Balancing act: insider tricks for styling fashion’s trickiest shapes

Posted by
The Stylist web team

With maxi cuts and cropped lengths de rigeur, Stylist’s fashion director Alexandra Fullerton shares her advice on how to style the trickiest shapes

Words: Alexandra Fullerton
Photography: Pixeleyes
Fashion: Helen Atkin

  • The statement sleeve

    Tip: Voluminous sleeves need tailored pieces for balance. The rule is to go big on one piece at a time – for every outsize item, add at least two slim-fitting ones. So a flared sleeve shirt looks chic worn with a tailored blazer, slim-cut jeans and fitted ankle boots, while a full length skirt it could easily look like costume dressing.

    Shirt, £55, Studio by Preen For Debenhams (; Jacket, £275, LK Bennett (; Jeans, £60, Great Plains (; Bag, £325, Kate Spade New York (; Boots, £195, Whistles (

  • The power blazer

    Tip: The catwalks amped up the outlandish proportions of the Eighties blazer with an equally voluminous bottom half but for real life a sleeker silhouette is more wearable. Create definition with tailored trousers plus a blouse that nips in at the waist. And team with heels – the lift is crucial to balance out those shoulders.

    Blazer, £410, DKNY (; Shirt, £12.99, H&M (; Bag, £14.50, Accessorize (; Trousers, £220 (; Shoes, £40, Schuh (

  • The midi skirt

    Tip: The usual rule is to pick a coat that’s longer than your skirt. But with the midi, swap a coat altogether for a jacket that sits no lower than your hip. Midis also need a clear gap between hem and shoe so avoid knee-high boots which will look frumpy and opt for a heeled court to create a more elegant line.

    Jacket, £185, Topshop (; Jumper, £28, Oasis (; 

    Bag, £475, Jerome Dreyfuss; Bag, £475, Jerome Dreyfuss (; Skirt, £725, Stella McCartney (; Shoes, £79, KG Kurt Geiger (

  • The girlfriend jean

    Tip: A high waist, tapered leg and cropped length might be the denim shape du jour, but it’s a tricky one to style. To balance the silhouette, tuck in a crisp shirt with wide statement sleeves. Add a block heel to lengthen your leg line and choose a jacket that sits below your hips.

    Shirt, £295, Palmer//Harding (; Roll neck, £14.90, Uniqlo (; Bag, £35, Cos (; Jeans, £60, Boden (; Shoes, £19.99, Zara (

  • The wide leg

    Tip: Wide-leg trousers can be a hero piece, but need the right accompaniments. Balance the extra fabric with a long-line coat, while a skinny roll neck adds definition to the look. Wear with flat shoes to keep things modern and grounded; a heel (or a shorter coat) will throw the look out of proportion.

    Coat, £445, Weekend Max Mara (; Roll-neck, £32.50, Comptoir des Cotonniers (; Watch, £159, Guess (01604 678 940); Bag, £29.95, Gap (; Trousers, £59, Warehouse (; Shoes, £50, Converse (

  • The mini skirt

    Tip: Short skirts need to be balanced above and below – a thick knit and chunky boot are the perfect partners. Make sure your boots are flat – whether ankle, knee or thigh-length – as spindly heels will only exaggerate a raised hem. And as knee-length coats look mismatched with a mini, choose a neat pea coat instead.

    Coat, £135, Phase Eight (; Jumper, £34.99, New Look (; Skirt, £450, Diesel (; Bag, £330, Mon Purse (; Boots, £120, Dune (