Pump Up The Volume!!!



Volume….turn it up….all the way up!  I love clothing with volume and find that it adds drama and interest to many of my outfits.  I learned early on that controlling the volume in an outfit is like trying to control the water in a watercolor painting.  It can be a challenge to get it to come out right!  Many years ago, I began exploring style and fashion. I had a set of Erte paper dolls that I cut out and studied…way, way before the internet….and even credit cards!  I loved the long lines and shapes that Erte used to create his gorgeous silhouettes.  I also knew that many of the models in the 1920’s were not as tall, thin and broad-shouldered as they are, today.  This appealed to me and gave me hope!

Today’s post is about how I try to achieve a similar silhouette using volume and pieces that the  RULES OF STYLE state clearly that I should NOT be wearing….hmmm.  I will be using only black and white pieces as this will help to make my “bag of tricks” more obvious.

I am a little over 5’2” tall.  A couple of days ago, Elizabeth of TheVintageContessa fame,  featured me in one of her posts.   I was very honored by this and have followed her blog as it is SOOOO FABULOUS…and one I highly recommend you sign up for!  As I browsed the comment section, I noticed that some people were very surprised by my height….they thought I was taller.  I have been trying to look taller for most of my adult life.  Looking back at my Erte collection of paper dolls and other pictures of women in Erte designed outfits/costumes, it dawned on me that it was part of his magic. The proportions and shapes of his clothing made women look like tall, bending reeds. I was constructing outfits using his silhouettes as a guide. I have been doing it so long that I do not even think about it anymore…it just happens. 


In these first three pictures, I am wearing a black top made of a fine fabric from South Korea.  The top is the Oslo top from L’oeil Clothing.  It is a fine cotton fabric and almost sheer.  There is a boat-neckline and very, exaggerated voluminous sleeves.  The sleeves have ruching at the wrists and have elastic at the edges.  This allows me to push the sleeves up for a different style or for practical purposes…like eating or washing my hands.   I have  paired a HIGH WAIST white jersey palazzo-like trouser with this wide-sleeve top.   In addition to this, I have on a wide white belt.  It is the Russell Belt also from L’oeil clothing.

Technically, this should not work.  There is volume here and volume there.  I should look like a sailboat according to the RULES! 

Here is why I think it works.  I use a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio to my outfits.  The high-waisted white jersey wide leg pants are the 2/3 portion.  I do have longer legs and a very, very short waist.  In fact, I really don’t have a waist and work hard to give the illusion that I do have one.  I am an H shape…as the boys in Junior High use to say…I was a “Carpenter’s Dream.”  The only good thing about this is that I can choose where I want to locate my waist on my torso.  I choose as high as possible.  Too close under the chest and I look too matronly.  I place the top of my belts right around the bottom of my rib cage so they will overlap the waist of my high top pants.  Did I mention I am SO glad low waist pants are out of style….as are skinny jeans…the most unflattering combination on my muscular legs and waist-less torso, EVER?  My legs looked like stuffed sausages.

I use the same color belt as my top or pants….usually my pants.  Because it is the same color as the pants…it does not need to be narrow…another RULE broken!   I love obi’s and layer them. Particularly, the obi belts with some firmness as they can be wrapped tightly and give me the illusion of a waistline…particularly if I have a cropped top floating above it.


This top is not cropped so I tucked it in and then wrapped the Russell Belt over the elastic waistline of the pant.  I wear wedge shoes and sandals with my most of my outfits.  They work best for not tripping up in long pants or skirts!  I like to wear my pants a little longer. Many times, my shoes will not even show up.  This gives me the appearance of a longer and leaner looking silhouette.  Wedge and platform shoes also add support to the arch.  I find them easier to walk in.  My preferred height for a wedge on a shoe is 3 1/2 inches.  I never wear flats except at the pool or if they are my gym shoes in for a hard workout at the gym….or a 10-mile walk.   

