Monday, 3 September 2012

How to Wear... Shirts and Blouses

Number 3 on my greater-spotted tops checklist, another goes-with-virtually-anything-whilst-adding-vintage-chic staple. Various styles faithfully follow me from season to season and from statement skinnies to maxi skirts.

How I Wear
Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Mergers and Acquisitions
Figure-Fixing Shirts and Blouses

Introducing Special Guest Number 2...

My cousin Martina is a 22-year-old postgrad Oxford law student. Her style is very classic, refined and understated – part Ralph Lauren, part Coco Chanel (but carefully sourced from the likes of H&M!) – lots of tailored blouses and blazers in monochrome and tweed, teamed with turned up black/white skinny jeans or pencil/tulip skirts, cute ballet flats and pearl accessories. She also has the most amazing natural hair I have ever seen – so thick, straight and glossy it permanently looks like it could have just swished right out of a GHD ad, despite the fact that she doesn’t own a pair of GHDs.

The Classic Monochrome

The turn ups and monochrome colour blocking give this classic smart-casual look a hit of quirky individuality, whilst the cute bow flats and pearls edge it over the line from androgynous to elegant. The relaxed fit of the tucked-in shirt and blazer balance out the skinny fit of the jeans. Tick, tick, tick. This outfit would be great for evening with some skyscraping pointy-toed patent stiletto court shoes too, but I’m not sure that suggestion will be welcomed!

The Dalmatian Crop

I loved this top so much that the fact that one size wouldn’t button up over my bra but the next size up sagged unflatteringly around my waist didn't remain an obstacle for long. After a night of pining, I raced back to the shops and picked up both the smaller top and a selection of basic stretch bandeaus to pop underneath – problem solved.

I decided to have a bit of fun by mixing 3 sets of spots and using a 1950s inspired silhouette. Sticking to a monochrome palette keeps the print clash subtle and placing the largest print on top draws the eye upwards (good for maximising the bust and drawing attention towards the face; try the opposite to make even more of a statement, or to minimise a larger bust if self-conscious). The flat patent lace-ups keep it quirky and casual – patent courts would inject a bit of grown up glamour. See my previous post for more cropped inspiration.

Blouse: Primark (SS12)
Bandeau: New Look (SS12)
Skirt: Primark (Past Season)
Tights: Primark (Past Season)
Jazz Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

The Printed Peg Leg

A Monroe-inspired sun-is-sort-of-shining shopping outfit. Keeping the top half lighter and the waist bare lets the printed trousers take centre stage without adding too much volume to my lower half. A classic mac fits with the vintage vibe.

Shirt: ASOS (Past Season)
Trousers: Primark (Past Season)
Loafers: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)
Coat: Primark (Past Season)

The Half-Tuck

Tucking only the centre front section of a shirt or blouse emphasises the waist. I tied a more relaxed “half-bow” to try and match the artlessly (ha!) casual vibe of the “half-tuck”, and played up the curve-enhancement with a semi-structured A-line midi, topping off the undone vintage chic feel with some white laced brogues, colour matched to the blouse.

Blouse: Primark (Past Season)
Skirt: River Island (Past Season)
Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

The Sleeveless Pleat

One of my new favourites, the sleeveless pleated trapeze-style shirt. This looks best buttoned up for a prim vibe, but is equally lovely tucked into high waists or left loose to skim the tops of shorts or skinny trousers/jeans (see below). One of the first things I wanted to try out was teaming it with my nearly-perfectly-matched pleated white maxi skirt, and I loved the result. The gold waist belt adds a bit of drama and conceals any slightly less than perfect blending at the join (great minds think alike eh Lana? I swear I hadn’t seen this photo when I put my version of this look together! Photo:

Shirt: Primark (SS12)
Skirt: Jane Norman (Past Season)
Belt: Peacocks (Past Season)

The Trapeze

Left loose, a trapeze shaped shirt tones down a pair of short shorts, lending them a more sophisticated air (whilst adding volume to the top half with the added bonus of shrinking hip and thigh circumference). I love the contrast between the proportions and styles of the seemingly disparate separates, but maintaining a fairly muted neutral palette throughout glues the look together.

Shirt: Primark (SS12)
Shorts: River Island (SS12)
Shoes: New Look (Past Season)

The Printed Skinnies

Leaving this blouse loose shows off its beautiful inbuilt curve and waterfall hem, which miraculously allow you to retain great waist definition even when skimming low rise jeans. The slight injection of volume it gives at the hips paradoxically has the effect of shrinking them when teamed with a bodycon bottom half, with knock-on leg lengthening effects - and all for under £10, who knew?! The classic styles of the blouse, cape and shoes, with a slight nod to the retro, along with the neutral tones of the colour palette, make the giraffe print jeans look classy rather than crazy.

