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I feel it's appropriate to begin my first post in several weeks with a confession. So here it is - I am short. Really very short - 5'1'' on a good day. On the rare occasions that I confess this statistic to acquaintances, I am often met with surprise - sure, people know I'm short, but most don't seem to realise quite how short I am.
Why is this, you may ask? Well, I have to confess that big hair, big heels and a direct personality certainly help, but it's also down to what I wear.
If, like me, you are on the more petite side then there are lots of dressing tricks you can use to disguise this fact. Dressing a short or petite body can be challenging if you are shopping on the high street, but it's not as hard as you might think. Here are my top tips for the vertically challenged (a lot of these tips are also appropriate for slim builds, regardless of height). 1) Fit
This is absolutely crucial. Wearing properly fitting garments is the single most effective thing that you can do to downplay the fact that you are lacking in the height department. One of the biggest 'give aways' that you are short are garments that are too large and long - perfectly cut and fitted tailored items will do more for you than a pair of 'lift its' ever will.
- Always go for a slim fit shirts, jackets and trousers even if you are not used to it. Don't drown your smaller from frame in too much fabric - keep it tailored and neat. Our bespoke suits and shirts are made exactly to your measurements are and ideal.
- Too-long sleeves, trousers and, most importantly, jackets will draw attention to your size; conversely correct proportions will conceal.
- A petit man in a too-long jacket will always look like a teenager in a hand-me-down - make sure that your jacket comes no lower than your crotch in front only just covers your seat.
- avoid low waisted trousers, as they shorten the legs.
-trouser hems can be 0.5 longer than 'standard' to add extra length to the legs, but should under no circumstances bunch up at the back! Similarly, suit sleeves can be a little longer than the standard so long as you maintain that perfect 0.5 of cuff.
2) ProportionAn oft-forgotten contributor to overall look, the proportions of your garment should be considered second only to fit. If all the details of your clothing are proportional to your frame then it's harder for the frame to look small.
- avoid any outsize details such as chunky belts, big buttons or wide lapels. A lightly narrowed lapel is flattering on a compact, slim gentleman.
- Petite ladies should consider short, hip-length jackets and high-waisted skirts to lengthen the legs; tall heels paired with long trousers will also give you inches. Generally I find straight trousers (wide or slim) more leg-lengthening than bootcut.
3) StyleAlways think neat, clean, and streamlined - don't overwhelm your small frame with extras.
- For jackets, stick to one or two button fastenings; their longer lapels lengthen the torso. Ladies should go for a sharp, nipped-in one-button blazer.
- Slanted pockets on the jacket lengthen the upper body.
- Chose 3 rather than 4 buttons on the sleeve to maintain proportion with arm length.
- Avoid ticket pockets that clutter the torso.
- Chose side adjusters on your trousers. Wearing a belt shortens the legs and creates an unwanted horizontal line right across the torso; beltless trousers with no loops create a cleaner look and allow the eye to run right down the body, creating an illusion of extra height
- Flat-fronted slim cut trousers lengthen and streamline the legs.
- No more than 2 pockets on waistcoats! As always, avoid extra horizontal lines
- ladies - avoid frou-frou styles with lots of fabric
4) Colour and fabricIt's a myth that short people should wear only dark colours - it doesn't add any inches! However, I do recommend that shorter people avoid large, busy patterns and stick with more subtle alternatives and plain colours (for example, I own very few printed items).
- patterns with vertical details, such as a herringbone, work better on shorter frames than other patterns such as birdeyes and checks; I recommend our RTallwool-100215 range
- patterns should always be proportional - so look for smaller herringbones and closer, finer pinstripes. Large patterns can overwhelm small frames.
- for shirts, chose a stripe over a check
- generally, avoid heavy, bulky fabrics
5) WardrobeAll these tips are all very well but what about putting it all together? Careful wardrobe planning is the icing on the cake for the perfect petit look.
- Keep it clean and uncluttered - don't have too much going on in your outfit at once. A patterned suit should be paired with a plainer shirt and tie, and vice versa
- Similarly, don't bring in too many colour families. Keeping things in the same 'tone' adds a lean, uncluttered air
- Exercise careful use of accessories.
