Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How To Not Look Like A Hobbit

In an event of fashion serendipity, I received the following two emails within hours of each other:

Hi Winona,
I would like to ask your advice about a fashion conundrum that I am currently going through, and have gone through every summer. I'm short, 5'1" to be exact, and have muscular legs that sometimes come off as stocky. I hate always wearing heels, so I was wondering if you have any advice on what type of bottoms (skirts, pants, Capri's etc.) I should wear that wouldn't make me look like a tree stump, yet don't involve the wearing of 4" heels?

Down on High Heels


I just got my prom pictures back. I wore a mid calf asymmetrical black dress which was a big mistake because I have TREE TRUNK LEGS. My legs are like the prosthetics they gave all the extras playing hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies to make them look stubbier. Is there any way to downplay cankles without having to wear jeans or floor-length dresses all the time?

Ain't an Ent

I loved the fact that in one afternoon I received two emails containing tree-stump analogies, so I decided to answer both queries in one massive Leg-o-Thon (god I wish that made sense).

Let me just begin by saying how much I despise the default fashion advice that is constantly dispensed to short and/or stocky legged women: "High heels are a must! Always wear heels! Really, really high heels!" I've got a newsflash for all you cruel-hearted, long-legged fashion editors: Real women can't just wear heels all the time. And even if we could, I think most of us would rather die.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get this party started:

How to Flatter Short Legs and/or Disguise Cankles and/or Just Not Look Like A Hobbit

Wedges are heels' kinder, gentler, but equally flattering cousin. They are magical in their ability to give you some height (and therefore elongate the leg) while maintaining comfort.

Seychelles, $74.95, nordstrom.com

"Zora," $31.99, naturalizer.com

Even this much of a wedge will make your legs look longer and slimmer, and sweet jesus they're cute:

$34, Delias.com


I know, I know, this is kind of cliche, predictable advice, and I swear I wouldn't dream of dispensing it were this not the season of adorable maxi-dresses. We are currently surrounded by these versatile, leg-disguising dresses that look as natural out to dinner as they do on the beach. I used to think that only models could pull these off, but then one day a short, normal-sized girl waltzed into my speech class wearing the cutest floor-length black jersey number and my life was forever changed.

Here are some cute options, and remember: as far as you know, these models' calves are as big as Folgers coffee cans:

Jersey Knit Pavilion Dress, $118, jcrew.com

Hibiscus Maxi-Dress, $39.50, alloy.com

They have this one dressed up with metallic heels, but I think it would be even cuter (and so comfy) dressed down with some flip-flops, a few bangles, and a ponytail.
Lily Knit Maxi-Dress, plus size, $98, nordstrom.com

Eye-Catching Tops.
Ah yes, the old bait-and-switch. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure what bait-and-switch means. But it seems right in this context. Wear a fabulous top with knee-length dark denim jeans, and I swear nobody will notice your legs (in a bad way, anyway).

Ya-Ya, $129, bluefly.com

Roxy, $38, nordstrom.com

Speaking of which, dark denim that hits near the knee is great for summer and can be really flattering, even for us short-legged gals. Try a variety of lengths, as just an inch or two can make or break the tree stump thing.

Depending on the climate in which you live, of course, because dying of heatstroke in an effort to conceal your cankles would be a very sad way to go.

These Frye boots, for example, give everyone cankles, so wearing them would sort of be like at the end of V for Vendetta when everybody puts on a Guy Fawkes mask to fool the Norsefire police, except in this case you're disguising thick ankles instead of an anti-fascist vigilante, and hopefully the buildings of parliament can remain standing.

Anyway, I love some badass boots with a flouncy knee-length dress in the summer, so if your climate allows, go for it.


Extra-dainty shoes.
It's all about proportions. Conan O'Brien would not look his best in a wee little newsboy cap. Alternatively, larger legs will not look their best in wee little shoes.

Gladiator sandals. At all costs.

They have the power to make Elle Macpherson look like Danny Devito. Not. Good.

Skirts or pants that hit mid-calf.
As a short person myself, I've found that this length is most stumpifying (that sounds like the title of a Black Eyed Peas song, doesn't it?). Whenever I try something on with a hem in this danger zone, I frown at my suddenly-even-shorter legs in the mirror for awhile, then realize that all I need to do is lift the hem up a few inches to make it super-flattering. Put on one of your longer dresses and play with the length until you find the most flattering one for you.


Anonymous said...

Great advice!

Gala said...

If you have muscular legs, avoid shoes with an ankle strap! It'll cut you in half & make your leg look enormous!

katie said...

love the v for vendetta refrence!

ambika said...

Gotta agree on the wedge love. I've got a pair on right now. And Gala's absolutely right about the ankle strap. They'll make the slimmest leg look meaty.

Rebecca said...

Nicely done! A knee-length skirt would work too, don't you think?

daddylikeyblog said...

Totally. Anything with a hem around the knee is a wonderful thing.

Marin said...

Delurking to say that I have this problem, too! I third the knee-length skirt suggestion. A couple inches above the knee is also flattering but may be hard to get used to if you're already self-conscious.

I also agree that overly dainty/strappy flats aren't ideal, but there are ways to make them work:
- shoes that are similar to your skin tone.
- pointed-toe flats, especially if you have small feet. I pretty much used to live in heels until I read this rule somewhere (I forget where). It really works!

daddylikeyblog said...

Thanks for delurking! I'm loving all these great reader suggestions filling in the stuff I left out. You're so right--I have a pair of gold pointed toe flats and they really do work wonders. And nude heels could probably make Danny Devito look like Elle Macpherson. Well played, my friend.

If anyone else has any other advice, please follow Marin's de-lurking lead and share it with your short-legged sisters!

shrinkykitten said...

Here's my advice ... it is kind of along the lines of "the bigger the hair, the closer to god": the bigger the shoe, the smaller the ankle.

Queen Michelle said...

OK I only JUST clicked as to what cankles are! I've often wondered what they hell they were - I thought "is that like rickets??" But no! It's basically poorly defined ankles, right?

Ana said...

what are rickets?

thats not what i came here for, I meant to say

LEG-O-THON!!!!! awesome I love leggos....oh, damn....

I loved all this advice, and I am thinking about trying wedges...I mean, if you deam them in vogue, then i think i should at least go try on a pair.

also, great reference to Conan (i love that man!)

Henna said...

Really? No gladiator sandals? Good thing I haven't been able to find them where I am... What about with jeans? Please?


Joanna said...

Been visiting for a little while now...and de-lurking now to tell you THANK YOU! for these tips. I love wearing dresses but hate the dreaded 'tree trunk' legs look.

Anonymous said...

wearing neutral heels seems to extend your legs (=

sulu-design said...

Thank God you recently linked to this older post... I'm a cankle queen and loved this advice.

rhymeswithcori said...

Finally! Someone who shares my opinion on Gladiator Sandals! For some reason, everyone I know is absolutely in love with them. Personally, I think they should only be worn when entering battle with a lion in the Colosseum (along with the helmet, chest armor and sword).

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