I recently stumbled upon the March 2010 issue of Vogue with Tina Fey. In the article, which was written by Jonathan Van Meter, Fey discussed how her Greek ethnicity effected her clothing choices and gave the example of having a hard time finding clothes that worked for her character in Baby Mama, who was meant to be a WASP. "The woman who did the costumes tried to put me in these Waspy clothes, and it just didn't work. I feel like ethnicity and fashion go together. So, yeah, knockers up and tight skirts. Somehow it's better."
As a half-Armenian woman (with a tall and sturdy German frame), I understand where Fey is coming from. I look quite good in the "knockers up and tight skirts" genre of dressing. If I want something preppy, I have a hard time finding pieces that work for me. It's not a style I can do authentically because of my figure and my overall look. But I would say it's more my body type than my ethnicity that determines that. (I'm the same ethnic mix as Kim Kardasian, but I rarely vamp it up that much.)
Preppy on curvy is tricky. Sack dresses are also a problem--if you can't see my curves I look about 4 sizes larger than I am. I can do cute very well, but not if it's too twee. Most mini skirts look vulgar on my long legs. I'm short waisted so empire waists work better than anything that is supposed to hit at my "true" waist (which clothing manufacturers think is an inch below my actual waist). Being curvy also makes pants-shopping a tearful experience.
Every body type has it's limitations. I will never duplicate an Audrey Hepburn look, but I might be able to take a stab at a Marilyn Monroe dress. I agree with limitations, but I also advocate finding loopholes. I also hate those guides in magazines that print "off-limits" lists for each major body types and instructions for achieving optimal sexiness. Not every outfit has to make you look like a model (fashion or lingerie depending on the magazine giving instructions). Experimenting with looks, shapes and proportions is part of the fun of getting dressed.
I can do preppy if I make it super girly or wear a 50s style dress. I don't look like a WASP, but I found a version I can pull off. I also found a sack dress that works if I wear bright tights and lots of necklaces because it hits the right spot on my leg. I avoid bib details on tops and dresses so I never cross the line between cute and twee. I can pull off a longer mini if I keep away from sky-high heels, add leggings or opaque tights and cover up on top. I still haven't fixed the problem of being short waisted, but most dress styles can be found with a higher waist if necessary. I will always hate shopping for pants. Oh well.
Are there any clothes you can't wear? Do you think there are loopholes for most body/clothing conflicts or are some things unresolvable? Does your ethnicity play any role in how you dress?
For more on body type and dressing check out these posts from our archives: