In this Episode, 5 ways to look your best even if you can’t figure out what shape you are.

Lessons from Linda shares the story of who loved to shop—and return.

The Words of the Week are Chino, Khaki and Twill

Today we combine Current Events and Philosophy to talk about what’s going on in the world, and why you should get dressed anyway.

In the Style Lecture, I share 5 things to focus on that are just as important as knowing what shape your body is. Give yourself a break from wondering if you’re an apple or a pear, and start paying attention to these five things instead.

Your homework for this episode is to pick one of these 5 things to focus on for the next week. Just one. Find a few colors that are better on you than others. Discover your best neckline and hemline. As we do the challenge next week, focus on the fit. Get good at one, and then move on to the next. I’d love to hear your experiences in The Style Circle.

Links & Resources from the show:

Twill Pants can be found, here

A good example of true khaki styling, here.

Chino Pants can be found, here.

My Favorite Sites for Good Loungewear: Lou & Grey     Loft Outlet     Summersalt    

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Read the full episode transcript below! Ep 41 5 Ways to Look Your Best, No Matter What Your Body Shape

Hey There! Welcome back to the Everyday Style School podcast where we believe style can be easy, and getting dressed should be fun! I’m your host, Jennifer Mackey-Mary, and in today’s episode we’re talking about ways to look your best that have nothing to do with knowing your body type. I’ve talked before about how knowing your body shape is important, but it’s not the only factor in looking good.

I promised in a recent Office Hours that I would share my favorite return abuse story, and that’s coming up in Lessons from Linda.

In Vocabulary, we’re talking about the differences between Chino, Khaki and Twill Pants.

And while this was supposed to be a Philosophy episode, I feel like there’s some current events we need to discuss, so we’re going to do a little of both.

Before we get started, your homework from the last episode was to head to your closet, and using the tips you learned, or were reminded of, look for the high quality and low quality pieces. Using what you already have, look for the markers of quality. This exercise will help you identify quality materials and construction much more easily when you’re shopping. If you haven’t done it yet, there’s always time. I’d love to hear how it went in the Everyday Style Lounge.

All right, let’s kick things off, with Lessons from Linda.

This Linda was a woman who used to shop in the store where I worked and she has stuck in my head for 20 years. It’s actually really hard to call her Linda and not use her full name, because it is still burned into my brain, but I will do my best.

I should say that this Linda was a very nice person. Very nice. Always pleasant to work with, and had circumstances been different, she would have been a favorite client. Except for one thing.

Linda was a return a holic. I’m not talking, buy a few things, try them on at home, and bring back what didn’t work. I’m talking, hang out in the store for hours, monopolize a sales associate’s time, spend 800 to a thousand dollars or more in one trip…and then return it all. Every piece of it, A few days later.

Often, she would have her husband do the returns, or she would return it all to another store in the area, like we weren’t all aware of the situation

This was long before the days of tracking returns for the purpose of taking away a customer’s return rights, and our company didn’t want to lose even one customer. I think things are different now, and these days, she’d probably be banned–who knows maybe she has been–it’s been a long time.

But back then, we were all at the mercy of Linda.

Linda would come in and act like we hadn’t just had a marathon shopping session 2 weeks before with exactly the same merchandise. It was a game we all played, I guess, since we couldn’t call her out on it. But she needed a ton of reassurance about everything.

She’d ask everyone who was working. “Do you like this on me?” “is this flattering” “is this my color” does this make me look big?” She needed us to tell her how nice she looked, what a great color for you, no you’re not big at all–that was a really important part of the ritual.

My boss and I once went to lunch and went through her purchase and return records. She had purchased, and returned, the same belt over 20 times. So when she was there, and would say “Jennifer, is this belt flattering” it took every ounce of control not to say, obviously you think its flattering, you’ve bought that same belt 23 times.

Then again, maybe you don’t, because you’ve returned it 23 times.

Sometimes, Linda’s husband would come with her, and his energy was just awful. He was so mean to her, and rude to us, and on those visits, she needed even more reassurance and encouragement. It was almost like she needed us to tell him how beautiful she was. Seriously, this whole thing was so messed up, and while he was there, this tension would just hang in the air.

The only upside to their joint visits is that they were shorter. When Linda was on her own, she was there for hours. She literally asked everyone working, and everyone shopping in the store for reassurance that she looked nice.

People would tell her how good she looked, and she’d say, Oh, I don’t know, maybe this isn’t flattering, and people would say What are you talking about, you look amazing! You don’t think it makes my butt look big? No, I wish I had your butt…

And on and on it went, until she left with an armload of clothes that came back over and over so she could go through the whole process again.

This Linda story doesn’t end with me saying “look Linda, we keep playing this game, and what you’re trying to achieve can’t be achieved with clothes or compliments from strangers”, and Linda tearing up and saying Thank you Jennifer–I really should seek professional help. It ends with me getting a new job and never seeing her again.

