How To Dress Yourself Slim

According to Kate Moss, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. Thanks for the advice, Kate, but we like our crisps, pizza and beer and not all of us have your willpower to stay thin.

By the time we reach our thirties, the majority of us probably wish we were a few pounds lighter. By then, we’re often working long hours, eating nutritionally questionable food on the go and relaxing over a pint or three. And that’s without even considering how family life and social commitments cut into our precious gym time.

Although FashionBeans offers advice on fitness and nutrition, it takes dedication and time to achieve the physique you really desire. So, when it comes to slimming down quickly, we rely on a much simpler science: optics.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one,” said Albert Einstein. On this note, we will apply geometry, optics and behaviourism to trick the world into seeing a trimmer version of ourselves.

But every choice implies refusal. Choosing to dress slim will require that you give up on some of your current go-to pieces and adopt new shape-friendly styles, colours and combinations. Not to mention a change in mindset. Are you willing to give it a go?

The Magic Of Verticality

When trying to appear slimmer, it’s imperative that you make other people’s eyes run up and down your body as quickly as possible, without stopping to work out any details.

You don’t want your outfit to contain any complicated features that encourage the eye to linger, since this will enhance the perception of volume. To draw the eye from head to toe quickly, here are a few tricks:

  • Avoid contrasting blocks of colour. If you decide to wear a white shirt with dark trousers, layer something dark over the shirt (such as a blazer, cardigan or jacket) to avoid dividing your body in two halves.
  • Vertical or horizontal stripes? Going against mainstream opinion, don’t worry about the direction of the pattern but rather the intensity of any graphic. Keep your stripes thin and less perceptible, so eyes run through them quickly. Thicker, brighter and more noticeable stripes in any direction will make you look bigger.
  • The stripe rule above can be applied to any other pattern, including checks, prints, textures or applied details. Just analyse the material you’re wearing and ask yourself if the pattern is easy to interpret or if it calls for too much attention.
  • Any horizontal feature will delay the viewer’s scanning process, so when it comes to obvious pockets, contrast belts, large buckles, patches, denim rips/distressing, embroidery and such, keep them to an absolute minimum. Think twice if pleated trousers, cargo pants, field jackets and the like are items you can’t be without.
  • Remember that no matter how heavy you feel at the moment, having a defined chest, waist, arms and legs is much better than looking like a shapeless tent. For this reason, oversized shirts, t-shirts and knitwear are out of the question. Dress your size, no matter which size it is at the moment.
Slimming Trousers

A geometry lesson flashback: straight or slightly tapered cuts are the way to go when it comes to jeans, chinos and tailored bottoms. Their outline will draw right (or slightly acute) angles with the ground, which will promote a vertical, elongating (and slimming) perspective to your projection from the floor upwards.

Extra tip: achieved through a rather simple ironing technique, centre creases will enhance this effect and add a slimming, tailored detail to your trousers. I even like to crease my jeans every now and then.

In terms of waistline, you need to consider your torso-to-legs proportion. If you wish for longer legs, opt for a higher rise and wear them around your waist, where they should be.

Avoid low-rise styles at all costs if you feel heavy at the moment – designed to sit lower on the hips, they are notorious for causing the dreaded ‘muffin top’ effect and/or large stomach overhangs.

Shirts, T-Shirts & Jumpers

The only piece of advice that really matters here is straightforward, but still not followed by many men: DRESS YOUR SIZE.

Seriously, don’t go bigger believing it will hide anything. Carefully consider arm length, chest size and shoulder width and do not settle for ill-fitting attire of any sort. Better a plus size gent than a wailing tent.

OK, now that we have drilled that into you, we will move on to the key materials, cuts and details you need to be aware of when dressing your top half…

Elongate Your Neck

An elongated neck produces the vertical effect we’re so keen on achieving while simultaneously helping to balance rounder face shapes.

With t-shirts and jumpers, go for v-necks, which give the appearance of length and naturally draw the eye downwards. If dressing formally, opt for rigid collar shirts rather than spread and look for edges that are as vertical as possible. Polo shirts with a slightly longer placket (leave a couple of buttons undone) are another great smart-casual option.

Anything that creates a ‘v’ under your chin is highly recommended.

The Dreaded Waistline

Moving down to the torso, we all know that the majority of modern slim cuts shirts are probably out of question, but making sure the garment hugs you nicely without leaving bulks of draping fabric around the waist is key to achieving a slimming effect.

Again, when it comes to jumpers and sweatshirts, consider the hem carefully and make sure it doesn’t gather too tightly around the waist, like many ribbed styles do, creating even more volume due to bunching and creasing. Same goes for tucked-in anything.

Streamline Layering

Layering is often used as a way of bulking out or widening a silhouette but it can just as effectively be used to narrow and lengthen.

When looking to achieve this effect, again, you should work the colours inward. For example, if a dark navy jacket/blazer is worn over a sky blue shirt/tee the lighter hue will create a more prominent vertical line, thus helping to visually extend your torso.

Remember not to layer longer pieces underneath shorter ones as this will break up your vertical silhouette and therefore give the appearance of bulk around your waist.