The Car Print Midi

The (in)famous car print pleated midi skirt... I invested in the skirt and matching shell top in lemon (which you'll be able to see in my How to Wear the Midi post later this month). Despite the fact that they don’t match exactly (the top is sheer but the skirt is, thankfully, lined!), I do like them together, but I also love to tuck a contrasting pastel-toned pussybow blouse into the skirt to play up its tongue-in-cheek retro-prim feel. Here, I’ve decided to embrace rather than subvert this tone by piling on pearls, pointed T-bar shoes and a cropped boucle jacket, which lets me emphasise my waist and show off the full line of the skirt.

Blouse: Primark (Past Season - £1 in the end of AW11/12 sale!!)
Skirt (with belt): Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Faith (Past Season)
Pearls: Primark (Past Season)

The Cover-Up

Yep, they’re both back again! I’ve recycled both the blouse and skirt for a second look with a less prim, more frivolous feel, whilst still retaining the retro vibe. The cut of the top has a Marilyn-type vibe, and the nude kitten heel slingbacks are one of my favourite items with which to add a subtle vintage feel to an outfit without crippling myself or drawing too much attention away from the rest of the look. Pussybow ties are a convenient way to transform a polished blouse into a carefree cover-up, so you can adjust your modesty level as company and weather dictate.

Blouse: Primark (Past Season)
Top: ASOS (Past Season)
Skirt (with belt): Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers

I’m already stocking up on Edwardian and Victoriana inspired shirts and blouses - lots of embellished collars and sheer black chiffon, whoop! I’m looking out for studs, pearls, lace, ruffles and gorgeous high necklines, and also need to get hold of some fierce collar tips in the not-too-distant future.

For the rock chick look, I’ll be digging out my (faux) leather trousers and pencil skirt, and platform shoe boots (I’m also on the lookout for a hot high-waisted leather skater skirt and maybe even a leather maxi this year).

I’ll be working the Edwardian/Victorian trend with my trusty black pleated maxi, and dusting off my high waisted velvet shorts and flippy mini, topping off the look with opaques and lace-up ankle boots. Looking into my crystal ball, I'm also envisaging over-the-knee boots, teamed with a black dropped hem skirt or pulled over high-waisted jeans (my faithful pussybow friends will also work well here).

Figure-Fixing Shirts For...

Pear Shapes: A well fitting shirt looks great teamed with a skirt or trousers flowing gently out from the waist (like an A-line/flippy midi or palazzos), to add a touch of volume to the top half and disguise hips whilst still allowing you to emphasise your waist. Beware of leaving your shirt untucked – it will usually add inches to your hips – and of teaming with low-rise bottoms, which will draw the eyeline to your widest area (furthermore, unless your shirt fits amazingly well, you’re likely to have a less-than-flattering triangular silhouette flaring out from your bust to your hips if you tuck it in here).

Boyish Frames: Teaming a well-fitting shirt with a defined waistline and A-line skirt will emphasise your waist and give the illusion of curvier hips, whilst additional detail on the shirt (ruffles, lace, slightly puffed sleeves etc) can boost your bust. Add a darker waisted belt to really add oomph to your new curves.

Alternatively, enjoy the fact that you can get away with the relaxed, unstructured androgynous look – try tucking a sharp buttoned-to-the-collar shirt into low-rise cropped tailored trousers and gloat over not ending up looking like a sack of potatoes.

Curvy Girls: Having a high bust-waist ratio can really interfere with shirt-buying – I usually have to go up at least one dress size to avoid the dreaded between-button gape, leaving me with the choice of letting the shirt sag around my waist or unbuttoning practically to the navel to avoid gaping.

So, a few shirt-buying tips and tricks:
-Look out for blouses which curve in and out at the waist – Primark’s sheer pussybow blouses tend to have a slightly dropped hem and drape over curves wonderfully
-Try slightly lower necklines and/or front panel details – lots of pussybow blouses fasten lower than normal blouses, below the main gape-culprit area, and anyway, the bow itself usually covers a multitude of sins! Sometimes, ruffles, lace or other details along a concealed-button front panel can disguise gape too.
-If you want to wear the buttoned-up-to-the-chin look, you might just have to bite the bullet and buy a bigger size – make sure you can tuck it in to something which pulls you back in at the waist and/or that its flowing structure is (or at least looks like) a feature anyway (like my pleated sleeveless trapeze shirt – but beware of the maternity look – always try it on!).

Apple shaped girls can embrace the trapeze shirt, team a tucked-in shirt with a tummy-concealing peplum skirt, or tuck a loose masculine-style classic shirt into a mid-rise pencil skirt or trousers. Opt for an open collar style to expose some collarbone for the most flattering look.

Tomorrow: How to Wear a Mini During Daylight Hours, Part 1

See more recent posts featuring shirts and blouses here

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