The boat-neck shape makes my neck appear longer and the high devil-may-care top knot adds more height. I added a felted black brooch to my hair with bobby pins.  I found it at the Chicago One-of-a-Kind Show many years ago.  I frequently re-purpose brooches and earrings!  This brings up the black color, carries the high contrast while adding height.  Long earrings that are airy and light also give a lengthening look.


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This slide show of three outfits shows how I use a crop top to give the illusion of a waistline…all smoke and mirrors.  The top is a cotton Dries Van Noten cardigan that I found at a HUGE discount at The RealReal online consignment site. It is in pristine condition. I layered two obi belts over the high waist of my black jersey Eileen Fisher harem pants.  These harem pants have a sealed hem near the ankles. This controls the volume while giving me the ERTE upside down urn look.  So many people confuse “Hammer Pants” (named after a rapper) with the elegantly constructed harem pants.  The lower the drop..the longer they look.  I have also featured a sarouel-skirt in my previous post from amalthee-creations that has a similar shape and cut, but in linen.  The crop top floats above my wrapped waist and gives the illusion that I have a small waist. I do not!

The volume in the pants…that go out just enough…also helps to make my waist look smaller.  These “magic pants”, as I call them (I ordered two more pairs at Nordstrom Rack when I found out they were being discontinued), gather at the ankle.  I love this silhouette.  It may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for me!


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This set of three pictures features my new wide leg TOME pants (here in a tan color)  I found them on net-a-porter with a killer discount!  While everyone was at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, I was looking at my cyber shopping bags to see what was still available at the 60% with additional 20% (Must Have mark-downs) at net-a-porter.  These pants were still in my cart…available…after patiently waiting for months and months wondering why I had abandoned them.  I paired it with my Southern Cross (love the Aussies!)  fine knit sweater that had also been waiting for these TOME pants to make their way into my closet.  I used a higher wedge shoe and they are bulky.  They act like anchors to these pants.  I do walk a tad bit more slowly and actually look more graceful as a result, but these are going-out-to-dinner-shoes or going-out-with-my-VERY-tall-cousins shoes. Not for all day walking, but they are fabulous for standing…very comfortable.  Hair piled up to give me more height!


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The final set of pictures has a sheer kimono over the white pants with a black silk sleeveless top underneath.  I used a black pair of obi belts to match the top and show off the 1/3 point of gathering inside the kimono rather than around the outside of it.  The kimono frames the column and contains the volume rather than adding to it.  The Helena Quinn kimono is from Rachel Zoe’s Summer Box of Style…I just love these boxes!  It is still available here.  There is a 25% discount code BOXOFSTYLE25 if you order before they run out. I have on my wedges and my hair is piled high. A dark floral scarf is wrapped around my head to bring up the color of the kimono…another lengthening trick.  It also gives the outfit a finished look.

This was a l—-o—n—-g  post and you have made it to the end.  Thank you for stopping by and catching up with me.  Please take a cyber stroll over to Elizabeth’s thevintagecontessa.net site and check it out.  Make sure you look at her Great Dixter an English Garden post…it is so incredible!
















16 thoughts on “Pump Up The Volume!!!

  1. This is fascinating, you have sincerely inspired me to look at a totally different way of using optical illusion for designing. I am so glad that I saw your post in the the Contessa’so blog site. Thank you and look forward to more inspiration!


  2. WHERE TO BEGIN………….first THANK YOU for the MENTION and THE LINK!
    I think I will google HAREM PANT……..I did LOOK at the BEIGE pant link and they would be TOO SHORT for ME!!!!!!MY BRYN WALKER does HAREM PANTS A LOT……..they are in SALE MODE NOW what size are YOU?They run BIG!!!!
    I can wear a med to an extra large……..I WILL BE THINKING OF YOU WHEN I VISIT NEXT!
    THANK GOD FOR ERTE!!!!!!!!!


