Fit and Flattery Issues: Shoulders

A lot of people have trouble finding clothes that look right with their shoulders. Here are some tips to make it easier.

If your shoulders are bigger than you’d like:

  • Don’t wear your hair in a style that touches your shoulders. This will just draw attention where you don’t want it. Go shorter or longer, but not right at the shoulder line.
  • Wear sleeves. Tanks and halter tops leave enough skin exposed that the area will look bigger than it is.
  • Look for clothing that accents vertical lines. Colorblocking, vertical patterns, and long scarves or necklaces all draw the eye up and down, rather than calling attention to the width of your shoulders.
  • Avoid round or boat necks that will draw the eye to your shoulder level. All other things being equal, a V-neck will be much more flattering.
  • Keep the detailing off your shoulders. No epaulettes, shoulder tabs, sparkles, patterning, etc.
  • Consider highlighting a body part you do like. For example, if you don’t want people to notice your shoulders, but you’re comfortable with your legs and rear, a pair of slim-fitting boot-cut jeans that show off your bottom half will draw the eye there.

If your shoulders are narrow, sloping, or round:

  • If you wear a bra, you may have problems with finding a good fit.  Try a racerback or X-back style, or get a pack of bra strap holders.
  • Choose a jacket rather than a cardigan. A structured blazer, a moto jacket, or a military-inspired piece with shoulder tabs will add bulk at your shoulders. A fitted blazer, in particular, is a good choice if you have concerns about adding bulk elsewhere.
  • Right now lace details at the shoulder and yoke are easy to find. These details draw a horizontal line across the shoulders. Be warned, though, that if you’ve got narrow shoulders and a large chest, this won’t help.
  • If you’re looking for dress shirts, don’t go for the narrowest style. Get one that gives some room to move even when fitted properly.
  • If your whole top half is smaller than your bottom half, consider a wide-leg pant with a sharp crease that makes the difference look intentional. You can get away with a lot if it looks like it’s on purpose.
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