There’s just one takeaway from my time with Linda.

The only hole in your life that shopping will fix is the actual, physical wardrobe holes. If you need jeans, shopping can fix that problem. If you need a cardigan, shopping can solve that. What shopping can’t solve is literally anything else. Shopping isn’t a hobby, and the act of buying things might make you feel better for a minute, but it doesn’t last.

Linda was dealing with some tough stuff in her marriage, that was clear. She was struggling with self-esteem, and buying clothes made her feel good, as did hearing she looked nice from people who were basically paid to tell her she looked nice. The whole thing was a sham, and a belt, no matter how good it looked on her, was never going to fix what was actually wrong.

Don’t shop when you’re sad, or when you’re bored, or when you’re upset. When you buy things in that state of mind, you’re trying to fill a hole that can’t be filled by things. Clothes, and shopping, and even compliments from strangers are no substitute for feeling good about yourself.

Ok, let’s move on, to the word of the week!

Today we’re talking about chinos, khakis, and twill pants. I’m a big believer that an easy way to make your wardrobe more interesting is to break out of the black pants and jeans rut and put some different bottoms on your bottom. In the spring and fall, I’m a fan of Chinos. They’re often in the Capsules in those two seasons, and I always get questions about them.

From “what are chinos” to “how are these different from khakis?” so I thought we’d discuss today. For you husbands who are listening, this one might actually apply to you!

One important thing to remember is that while I’m giving you the accurate, technical differences, retailers don’t always follow the rules, and these things become kind of interchangeable. But at least you’ll know what the differences are supposed to be! Head to for links and examples

First let’s talk about Twill Pants and get that one out of the way. Often, when we hear twill, we think of khaki pants–or pants of that fabric. But really, twill is just a pattern of weaving. Twill fabric means the threads are woven to create a diagonal pattern.

Chinos are twill, khakis are twill, even jeans are twill–if you look on the inside of your jeans, you’ll see that the fabric is made of diagonal lines. So, having something labeled “twill pants” is actually pretty unhelpful, unless you’re really into diagonal weaving.

Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s discuss Chinos vs Khakis–keeping in mind, this is the technical definition.

When it comes to material, Chino fabric is lighter weight and softer. It also has a tighter weave, which makes it smoother. Khaki fabric is thicker, more durable and a little rougher–it often has a brushed, or sandwashed appearance.

When it comes to construction, actual khakis have visible seams and stitching on the outside, and chinos have all stitching on the inside. This makes chinos dressier than khakis, and more suitable for dress casual wear. This makes me think that Jake from state farm is really wearing chinos, not khakis…but it’s funnier to say khakis, so we’ll let that slide.

Also, when it comes to men’s pants, chinos are cut narrower than khakis, and are never pleated. Chinos are always flat front.

Basically, chinos are a style of pants, and a fabric, and khakis is a style of pants, and a fabric. Neither one technically means tan pants, because chinos and khakis can be a variety of colors, with chinos traditionally being available in a wider range of shades.

With all that said though, stores care nothing about these definitions, and call their products whatever they want. One site had a skirt and a pair of pants available in the same fabric, and the pants were called khakis, and the skirt was labeled a chino skirt.

Gentlemen, you can find pleated chinos, and khakis that are suitable for work without visible stitching. I found a pair of tan khakis and the color was called “chino”. One website had a definition of khakis versus chinos, but none of their own products followed the rules at all. Basically, khakis and chinos are now any color of any style pant or skirt that is made from a cotton twill fabric

So, why share this definition with you if it basically means nothing? Well, first, to remind you that website labels often mean nothing–you can look at them for clues, but you have to look at the actual garment, and read the description to figure out what you’re looking for.

Visible stitching around the pockets? Maybe they call it a chino, but that’s a khaki quality, and it means the item is more casual.

Also, for guys, there is some actual variation between chinos and khakis, but for women, it’s kind of a moot point, since we’re just naming things willy nilly. Don’t stress over it too much–look at the pants. Does that look like what you’re going for? Yes?

Then don’t worry about what it’s called. But, now you’re a more informed consumer.

Let’s move on to Current Events and Philosophy-

Well, this is a weird world we live in now, huh? Do you remember a few episodes ago when we talked about the Coronavirus in China that was affecting the supply chain, and we’d just have to wait and see what effects it had on the retail industry in America?

Turns out, it had a pretty major effect on every industry in America. You’re probably listening to this at home, wearing sweats, because why get dressed, am I rite? I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have a list of stats about stores that are closed, layoffs, and how much companies stand to lose this quarter, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know that you all need factual doom and gloom today. I know I don’t. Let’s just say this.

Coronavirus has affected every life, and every facet of the retail industry, but I know we’re going to get through this. Right now, we need to stay safe, stay positive, and remember that sometimes the only thing we can control is how we react to things.

Speaking of which, I want to share with you why it’s important to get dressed each day. And really, there’s only one. It’s for you. It’s for your mental health, and to help you feel like a normal person. If you’re not used to working from home, and you’ve suddenly found yourself doing so, getting dressed will help you be more productive.

It might be tempting to ride this out playing the “when was the last time I showered game”, but trust me, that’s a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to good things.

When I say “getting dressed”, again, I have to say I don’t mean dressing up. No one expects you to be in dress pants, and heels. When I say getting dressed, I mean putting on clothes that make you feel good, and put together, even if they’re casual.

When I realized this wasn’t going to be a “stay home for a weekend” thing, I ordered a few pieces of cute athleisure wear, which I justified by saying it’s how I’m doing my part to keep retail alive, but they’re cute, and fun, and feeling good is helping me stay sane–and I know that feeling put together will help do the same for you.

Stylish women have stylish loungewear and stay at home clothes–so let this be an opportunity to work on that aspect of your wardrobe if it’s a place you’ve neglected.

Just to recap, current events–coronavirus canceled a lot of life. Philosophy-there’s a lot you can’t control right now, and I know it’s easy to get in a funk. One good way to keep your spirits up is to get dressed every day. If you can, take advantage of all the sales going on right now and treat yourself to something comfortable, cute and fun. You’ll be glad you did.

When we come back, we’re talking about 5 ways to look your best, that don’t require knowing your body type.

I know so many of you are stuck at home, bored out of your minds, ignoring the to-do list you made of all the projects you should be doing. But it’s time to stop that. Let’s use this time together to tackle that closet you’ve been saying you’re going to clean out forever. On Monday, we started a Closet Editing Challenge in the Everyday Style Lounge, and I’m going live, each day to give you a little task that will get you closer to the organized wardrobe you’ve always wanted.

Together, we’re going to cut the clutter, get rid of what isn’t working, and put it all back together in a way that makes you glad you were stuck at home. Ok, maybe not that, but it will help you to use this unprecedented downtime wisely.

But wait, there’s more! My friend Melissa Klug– the Kon Mari organizing guru you met on this show is joining me for the Challenge. Each morning, I’m giving you your closet task for the day, and each afternoon, she’s helping you tackle one tiny part of your house.

It’s two experts for the price of one. And the price is free, so get your butt into the Everyday Style Lounge. The link is in the show notes above, or just search Everyday Style Lounge on Facebook. There’s still time to catch up, and we’re going for 2 full weeks, so don’t miss out!

And now, back to the show.

Today we’re talking about ways to look your best, without knowing your body type. When I recorded the body shape episodes, I told you that I was really over talking about body shapes, and I wanted women to understand that knowing how to dress your shape is an important foundation for dressing well, but it isn’t the end-all, be-all.

However, when I ask women what their biggest challenge is, overwhelmingly, it has something to do with not being able to find clothes for their shape, or not knowing how to dress their shape.

Rarely do women post in my groups asking “Does this fit right? How are these colors on me? Do these shoes make my outfit look frumpy”? It’s often body type, body type, body type. And again, I understand that figuring out, and dressing your body shape is a big factor. I really do. But it doesn’t end there.

So with that said, here are 5 things to focus on that don’t require knowing which body type you are.

Number 1 – Lines. Pay attention to where lines fall on your body. I’m talking about lines on fabrics like stripes, yes, but also hems on pants, skirts, jackets, and tops. I’m talking about belts, I’m talking about seams. I’m talking about lines created by breaks in color. Look at the lines. Now, write this down, or commit it to memory–never put a horizontal line across the widest part of anything.

Unless you want to emphasize it, that is. This is absolutely tied to body shape advice, but you don’t need to know if you’re a rectangle or an apple to know that if you don’t want to emphasize your midsection, you shouldn’t tuck in your top and wear a belt. You don’t need to know if you’re an hourglass or a pear to know that if you wear pants that stop at the widest part of your calf, your calves are going to look bigger.

Look for the places on your body you don’t want to emphasize and then make sure no line hits that spot. Then, look for spots on your body you’d like to lengthen and put vertical lines there. Again, we’re talking lines in fabric, seams–even open jackets and cardigans create vertical lines.

Number 2 – Colors As much as I hate to admit it, colors play a big role in looking your best. I say I don’t want to admit it, because objectively, black is terrible on me, and I love me some black. But, if I want to look my best, black isn’t going to do it. It’s going to make me look washed out and drab and older–whereas light peach, which I don’t want to love, is going to make me look lighter, brighter, more awake and younger.

And while I’ll never break up completely with black, I can see the difference when I wear colors that suit me better, and I’m working to put more of those into my wardrobe. I know a lot of women struggle to find their best colors, and so much of the information online is difficult and confusing and doesn’t seem to fit.

