My Style Guidelines

Guidelines help us make the most of our shapes and wardrobe budgets, so I prefer to work with style guidelines instead of strict rules. As a visual tool, I created a collage of a few favorite looks showing my style guide put to use. Please keep reading to learn how I apply these tips to save money and dress comfortably with minimal effort for any season or situation.

Long ago, I learned that gathers, front ruffles, and fabrics with lots of texture never worked in my favor. Based on my body’s silhouette, some tips are best consistently applied. My shoulders are the widest part, and the bust is fuller than the hips. My inverted triangle shape also includes a short thick waist, straight hips, flat behind, full calves, and short legs. This explains why wearing a jumpsuit has never been a good look and pant legs are always too long. Realistically analyzing your shape is helpful because dressing in harmony with your form and features allows you to capitalize on your best attributes.

I avoid design details that exaggerate or draw attention to areas I do not want to bring to focus. The sketch below includes tips I use to build outfits that look best on my features and shape.

Hemlines are usually straight lines that draw the eye to the point where they land, so I keep that in mind no matter where on the body the hemline is. For example, I avoid anything with a line across the bust or short sleeves which end at the bustline.

Capris, crops, leggings, tunics, knee-length dresses, and skirts do not suit my proportions, so I do not wear them. However, if I still wore four-inch heels, I could get those items to look OK. But, classic straight-leg, slim-fitting pants almost always work with the lower block heels I wear now.

These shoes are here.

A delicate flat shoe style with a rounded toe, such as ballet flats, is never a good option for me. My thick calves and ankles require a shoe with more structure and an arch to create visual balance and comfort. In addition, a rounded or square toe stops the eye, making the legs look shorter and the foot wider.

This bag is here.

A pebbled leather structured bag with minimal hardware or logos and top handles always serves me well. I own similarly structured crossbody bags, but they are not my best style choices. The strap across the bust area can create style challenges for most of us, but sometimes hands-free is most beneficial.

I adapted these guidelines about five years ago and began buying fewer but better for me and higher quality items that are more cohesive. When I stopped randomly buying things that caught my eye or the latest trend, I was shocked to realize how much money I had previously wasted on whims. Additionally, I often missed the mark with my style because those purchases were not usually well-thought-out items that were right for me.

I hope using myself as an example for applying guidelines helps you discover more of what serves you well. The goal is to focus on what you like about your shape so that you can build a wardrobe and put together looks that flatter your best features.

Shopping links on this site may allow me to earn a small commission at no cost to you.

  1. What a lot of thought in this post! Must have taken a lot of time. So I am going to ask, when you have time, if you would give some simple guidelines for other body shapes. (Column, hourglass etc.) And I would love to see a collage of outfits you didn’t think were your best choices. (If there are any!). I continue to learn from you.

    1. I shared a post about my earlier styling missteps here. Turn my suggestions around to apply them to any shape. Your goal should be to draw attention to those parts of you that are your favorites while downplaying the least favorite.

  2. I have distilled these guidelines from reading you through the years and it has really helped me look my best. Dropped shoulders and crossbody bags are the bane of my existence. Thank you for your columns. You are a tremendous help!

  3. I find so much value in this post! Thank you for the time and thought you’ve put into it. I especially like the compilation photo of sample outfits. I’d love to see a compilation for each season. It really helps me since I’m more visual.

    1. Take a close look at the photos. Some images were taken in summer, some in fall, and a few in spring. Of course, we are bundled in seven layers in winter, so fashion goes out the window!

  4. Thank you very much for this post. So much information here. I am still figuring out exactly what my style guidelines should be based on my body. I have some of the attributes you do-short legs, short thick waist, large bust proportionally- and apply your guidelines. They have been very helpful.

  5. You are a wonderful inspiration. You stand alone among most bloggers in not merely hawking merchandise and mindlessly following trends but holding fast to your own style and sharing your thought process. Although our body shapes and coloring are different, I share your analytical approach. Thank you so much for what you do,. You always look stylish and appropriate and never “costume-y” nor trendy.

  6. Thank you for your helpful analysis of your shape.

    Could you write a post on how you determine the number of tops and dress pants or jeans you need per season/seasons?

    1. There is no right or wrong answer to how many pieces you might need. It depends on your lifestyle and how often you do laundry. I’m all set if I have three pairs of great-fitting jeans in a dark wash navy, black and white.

