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

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The Stylist web team
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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 (