12 June 2007

Dispeling the myth of the maxi

At 5'7" and smack dab in the center of the female height spectrum, the issue raised in the comments section of my previous post concerning "how short/tall is too short/tall?" is not one I instinctively think about when I purchase a pair of city shorts, a high-waisted skirt, or in the case at hand, a floor-sweeping sun dress.

But because the rest of you likely look in the dressing room mirror and see something other than that 5'5" to 5'8" body type for which most clothes are designed to drape most flatteringly, I recognize it is important I offer what guidelines I can on how to avoid looking like Kerry Strug or Manute Bol when you step out of the house in your new "maxi".

I would first like to reiterate my strong preference for pairing this style with a flat, simple, open-toed sandal, especially if you choose one of the busier-printed frocks. As "K" alluded to in her comment, the hems on these dresses - not to mention on every GD pair of premium jeans I've ever had the misfortune to slip over my hips - are sometimes so perplexingly long that out of necessity you're either forced to heel-up or, as I would recommend, to enlist the expertise of your trusted tailor. To wear a heel, particularly an evening shoe, runs in direct contrast with the casual "boho" feel of the ankle-length sun dress. Unless the fabric is a richer silk or the cut of the dress is slightly dressier (the coral-hued T-bags dress in the previous post is a good example), then you might be able to get away with the added height, but if your goal is to achieve that effortlessly sexy Summer look, I wouldn't suggest it.

The other across-the-board bit of advice I'd like to impart involves the upper body. Be honest with yourself. I'm not talking Eva Mendes perfect, but are you proud of your back, shoulders and arms? Are they three of your best features?* If the answer is "no" or even, "I'm not sure," I wouldn't recommend investing in any of the dresses I featured in the previous post. Harsh, I know, but think about it -- does a woman who dislikes like her legs draw attention to them in a mini dress? Does a woman who dislikes her breasts display them in a plunge-front gown? Does a woman who dislikes her hips and bottom highlight them in a pair of lowrise hip-hugging jeans? No, of course not, so why would one who dislikes her shoulders and back choose a dress that not only covers up assets of which she is proud, but also draws the eye upward to features she'd prefer to keep under wraps?

So, you've got the shoes and you've got the appropriate upper body -- what now, height?

Well, the thing is, once I started really thinking about this, I came to the conclusion it's not really about short and tall. In my view, as long as you've achieved an upper body with which you are comfortable having as your only highlighted feature, where the flattering/unflattering part comes into play is in your body-type (e.g. curvy, boy-shaped, thick-middled, high-waisted, etc.), the silhouette of the dress (e.g. column, billowy, trapeze, empire-waisted, drop-waisted, etc.) and the fabric of the dress (e.g. silk, silk-jersey, linen, synthetic-blend, etc.) -- these weigh much more heavily in determining whether this maxi or that maxi is going to look good on this person or that person.

I haven't taken a proper statistics course in a good long while, but I do know with four discrete variables, that's a heck of a lot of permutations to sort through.

For example:

(A) Short and boy-shaped in slim-fitting fluid-jersey

(B) Short and curvy in plunge-necked loose-fitting cotton

(C) Tall and boy-shaped in slim-fitted empire-waisted silk-jersey

(D) Tall and high-waisted in billowy triangle-topped rayon-blend

As much as I'd love to go through each and every one of these combinations and offer my thorough, honest yea/nay opinions, I just don't have the time nor a cache of adjectives large enough to do so.

In closing, my recommendation, after the flat sandals and upper-body self-evaluation, is to simply follow the same figure-flattering rules you've set for yourself with all your other dress options. Put simply, highlight the good and downplay the bad. If you've got a great rack but an eat-too-much-chips-and-salsa-before-dinner belly, select something with a fitted triangle-top without a mid-cinch (nothing worse than a dress that makes your waist look like the widest part of your body) in a not-so-clingy material. You know how to do it, ladies.

Oh, and stand up straight, too. Bad posture is especially conspicuous in the full-length dress.

*if you're looking to improve upon those shoulders of yours, I highly recommend adding triangle-pushups and tricep extensions to your gym routines. Little effort in, big results out.


Noelle said...

Thank you so much for this post, Johanna! Kylie looks great, as always. She's an inspiration for short ladies everywhere. Having toned arms and a toned back, I think I will give this look a try.

I love that these maxi dresses go so well with Grecian inspired sandals. Unlike yourself, I am not a heels girl. Considering my height, I should probably think about changing that =)

Anonymous said...

A Manute Bol reference in an entry on maxi dresses?! You are eff-ing awesome, Johanna.

georgia said...

Thanks for the post! Great insight, as always. You're next blog should be about all those workouts you do :)

Anonymous said...

And work in a clever yet oblique reference to Dr. M. Pillsbury and sha shou jian, and you just might get that sugar daddy you've been waiting for.

great rack, too much salsa said...

"If you've got a great rack but an eat-too-much-chips-and-salsa-before-dinner belly, select something with a fitted triangle-top without a mid-cinch (nothing worse than a dress that makes your waist look like the widest part of your body) in a not-so-clingy material."

please post a link to a dress like this, i'm not certain what a traingle-top would be defined as...


Johanna said...

"great rack, too much salsa"-

The kind of dress I'm talking about is the blue Plenty by Tracy Reese dress from Couture Candy in the previous post. A dress that not only draws the eye up to your girls but that also creates for them a nice up-and-together effect. It's exactly why we always choose the halter bikini top - for that "natural" perky cleavage.