- A tailored suit is an ideal garment for a petit man, simply because having the top half of the body matching the bottom lengthens things out. Ladies - this tip goes for you, too!
- For jeans, stick with more slim, tailored styles. Avoid both low-rise skinny jeans and bulky, baggy styles with lots of pockets.
- Be wary of the garment layering that is oh-so-popular in modern times - it breaks up the body.
- A simple sheath dress is a great choice for ladies
- Match your socks to your trousers, and some advocate matching your shoes as well. (Personally, I like an interesting shoe so I disregard this tip with relish).
For further advice and help with wardrobe planning, just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment with me in our City Road branch.
The proprietor of Norton Sons gives his thoughts on dressing up and dressing well. What's the key to a great men's outfit? The great thing about the way men dress is we have so many bits and pieces we can put together.
And if you've got an eye for it, a little bit of flair, you can lift an ordinary outfit into something quite special just by, you know, picking up the purple overcheck in a dark-grey Prince-of-Wales and accessorising that with your pocket handkerchief.
Someone will see it, just catch that item, and they'll think: 'huh, I like that.' Do many people do that these days? No. I think it's a real shame that we've got to the point where people who want to dress nicely feel embarrassed to do so. That they feel they can't wear both a tie and a pocket handkerchief because of how it will be perceived. It's depressing to me. So few people get any joy out of getting dressed in the morning these days. It's a shame because it can be a very pleasant, slightly introspective pause in your otherwise hectic schedule: 'I'm just going to take 10 minutes and find the right tie to go with this shirt.
' I used to spend hours and hours swapping ties and things around. But you tend to find that, the older you get, the easier it is. It's just experience like anything else. Our shirtmaker and has been on or around Savile Row for 35 years now, here and Jermyn Street, and he just has a good eye. You almost never see him wearing anything that isn't spot on. And it's never just a plain dark tie, a pale shirt and a dark suit. It's always something with a little colour. We try to express that sometimes in our shop window. There have been ones there recently with grey shirts and purple knit ties, as well as other colours. Do you like knit ties as an alternative to silk? Yes, it's the sort of tie that gives a little more character. A printed silk tie is fairly ordinary, business-like. A woollen tie feels less dressy and makes you feel more comfortable. Like Lanvin's ties someone pointed out to me recently some of which are crumpled and perhaps don't make you feel like you're actually wearing a tie. People would often wear a bow tie before they'd wear a silk tie. I often feel the same way with woollen handkerchiefs. They feel much less dressy than silk. Absolutely. Though more people are wearing handkerchiefs these days, almost more than are wearing ties, which is really funny. I'm glad they are, because you need a little bit of colour. If I take out my handkerchief, this automatically becomes a less interesting outfit. Without the tie as well, it becomes very dull. It's something anyone could put together. [Patrick is wearing a mid-grey herringbone suit, blue and white Bengal-striped shirt, pale blue silk tie printed with a white geometric pattern, and a silk handkerchief that is a mix of blue florals, cream and navy edging] You can understand why men feel very uninspired by clothes when they see their peers walking around in just a suit and shirt, or most of the time just a shirt and trousers. Exactly. If the trousers are beautifully cut and the shirt fits very well as in it isn't billowing out around your waist and flapping underneath your arm it can look nice. But it's rarely going to be that exciting. It needs something different. Wear a tank top or something that adds a little colour. Something dark, dignified, but still with interest and sophistication like a dark purple or bottle green. Sure. My favourite colour combination at the moment is blue and yellow. We've got some really nice shirtings at Tautz in blues and yellows. Some nice bright ties too. [E Tautz is the ready-to-wear label launched, or more accurately relaunched, by Patrick last year. Available in Matches and Harrod's.] Orange, too, is something I'm into. For the summer, perhaps pale blues as the base, indigo somewhere and then a very bright, citrus orange. Almost orange peel. Not a lot of it just a dash of it, in a tie for example. I saw you say previously that you are very influenced by what you see people wearing that come into the shop. Yes, absolutely. It's all the little details you pick up on. A little bit of colour here and there. Even if it's just the edge of a pocket square that picks out something in the tie just that little bit of thoughtfulness. And there's one