Almost every woman, no matter how long her legs, wishes they were a tad (or a lot) longer. I am all for loving your body the way it is and I also love using the power of style to help you feel great about yourself as you are, with out the need for dieting or plastic surgery. So, if you want to make your legs look longer and slimmer, read on!
The leg-to-body ratio (LBR) has been the subject of research on people’s physical attractiveness. It was found that there were differences in perception between people from different cultures, but for those of us with Western ideas of beauty, according to the research long legs are one of the things that is considered beautiful.
Make the World Your Runway
First step – straighten up, push your shoulders back and walk with confidence (or as they say in yoga, allow your heart to open). This will make you visually taller and with time, that confidence will become unwavering. I find that practices like yoga and Pilates can serve a double purpose – you get to tune into yourself and find some calm, while improving your posture, flexibility and overall health.
Step number two – use some tricks in putting your looks together and specifically, pay attention to your footwear and waistline. I’m going to share some style tips with you for making your legs longer and slimmer and no jokes, you can look like you’re inches taller. Here we go…
Point Toes Are Your Friend
Image: Lady Gaga at the SAG Awards
Point toe shoes will make your legs look longer and more slender than round or square toes. Shoes that are open at the top and give a bit of ‘toe cleavage’ are even better. Interestingly enough, “how much toe cleavage is too much?” has been the subject of some debate. I say just go with Manolo Blahnik on this. He says, “You must only show the first two cracks”!
You will frequently see celebrities rock point-toe pumps with their red-carpet looks. Now you know why!!
Heels are better than flats for adding length (obvs!!) but a point toe ballet flat can still be a great companion for making legs look longer. I always choose point toe flats over square or round and encourage my clients to do the same.
Set the Tone
Create a single line by tonally matching all the elements in your outfit. This can make your legs look a lot longer. Match the shoe colour to your skin tone, your tights or your pants.
Try a nude point toe heel with bare legs under a skirt/dress, or a black point toe heel with long black pants or black opaque tights. If you are wearing bare legs with shoes that don’t match your skin tone, be aware that the exposed skin will break up the line into segments and potentially make your legs look shorter. This is particularly so if there is only a small segment of exposed skin (for example with a crop pant or a midi length dress/skirt).
Did you know that in 2013 Christian Louboutin introduced pumps and ballet flats in a range of ‘nude’ shades (now 7), because “sometimes, a shoe should completely disappear in favour of the woman”?
Get High Waisted
Opt for longer line pants or jeans with a high waist. This will create the illusion of more length than a lower rise cropped pair. Similarly, go for a higher waisted skirt. With regard to skirt/dress length, both short (above the knee), or long (maxi-style) will do the best job of adding length to legs. If you choose a pencil skirt or a midi length skirt/dress (big right now), be sure to keep the tonal dressing tip in mind and definitely opt for a point-toe shoe. Choose dresses that have a higher waistline.
Add length by playing with vertical lines. They could be inserts in your trousers, or a dress or skirt with vertical colour blocking or vertical stripes. Have you ever noticed how tights with a line along the back lengthen your legs?
Remember this style rule – vertical lines can elongate and create continuity, horizontal lines can widen and create a visual break. In this case, a horizontal line could be the top of a boot, or the hem and/or waist of your pants/skirt/dress. The goal is to reduce the horizontal lines on your legs completely (eg through tonal dressing), or to maximise the distance between horizontal lines to create the illusion of more length.
Image: MDS Stripes via Net-a-Porter
The Ideal Boot Length
Image: Fendi via Net-a-Porter
Tall boots that lace or zip all the way up have an elongating effect! Thigh-high boots will most likely make your legs look longer than boots that finish at the ankle or below the knee. Get a pair of above-the-knee boots with heels and point toes and your legs will definitely be the centre of the show! If you’re not up for thigh high boots, knee high boots that fit close to your leg are also great. Make sure that they don’t gape too much at the top, as this can make your leg look wider. Once again, a point toe is ideal.
Ankle boots have been a true footwear staple for years now, however I urge you to proceed with caution. Ankle boots, if not done right, can visually breakup the leg (see point about horizontal lines above!).
How to Rock an Ankle Boot Without Looking Stumpy
- Remember my point about tonal dressing – to optimise leg length, black ankle boots work best with black or dark coloured jeans or pants. Light coloured boots work best with light coloured jeans or pants. A nude colour can work well with bare legs or neutrals.
- Black ankle boots also work well with black tights under a skirt or dress.
- The best skirt/dress length to wear with an ankle boot is a maxi, or a shorter style that finishes mid-thigh. Ankle boots paired with a midi style risk making legs look frumpy.
- Alternatively, wear ankle boots under wider or boot cut pants/jeans so the hem of the pants extends down over the top of the boot. This also allows you to hide the heel under your pants, covering any disproportion between your heel height and leg. This option works particularly well with a point toe boot.
- If you do pair darker boots with lighter jeans/pants or bare legs, look for ankle boot styles that have a vertical zip going up the front (see images below). Styles with a v-front also work well, such as these crush-worthy Jimmy Choo beauties (we can dream!). The v-front creates a vertical line which has an elongating effect and the heel adds even more length.
Image: Jimmy Choo
Image: David Jones
Speaking of Heels
Even a low heel will add height and length to your legs. I am not advocating we all switch to stilettos. After all, this is not the most sensible footwear for running errands or chasing your kiddos and dogs in the park.
There is a special formula for finding out the optimal heel height for you. Jon Frank breaks it down here. It all comes down to the Golden Ratio, which underlies many of the beautiful pieces of architecture around the world, is seen time and time again in nature and also influences our perceptions of what is beautiful (it underlies many of the styling principals I work with).
Consultant podiatrist Emma Supple has her own shoe maths – the Perfect Heel Height (PHH) that considers the flexibility of your talus. While we’ve all heard how frequently we get our bra sizing wrong, turns out most of get our heel height wrong too!
Another thing to consider is your calves. If they are on the fuller side, don’t contrast them with a skinny heel. Opt for a block heel or one that is wider to create a uniform look. A great option for elongating legs is platform wedges.
As much as I can geek out over formulas and maths, I say experiment and find the height and width of heels that works for your everyday wear and invest in a pair of higher ones for special occasions. I personally love kitten heels, which can easily go from day to night with minimal discomfort.
A Few Don’ts
Ankle straps that create a horizontal line are not really your friend, particularly if they have a wide strap (ultra thin straps are a bit more forgiving). If you have a pair that you just can’t give up, try wearing them with tapered jeans that hide the strap. You’re better to go for a strappy sandal or shoe with a strap that makes a diagonal line, or a criss-cross style.
Whist square toes are big right now, keep in mind that they might be better left for the catwalk models with legs that go on forever. Or try styling them with high waisted, longer line pants, or a mini.
Image: Tabitha Simmons via Net-a-Porter
Be careful with styles that have heavy embellishments: buckles, sequins, embroidery. They might make a statement but may not do any favours for your leg length.
Cuffing your jeans can create a horizontal line and make you look shorter, especially when paired with the chunky white ‘Dad sneakers’ that are big right now. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying be aware that there may be better options if you want your legs to look lengthy!
While tonally matching shoes to your skin or clothing elongates legs, footwear that contrasts can have a shortening effect. Keep that in mind when buying your next pair of shoes.
Are you planning to rock some fabulous boots this autumn? Keep these tips in mind but remember that they’re just tips. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you do what feels best for you.