  3. Thank your for the COMMENT! I so appreciate comments. I actually decided to base this post by the comments I found on your site in my interview. I knew which way to direct it. Of course, you are tall, long and lean…so this probably did not address your long lean leg issue…LOL.. I take a size 1 in amathee-creations. If you order there is a place where she inquires about your measurements. I think she makes pieces to order! Perhaps, you can contact her. I would say my “universal” size would be a size 6 or size small. Petite pants are too short for me as my legs are longer. I will sometimes take a size 4 in tops…not always jackets….unless we are talking European designers. I size up. I will take the comparable of a size 6 in French sizes. Armani I may even have to go up even more. I left two links to your blog.. I LOVED the Great Dixter Garden Tour SO MUCH…that I included it at the end. Thank you for all your support, encouragement, and kindness. If not for you…this blog would be gone….


  4. I would never have thought you were 5’2″ tall! As a “petite” myself, and let me say you have a couple of inches on me, I totally cannot wear a look like this. But you carry it off expertly!

    Your style is stunning, as are you.


    1. Thank you so much! Everyone finds their own way in, around, and between “STYLE RULES”. If you add up my 3 1/2 inch wedges (minimum shoe height for me) and the 3 or 4 inches with the top knot… 5’2 inches + plus another 1/2 inch..almost + 3 1/2 inch wedge + at least 3 inch knot…it starts adding up! We pick and choose what is best for our styles and comfort zones. I do believe that the long-view silhouette is the first piece to establish through ratios and proportions (my math side is coming out here) and then the shapes that best give us those proportions…that is a good starting place for those desiring something new. I am so glad you stopped by and commented. I do so appreciate it!


  5. Okay, I was one of those that thought you must be 5’11” If you can make that kind of magic what do you suggest I do with huge busoms. How to hide? Any ideas . Loved your piece on The Vintage Contessa.


    1. Sandra… Imogen Lamport is a stylist who knows a lot about creating outfits if one has a large bust. Here is one of her articles addressing this issue. https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2013/10/reader-question-how-to-wear-a-blouse-or-shirt-with-a-large-bust.html Her blog is Inside Out Style and there are many free articles. You can do a search. I was fairly bosom-less most of my life and now that I could care less…they show up…not large…but I am not use to them. I wish they would go away as they failed to show up for the party on time!


  6. Lisa, having followed you on Instagram and always admired your outfits and the way you approach the collating process I thoroughly enjoyed this post .
    I must admit to being surprised that you are only 5’2″, your proportion rules certainly work.As I am the same height , although somewhat larger , I really must keep this is mind.


    1. Thank you so much, Jill. I am delighted you liked the post and found something to take away from it. I think my top knot is usually 3 inches at least….lol….and my wedges are at least 3 1/2. With the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio. and an additional 6 1/2 inches…that brings me up from my 5.’ 2″ and almost a 1/2 inch height a bit. My cousins were all very tall..close to 6 feet…the girls. The boys were 6’5 or taller. Remember the movie, Private Benjamin? There was a scene where the camera scans a line of Red Beret’s and suddenly there is a gap in the line. Then, the camera drops a couple of feet and there is Goldie (Private Benjamin). That was how I felt back in my teens when our families always met up. Platforms came into style and I wore them with long bell-bottom pants. My cousins were self conscious about their height as well and always for flats or 1/2 inch heels. Much of my style originated during the insecurity of my teen-age years. It developed past that…thank heavens..but it is a part.


  7. You are awesomely cool…everything about you is amazing, from your height to the way you carry yourself as you model!!! Im going now to check my lipsticks…I have far to many and NONE seem to work..I’m just grey( for sure) and drab. Thanks for your story…and I would have never found you if it hadn’t been for your sweet comment @shoofly505….and my love for silver and turquoise! Thank you for sharing your story…now I’m going to find myself a splash of lip color!! Much Love and Peace!


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