  7. Thank you for an excellent post! The graphic is most helpful. Crew necklines and raglan sleeves are some of the worst offenders on my body. I do love a structured handbag. When my oldest daughter was a teen, she called them my “Barbie purse”.

  8. This is a really good post. I really like the pictures at the beginning it does give me some outfit ideas. I really have to try to be disciplined and not just buy things if I’m out and it’s a good buy. I like the idea of better quality.
    Again like you for this one. I find when there is one of your posts out there I learn a lot.

  9. Although I am a pear shaped body type with narrow shoulders and a long torso, many of your outfits work for me when they include a striped top, or a belt or scarf. Sadly, even when I am thinner white pants never work on my body shape, but they look fab on you. I love the Classic timelessness of your style, so I always enjoy your posts.

  10. This chart is wonderfully informative! They’re things that I haven’t consciously thought about but yet they have proven to be true in my experience. Thank you for writing them down and making our style purchases and decisions much easier.

  11. Do you still include a moto jacket in your wardrobe? I am considering purchasing an aubergine colored moto jacket. I have gray hair and match up fairly well with your wardrobe style. Would appreciate your input.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susan! I believe my body silhouette is very similar to yours. I’ve been following your posts for some time and feel like I’m finally “getting it” as far as learning to avoid styles that don’t work for ME, even though they’re featured in every store I enter! I can’t thank you enough for this particular post as it sums things up so perfectly!

  13. Thank you, Susan, for this very informative post. It was so helpful to see how you achieve your stylish looks. I would never have guessed that you have any figure challenges since you always look so perfectly polished. It gives me hope for my own wardrobe struggles!

  14. I learned something from you that I don’t recall you ever mentioning…to take full-length photos of yourself. Not sure why but when you look at a photo you can see problems or pluses you don’t see just looking in a mirror.
    Thank you!

  15. Thank you! I have never really analyzed my body this way! Very helpful!
    I see that all those “too short” pants need to go! I have heavy ankles and always
    feel exposed in them! No wonder!
    I enjoy your explanation of how to look at proportions and make the best selection
    of clothes on that basis rather than the color or print that catches my eye!
    Have a great week!

  16. Susan I’ve been following your posts for years and continue to learn. This post is fantastic and so informative and helpful. I have to flip things around from your style guidelines. Everything that you shouldn’t do, I should. I have small shoulders and small bust. Bring on the turtlenecks for me! I really benefit from your explanation of how to look at proportions. Thank you!

  17. Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!
    You basically just described me….almost…. I have a few years on you…. And a little shorter….❤️
    I was doing most of this…..Thanks for the missing items I needed to address….

  18. Susan, thank you for this helpful & valuable post. As others mentioned, your outfit mosaic is so effective, too. I appreciate this gift you’ve shared with us. Happy fall to you & Mr. Micky.

  19. Thank you so much for this in depth information. My body type is similar to yours except I have long thin legs. I find your dressing tips very helpful. When it comes to legs I sometimes just do the opposite of what you do. Really appreciate the effort you go to to help us

  20. This was a great post, I even appreciated the comments on selecting purses. All of it showed how important it is to analyze why something works, or not, to develop our individual guidelines. Then use those guidelines when purchasing— it will save money and frustration! . Thanks again, you are the best!

  21. Your examples and advice have helped me to be a more informed buyer and less impulsive….I’ll be 67 in November so the time for trends is over. Rather dressing to suit my body and style is more important. One thing, I do line dance every morning in a class so do you have suggestions for athletic wear? In the cooler months I turn to knit or yoga pants with a matching jacket. This is appropriate to run to the grocery on my way home from class. I’m an avid walker and try to get 2-4 miles in per day. These clothes are appropriate for my walks as well. I don’t do leggings….I’m 4′ 11″ and 102 lbs. so I suppose I could but I feel too old for that. Any help is appreciated. Love this article and the pictures.

    1. I am also a walker and enjoy doing Pilates and yoga. I wear slim-fitting ankle jeans with soft tees and jackets when walking and soft knits when I do yoga. I always try to make something I already have serve any function rather than buy another exercise wardrobe.

  22. Thank you so much for this. I know this took some hard work on your part, and it’s so much appreciated.
    You’re a wonderful role model for us older gals. Keep up the good work.
    Be safe and be well. Best regards to your dearest friend who helps you with the photography.

