What Would Marie Do? Fashion (open to readers!) | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: What Would Marie Do? Fashion (open to readers!)

January 15, 2010

What Would Marie Do? Fashion (open to readers!)

Dear Antoinette,

I am in an unfashionable quandry! I am a woman of 21 years, and I have a petite 5'2 frame. However, resting upon this adorably tiny framework is a rather, how do you say, Rubenesque figure. While I am trying to lose weight this year (it is one of my resolutions after all), I am faced with this problem: I am unable to find fashionable clothing! It has been this way for many years, and I have had to make do with t-shirts and jeans, every season, for about ten years now. I still have shirts from ten years ago that I am still wearing (horrors!!!)

Do you have any advice or tips on how I can look cute and fashionable while I am losing weight? Your assistance would be greatly appreciated!
Most sincerely,
Mdm. K-----l

Excellent question! There are many things you can do to keep fashionable!  To really feel like you are making a change with  your wardrobe is to get a bag, and rid yourself of items from the past.  Of course if you have any key pieces you must keep them.  Consider cuts that flattering and A shaped.  Or pieces with lines that give illusion to the shape you desire.  Accessories such as adorable shoes can make even the most casual outfit stand out and fashion-forward.

In Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, she discusses the time period when Antoinette refused to wear a stifling corset, and later on she of course went for more comfortable wear.  Wearing pieces that you feel comfortable in are key.  Sometimes belts or ribbon will accessorize and offer shape to otherwise unwieldy clothes. Antoinette might also insist you carry yourself upright, walk gracefully and keep your head up, as all fashionable ladies should.

You have a great New Year's resolution,  I would like to open this question to all readers so we can hear everyone's advice, and even fashionable tactics that have worked!   Georgiana is visiting and has some input, being a fashion-conscious historical figure who had self-image issues:

Pannier, pannier, panniers! Emphasizing hips is in right now which is perfect, because than gives the image of a mini-waist. There are many cute blazers you can pick up which should do the trick also! Here is a little preview the kind of things I am thinking about, http://www.polyvore.com/curves_baby/set?id=14958434. That is my humble opinion!

You may remember our visiting The Frick Collection intern, Jill, well she also has some fab advice on the matter!

Being a shortie myself, I know it can be tough to shop. But I have a few tips to give:

1. Don't be afraid of shape. Clothes that are boxy and drapey -- clothes that you think might hide the flaws you see -- actually make you look bigger. Tailored pieces are key whether it comes to work pants or jeans.  Same with t-shirts. Steer away from boxy-cut (or mens cut) tshirts and find ones that curve in a little. You don't want them to be tight of course but drowning in fabric will not show off your best assets and will make you appear shorter than 5'2! Also, try spicing up your tshirts and jeans look with a basic blazer or other tailored jacket that will in turn shape your body and give you a crisp, sophisticated look that flatters everyone.

2. Without knowing where you carry your weight at the moment, it's hard to tell which parts you should accentuate but a good rule of thumb is to find the parts you love. For me, it's my legs. I love to wear skirts with cool tights or skinny jeans and keep my tops simple. Perhaps you love your upper part of your body. Choose that to wear prints and other show-off pieces so the viewers' eye is directed upward and keep your bottom half in darker-wash jeans and slacks.

3. Elongate: Tops should fall at your hip, not your waist where it will cut you off and make you appear shorter. Don't be afraid of a little heel, even just a 1". Try pant cuts that are trouser or straight leg. Boot-cut and flare types are hard because they accentuate your hips and crowd by your ankles, making you look shorter. Skinny styles, while harder, can be worn if paired again with heels.

4. Get the right fit. As you lose weight, try to find pieces that fit you at the moment, not weeks from now. I say this because when you do lose that weight, you don't know how your body is going to shape up. Thus, you might buy this great dress, lose the weight to fit in it but it still doesn't mesh with your new body.


  1. If you are petite, skirts to the knee, "A" line or bias cut, and empire waists to make your waist look smaller. Pants should be not have cuffs or pleats. This is what I've learned from watching "What Not to Wear" way more than I'd like to admit(giggle).

    I've got the same problem, except I'm tall with no hips and pudgy, pudgy, pudgy. I need to lose 25 pounds, okay 30. I wear skirts because they are most comfortable and bias cut looks great on me, otherwise I look like I'm wearing a tent in an "A' line. I find Boho looks best because of the empire "A" line tops.

  2. I agree with Alexandra about empire waists - they do make the torso look longer. But to keep that elongated look going, I suggest the highest heel that your own comfort and/or the occasion will allow. The current trend of flats is super fun, but not always ideal for petite women.
    A good friend of mine who always looks amazing, while being Rubenesque herself, shared recently a fashion epiphany she had that changed the way she dressed. She decided to stop dressing like the fattest skinny girl and instead dress like the smallest big girl. For her that meant mimicking fashionable women who are curvy instead of all the leggy, pencil-thin types.
    Here are two things about clothing I firmly believe: 1. It's all about your under garments. 2. Find a good and not too costly tailor that you trust and have your clothing altered. It makes all the difference in the world.

