Small-scale details on not-so-small bodies (really long)

I've had a long-standing grievance with the general admonition that
women who are, curvier, voluptuous, larger, (insert your euphemism here)
etc. should only wear large scale jewelry, prints or details because
smaller more delicate details get "lost" on our frames. This grievance
was reignited when Beth Ann posted the following on a thread of mine because of a pendant necklace I wore this weekend:

"I've not been wearing my more delicate pieces, because I sometimes
wonder if they, because of their scale, make me look bigger by
comparison"

Now I'm not saying that the general rule is altogether wrong, but what I am saying is this "advice" discourages experimentation. It forces women to put themselves into a box (a negative one at that!) believing that unless they are small or some amorphous ideal of small that small details should be avoided.

Perhaps it's a leap but I've always felt that this thinking suggests that women
who aren't small are less feminine. Smaller more delicate things are
inherently feminine to me. Have you ever noticed this or am I just
overly sensitive?

I decided to play around with scale in today's outfit to prove that small scale details can work on curvy girls. I chose a blouse with an all-over smaller print, and a skinny belt as my small-scale details. Sometimes the details don't need to stand out on their own or be taken in all at once -- for me it's enough that the entire effect is sufficiently compelling to keep the eye engaged.

I added a thick black belt because the blouse is a wee bit too big and
the larger belt holds everything in place (I'm not going to the tailors
anytime soon so I have to make this work in the meantime). I really like
the effect.

I am wearing:
Polka dot Blouse - Merona (Target)
Trouser Jeans - Old Navy
Red Belt - Dorothy Perkins 
Black Belt - Simply Vera Wang (Kohl's)
Trench - Land's End 
Bag - Dooney & Bourke large zip zip

I'd really like to know your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Please share. 

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This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.

46 Comments

  • Kristin L replied 8 years ago

    I think the small print looks great on you! I don't remember hearing about how larger women should stay away from dainty/smaller pieces. I'm curious to see what others have to say. 

  • Vildy replied 8 years ago

    This is one of my favorites of your outfits, so I guess you've proven it works. :D

  • ironkurtin replied 8 years ago

    I never heard this.  Sounds dumb.

    You look great!  Love that top!

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    Maybe this is a secret they save to whisper in the ears of us more rounded women when they see up purchasing dainty pieces :-D

  • amiable replied 8 years ago

    Wow - it looks stunning!  I've heard (and read) that advice too - and it always confuses me, because I can't figure out where on that spectrum I am.  (I suppose that's my own problem though).

    You certainly have shown how to carry off small prints!  This is one of my favorites of yours too!

  • milehighstyle (Linda) replied 8 years ago

    I think Inside Out Style had something about choosing flattering prints recently. Helpful to a point, but if I like something, I'm going to try it regardless of what the "rules" say and form my own opinion on whether it works on me or not. Short, small women are not supposed to wear large scale jewelry but I ignore that because that's the kind of jewelry I like. I think you look beautiful and this totally works for you!

  • Aziraphale replied 8 years ago

    I have heard this too.  It's the flip side of "small women should not wear large prints or it will overwhelm them".  Like any fashion "rule", I take it into consideration, then ignore it if I think I know better.  I think it's a rule because like all basic optical illusion stuff it's sort of true -- a small pattern on a big piece of fabric looks smaller, and a large pattern on not very much fabric looks larger.  But I don't think it necessary follows that smallness is more feminine, or that looking more feminine is inherently better.  I personally prefer to dress androgynously about 75% of the time, hiding my waist in a way that is definitely not feminine.  I don't do it because I think it looks bad, obviously!  I do it because I like how it looks.  :-)

    I think you look fantastic in that outfit, by the way.  

  • pastrygirl replied 8 years ago

    You look adorable!!! I love it. Small-scale looks just that to me -- small-scale. It doesn't make anything else around it look bigger.

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    You all are so supportive and smart (disregarding horrible advice where appropriate). I'm glad I ignored it too. 

  • deb replied 8 years ago

    I have never understood this 'rule'. It makes no sense to me and agree with you that it depends on how the item is used and the overall effect it has in an outfit. You proved this myth incorrect by putting together this beautiful outfit that looks wonderful on you.

  • MsMaven replied 8 years ago

    Your outfit looks great.  You've experimented with color, scale and proportion and it works in a fabulous way.

    I've heard and read this advice for years.  I suppose it has some use as a starting place.  Scale, line and proportion are important, but they aren't the only factors.  I think personality is equally important.  

    Unfortunately, a lot of yesterday's "rules" and helpful advice just ended up making women feel inadequate.

  • Sara L. replied 8 years ago

    I think you look great! One of your best outfits! I've heard that advice too - although usually in reverse - small women should avoid large prints, jewelry, etc. I think it's something to take with a grain of salt - all bodies are unique and fashion is very subjective.

  • Glory replied 8 years ago

    Well you look fabulous! I think if I followed all of the rules written for me: short, over 50 etc etc, I might just have to hang in a bathrobe all day :)

  • Diana replied 8 years ago

    You look great and I think that rule is silly!  There will always be both big prints and small prints that do not suit any particular person.  It has nothing to do with size. 

    Although sometimes it does have to do with design.  Not with prints so much but with design elements like lapels or pockets, if they are not proportionally sized up with the rest of the garment, it can look a bit out of place.  But of course that has nothing to do with the wearer and everything to do with the designers and manufacturers. 

    I really love the double belt.  So clever!

  • replied 8 years ago

     Hot damn, you look fine DV! I think all rules are meant to be :  'ignored/adhered-to/ tweaked as you see fit'...  delete as appropriate :)
    YLF!

  • always trying replied 8 years ago

    Small prints, etc. on larger women is something I have never herd of either. AND IMO some of those large print dresses look like wearing the drapes off the wall, and not good on anyone,, but  that is just my opinion.  One of the things that bothers me though are very large wedgies on very thin legs.

  • rachylou replied 8 years ago

    You look sharp! Are you wearing the skinny belt over a wider belt? (I'm a little confused, as per normal ;>). I'd never heard that rule before (see previous parentheses). I have to agree with what you've said. I mean, I can see a little tiny pendant on big chain as being useless, but on people... it all depends. Delicate pendant on short delicate chain is something that I'd think would work on all people.

  • Ingunn replied 8 years ago

    You are a true master of proportions, DV! The small print is perfectly balanced by the strong contrasts in color value, and the red narrow belt highlights your waist beautifully. I agree with the others, this is one of your best outfits ever :)

    The rule is not new to me either, and it is silly if taken to literally, but as a starting point it could provide some guidance, I think. Too dainty or too big is not a good look on any frame. The best rules are those that bend, don't you agree? 

  • jayne replied 8 years ago

    No opinion on the rule, never heard it before but being a big girl I admit that I struggle with thin belts and delicate necklaces.  Maybe that I don't know how to pick the right one, or wear it.  But I love your belt over belt combination

  • Echo replied 8 years ago

    DV, you look fabulous, as usual. I think you have a particularly good eye for what works and what doesn't, and so the "rules" are meant to be broken. In other words, "rules" are easy ways for people withOUT a good eye to try to conform to society's expectations of feminine beauty (which is a whole other can of worms that I won't even try to open right now). 

    However, there were two women who wrote a fashion book or two (I think they may have been on the telly as well). One of them was a little larger than the other, but they based the ideas of jewelry scale on frame size instead. So although one woman was bigger than the other, she had a finer bone structure and so she chose finer, delicate pieces of jewelry. The smaller woman had "bigger bones" (despite being thin - no euphemisms here) and so she wore chunkier pieces of jewelry.

    But again, those are just a different version of rules, IMO. The mirror ought to be the ultimate rule-maker for everyone; if you like what you see there, then it's all good!

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    Absolutely Ingunn -- the best ones are the ones that bend. I just think it's unfortunate that this is the rule that sticks in people minds rather than more helpful rules like perfect pant lengths or proper jacket fit.

    Echo - I love your synopsis of the scale issue. I do believe it depends on features and it makes sense that between the two women you described that the reverse of this rule should be true between the two of them. 

  • TraceyLiz65 replied 8 years ago

    I am all for celebrating the curves of a woman's body and just adore your style. Who are these silly people who make these rules that the general population quote and use to keep ourselves in a box???   We have to stop doing this.  I only say, I don't like how this works on me, after trying things for myself 

  • Adelfa replied 8 years ago

    I've always thought of myself as big boned and chunky (I'm 5'5"). But I love my small symbolic pendants and will never give them up! So thank you!

  • Transcona Shannon replied 8 years ago

    That's just like the rule that I shouldn't wear larger prints because I'm only 5 feet tall. "Phooey" I say! It's all in what you pair the prints with, what article of clothing the print is on and the confidence in which you wear it. You got that in spades DV and look SMASHING in this outfit and don't let anyone tell you otherwise :)

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    Shannon -- absolutely, it's how you're wearing the print and what it's paired with. 

  • Eliza replied 8 years ago

    DV- You look so good in that outfit and agreed, the context of the choice is key.  I think a lot of not so great looks can come from taking an isolated  "rule" here and an idea there, trying to cookbook your way to fabulousness.  

    That's what I respect so much about Angie and this site.  Variables to consider when creating a look are discussed, context is provided and everyone has their own preferences, style goals and lifestyles.  It is dynamic and a work in progress.  People are having fun and thinking. Two of my favorite things!

    I really like your use of color and proportion here.  Smile worthy head to toe. 

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    DV, you look stunning! No question about that. 