customer that always, always wears bright red socks. It isn't going to match with anything, but it's a statement. Another wears his watch over his wrist, like Agnelli. He has his shirts specially made so I suppose it's easy to get them to work with the watch. But then if you are as prominent in his industry as he is, you can get away with it. Do you make mistakes in what you wear? Sure, you shouldn't be embarrassed by experiments. Particularly when I was younger. That's what your childhood's for really, making horrendous fashion mistakes. I remember they used to have a menswear section in the back of Elle, perhaps once a quarter, and I picked out outfits in there, copying them all exactly. I'd think, 'oh I don't have that blue tie exactly, so I'll try something else instead.' And it would end up being a horrendous mistake. And then you would see yourself coming in the opposite direction the next day? Well no this was Edinburgh, so the chances of that are pretty slim. But a lot of it is just trial and error. There are some people, I suspect, that look at their wardrobe, pick three things out and look perfect. Other people pick three, decide against it, try another combination, reject that and finally decide on something. Still others pick out an outfit, walk out the door and look like a dog's breakfast without knowing it. I think I'm in the second category rather than the first. There aren't many in the first. You develop staples over time, that you know work. Yes, things you revert to. That's where experience comes to play, because eventually you'll have enough good outfits that they will all start overlapping. There will be a Venn diagram that over time has more and more things in the intersections as you add circles. Then at some point in your life you will know how to combine everything. I haven't got to that point yet but some of my customers certainly look like they have, and they're all in their sixties so I've got a couple of decades to carry on learning. I think some people probably find it quite frustrating that they seem to spend all their time trying and never quite get it right. Well then they need to walk around Savile Row a little and see what everyone else is doing. There should be no shame in just picking up on what other people do. I write it all down if someone comes in wearing something really unusual that I like, particularly a combination of lots of different colours and patterns, I write it all down shirt was this, tie this, suit, handkerchief, socks, shoes, everything. There's nothing wrong with copying other people. . .
Eric Musgrave's new book, Sharp Suits is a very welcome addition to the literature on classic men's tailoring. There is precious little of it about.
Alan Flusser dominates the field, with his most recent publication, Dressing the Man, a primer for everyone interested in classic menswear. Indeed, it's so good that I stole from it for the title of my blog the book is subtitled Mastering the Art of Permanent Style.
Beyond Flusser, there are idiosyncratic works like Nicholas Antongiavanni's The Suit and Nicholas Storey's History of Men's Fashion. The first is a job pitch that is entertaining but feels the lack of illustrations; the second is an English barrister's rather particular opinion on clothes, and isn't really much of a history. There are others, but really Flusser is the only one I would recommend without qualification. Until now.
Musgrave's book is superb and should really be titled A History of The Suit; it would have been a more accurate title, though perhaps less appealing. Sharp suits takes the reader through several, from different cultural viewpoints. The first is a basic outline, from Charles II's adoption of the Persian vest (and hence the three-piece suit) through to Armani and Prada. The others look at suit design, royalty, the Italians, the Americans, the French, rock stars and move stars (in that order).
Each chapter is lucidly and sharply written as you'd expect from an ex-editor. But the personal touches are the brightest aspect of the text. Much of the factual timeline I already knew, but hearing about Musgrave's commissioning of a brown, double-breasted suit from a rather frustrated tailor at Burton's, or his recollection of an eighties suit made from cellophane, adds a lot of needed colour.
The other reason to buy this book is the sheer volume and quality of the images. Flusser, as more of a 'how to' book, is illustrated by swatches and examples. Other works lack good photos at all. Indeed, Sharp Suits is probably most similar in aim to Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's Men of Fashion, a radio show earlier this year that presented a cultural history of menswear. But that sorely lacked pictures. Musgrave's book makes up for it in spades.
If anyone asked me what primers they should read on classic menswear, I would recommend Dressing the Man and Sharp Suits. One is a guide, the other a history; one definitely American, the other more European.
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