too tight around the glutes and thighs, or you may find that a jacket fits you on the chest, but its snug around the biceps. Sizing issues aside, there’s also the added fear of looking too stumpy, or too square. Sure, you look great in gym gear, but what about the rest?
There are few things more unbecoming than a man in a too-tight T-shirt (we don’t need to see your nipples, thank you very much). That said, you shouldn’t feel as if you have to hide your assets; rather, your clothes need to complement them. The key idea here is keeping your clothing lightweight and not too structured (that is, not overly sculpted with pleats, darts, shoulder pads, canvas linings and suchlike).
Worried about looking too top heavy? Try a mid-length overcoat; it’ll help lengthen the torso, so you’re not all shoulders and chest.
When it comes to tailoring, avoid double-breasted jackets, which broaden the chest (as they nip in the waist). Rather, purchase single- or double-buttoned jackets that fit well – and not too tightly – on the shoulders. The seam should hit right at the end of your shoulder for a comfortable fit. This is crucial, as it’s the hardest element for a tailor to tweak – the rest can be altered to your measurements. Cotton-poplins, twill and linen-blends are generally more relaxed in fit and will allow for easy movement compared to stiff tweeds and wool.
For the bottom half, trousers should not be too skinny otherwise you will look top-heavy; look for straight-leg trousers instead. If your quads are too big, buy a size up and have them tailored to fit. Avoid anything cropped, whatever you do, as it’ll shorten the legs and unbalance your proportions.
Formal shoes on the daintier side will enhance the size of everything else, so go for something a little more robust.
THE TALLER MAN
Ready-to-wear clothing is generally designed for men under 6ft 2in. Those over that mark often struggle; nothing is more demoralising, or disheartening, than finding the perfect jacket only to realise that the sleeves finish at your elbows, or trying on a pair of trousers to find that they swing high above your ankles. T-shirts and shirts will often crop above the waist line, and shoes normally don’t go higher than a size 15. While some brands do cater to taller men, sizing, generally, is inconsistent – and clothing can leave some men swimming in excess fabrics, while others strain their suits at the seams. However, there are certain ways of dressing that’ll help you stand out a mile for all the right reasons.
If you’re long and lean and want to avoid looking storkish, you’ll need to add mass and break up the verticality of your body, which means turning to items that emphasise the horizontal axis, whether this is via prints or patterns or bulkier fabrics and fits that will give you a bit of girth up top.
Try a longer-length jacket, such as the belted trench or a double-breasted jacket; both will pull you in at the waist and make the most of your height.
Shoe-wise, steer clear of the Cuban-heels and go for flat-soled shoes instead, unless you really want to tower over people.
THE SMALLER MAN
Any man under 5ft 9in will understand the difficulty in finding clothes that fit. Anything off the peg overshoots your arms and your cuffs rumble on your shoes. When it comes to tailoring, blazers are often oversized with a bottom line that hangs far too low on the leg, and trousers are almost always too billowy and baggy to look “smart”. The oversized trend shows no sign of abating, but the first-day-at-school look isn’t a strong one.
When it comes to buying clothes or selecting an outfit, you must always remember that your aim is to piece together items that will ultimately appear to lengthen your body and draw the eye upwards.
Finding ready-to-wear trousers is, admittedly, very difficult. Most pairs will always be too long in the leg, but a good trick is to invest in a pair you like and have them shortened, tapered and amended to your liking and then take them as a blueprint for other pairs when you visit your tailor, or your local dry cleaner.
For the top half, investing in a good, fitted blazer will do a couple of things for you: it will help build up your shoulders, which adds height. And by keeping it buttoned, it will create a slim silhouette that will make your chest look bigger and your waist look smaller.
Make sure your top button (on a two-button jacket) is above your navel so that your legs look longer, and go with a shorter cut on the jacket.
Footwear is an easy place to add an a few inches, so go for a pair of shoes with a built-up sole, like these boots by Red Wing Shoes, or this pair by RRL. Of course, there is also the chunky sneakers trend – for you, this is not only stylish, but practical (at least, this is how you can justify it to your partner when you come home with a pair of Balenciaga’s Triple Ss.)
THE LARGER MAN
Some larger men find that purchasing clothes to complement their body shape can be a troublesome task, opting for clothes that are snug in an attempt to tuck everything in, or, equally, for oversized garments that obliterate your silhouette entirely. You may even find it difficult finding clothes that accommodate your frame without the help of a tailor.
Generally, what you should aim to do here is find pieces that accommodate and accentuate your form – there’s no point squeezing into anything too fitted, but you also don’t want to look shapeless. A good tip is that structured tailoring will help give shape to softer body shapes.
Try a smarter style of jacket, buttoned at the waist and with fairly broad or padded shoulders. This will give you a subtle hourglass shape without pinching at the waist.
If standard-fit trousers squeeze at your thighs or calves, try buying them a size up and having them altered to fit at the waist and below the knee. Classic Italian brands such as Canali, Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli are generally more accommodating to bigger guys, and most come with additional fabric, should items need taking in, or up.
As a general rule, try to avoid vertical stripes or loud and bold prints as, on more imposing frames, they can be loud and overwhelming.
THE SLIMMER MAN
A slender silhouette means clothes hang off you. Suiting especially can swallow you up, and not everyone is confident (or young) enough to wear the current oversize trend. There are, however, some hard and fast sartorial rules that will help compliment, not accentuate, a slender frame.
Though, as a slim person, you’re rather lucky to be able to wear lots of different things, you probably want to avoid seeming weedy and dissipated. So, think about ways that you can make the most of your lean physique while building up a bit more shape in other areas.
For this body type, skinny and slim-fit jeans are absolutely permitted, even encouraged, but they shouldn’t be so tight that they leave nothing to the imagination. If in doubt, opt for a more generous slim pair, which are far better at hiding knobbly knees.
Pleated trousers may also add a bit of shape to the leg, which can be a boon to this kind of figure. In fact, slim tailoring in general is a good bet, just be cautious about how tight it all is – woollen suiting fabrics tend to be far less forgiving than denim.
If you’re looking to add shape, go for a double-breasted blazer; it’ll add width to your shoulders and give you a waist if you’re somewhat deficient in both departments.
If you’re feeling a little gangly, try wearing boxy outerwear (such as bombers and chore jackets) over chunky knitwear to add bulk. For the more sartorially confident among you, why not try the oversized trend? It looks particularly good on those with slender frames. Trust us. Vetements, Balenciaga and Raf Simons have become synonymous for their hulking silhouettes and exaggerated proportions.
If you do want to enhance or hide certain aspects of a slender physique, there’s a hack that women have known about for years: using patterns and colours as an optical illusion to diminish various body bits. Worried your legs look a little stick-like? Try a lighter-wash denim paired with a darker top: the contrast will make your legs seem a bit fuller. If it’s your chest width that concerns you, wear dark, plain trousers and highlight the difference with a patterned top (horizontal stripes are the girth-boosting cliché, but any eye-catching print or pattern will also do the trick).