  23. Thanks, Susan, for all these helpful tips. Even though my shape is entirely different from yours, your comments were so helpful to adapt to those features I have…like a shorter neck for example. No wonder V necks look better on me 🙂 Your suggestions are helping me weed out my long standing wardrobe !

  24. Thank you so much for this. It’s so very helpful. I have learned so much. I look forward to your blogs every week. My wardrobe has gotten so much better and smaller since joining your blog. It’s gotten so much easier to dress in the mornings.

  25. Hello Susan, thank you for this post. Very informative. These are clothes for a month with very few colours. The clothes are different but the style is the same: refined, sophisticated and calm and and always suitable. Very nice, thank you .

  26. Loved this advise. Thank you for sharing Susan. I can always rely on your posts for solid advise. I recently watched one of your packing videos for my 10 day cruise. It helped me to devise a capsule wardrobe for my trip.

  27. Love your posts and appreciate the time you spend sharing such good information, thank you!! And the timing is perfect for me as I transition to colder weather clothing, it will help me take a hard look at what to keep and what isn’t working.

  28. Wonderful post! Information you posted is extremely helpful! The photos also show how you stick to a few basic colors so that items can be interchanged to make so many more outfits. Thanks again Susan.

  29. What a great post! Thanks so much for taking the time to put the collage together. I only found you about two months ago, but you have helped me clean out my closet and add appropriate, multi-use items. I love the shoes featured in the post, but I can’t get the link to open. Could you provide another, please?

  30. VERY helpful post! Thank you for breaking down your guidelines so clearly. I will print this post and keep it in my closet!

  31. This was so helpful! I have a similar body shape and I can see how these guidelines will be beneficial as I make some changes in how I shop. Thank you!

  32. Thanks Susan for all your suggestions. They keep me on track and looking so much better now that I’m retired. It would be easy to be sloppy to run errands.

  33. To me, this was the most informative and visual post I have read from you. To actually see the different styles you chose and seeing them side by side was very helpful but the explanations on the style of shoes and purses as well as the explanations of hemlines etc. were priceless. What a jam packed post this turned out to be. Very helpful to me in a lot of ways and more ah ha moments when I read this post. You are a great teacher and may I say thank you many times over for such great wisdom you have shown us “senior” ladies in your advice not only in clothes, but food, and lovely scenery pictures. Plus a little humor with Mr. Mickey as well, grin!
    Clara from Iowa

  34. Very helpful visuals- thanks so much for sharing. My body shape is a regular triangle but I can still apply some of these strategies in reverse, Would yea consider doing style recommendations for other body types?

  35. I love your style but my shape is a basic “pear” and I am 5’4”. So it would be helpful to see what you recommend for my size and other shapes too in contrast with the inverted triangle. Thank you! From another Susan.

  36. Thank you, Susan, for such an informative illustration, photo and for your much needed advice.
    A thought…comparison photos, side by side, of yourself showing how each of these points work.

  37. Thank you for these guidelines, Susan. I have also purchased items on a whim only to regret it. My figure is much more suited to slim lines and shorter tops due to my height. I prefer a tailored top or jacket rather than tunics (which I have eliminated from my wardrobe). The chart is so handy. I will save it to use when shopping.
    Judy from NC

  38. Susan,
    Do you wear scarves anymore ? Long (20 x 70 ish) rectangle, square, shawl. I, too,, am buxom but with a narrow face, long slender neck, and narrow shoulders.
    Is the turtleneck still not a good look, or can you pull it off with a minimizing type bra ? I like to tie a silk scarf around my neck ( feels Parisian to me ) in the cool weather with a jewel neckline. Are these looks best left to the Audrey Hepburn type figure

  39. These are great tips. Thank you so much for sharing!
    I have an hourglass shape that after menopause has become more of a water glass shape. But my larger bust has often made me look too heavy. Thank you for the reminder to downplay some areas and highlight others to create balance.

  40. What you wear for your body type isn’t what we should wear for our personal body shapes!!! Please explain that to women!! There are also * body shpe and full eight’s, straight body shapes, apple body shapes, pear body shapes etc. We all must wear what is best for our body shapes and collect wardrobe basics for our body shapes then florishes Show all of this to women so they understand!!! You have the model shape!!!

    1. As stated, I use myself as an example, explain my shape, and encourage other women to discover and dress for their unique proportions. Not everything looks good on everyone.

      I do not have a model shape at all. I am only 5’6″.

