A Drop Shoulder Garment to Fit Any Body
- FREE video on Vimeo
- Online, paid Sessions for Knitters to ask question IRL (you know, over Zoom)
- For Designers: Paid Sessions to ask for help or ask questions IRL
- Knitters & Designers: Paid Sessions to practice designing a Drop Shoulder Garment to Fit (Any Body), but you decide what that is!
There are no silly questions in my classes.
Tanja Osswald asked me who can look good in a drop shoulder sweater, but I figured we can all benefit from talking about this. There are a couple of answers, but if we are just talking about a square body with a couple of sleeves plugged in, the simple answer is not many people can pull this off. Children seem to be okay in this shape, and men can often pull it off, but it is really down to the fabric and size of the pullover.
Why Drop Shoulder Garments Aren’t Flattering
The short answer is that drop shoulder garments are not very flattering because they tend to hide/overwhelm the body underneath. When that happens then is that we see this big blob without definition. Throwing a shapeless garment on without thinking about proportions — yours and the garments — is the least-flattering thing you can do.
When Drop Shoulder Garments Are Flattering
The short answer is that when the proportion of the garments being worn with a drop shoulder garment create a pleasing balance of volume and interaction with the body, it can be flattering. When the drop shoulder garment is in a fabric that shows or flatters the body underneath, it is more likely to achieve a flattering silhouette.
Proportion and Volume
If you consider that 80s silhouette of the oversized, drop shoulder pullover, paired with stirrup pants, the reason we (then) found that such a pleasing silhouette was because of the contrast in volume. Large on top, skinny on bottom. It started with an exaggerated shoulders (and we used shoulder pads!) that dropped down to an increasingly narrow bottom. By exaggerating the shoulders we gave the sweater something to hang from, and it tended to whisper of the curves underneath.
Where that sweater ended was crucial, and needed to be individually determined to get the correct proportion. Long, skinny legs balanced the broad, heavier volume of the sweater. The way the stirrup interacted with the foot often bought the illusion of a couple of extra inches of leg. Many women without lovely figures were able to make this work for them by carefully considering their own proportions and the garment proportions together.
Another way to make the drop shoulder silhouette work is to have very lightweight, draping fabric or sheer fabric cut into this shape. Then, the fabric tends to be conscious of the body underneath, and the drapery adds interest. Again, there is usually volume on top, with less volume on the bottom. Look at Eileen Fisher to see how they do it. Notice that there are no huge armholes. By keeping the sleeves closer to the body, they provide more structure and movement in the body.
Understand Your Proportions
I’m not even going to try to be gentle about this. You can ignore your own body, but others aren’t. We’re all being perceived by others all the time. I try to dress every day to flatter my figure in the best possible way. I mostly say no to: tight anything, cropped pants, v-necklines, ruffles, really skinny pants, full skirts, a lot of prints. Why? Because they just don’t work with my proportions. I try not to wear tops that are too boxy, because I’m boxy! When I do, I pay special attention to fabric, cut of the sleeve, shape of the neckline.
I’ve been getting dressed with careful attention for a long time. My choices are based on careful observation of myself and others. I love my full-length mirror, and use a small mirror to see what is happening from all angles. Having spent years in front of that mirror I don’t have to do this much now — because I have learned what worked and what didn’t!