This week, Kami wonders how to fit and flatter broad shoulders. and I share a few tips to make this style challenge a little easier. But more importantly, she reminds us to be proud of our bodies for what they can do, not just how they look. It’s good stuff.
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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 54 Office Hours How to Dress Broad Shoulders
Today’s episode of Office Hours is sponsored by the All-Access Membership. One of the biggest benefits of the All Access membership is our Facebook community. I always say these are the nicest ladies on the planet, but our group goes way beyond having a few hundred super supportive style friends. In our group, Members post the links they’ve found to the Capsule pieces, and post photos of their outfits. Its fun to see how everyone starts out with the same 34 pieces, but everyone looks so different. It’s a blast to see the Capsule come to life. But even if you’re not a Capsule follower, there’s so much benefit to the community. It’s a supportive place to ask “how does this look on me” without starting a fight where someone sleeps on the couch. Its a place to get new ideas and feedback, and it’s a place to ask questions. If you’ve got style questions you’d like me to answer, and you don’t want to wait weeks to see if your question makes it on the show, the all access community is the place to be. I answer your questions–all of them–every single week, so you’re never left hanging for answers.
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Welcome back to Office Hours–the weekly show of the Everyday Style School podcast, where we answer one question, submitted by you, you gorgeous listeners to help make style easier, and getting dressed more fun.
Today’s question comes from Kami who wrote
As an avid listener of your podcast I figured I would throw my hat in the ring with a wardrobe issue that I have struggled with my whole life.
I am a 6th generation farmer. With this lifestyle comes a lot of physically demanding And I have the shoulders and biceps to prove it. While I’m proud of the work my body can do, I find having broad shoulders to be very hard to dress.
I love structured, tailored clothing. But to find blazers or button down shirts to fit my shoulders I have to go up 2 sizes. I take those items to a tailor to have the waist brought in just to be told it’s not possible because the basic structure of the garment would be too messed up after.
Do you have any suggestions for minimizing the look of broad shoulders and/or suggestions for finding structured looking clothes that would fit??
Good question, Kami, thanks for writing in! You probably don’t know this, but I have a special place in my heart for farmers, as my grandparents were farmers, and I have often described my own build as that of a Norweigan farmer–broad shoulders, narrow hips–so I get it. The struggle is real.
I also want to say that I love that you wrote that you’re proud of what your body can do. I want every woman who wishes something on her body was different to really lean into that. You’ve got thick thighs because you work out a ton?
Be proud of what your body can do. Your tummy isn’t flat because you had babies? Be proud of what your body did. Your tummy isn’t flat because you can eat a whole pizza by yourself, girl, be proud of what your body can do.
Seriously though, I would love women to stop thinking of how their bodies look, and instead, focus on what they can do. Thank you for reminding us of that Kami.
I know there are lots of women listening, farmers and not farmers, who struggle to dress broad shoulders or a wide back, whether from an aesthetic perspective, or from a fit perspective, so I’m going to share a few tips to hopefully make it a little easier.
Let’s tackle fit first. The biggest thing to remember is that stretch is your friend. So when you’re looking for a button up shirt, look for one that has lycra as well as cotton so it’s a little more forgiving, and will move with you better.
The more stretch, the better. Instead of a classic structured blazer made of wool, or linen, look for a knit blazer in a ponte fabric, or even a sweater blazer. Both of these can give you that classic, structured look you’re going for and allow for a better fit.
One thing that stood out to me in this question, is something a lot of women I work with struggle with, and that’s the disconnect between what they like best, and what fits best or is most flattering.
I talk about this in my episode on the 5 Elements of Style, which I’ll link to in the shownotes on my website. Basically, these are 5 aspects of style, that, when they’re all working in harmony, make style feel easy.
But, often there are elements that are disconnected, and the biggest one I see is between personal style, which again, is how you want to look, and physical characteristics, which is your body shape, or coloring.
For example, let’s say I wanted a super dark, moody vibe, and wanted to wear black and dark burgundy all the time. That would look terrible on me, because my coloring is so light.
Another disconnect I can think of is a client who was an apple shape, who wanted a super preppy look. The preppy aesthetic is characterized by collars, crewnecks, waist defining looks and fitted tops.
Everything that is not great for an apple. So, when I work with a client we have to find the way to eliminate that disconnect between style elements.
Kami, it sounds as you might be having one of these disconnects, because I can think of lots of styles that would look great on you, and wouldn’t require major tailoring overhauls, but they may not be the aesthetic you go for. It’s something to think about.
Now, for flattery, there are a few basic tricks, and I suggest listening to episodes 5-9, again, they’re linked in the shownotes above, where I cover different sleeve types.
I won’t go into detail here, because I’ve covered them in other places, but you want to look for sleeve types that narrow your shoulder line, instead of widening. Good choices would be set in, or raglan sleeves, with dolman and drop shoulder being trickier choices.
Also, diagonal short sleeves are going to be better than horizontal short sleeves. But again, head back and listen to those episodes for more info.
Necklines also make a big difference. To make your shoulders look less broad, look for open necklines like v-necks and scoops that keep fabric away from your neck.
Your shoulderline goes from the seam of your sleeve, to the neckline of your top. So think about it–if you’re wearing a drop shoulder top with a crew neck, that’s a lot of shoulder.
If you’re wearing a raglan sleeve with an open neck top, that’s a whole lot less shoulder. Women with narrow shoulders can use this information, too, just do the opposite.
Next, I always say, lines are your best friend when getting dressed. They tell eyes where to travel. If you’re trying to minimize a broad shoulder line (which is a horizontal) use vertical lines to bring the eye up and down.
Open jackets/cardigans or even button up shirts worn open over a tank create vertical lines. An oblong scarf worn untied and long does the same thing.
Long necklaces add a line, Even v-neck tops create the illusion of a line, Avoid horizontal lines at the shoulder–like boat neck tops, off the shoulder styles or even square necklines that make the eye travel from side to side.
The last thing to remember is that terms like “broad shoulders” or “narrow shoulders” or small waist or wide hips mean nothing on their own.
Broad compared to what? Small compared to what? Dressing your body is about proportion. Kami’s shoulders are broad in proportion to her waist and hips.
So, because you can only “minimize” something so much on its own, we have to look at balancing the other areas.
So, instead of skinny jeans, that will highlight the imbalance between the top and bottom, add bottoms with volume that even out the proportions.
Use color to add balance too, a white sweater and black pants will make broad shoulders appear even broader, because the light color emphasizes, and the dark color diminishes. Flip the script and put lighter colors on the bottom.
My last tip is to be proud of your shoulders, and the work that went into creating them.
I have a love/hate relationship with these episodes because I truly do understand that we have parts of our bodies that we don’t love, or are difficult to dress, but I always want my listeners to remember that there’s no such thing as a bad body, and you don’t have to dress with looking smaller as your only goal.
So I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll keep answering these questions, if you’ll promise to dress from the perspective of dressing for fun first, then to celebrate the parts you love, and lastly to cleverly deal with the parts you don’t.
Too many women forget the first two, and only focus on the last one, and that’s not what style is all about. Do we have a deal? Good.
That’s all I’ve got for you today, friends. If you’ve got tips and tricks for dressing broad shoulders, head over to our Facebook Page (our free group has closed) and weigh in on the post!
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