I was asked by Ms Valerie Williams of Paul Fredrick to share her blog post on dressing for your body type posted on their blog HERE. She’s especially interested in women’s perspectives and tips. (Checkout their style guide on site too for great inspiration.)
Here is a copy of her post:
While there are general rules to follow in men’s fashion, your body type will have a profound effect on what you look for in a suit. What works for a shorter man can serve to exaggerate a tall, thin man’s storkish build or draw attention to a huskier man’s girth. Regardless of your body type, a basic goal of men’s fashion should always be to make you seem proportional. How you achieve that, however, varies substantially depending on your build.
Don’t know where to start? Not to worry–we’re here to help. Here’s some advice that will help you achieve the best look for your body type.
Primary goal: Elongate your figure.
Fit: A close, proper fit will help ensure it doesn’t look like you’re swimming in your suit. Showing slightly more of your shirt cuffs will make your arms appear longer; so will having slightly less break in your pant legs. Make sure your jacket isn’t too long. Excess material in the crotch can make your legs appear stubby.
Pattern: Vertical lines are key. Features like pinstripes help draw the eye up and down, making you appear taller. Avoid horizontal lines as much as possible. If you opt for a pattern, try to keep it on the smaller side, so it remains in proportion to your body.
Color: Dark colors have a slimming effect, which can help you appear taller by narrowing your proportions.
Accessories: Opt for narrower shoes, but make sure they aren’t too long.
Other tips: Subtle details like higher lapels or a jacket with more widely-spaced buttons make a big difference.
Primary goal: Interrupt your body’s vertical lines.
Fit: Show only a small amount of your shirt cuffs and have your pants tailored with slightly more break; that way, your suit sleeves and pants won’t look too short. A three-button coat adds extra details to disrupt your verticality.
Pattern: Horizontal lines (e.g. a pocket square or a striped tie), help make your body appear in proportion, rather than exaggerating your height. Larger, bolder patterns can look great on a taller man.
Color: Variation is key. Shy away from monochromatic looks, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors.
Accessories: A pocket square or striped tie help break up your figure’s verticality. Shoes with slightly rounded toes avoid adding unnecessary length to your feet.
Other tips: A wider tie and lapels will help keep you looking in proportion and avoid unnecessary vertical lines.
Primary goal: Keep your figure in proportion.
Fit: Many muscular, athletic men have difficulties because their chest is so much wider than their waist. Look for slim-fitting dress shirts to help minimize excess fabric. For the same reason, you’ll likely have to get your jacket taken in at the sides. Keep padding in the shoulders to a minimum to avoid exaggerating a V-shaped torso. A slightly longer jacket can help with this as well.
Pattern: Simplicity is key. Subtle pinstripes can look great, but often solid colors work best.
Color: Darker colors won’t exaggerate your physique.
Accessories: If your torso is large and muscular, you don’t need to draw more attention to it; try to avoid pocket squares and other ornamentation and opt for a solid-color tie. Shoes with a bit of ornamentation, like wingtips, will help your lower body feel like more than an afterthought.
Other tips: Wider lapels and tie will keep your chest looking in proportion.
Primary goal: Prevent yourself from looking overly skinny.
Fit: Keep things slim-fitting to avoid excess fabric but, weather permitting, don’t be afraid to layer for a little extra bulk. A double-breasted jacket can look great on a thinner man, particularly a tall one; the horizontal lines drawn by the buttons and lapels help widen the profile.
Pattern: A larger pattern can add some heft to your frame, but make sure it’s in proportion to your height.
Color: Lighter colors (e.g. lighter gray, tan or pastels) add the illusion of bulk.
Accessories: Accessories that add horizontal lines, such as a striped tie in combination with a pocket square, can look good on thinner individuals.
Other tips: How the thin man chooses to dress will vary depending on his height. A short, thin man, for example, might be able to pull off a double-breasted, pinstriped coat more successfully than a m
uch taller man of comparable thinness.
