This week’s secret to dressing like a European is something you notice on both men and women as soon as you step off the plane in Paris, Zurich or Rome ……and that is….. THE FIT OF THEIR CLOTHING. You may have observed on a trip to Europe- or just on a tourist you’ve seen here in the States, that European clothing fits differently. So what is the difference between the fit of American and European clothing? Are the clothes made differently over there? Are all Europeans dishing out the big bucks on tailored designer garments? Or is this secret to style classified information that one must be geographically destined to understand?

It’s none of the above. In fact, this “fit” secret is quite simple once you know it, and it is….“EXTRA FABRIC = EXTRA GIRTH” – ALWAYS!

For those of you who follow the Fashion Code or have heard us speak, you know that our mantra…“extra fabric = extra girth” is not only a secret to dressing like a European, it is a secret to creating the perfect outfit as well. With good reason. It is virtually impossible to look svelte and chic if you’ve got extra fabric hanging from your body and your clothes aren’t properly fitted. The ONE exception to this Secret is people who are rail thin and tall (think six foot tall anorexic runway model). They actually need a little bulk in their fashion diet. However, less than 1% of the population has this skyscraper-like body architecture.

In fact, the average American woman is now 5′ 4″ and a size 14, so we’re going to assume that more of our readers are closer to this American”norm” than the model’s norm of 6 feet tall and a size 0.  Interestingly enough, most European women are not very tall themselves (barring some Northern countries like Sweden and Norway). The French and Italians are especially small, so they work with this rule of “extra fabric = extra girth” almost religiously. And we don’t know about you, but when a stylish French or Italian woman is reverently following a fashion rule- we ‘re going to add it to our own fashion bible!

To illustrate our point, we’ve taken the SAME OUTFIT on our model below and put it on a “fabric diet”.  As you can see, by simply getting rid of the extra bulk in her shirt, sweater and accessories, she looks atleast 15 pounds thinner and incredibly more stylish.

So what does “EXTRA FABRIC EQUALS EXTRA GIRTH ” mean exactly – and more importantly how can we emulate this important style secret stateside? It simply means your clothing should always fit your body; never being too big or too tight. Clothing should skim your body- no matter what your size or shape.  Also, avoid wearing thick, bulky fabrics like the oversized, cable-knit wool sweater pictured on the left.  As you can see, it makes her look frumpy as well as two sizes larger than the thin, well tailored cardigan on the right.

We know…we know…many of us get embarrassed when we’ve put on a few pounds. The obvious solution (we think) is to hide it with larger clothing like a bigger shirt or wide leg pants. Unfortunately this solution can backfire in a sizable (pun intended) way. You see, no one knows if it’s air underneath all that extra fabric or if it’s you – and unfortunately they just assume it’s you. What does this do to your look? Well, not only does all that extra fabric end up making you look sizes larger, but it makes you look miles less stylish as well. Well dressed European women seem to know this intuitively. In fact, you rarely see the well heeled in anything oversized or bulky. Even full-figured European gals wear clothing which fits well and they never try to hide their curves beneath mounds of fabric.

The secret “EXTRA FABRIC = EXTRA GIRTH “ applies not only to clothing, but to shoes and accessories as well. For example, you won’t see our stylin’ continental cousins in chunky white tennis shoes or Uggs. If they are wearing tennis shoes, they are most often streamlined to the foot (and worn in dark tones). They understand that a clunky white “block” at the end of their leg makes them look shorter and loses them points in the style department. We, of course, can do this on our end of the fashion pond by choosing sleek, uncluttered footwear in deeper tones which recede…Also, if its elegance and sophistication you’re going for, stay clear of Uggs. They will shorten and widen your legs quicker than you can say garden gnome.

Now lets come full circle with last week’s European Style Secret – “Less is more”.  Not only is less clutter in your closet a huge help in finding a stylish outfit every morning, but in addition – paring down all the extra, over-sized, bulky American clothing will leave you looking sizes smaller and much more stylish as well.   So make sure any new additions to your closet are a perfect fit and you’ll leave women of all nations wondering what’s your secret to looking so stylish.

until next week…..



5 replies
  1. ReAnn Scott
    ReAnn Scott says:

    This is such an ‘ah ha’ realization that women should and just don’t get. I lead a group of women who love to sew their own fashionable clothes and you see this ‘extra fabric=extra girth’ even when they are choosing a garment to sew. I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to share your blogsite with them.

  2. llewellyn
    llewellyn says:

    I would find your examples more persuasive if you had not changed some of the details in the photos which affected the “girth” in in addition to removing extra fabric.

    What I mean is you changed the heavier look by 1] getting rid of the attention-drawing shoes and lengthening the white pants on the the “thinner model”, 2] dropping the neckline of the shirt to expose skin on the “thinner model”, 3] using a much smaller handbag on the thinner model and 4] positioning the “thinner mode”l at a more oblique stance to diminish girth.

    I think your premise that extra fabric adds girth is correct, but I wonder why you stacked the deck?

  3. Sara and Ruth
    Sara and Ruth says:

    Thanks Ilewellyn for helping us re-emphasize the importance of not adding extra fabric in the form of accessories. As it says in the second to last paragraph -The secret “EXTRA FABRIC = EXTRA GIRTH “ applies not only to clothing, but to shoes and accessories as well. So remember to steer clear of fattening fashion add-ons like the following:
    1) Strappy shoes: These shoes could definitely lose some extra fabric (in this case leather) in the frontal banding department. Lengthening her beautifully fitting pants covers that superfluous cowhide and make her legs (and entire body) look longer and sleeker.
    2) Family Sized Handbags: Be careful of extra fabric in the form of a handbag! Here again it doesn’t matter if it is leather or cloth, too much bulk ANYWHERE in your outfit is going to add girth- especially when she puts that clunker over her shoulder and adds even more unwanted fabric to her midriff!
    Also, You can add unbidden girth to your outfit in something as innocent looking as a shirt with a high neckline. Fashion Code followers have heard us speak about the “evils” of wearing a high neckline as opposed to a much more flattering deep neckline. Unless you are quite thin and relatively flat chested, high necklines can make you look like you’re sporting a uni-boob, whereas taking out that extra fabric at the neckline V’s the body in and creates an infinitely more flattering silhouette.
    Lastly, we didn’t think there was any angle which could redeem the girth-giving effects of this outfit, but our graphic artist has a mirror image “before” of the present “after” photo which she will be posting in the following days so that everyone can get an even clearer idea of how Extra Fabric = Extra Girth -everytime!…….until then thanks everyone for all of your helpful comments! xo The Twins

  4. Sonneteer
    Sonneteer says:

    I remembered the extra fabric equals extra girth decree from your previous writing. If I had any doubts the pictures in this post would remove them. Great way to make the point and I enjoyed llewellyn’s alert (to Fashion Code principles) and observant comments as well as your reply.


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