    I have heard this guideline before, and as the others say, I believe that like many of these ideas, we need to take it with a big (and I mean big) grain of salt. There is some truth behind the idea. A teeny tiny piece of jewellery will get lost on a big frame...or, as Diana says, "gamine" detailing (not necessarily pattern, which is different) will look fussy or silly on a larger boned or taller woman. Or even one whose facial features do not support it. 

    It's so highly personal, and has to do with personality as much as with size and body shape. 

    For example, my big bold striped skirt, of the other day. I'm 5'4" and have a relatively small frame. (My bone structure is actually on the small side of medium, according to the charts.) Not only that, but my colouring is quite low contrast. But I chose to buy and wear that high contrast, large scale pattern skirt, and I venture to say that it suits me. Why? Because I'm not afraid of sticking out a bit. My personality lives up to its demands. 

    Meanwhile, you are always polished, gracious, and ladylike. And classic! So a classic pattern like polka dots in any size is a no-brainer for you! In this case, the dots look super fab with the tight curl of your hairstyle -- injecting a bit of fun or whimsy. Meanwhile, the red, black and white colour scheme amps up the power of this look to make it suited to your intelligence and determination and drive. All in all, it's perfect for you. Because you have an inherent sense of what's right for you that no rule can comprehend. 

  • cobaltblue replied 8 years ago

    I love what Suz just said, that her "personality lives up to its demands." That fits you perfectly, too. Your personality seems to bubble forth joyously and trumps any rule re: structure or size.

  • cheryle (Dianthus) replied 8 years ago

    I've only ever heard it the other way around.  That a large print dwarfs a tiny person so our smaller sisters should wear prints that don't look like upholstery. 

    I was saying that tongue in cheek but I really do only recall the warning for the tinier women.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    LOL....I DO look like upholstery if I wear a too big, too intense print. 

  • Beth Ann replied 8 years ago

    Oh, yes, DV.  I've heard this rule, along with rules about not wearing pockets, because they'll make my hips look bigger.  Even my size 4 MIL believes this rule.  I've decided that I place some value on traditional figure flattery, but my goal is not to look as small, or as skinny, as possible,

    I have been working on proportion, and I do find that the scale of my body does  factor into the overall proportions.  On the plus side, that big tote that makes someone else look like she's run away from home with all her worldy possession looks like, well, a purse, on me!  lol.  I've come to realize, however, that small scale details and accessories are "close up" fashion --- pretty surprises for the people who come close enough to appreciate them.  My Jerusalem cross pendant, for example, makes me happy, and I've discovered a love for small post earrings, too.  I also like to layer delicate necklaces in open necklines (photo).

    Your look here is gorgeous --- the small polka dot has a wonderful graphic pull in the b/w, and the layered belts are terrific.  Your outfit the other day, with the soft, floaty sundress is another great example of how delicate items can sing on a curvier frame.  If something attracts us, we can't let a rule keep us from the trying it in the dressing room!  One of the great things about YLF is that my eye is being honed in such a positive way that I can say "this isn't for me, rather than, "I'm too big for this."  I can be open to bending a rule and trust that I, perhaps with feedback from the forum, can tell what flatters and pleases me.

  • lyn* replied 8 years ago

    I hear that little people should not wear big print - and this has kept me from many a fabulous skirt for many years. 

    Like with all things, I think balance is important. Big polkadots look horrific on me, so I avoid this, and large Kate-Spade stripes make me look wide. But big floral patterns I love, especially with other solid pieces.

    You rock the dots!

  • CocoLion replied 8 years ago

    DV I believe your excellent hand at color and proportion allows you leeway.  Since you get those two aspects of dressing so well, as well as fit (and that could be the most important aspect of dressing well -- understanding good fit!) -- you can bend many, many rules and have fun in the process.

  • DonnaF replied 8 years ago

    Yes, I've heard that as well as Petites not wearing large scale patterns, and I mostly agree.  You, however, are superb at knowing how to dress your body and although you are wearing a small scale print, you have not veered into little girl territory in the details which can sometimes happen with little prints. 

    I am short with small but not delicate features.  I hate, hate, hate small prints other than polka dots and stripes or other non-girly prints.  My peasant features need MEDIUM size jewelry; again I feel the delicate stuff looks dumb on me.

    I think the devil is in the details.  That Spiegel jacket doesn't come small enough to fit me, but I know a collar that size would completely overpower me; my features simply aren't strong and defined enough.

    So good to have you back after the bar exam! 

  • Caro in Oz replied 8 years ago

    Following rules is like trying to please everyone imo - it can't possibly work. If we made a list of all the rules people come up with we would see how many are in opposition :) 

    You have great style DV I'd say go with what feels like you.

