The Lazy Lady’s Guide to Style: It’s in the Fit

If several years of What Not to Wear and one season (plus repeats) of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style have taught me anything, it’s that the fit of one’s clothes can go a long way toward creating a look that is pulled together and polished. All the experts agree: a basic item with a great fit trumps a fancy item with a poor fit any day of the week.

The idea of buying clothing that fits is so simple, and yet on a daily basis I’m privy to hundreds of examples of garments that fit poorly in one way or another. And just so that no one begins to harbor any illusions, I will go ahead and admit that nine times out of ten, my own clothing choices number among those examples. Yes, it’s true: I am fully cognizant of the benefits that a good fit could have on my wardrobe and overall appearance, but like so many others, I’m guilty of wearing jeans that slouch and shirts that tug in the wrong places. What’s up with that?

My theory is that all too often, fit is conflated with size; I can at least say from personal experience that I’ve chosen a smaller size over a larger one not because the garment in question fit me better, but because I didn’t want to hurt my pride (or perhaps I should say vanity) by buying one size up. It’s ridiculous, really. For one thing, at this point those little numbers (or letters, depending) on the clothing tag carry absolutely no meaning. They’re entirely arbitrary, and more and more often, they don’t even indicate consistency in fit within the same store or clothing brand. Size may give a shopper a slight advantage when it comes to narrowing things down to a range (I’m not going to bother looking for a size 0, 2, or 4, for instance, but I am going to pick up a 6, 8, or a 10), but a trip to the fitting room is unavoidable no matter what.

When it comes to the way something fits, there are three rules that should be observed:

  1. The garment’s fit should compliment the body type of the wearer;
  2. If an item is too small, it does not earn a coveted space in the closet;
  3. If an item is too large, it too should be avoided.
Let’s look at this holy trinity a bit more closely.
Fast fashion stores like H&M have made it easy to find trendy styles in a variety of sizes. But buyer beware! Just because an item comes in a range from XS-XXL doesn’t mean it will look great on all body types. Now, I’m not going to try to preach some BS here about how every woman’s body fits into one of three categories (each of which is given the name of a fruit or vegetable or something else that’s kind of gimmicky), because every body is different and even within one size there’s a huge amount of variability. For instance, I am pretty much flat-chested. This means that a top meant for someone who is much more endowed than I am is probably not the best choice. By trying an item on and learning what works best for your body type, you can determine what sort of fit is best. And keep in mind that something might fit well but still feel uncomfortable for some reason. If that’s the case, that item should probably be given a pass.

I said above that size is not worth our attention, but here I am arguing that you have to buy the right size in order to get the right fit. I’m not contradicting myself, though, I swear! Indeed, this is one of those times when being determined to get a pair of jeans (or any other article) in a specific size can really backfire. After all, what’s the point of getting them if they don’t fit right? They aren’t going to feel any better just because they’re the size you want to be wearing. Opting for an item in the right size is what’s important, and chances are that any dismay you feel about going up a size is going to quickly disappear when you realize how much better you feel in clothes that compliment (rather than suffocate) you.

On the other side of the size coin are items that are too big. Just like clothing that’s too small, clothing that’s too large just gives the appearance of being sloppy, rather than pulled together. There’s a fine line sometimes between the articles that fit and those that become slouchy and a bit too worn looking after just a few hours of wear, and sometimes the right choice comes down to knowing what sort of materials you’re up against. At other times you (by which I mean I) just have to face the fact that you might not be able to pull off a relaxed “boyfriend sweater” kind of look, as difficult as that realization may be. There are some people who can pull off the couple-sizes-too-big look. And then there are those of us who can’t. In fit, as in all things, you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

There is a certain amount of sacrifice involved in resolving to wear things that fit (as I believe my example about boyfriend sweaters–and even boyfriend jeans, it turns out!–demonstrates); however, the pay-offs far outweigh the negatives, and ultimately, finding the right fit can lead to huge improvements in your personal style with very little effort.

By Emilie

Runner, yogini, knitter, Manhattanite in spite of myself. Also blogging at

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