Primary goal: Avoid exaggerating your girth.
Fit: For heavier-set men, making sure your clothes fit correctly (e.g. not loose, but not overly close-fitting either) is of paramount importance. Baggy clothing will look sloppy, while too-tight clothing will make you look like you’re about to burst at the seams.
Pattern: Vertical stripes can make you appear thinner (avoid horizontal stripes, however, which have the opposite effect). Subtle patterns add flare to your wardrobe, but bolder designs can add bulk.
Color: Opt for dark, monochromatic colors for their slimming effect.
Accessories: A pocket square will focus attention on your chest and allows you to be creative with your style. Suspenders will hold your pants up without the risk of having your belly spill over a belt, and keep your waistline higher, making your legs look longer.
Other tips: Pleated pants sit higher on the waist, feature slimming vertical lines, and are roomier when you sit down. However, don’t be afraid to wear flat-front pants either–many are designed with plenty of fabric to allow you to sit comfortably. Choose solid shoes.
(End of post.)
DapperDolly’s Comments and Tips
My point of view is based on having seen and handled Western and Indo-Western/Asian suiting and the differences in preferences from people here and there.
In regards to the article, I agree with most of it but would like to add:
Short – don’t necessarily have to wear dark colours, sometimes slimming isn’t desirable for thin to medium people. Don’t be afraid of colour e.g. pops of colour and complimentary combinations.
Tall – if you want to really impress monochrome will always do it, and on a tall person a scarf that matches the shirt colour will give a suit a whole new flair. The scarf can be worn loose/open, or with one side draped casually over the opposite shoulder.
Athletic – very good point about keeping the figure in proportion. A lot of men with broad shoulders and chests can make even the most expensive suit look less so by not taking into account their waist.
*Broad on top and the waist is approx the same – a wide blazer where the torso simply follows the line of the chest downwards.
*Broad on top with slim waist – the blazer should taper in at the waist to give a more fitted look – a single button can really make this look work but two are fine.
Pattern – I would say that on the slender to medium toned/athletic builds some pattern is alright, generally bolder/bigger print or embellishments well spaced out or used sparsely. On bigger/broader builds smaller pattern is better in subtle colours.
Thin – this is both a difficult and an interesting one. Over approximately the last 15 years there’s been a move away from the social ideal of tall and broad/fit to medium-tall and obviously thin. Models have gotten less muscular and many women like the drainpipe trouser look and thinner men over body builders. The old ideal hasn’t disappeared but thinner guys have definitely made an impact in the popularity stakes. Also the androgynous and ganymede looks have quite a wide appeal.
Most thinner guys that I’ve seen when dressing to look sharp aren’t afraid of the classic Black and White, but they tend to go for slimline belts with plain designed squarish/rectangular buckles. When it comes to ties they wear the skinny width well and tend to go for matching skinny or straight leg trousers. I personally think the key is in balancing fitted looks without going too thin/second skin or too wide.
I agree that larger patterns are better on thinner frames and vice versa.
Husky – When it comes to pattern and colour all I can say that is in Asia, from West to East the men are as colourfully outfitted and patterned (and adorned) as the women, regardless of their measurements. I would say the Creams, Beige, Oatmeal and light Greys are ok – more earthtones than pastels though on the whole; so Off-Whites, Greys and Khaki as opposed to soft shades of vibrant colours. Pops of jewel/metallic tones are fine too on accessories.
I would disagree on the front/back pleats on plus sizes because it’s true that they sit higher on the waist and tend to give an apple shape i.e. if the stomach/hips are wide they fill out the extra space and then the trouser legs go inwards over the legs and can look very disproportionate overall. Basically looking wider in the middle and shorter of leg (think David Suchet Poirot – a very snappy dresser but suffered from the trouser issue). I would recommend side pleats, if any.
My extra tips would be:
1) Longline jackets/blazers are very flattering on those who are slender to slightly more than medium whether the legs are long or not and regardless of the overall height.