  • shevia replied 8 years ago

    I really want to read the comments but I have limited eye focus right now. DV you have such an excellent sense for proportion, color and what looks right that you can wear any scale you want successfully. I think guidelines like those (not sure about this one in particular) are of some value for people who are shooting in the dark so to speak but that is certainly not you.

  • Lantana replied 8 years ago

    Grr, where do these "rules" come from?
    Day Vies, in the west of my country for a few precious months of the year the plains are covered in masses of tiny wildflowers in pink and yellow. It's not cute, it's not ditsy, it's a grand beauty.
    So who tells Nature to cut out the pretty stuff?

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    I have been out of the house for the past 10 hours so I apologize for not sticking my head in more to comment.

    I have read all of your comments and I just want to say you ladies are SO smart observant comedic and generous with your complements. I have enjoyed reading every word. Thank you SO much! 

  • FlorenceFearne replied 8 years ago

    I don't hold to any hard and fast rules here, but I do think some shapes/frames are have an easier time wearing certain pieces. For example, I'm a thinnish, average height rectangular IT, where my best friend is a tall, plus sized hourglass. She can wear these amazing really chunky knits and big shawl collars and thick cuff bracelets that make me look like I'm playing dress-up in my mum's clothes. I don't think that means I can never wear a chunky knit, but it does mean it's a lot trickier for me to find a flattering cuff bracelet than it is for her. Likewise, I love empire waistlines, as I'm basically a human clothes hanger, but most of them cut her bust in half and give her the dreaded quad-boob. LOL

    Regarding pattern scale, I think the cut and the fit of the garment are the deciding factor. A petite woman in a dress with a large scale pattern that maybe is also too long, or too big in some other way will definitely look like she is wearing clothes that are too big for her. Likewise with a delicate floral on a dress that's too small or too short - the effect is that you've stolen your little sister's dress. The print just makes a bad thing worse. 

  • Jeanie replied 8 years ago

    This rule always trips me up since I fall into the 'curvier' category.  I have shied away from Liberty prints because of it even though I love them.  This look definitely works on you.  I guess what works is all very personal and these rules don't hold true.  

  • goldenpig replied 8 years ago

    Rules were meant to be broken! And Day Vies, you always look so gorgeous that you can break all the rules and still come up looking chic! Love the polka dots and the ingenious double belt.

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    Suz - I really appreciate what you had to say around the personality living up to the demands of one's look. I feel quite friendly with a lot of forum members  and do not believe I would be surprised by the nuances of the personality behind the look because of what you said. This thought reinforces the interplay between an outfit and one's personality. 

    Beth Ann -- thank you for posting your pic. I have been considering layering more delicate pieces but all of mine seem to be the same length (rats!). I love the effect on you because it adds a little something special to the neckline of your sweater/cami combo. Jewelry to me (the lover of bijoux that I am!) finishes an outfit -- this goes to your point about "close up fashion". There's the wow-what's-that effect of an outfit but can it hold your attention at 3 feet?

    Lyn -- I think it's interesting that there is not a floral that you won't consider with regard to size. I think you pull off your florals exceedingly well. I am not sure the same would be true with polka dots. I am thinking of your gray circle necklace. 

    Coco -- I am learning that is true. Your saying it crystalized the concept for me -- provided an outfit fits well and the proportions are right sky really is the limit with proportions, color, scale etc. 

    DonnaF - You are right it is sometimes a difficult balance to do a small scale print and not look as if you're re-living your childhood. I like to evoke "youth" but I am not interested in doing a caricature of woman dressed as child.  

    Lantana- that is a beautiful image. 

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    I am familiar with this rule also :) Rules are meant to be broken, and who made the rules up anyway?

    DV I generally don't carry small handbags for the very same reason! However I have broken free recently and bought a small cross body bag:)

    You have absolutely busted this myth! Your outfit looks amazing. Fabulous proprotions... perfection in fact. I prefer guidelines to rules and think people work out what works for them :)

    You show em!

  • Asingh replied 8 years ago

    DV, I think the top looks great on you. You have made optimum use of that belt, it accentuates your waist and cuts the top at the right length.

    Coming on to the issue of small prints on (so to say) large women, I think as long as it makes one 'feel good', the purpose is served. Also, I believe that a dress (any length) having smaller prints would look better than that having gigantic prints on a not so thin person.

  • Cindy replied 8 years ago

    I think YLF! So clever layering the belts! I never would have thought of that!  As for the rules, they are made to be broken. ;)

  • Day Vies replied 8 years ago

    Deborah -- yay for breaking free. My personal purse rule was always based on comfort. I prefer a smaller bags because they're more comfortable to me. If the purse didn't fit well on my shoulder I didn't buy it. I guess that means I'm more likely to buy a purse with a shoulder strap than without.

    Asingh -- I agree. Something that Suz said earlier sticks in my head large prints more often than not can large prints can look like upholstery.

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