Beautifully proportioned clothes from The Dior Exhibition Paris

What blows in with January? A major dose of self-loathing and recrimination for having eaten too much, that's what. Our fashionistas are both feeling like post-festive porkers. The solution: clothes that disguise their chubby bits while redirecting the eye to celebrate their assets. In others words proportion, proportion, proportion. 

Back in the day, Jane always liked to think of herself as an hourglass, but life has taken its toll and now she's more drinking goblet as her hips get smaller and her bosoms get larger - such is the scourge of the late 50s. She must take heart from her 'long limbs', make the most of her statuesque height and keep smiling. She looks, therefore, for empire line frocks, fluid fabrics to skim her curves, clothes with a Bohemian vibe to distract from her thickening waist or an androgynous Katherine Hepburn neatness with wide trousers and fitted shirts.

Beryl is you will note short (4ft 11ins) and dumpy (her mother's word for owning the physique of a snatch weight-lifter). She is not without a waist, but it has succumbed to a toxic mix of the menopause, meds and carb eating. This sometimes leads her clothes to ride up like Winnie The Pooh's vest, and her knickers to roll down. (Winnie has no knickers, a fact that Beryl has always found faintly disturbing).

Added to this she also very short in the waist, her clothes often requiring lifting from the shoulders to prevent innocent passers by from getting an eyeful of tittage. On a more positive note, she has good pins, a nice décolletage, slender wrists and ankles. Her mission should she choose to accept it, is to dress simply, without frill or flounce; to elongate her squat form; to dress to conceal and disguise her body's top heaviness and accentuate her waist, and all without raising a dumbbell. 

Let's discuss length...

Every woman has a length and shape of skirt, that hides her grizzly secrets and accentuates her best features. Fashion always plays a part, and the challenge is to locate the one that suits you within the bounds of what is current.

Toast jumper (Jane's shrunken cast off), this season New Look skirt £25
Lisa Kay white ankle boots £25, The House of Gallet, Arlesford. 

(Beryl and Jane are both wearing pleated midis with ankle boots or plimmes at present.) 

Your skirt length ought to accentuate the slimmest part of your leg, but also has to work in relation to the rest of your body and outfit.  To assess this, literally raise and lower your skirt and evaluate the effect. Probably your thighs are best hidden, but your calves may look better viewed as a whole. Maybe your ankles are a thing of beauty, but the rest is not so good. This is easy, as the ballerina length was designed for a well turned ankle bone. 

Dress Graham and Spencer £98 (sale) PS no longer worn

Pre-loved Paddy Campbell dress £60, and Karen Millen shoes £30 (sale)

Now Bezza used to love a short skirt as much as any other feckless trollop, but now in her mid-fifties thinks they generally look a bit try hard. If you are in doubt please view our girl in a very brief skirt and then in a dress that is the perfect length for her wee stumpies. In picture number two she looks elegant, and age appropriate. The dress is empire line and slightly tulip-shaped, creating a fuss-free 
 silhouette, showing off her slimmer lower leg. Job done.         

The too-tight trap

To be perfectly honest, this dress was never a good fit on our Jane. It was bought in a sale for £70 many years ago and she always felt self conscious in it (see last week's blog for the perils of sale shopping). But she loved its 30s vibe and couldn't be parted from it. However, there is no amount of foundation garments, boned or not, which are going to make this work: she must give it, and any other tight items, the heave-ho.

Where to wear your waist?

Dress Alice Temperley £135

Who knew that you could actually choose where your waist is to be? Jane is rather long in the waist which means that most frocks, and jumpsuits are too short from shoulder to waist: in dresses, she must live with this, or choose another (above). (In jumpsuits, this is trickier and means the crotch seam becomes a cheese wire - not good). But what works best is to move it several inches up to her smallest torso measurement, namely under her bosoms (below). Voila! Instantly slimmer and she can breath out without fear of bursting a seam.

Dress Lily & Lionel £100 (sale)

The jacket:trouser ratio

Jane favours wide-legged trews and fortunately they are all the rage this season. They give her balance as they even up her dodgy proportions and make her waist look smaller. While she does like jackets of all lengths, we can see here that a short jacket needs wide trousers while a longer jackets skims her hips and could be worn with any trouser width.

One woman's poison...

Coat Jaeger £220 (sale)
Coat Top Shop £120
Jane and Beryl, fortunately, do not always suit the same item: 'fortunately' as this could lead to blows of the 'I saw that first!' variety. The belted coat is a case in point. Beryl loves them, Jane not so much. In fact, Jane would pay ready money NOT to wear one, such is the angst they induce in her. Her shoulders automatically slump, her demeanour becomes broody, she wants to lash out... she has become a grumpy sack of spuds. Keep away from her: beware the fashion frump attack.

Beryl, meanwhile, is perky and pleased with herself in an electric blue dressing gown...sorry, coat. She feels the love, and is loving it right back. Not a bit of sackage permeates her being, just a smart, simple, chic bit of winter wear. 

Get your size right

Shirt H&M £17.99

It is a great temptation to wear clothes that are too big, particularly if you are feeling unhappy with your body, but as Jane and Beryl have learnt this is a schoolgirl error. In the first picture Beryl is wearing a big square shirt and, quelle surprise, she looks big and square. In the second picture she is wearing a slim shirt that slides over her jumper-lumpers but still retains a neat shape. The length is also important, as long tops literally gobble up her little legs.     

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