  41. This is helpful beyond belief ! Possibly because I share a similar body shape with you. Ruffles do NOT become me, and yet, I try to emphasize femininity with soft fabric, no frills, and beautiful color. It’s a challenge with the triangle, short body, but your guidance is wonderful. I’m traveling to Italy next week and we’ll see if I can at least look somewhat chic.
    Wonderful week-end, friends.

  42. Susan, I have followed your blog for several years now and you are such a beautiful, delightful person. I find your wardrobe suggestions so helpful and look forward to receiving your emails each week. This latest is my favorite and it will be saved.
    With many thanks,

  43. As a plus-size woman (5’10” size 20) I want to point out that Susan’s tips work for •any• size. Just pivot them for your particular size/shape and you’re good to go

    I also follow a particular capsule wardrobe (which is kind of how Susan operates!) and I always find her choices work well for me.

  44. Excellent post and it went right on my Pinterest board! Nancy asked about cowl necks, and I would add shawl collars on
    tops and sweaters? Also, I hope you might consider doing a post on outerwear and body shapes in jacket and coat styles.
    Do puffer coats and vests flatter any particular body style?
    I do have a couple of turtleneck sweaters but keep them only for when it’s extremely cold here in the Midwest and I have to venture out. 🙂 Thank you for helping us improve a discerning eye when we consider all the choices available to us.

  45. Your insight and knowledge about style and dressing is amazing and so appreciated. Thank you for sharing these guidelines with us. My wardrobe is so much better. So much easier to be ready in 20 minutes when clothes all go together well. Working on my shoe selections now.

  46. Thanks Susan, good advice. I am definitely buying less and buying better. Keep reminding us of these simple but important style guidelines.

  47. Susan, thank you for providing the link to the post you previously had done on outerwear. It’s perfect and just what I was looking for.

  48. I discovered your site a short time ago and look forward to each email. This edition is marvelous! So much information I can apply to my buying choices. Your photographs are beautiful – your wardrobe is so versatile and flattering. Thank you for sharing with us ladies who are looking to improve ourselves.

  49. Thank You, Susan, for the helpful information about body types. I wish I had had this info many years ago so I would not only have looked better but saved a lot of money. I am trying to pass on these helpful tips to my girls.

    Please keep up the blogs for those of us who still need the help.


  50. I appreciate these deep dives into the what and why of good style and how it all works. Thanks for sharing your guidelines.

  51. This was very interesting, things that I never thought that much about. I am going to save this for future shopping. Thanks

  52. Thank you, as always, for your helpful insites. It has helped me so much to learn what my style is and why. One of the valuable things I learned from you was the rule of preportion. Sometimes what I wore would look off to me, and it fell within that rule. So thank you for your efforts.

  53. Am I correct in finding that you must have the same pair of pants in different lengths according to what shoes you wear? Also since I always wear flat shoes and straight leg pants, where does the best hemline fall?

  54. Hi Susan,

    This was such an instructive post, especially the diagram. Just recently, I have started taking photos and you are right, it makes a huge difference in evaluating how flattering an outfit really is.

    Love reading your blog.

    Thank you, Julie

  55. I will save this well thought out article to keep certain things top of mind as I browse and shop. I am 66 and so tired of making mistakes with my choices. I love columns of color and could easily live in foundation pieces that I can dress up or down with shoes , handbags, and jewelry. Thank you for your insightful guidance!

  56. Oh my goodness, how I would love for you to visit my closet with me for a couple of hours and help me pitch. I was thinking about how nice it would be if you could discuss the different body shapes (I am an apple), and give some guidance as to what choices to make. I have long slim legs, and I have come to realize that this is my best feature, but I don’t always accentuate it. I’m learning though. Thank you so much for all of your guidance.

  57. Excellent advice! Please continue your blog. I really found the information informative as the tips seemed to be geared directly to me.

  58. Thank you for sharing all your research with us! I guess in the grand scheme of life, it doesn’t matter what I wear, but elevating my look has certainly improved my quality of life, and I have you to thank. I have gotten compliments from random strangers.

    I took a little trip to visit an old friend. I got all my stuff in my new London Fog Under seat carry on bag. Everything went with everything else from casual to dressy for a play at the Pantages! One of the gate agents at LAX told me I was “really stylin’ “ my jeans jacket outfit. Lol! If I hadn’t been following you, I wouldn’t own a jeans jacket.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.