The All Access Membership includes a Masterclass on Finding your Best Colors that don’t involve knowing your undertone or looking at your veins. It makes it simple to find the colors that help you look your best. If you’re not an all-access member, you can hit your closet, and do some trial and error.

Take off your makeup, find a room with as much natural light as possible and take pictures of yourself wearing different colors. Which colors make your eyes and skin look clearer, and bring out your favorite features, and which colors make you look tired, and bring out things you don’t want to highlight? See if you can find 3 or 4 colors that look better on you than others as a start.

Number 3- Fit Obsessing about finding the right silhouettes for your shape is kind of pointless if you don’t buy them in the right sizes. I’m not going to cover this in-depth now, but If you don’t know how your clothes are supposed to fit you, go back and listen to my episode on the basics of proper fit.

I’ve heard countless times from women who didn’t know how their clothes should fit say they spent years in too big clothes, but once they get it, once they see it, they can’t unsee it. It just clicks. The fit makes such a huge difference in your style, and in the way, you feel about yourself, that it’s worth getting really really good at this one.

Number 4- Proportion. I’m going to let you in on a little insider secret. The most important factor in looking good in your clothes is understanding proportion. It’s what fashion design is all about. It’s what dressing your body shape is all about. It’s why some outfits work, and some outfits don’t.

If you want to get good at dressing yourself, begin to study, and understand proportion. Your horizontal body shape, which we call apple, pear, etcetera..are examples of proportions, but so is your vertical body shape, which is the length of your legs in relation to your torso. When it comes to the proportion in outfits, we’re talking both volume, ( or how flowy things are) and the length of pieces.

A common example of outfit proportion is long over lean, or the leggings and a tunic thing we were all wearing for years.

I’ve talked about this before, but you see the length of tops changing as the fit of pants changes trend-wise. Pants are getting wider, and tops are getting shorter. Your tunic tops don’t look right with your wide-leg pants. Why? Proportion! Become a student of your own proportions, and also of your outfit proportions. Look in the mirror and look at which areas are larger in comparison to others–that’s the thing. Nothing is big or small by itself–you have to compare it to other things.

Figure out your vertical proportions, too. Then, play around with outfit proportions–try a voluminous skirt with tops of different volumes and lengths. Try skinny pants with the same things. Discover the outfit proportions you like best on you, and turn those into outfit formulas to make getting dressed easier.

Finally, Number 5 is knowing your personal bests. Every woman should know her best neckline, her best dress shape, her best hemlines for both tops and bottoms. I don’t need to know that I’m an apple to know I feel best in a knee-length shift dress with a bateau neckline and ¾ length raglan sleeves. How do I know these things? Years of trial, and error and paying attention to how I feel in clothes.

I tried a midi skirt and felt frumpy the entire time I was wearing it. I learned the neckline thing from looking at all the tops I felt great in and noticing a common theme. Every single time I don’t like what I’m wearing, I look at why, and I learn new things to help me refine what I buy all the time.

I wish I could do a podcast to help you discover your best neckline, your best dress shape, but so much of this, I’ve given the principles for, and now you’ve just got to take it and run with it. A lot of this you can do in your own closet.

Put on tops with different necklines–trying to keep the other factors similar–like all sweaters, or all tees, or all solid colors, and then take pictures. What do you like best on you? Do the same thing for skirt length–I always say that every woman has a sweet spot where her cropped pants and skirts should end, and the only way to find it is to compare.

Put on a skirt, take a picture, pull it up a few inches, take another picture, pull it down, take another. It’s kind of the style equivalent of an eye test! Finding your personal bests makes it so much easier to shop, and make good decisions in the fitting room

These 5 things are worth taking the time to understand. What you’ll probably realize is that you don’t need to know your body shape at all, because once you get these things down, looking your best is effortless.

Your homework this week is to pick one of these 5 things to focus on for the next week. Just one. Find a few colors that are better on you than others. Discover your best neckline and hemline. As we do the challenge next week, focus on the fit. Get good at one, and then move on to the next. I’d love to hear your experiences in the Style Lounge.

That’s it everyone–I’ll see you Monday with office hours, and we’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the next full episode. We’re going to be talking about everyone’s favorite activity—laundry! Yeah, I know it’s not fun or sexy, but if you’re buying clothes you love, that you want to last, you’d better get good at taking care of them.

Class is dismissed for today, but the conversation doesn’t have to end. We invite you to join our member community in The Style Circle.

And if the Everyday Style School podcast is helping you love getting dressed again, it would make my day if you would subscribe to the podcast, leave a review and share it with your friends, so women everywhere can have more fun with style. Thanks, Style Sister.

I’ll see you next time, and until then, Stay Stylish!

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