  3. Firstly - Alexandra and Paul are right on! I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for us ladies below 5'3" to not wear skirts below knee length. It just makes us look even shorter and stumpier. And the a-line tip is spot-on, too - they skim over all the bad bits. Plus the wider skirt hem makes your legs look thinner pointing out of the bottom of them.

    I have one little disagreement with Jill in terms of trouser shape as it really depends on your shape. Bootcut and flared trousers/jeans are excellent for balancing out wide hips (speaking from experience!) and as long as you get the right length, don't go too baggy (in jeans, you can afford to go fitted on the thigh as the fabric will hide any problem areas) and avoid cuffs or overly wide flares you're OK height-wise.

    Also, if you don't mind heels it's worth getting a pair of bootcut jeans that are the right length for you in heels. OK, you won't be able to wear them without heels, just think of them as your 'dress' jeans ... indeed, think of them as your 'tall' jeans! They will give the illusion of height, which in turn helps make you look slimmer.

    And although we might not like to admit to watching it as much as we do (I'm with you on watching too much, Alexandra!) Gok does give great advice on dressing well for your shape: http://www.womanandhome.com/articles/fashion/howtowearit/292084/gok-wan-s-style-tips.html

    Here's a thing he's done that gives advice for different shapes - he covers skirts, dresses, tops, jeans, trousers ... everything! http://gok.channel4.com/

    Other top tips already mentioned that I want to emphatically agree with: empire line (though watch out for 'pregnancy look', which happens with some styles of empire line, so be sure to try on - empire lines with flat pleats at the front should be OK), panniers (and a lot of things that will make you look smaller in comparison - like the a-line skirts. I like bubble skirts, and pleated skirts for this reason as I'm not big, but I do have chunky legs, so they look smaller poking out of the wide skirt.), underwear should be your best friend (particularly a well-fitting bra - it won't change your life, but it will change your wardrobe and how you see yourself and your style. Gok is particularly keen on underpinnings, so check out what he says on the matter.), and go for fitted, not baggy (speaking from years of experience shopping with a Rubenesque best friend, it is bad for Rubenesque ladies and it is bad for us short ladies, too!).

    And Paul's comment about his friend is right on... I'm not pencil-thin or leggy, so I don't bother even trying to do skinny jeans or the big loose tops and dresses that skinny girls can carry off so well. Instead I focus on how well I suit 50s hourglass clothing and the other styles that suit me.

    In short - find your best bits, find the shapes that suit you and emphasise those bits whilst skimming over the less best bits and work your style, not the unflattering things magazines are telling you to wear. And good luck with finding your style!

    (And please excuse my massively long comment!)

  4. Good advice, and I'd add spanx, modern woman's corset.

    Lauren, where can I find those yummy shoes in the last picture?

  5. These are all wonderful suggestions! If anyone else has any please share! We love all things fashion and if you can throw a little rococo in there, the better!

    //loves our circle!

  6. Lauren I defintely think that empire line or "baby doll" dresses especially cocktail dresses are perfect for petite rubenesque particularly in full colours - steer clear of anything too busy or big patterned. Classic little black dresses or go for fuscia pink, tiffany blue or white with silver. Accessories are key and something that can be used with different outfits. High heels(even with slingbacks) but nothing that you feel too uncomfortable in - the most important thing I think is posture and the ability to stand tall and walk with confidence.
    Also, with all the gorgeous accessories available such as head pieces, pearl necklaces with ribbon trim (so Marie Antoinette) etc. the focus is on the details of your ensemble. Rococo suggestions such as shell motives and pastel colours would work in.
    Also, stockings or tights add length and detailed, jewelled, fabric shoes are exquisite.
    You could still do ballet flats I think because they are not only comfortable but very fashionable and you can't always wear heels.
    With ballet flats I would go with three-quarter length(mid calf) straight cut jeans with a few rips in them and a cuff for an edgy look then depending on your budget team with a ballet flat in neutral colours such as tan/beige/black with a small bow detail and finish off with a crisp white shirt in cotton or linen finishing top to mid thigh. The shirt should have some darts in the back to give some definition to your waist. This look is classic, elegant and timeless.

  7. On Evening Frocks: If I were a petite girl [or a petite cross-dresser?] I'd take M.A.the2nd's idea of the mid-calf length tapered jean and put a pair of ruffle-edged little ankle socks and trashy pink heels with possibly rhinestone buckles with it. Plus I'd want to have a good hair piece to mix in to my own for a really full, messy do, pulled up off the face for height and cascading over my shoulders in tendrils. The effect would be very Rococo.

  8. who's the girl in the second painting, with the blue hat? :)