Wardrobe Architect – Shapes & Silhouettes

Exploring clothing shapes and silhouettes was the most eye-opening segment of the Wardrobe Architect process. I’ve been acutely aware of certain clothing trends looking silly and unflattering on me, but never before had I spent so much time closely scrutinizing clothing silhouettes and the body shapes beneath them.

This exercise was as much about garment shapes as it was about fit. NPR aired an interesting and relevant segment on the shapes of women’s clothing and the idea of power. In my lifetime (1980s to 2010s) women have transitioned from the masculinizing “power suits” to suits that convey power, authority, and elitism (let’s be honest) because they fit. Now, this NPR segment was primarily looking at women in finance and law (as portrayed in Hollywood), so it really is only looking at a segment of our social class system. Nevertheless, the idea that an outfits shape and fit is communicating something to the world about each of us, is something Sarai at Colette Patterns is trying to get us to think about. I don’t like the idea that we all have to wear a single style to be successful. What I took away from the article is that garments that fit (your body and your personality) will make you more comfortable and confident, whatever the style.

So, what stories do we want to tell about ourselves? What messages do we want to convey? Compassion? Power? A rejection of the system?

We’ve all seen the “5 best dresses for your Pear shaped body” articles. Still, the revelation that certain outfits in my closet were my favorite BECAUSE the garment shapes flattered my body shape and conveyed a story was empowering. Whenever I go shopping, I usually try on anything that I think looks cute. The result is a high number of rejected items. Ultimately I end up with a few items that flatter, resulting in the wardrobe I have. But damn, think of how much time I would save myself if I had been more focused on specific outfit silhouettes. (Colors play into this “story” as well, but that is the next set of exercises.)

So what do I gravitate toward? What actually looks good? What garment shapes do I feel the happiest in?


Looking at that collage of Spring and Summer outfits and some of the outfits I’ve pinned on my Pinterest Board, I see the following things:

  • Defined waistlines (usually natural waist, with a few high waisted skirts)
  • Straight leg, wide leg, and bootcut pants. Pants fitted in the thighs and hips are fine, but I don’t like pants that constrict my knees and calves.
  • Fitted or semi-fitted shirt are preferable, but not necessarily skin-tight.
  • Shirt hems that hit my hips, but not go past my bum without some kind of waist darts or belt (this can make me look to small).
  • A-line, flared, or straight skirts & dresses that go to my knees.

I’ve always been attracted to the pencil skirt – sexy librarian, if you will. However, when I think about the pencil skirts I have owned and wear, they are not as comfortable as I would like. Take this screen shot from my phone for example: I love the sleek look of the burgundy pencil skirt. It is alluring and confident. However, the image on the right feels more ME. My husband agrees. The flared wool skirt, cardigan, and cozy scarf all convey their own type of confidence, and much more comfort than the very fitted pencil skirt and blouse. She looks earthy and effortless and comfortable.


When I wear pencil skirts, I feel like the women in the lower right (yellow skirt and gray top, tucked in). Put together and intelligent, but I don’t always feel comfortable. Most of my pencil skirts ride up when I walk, which is just annoying.

Now, I’m not pigeonholing myself into a single silhouette. That is not the point of these exercises. And I am not saying “no more pencil skirts ever,” but the core of my wardrobe has to orbit around garments that will get the most use and interchange with the greatest number of outfits.

I think I will save pencil skirts and wiggle dresses for fancier occasions. For everyday work and social outfits, I will keep these silhouettes in mind:



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