2) Waistcoats look good on everyone.
3) On a bigger build, big features generally highlight the parts that show such as the neck and hands so big retro collars and cuffs are generally a no-no. Note – having no top button (summer shirt style) or leaving the top button undone is fine on bigger builds, it’s just large shirt collars that sit on top of the blazer or large blazer lapels that are not recommended.
4) The length of trousers should always be long enough, they should not rise too much when you sit down.
5) For muscular or strong thighs (without excess midriff weight) most trouser cuts are fine but border on looking tight though it depends on whether that’s the desired effect. On wide leg trousers a single well ironed pleat/crease over the front and back of the leg helps the siloheutte. For thin to medium legs the crease depends more on preference.
I think the most important things to take into account here is your skin tone, hair and eye colours. Colours and shades of can look very different on differently coloured people of the same/similar height to weight ratio. Regardless of ethnicity or race – colour can be quite an individual thing based on personal colouring and whether a colour is flattering or not can change simply by getting a tan or dying the hair (the same applies for women in both clothing and makeup).
Despite cultural connotations, Pink is a colour that looks good on anyone. There is a shade of Pink for everyone. It’s a basic colour of all our skin composition and hence can flatter all looks.
Colour combinations on suits that tend to work well for many people are Black/Navy and White, Black on Black, Grey with Black, Grey with pops of Red, and Grey with pops of Pink. It’s just the shades and patterns that differ per person.
There are tons of patterns available, an incomprehensible amount from bold or subtle plaid to tweed or something more innovative and artistic.
Texture of pattern –
Not all stripes/lines were created equal. I’ve had various pinstripe shirts where the pinstripe was made in a different to the shirt e.g. cotton shirt and satin pinstripe or even where the stripe fabrics were alternating e.g. some woven/embroidered and some fabric. Embossed/raised patterns can also be very stylish and charming.
Texture of fabric –
There is no shortage of fabric variety nowadays. Some fabrics are matte, some have a sheen, some are shiny, some are tightly weaved, some obviously woven. For those who sweat – bear in mind how breathable they are. Mixing fabrics for smart-casual wear works nicely particularly in layering.
Celebrity Photo Examples:
Joseph Gordon Levitt (Actor)
Approx average height, small/thin build, wears closely fitted suits and can do the skinny tie.
Kristian Digby (RIP) (TV presenter)
Tall, medium build. Well known for being a preppy dresser and the style suited him well.
Vernon Kay (TV presenter)
Very tall and lanky yet you don’t notice how thin his legs are unless he wears close fitting trousers like slimfit jeans/denim. He tends to prefer suits that are somewhat loose yet preserve the elongated lines.
Wrestlers of various sizes, all broad though – smart in well cut suits for their proportions but mostly undistinguished in design.
Sammo Hung (martial arts actor)
Approx average height with stocky build, husky and always smartly dressed in suits that allow him to move super fast, and not afraid of colour.
Chris Eubank (retired boxer, reality tv star)
Tall, medium frame (middleweight boxer) – the top notch of Western menswear fashions.
Very personal, some would say eccentric style
Graham Norton (TV presenter)
A unique dresser, loud and daring who nevertheless always wears well cut/fitted suits.
Tim Wonnacott (Antiques aficionado & TV presenter)
Very individual with a lot of attention to accessories i.e. bowties, glasses/strings, waistcoats, brooches, button holes, hankerchiefs, scarves, hats – you name it he does it. Has an old/traditional yet quirky look with fun prints and and colours.
Dressing to suit you can be tricky, and developing a personal style even more so but following general principles can help you learn what will almost always suit and/or flatter you and then build upon that knowledge. You can express your preferences and moods within that knowledge which should prevent mishaps and hopefully reduce any anxiety. My personal ethos is that if you put together clothes/accessories that look good on you, you like and are comfortable in then you will pretty much always be stylish – maybe not fashionable but definitely stylish. 🙂