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Dressing to look thinner

There are times when most of us want to shed a pound or two visually.

Alright, alright, I know it's shallow, but here we go. The truth is, in an age where thinness is valued, many of us do want to look thinner in our clothes.

Anyone who's as skinny as she wants to be can stop reading here, but for everyone else (like me, after a winter of lard butties) here are some tips. 

* Aim for a long, lean, sleek line in everything you buy - don't buy clothes with volume. 

* Dress in one colour from top to toe, including tights and shoes. It's an age-old tip, but it really does work. If you tend to wear dark clothes and it seems too gloomy, make sure that your top half matches your bottom half (say, a jacket and skirt) but wear a contrasting blouse. Or wear dark brown, navy or charcoal instead of black. However, this trick also works in paler colours, including white.

* Matt dark fabrics with stretch are your best friend: think microfibre stretch tees, merino knit pencil skirts, suedette pull-on boots, poloneck sweaters. 

* Avoid texture, which adds bulk - mohair, boucle knits, guipure lace etc. If you like this sort of thing, save it for cushion covers and sofa throws, not your body.

* Stick to fluid, feminine fabrics such as wool or silk crepe, chiffon and knits. Avoid stiff, men's-type suiting fabrics or anything hard-edged such as patent leather or vinyl.

* 2-5 per cent stretch in any garment is usually a good idea.

* Don't wear your clothes too large. Jackets, coats and blouses should fit to the shoulder. Everything else should skim your figure, not envelope it.

* Don't wear shirts with a dropped shoulderline - these are men's garments, designed to make chests look broader (not something women generally want).

* Flip up your blouse collar at the back - it makes your neck look thinner. 

* Wear a long necklace or long thin scarf. If your necklaces have a tendency to drape themselves over one boob, try a heavy, flat pendant instead. 

* If your blouses gape, sew snappers inbetween the buttons for a better fit. 

* Wear your v-necks cut to the top of your bra or slightly higher. V-necks longer or higher than this, and crewnecks, tend to make your chest look vast. 

* Consider Henley necklines (round with a button-down front) or Moroccan necklines (round with a slit down the front), which bring emphasis back to your centre front. 

* Keep sleeves to elbow length or longer to hide bingo wings.

* Avoid short-sleeved garments - they're never the right length and it's usually more flattering to roll up the sleeves on a long-sleeved garment, which makes your forearm look daintier.

* Don't hide your ribcage area. This is the thinnest part of your torso, so it should always be visible. 

* Check that your bra is giving you enough uplift. Look for a 3-4 section cup, with or without an underwire, and thick straps that hoick your boobs up so your nipples are midway between your shoulder and elbow (or preferably higher). Lower than this, and your boobs will be hiding your ribcage, which will give a matronly look.

* If you have rolls of fat between bra band and waistband, wear high-rise knickers or an all-in-one control girdle. They're a lot more comfy than they used to be. 

* Make sure your clothes have vertical, not horizontal detailing. Vertical seams of the princess type are very slimming in jackets and blouses, giving a visual effect similar to boning.

* Diagonal shaping is also slimming - look for wrap tops, surplice tees, diagonal stripes etc. 

* Avoid bustline pockets and patch pockets on hips - these add bulk. Look instead for vertical pockets, or those that are inline with the side seam so they are invisible.

* Choose single-breasted jackets with one central row of buttons for a slimming line - avoid double-breasted jackets.

* Wear your jackets cut to the hip or high hip - NOT longer. A longer cut may comfort you with the idea that it covers your bum, but it also makes your legs look shorter. If you want to cover your backside, choose something with a more fluid structure than a jacket, such as a long tunic top. 

* Avoid dirndle skirts and pleated skirts that flare from the waist - they add bulk. If you like fullness in skirts, choose circle skirts, eight-gore flares or stitched-down pleats, which are flat at the waistline but flare out from about knee level. 

* Alter skirts so that they hit at the slimmest part of your knee - usually it's just above where it widens out into your calf. If you like narrow pencil skirts, have this done by a tailor because the side seams will also need taking in a bit. If you prefer longer skirts, have them about 4 inches above the ankle, in fluid fabrics, never at mid-calf length, which makes your legs look fatter.

* Do your utmost to find a good pair of jeans - then buy three of them. Look for dark indigo, bootcut, slight stretch, a proper v-shaped back yoke and the stitching on the side seams visible from the front to give a long line down your outside leg.

* For evening, think of fluid matt black trousers with black ribbon, braid or lace down the outer seam - this works on the same principle. 

* Look for shoes with a low vamp and no straps, to visually slim the foot. 

* Avoid ankle-strap shoes, and don't wear ankle boots with skirts. 

* Wear heels - if you look taller, you look thinner. If you're not comfy in heels, keep your flat shoes feminine and interesting but beware of ballerina pumps which can foreshorten the foot if the toes are very rounded.

* Consider knee-length boots instead of shoes, in the same colour as your skirt, for a long, unbroken line.

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