Tailoring can do a lot for the larger gent. Although we cannot offer you the personalised advice an expert tailor would be able to, here is a quick check list to consider next time you hit the racks:

  • No turn-ups on your tailored trousers – they break up the vertical line.
  • No pleats. Flat front all the way.
  • Stick to mid-width lapels – not too wide, never too skinny.
  • Two- or three-button jackets work best.
  • Look at the sleeves of your jackets. They should be as snug as possible. This might restrict movement slightly, but will help visually ‘detach’ your arms from your torso, giving you more shape.
  • Look for a part of your body (back, waist, chest or legs) that allows for ‘taking in’. Anything you can make appear slimmer helps provide definition.
  • Pinstripes are allowed if not too obvious. Same goes for an extremely subtle check.
  • Luckily, navy, black and charcoal are the best colours for creating a slimming effect.
  • Diagonal slit pockets are better than horizontal ones as they draw the eye down and lengthen.
  • Finish off the look with diagonal stripes, which draw the eye down, or small patterned ties.

Yes, black is slimming. However, it isn’t the only colour to do this job, and wearing too much black will make it obvious that you’re trying to hide your shape.

Don’t forget the fact that any dark colour absorbs light, and therefore you have the choice of navy, greys, burgundy, deep greens, etc.

Add lighter layers underneath all the darkness to brighten things up a little – for example, try a black jumper with a lighter pink shirt collar peeking through.

Lookbook Ideas

Before you race to the comments section, we all know that the industry only uses tall, skinny models for their campaigns/lookbooks because the clothes fit/drape better and therefore promotes them in the very best light.

So, with this in mind, the lookbook images below have been chosen purely to showcase some of the key concepts we have identified above – namely the use of dark hues, creating a ‘v’ shape underneath your neck, inclusion of subtle patterns and layering lighter colours underneath to create a vertical line:

Dressing Techniques - Dark Tonal Outfits, V-Shaped Necks, Subtle Patrterns/Textures & Layering Lighter Colours Underneath

Zara Editions AW13Reiss AW13Zara Man 2012Reiss SS12HE By Mango Spring 2014HE By Mango September 2012HE By Mango September 2012De Fursac SS14HE By Mango AW11Cerruti SS13Sarar SS14TI For Men SS13
Key Brands

Shopping for plus size or fuller cut clothing on the high street can be notoriously difficult, what with the rise of skinny fits and a continuous move towards streamlined silhouettes. However, there are a few brands that offer excellent pieces in bigger sizes.

Based on our own independent research and the feedback of readers on our forums, some of the best labels for plus size clothing include M&S, Next, Debenhams’ Hammond & Co, Ralph Lauren and T.M.Lewin (regular fit suits), along with specialist websites such as High & Mighty, which stocks larger sizes from designer brands like Original Penguin, Tommy Hilfiger, Ben Sherman and Lacoste:

  • Hammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Grey Ruskin Herringbone BlazerHammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Grey Ruskin Herringbone Blazer
  • Hammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Grey Castel Marl Henley TopHammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Grey Castel Marl Henley Top
  • Hammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Navy Upcott Twill TrouserHammond & Co Big And Tall Designer Navy Upcott Twill Trouser
  • Blue Harbour Big & Tall Regular Fit Denim JeansBlue Harbour Big & Tall Regular Fit Denim Jeans
  • Sartorial 2in Longer Pure Cotton Bengal Striped ShirtSartorial 2in Longer Pure Cotton Slim Fit Bengal Striped Shirt
  • Sartorial Big & Tall Pure Wool 2 Button JacketSartorial Big & Tall Pure Wool 2 Button Jacket
  • Next Short Sleeve Polo ShirtNext Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
  • Next Signature Belted ChinosNext Signature Belted Chinos
  • Next Berry V-neckNext Berry V-neck
  • T.m.lewin Tennyson Charcoal Micro Stripe 2-button Regular Fit SuitT.m.lewin Tennyson Charcoal Micro Stripe 2-button Regular Fit Suit
  • T.m.lewin Penhurst Navy Sharkskin 2-button Regular Fit SuitT.m.lewin Penhurst Navy Sharkskin 2-button Regular Fit Suit
  • T.m.lewin Regular Fit Lilac Chevron Block Check ShirtT.m.lewin Regular Fit Lilac Chevron Block Check Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Mighty V Neck Merino Wool JumperPolo Ralph Lauren Mighty V Neck Merino Wool Jumper
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Mid Wash JeansPolo Ralph Lauren Mid Wash Jeans
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Mighty Harrington JacketPolo Ralph Lauren Mighty Harrington Jacket

All the restraint exercised in choosing colours, detailing and clothing can be compensated with interesting, eye-catching accessories.

Focus on whatever is worn on extremities of your body, like hats, watches, bags, glasses or even scarves. You can go as bright, large, loud or creative as you wish, since these items will actually help detract attention from critical areas.

Avoid statement belts or anything that focuses attention around your mid-section, such as a pocket watch attached to your waistcoat.

Lookbook Ideas

Again, for reference only, the lookbook below shows how to use carefully placed accessories to encourage visual scanning or focus attention on parts of your outfit you want to highlight.

For example, draw the eye up/down using a patterned scarf/bright footwear, or away from critical areas using coloured gloves or a bag:

Drawing Attention To Your Extremities Using Statement Accessories

ASOS AW13H&M AW12He By Mango AW13ASOS SS14Ted Baker AW13Jigsaw SS14
Final Word

From acute angles to light absorbency, we hope this lesson in body optics helped develop your own formulas for achieving a trim appearance.

Have you any methods or tips you’d like to add to our list? Please, let us know in the comments section…