Slim lines for real bodies

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I hear from women all the time who say, "I love the skinny jeans look, but I hate the skinny jeans." Skinny jeans are tough for anyone with actual hips, or a tush, or a little bit of tummy. Which, frankly, is most of us. Let's talk about how to get the skinny jeans look--that long, lean line--without having to smash into pants cut for one of the Olsen sisters.

The skinny pants look is so chic, so Audrey Hepburn (in fact, the Gap named their skinny pants after her). But unless you are built like a young Audrey Hepburn, this is a tricky look. Pants that taper in at the hem emphasize the width of your hips and midsection. Unless your hips are very slim, though, think twice about the very skinny pants.

Banana Republic jeansInstead, start with a pair of straight-legged pants that fit through the hips and thighs. Anything tight will be uncomfortable and will add width to even the most petite backside. The pant legs should be the same width the entire way down. To check this, fold the leg in half so that the hem is laying flat at the knee. The hem shouldn't flare out and be wider than the thigh of the pants, nor should it taper in. A pair of pants that falls straight from the widest part of your hips or thighs creates a long, slim line, which is also the goal of the skinny pants look. (Classic dark rinse boot cut jeans from Banana Republic, $78.00.)

Pants can be hemmed for heels, or for flats, or, if you're feeling adventurous, at the ankle, for a long cropped look. I like this last length because it is incredibly versatile; I wear my long cropped pants with flats and with heels. Keep the hem close to your ankle bone, though, for the longest possible line, and remember that a longer leg--pants hemmed for a little or a big heel--will give you the longest looking legs.

Ann Taylor Loft blouseChoose a slim--but not tight--top, something that hits at the high hip. You want the top to be long enough to cover the space above your pants when you sit down but not so long that your entire backside is covered. I know it's tempting to cover your entire tush with a long tunic or tee, but thigh-length tops over pants will accentuate hips and thighs. In the same way that tapered pants will make your bottom half look disproportionate, too-long tops will throw your top half all out of proportion. Think about a small-gauge sweater or a longer blouse, perhaps with side vents. (Ann Taylor Loft floral foil print tiered pullover, $39.00.)

To balance a slim bottom and a larger chest, look for tops with an empire waist or with detailing under the bust, right where the band of your bra is. The empire waist also works for a larger midsection, because it will skim any little extra in the tummy area. But be cautions about tossing a babydoll dress over a pair of pants; really check the back view and be certain that the volume of the dress isn't adding any extra volume to your backside. If you want to wear a top with some movement, go with a babydoll that hits at the high hip, above the widest part of your bottom half, and that has a slim fit in the top, through the bust. Women who are smaller on top can pair the slim pants with a crew neck or turtleneck or boat neck top, something that hits again at the high hip.

Finally, use color to create a long line. Choose something monochromatic (the black turtleneck and slim pants is a classic Audrey Hepburn look) or opt for a dark trouser and a lighter top, to draw attention up. Keep your outfit slim and proportional; this replicate the line of the skinny jeans look, but in a way that is appropriate and comfortable for a real body.

Susan Wagner writes about fashion at Friday Style and everything else at Friday Playdate. She is partial to pants that she can sit comfortably in all day.

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