Knitwear that flatters

Ladies, I would like to talk to you about knitwear and body shape.

Cory Ellen at indie.knits recently started off an interesting series of posts on her body type and what knitwear does and doesn’t suit it. That subject has been stuck in my mind all freakin’ week as a result.

I think it’s really important to discuss these things amongst those of us that make our own clothes. We put so much effort into our wardrobe we can’t afford to waste time on unflattering things! You can learn a lot by seeing what suits people the same shape as you – and also what suits those who aren’t.

In that spirit, I am going to respectfully take the indie.knits post format and add my own findings to the mix.

One of the easiest ways to figure out your silhouette/body type is to use computer trickery, by which I mean “drawing lines over your widest and narrowest points in Paint”.

I’m an hourglass in that my bust and hip measurements are the same, but it’s always a bit more complicated than that. Specifically, I’m an  hourglass with a short neck, very square shoulders, a medium bust and slightly lower than average bustline, an extremely short waistline, and long high hips. Not shown: one helluva swayback. Fitting the curve of your lower back is more of an issue in sewing than knitting so I shall leave that out for now.

I’m already pretty pernickety about how things fit me, so whilst taking me clothes shopping is a soul-sapping experience I don’t recommend, I like most of my knits. There are some exceptions though! Now to go through some of my knitwear collection in order of least-flattering to most:

Fair isle yoke jumper.

Oh hi there first-ever-fair-isle-jumper! How you doing? We don’t see much of each other these days do we? Your sleeves are a weird length and your neckline bothers me, that’s why! I don’t really like high necklines, because they hide my neck and leave only the expanse of my face. All I need is a camera flash to give me nowt but extra chins.
The vertical height of my waistline could be measured in mm, so anything with a dramatically nipped-in waist has to be exactly the right length to hit it or I appear to go up a dress size.

The jumper looks rather awkward on me when I wear it with trousers of any kind, but not too shabby with a high-waisted pencil skirt, because I can then ruck the ribbing up to the right height without exposing my midriff. The problem is I only own one high-waisted pencil skirt. Oops. Nowadays I try to make sure jumpers fit in with the rest of my wardrobe before knitting them.

Aran off-shoulder jumper.

Oh hi there first-ever-complete-jumper! There’s plenty I like about this. The sleeves and torso are both nice lengths. I just take issue with the raglan armholes. Here’s a shop bought raglan cardigan which again, I do like, but the sleeves don’t quite work for me (I have no idea where that blue light is coming from).

Raglan sleeves have a narrowing, rounding effect on the shoulders, so you’d think they’d work on a set like mine but no. They fit weird. See the wrinkle forming around my pits in both cases? I have fairly deep armpits, so raglans are going to get really stretched out over the corners of my shoulders. That, I believe, is the main fit issue with that particular sleeve style.

Next up are two shop bought knits for your perusal.

Both very similar! Neither of them are completely perfect but they get worn a lot anyway. I really like this length, which hits round about the lowest part of my hips. It cuts the length up nicely. Also, these are both tight-fitting enough to highlight my dangerous curves. Essential! That cowl neckline adds a nice bit of interest over the décolletage in both cases. The green jumper mostly gets worn to work because it hangs fine over smart trousers but looks lumpy over jeans. It also has raglan sleeves, but I don’t think it matters in this instance because the fabric is stretchy enough to compensate for any fit issues.

Beatnik jumper (click for better pics!)

God I love this jumper so much I cannot wait until it’s cold enough for me to live in it every day. What perfect proportions! Wide open necklines are kind of a thing for me. I also seem to gravitate towards ¾ length sleeves a great deal. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that these two things work together to make the bustline appear higher and the waist lower, which I need. I tend to knit in DK weight yarn or thinner so this aran weight is a rare departure for me. Thicker wool adds width to the torso, as does a wide panel of texture. But in this instance I could not care less as the overall effect is just great.


Things I like are: wide saucy necklines, tailored sleeve caps, long hip-length garments, ¾ length sleeves, precision waist shaping, fine clingy fabrics. Oh, snap.

Things I don’t like are: thick wool, raglan sleeves, blouson shaping, high crew necklines.

But those aren’t hard and fast rules. I have no problem with one unflattering feature from category 2, provided it’s balanced out by a number of other features from category 1. Possibly with the exception of the crew neckline.

Oh, and I do not wear empire-line anything, ever. Wear empire-line: look 5 months pregnant. No thanks.

Do you know your silhouette? What kind of knits make you look fabulous? Share your knowledge!

(P.s. If analysing your shape is a new thing to you, then I highly recommend the Fit To Flatter series by seasoned knitwear designer Amy Herzog. It makes things very clear)


Filed under Ramblings

5 responses to “Knitwear that flatters

  1. i think worries about a good flattering fit have been the reason why i’ve been reluctant so far to knit anything like a shirt or sweater. picking up purchased knitwear from the closet that i already agree with is an idea i’ve never considered before!

  2. I’m glad that my post was helpful, and it’s really cool to see your take on it! You have a great point that one less-flattering element can be balanced out by other good ones – I definitely find that with garments in my closet that don’t work in some ways, but are totally worth wearing for their other details.

    Also, I clicked through to your Sashiko sweater – holy crap it’s beautiful, and I would love to knit one if you get a pattern written up!

  3. I love the Fit to Flatter series! My shoulder-line is narrower (at least proportionally) than yours, but we seem to look good in similar things anyway. Precision waist-shaping was the big thing for me – my size is not the industry standard, and I look much heavier than I am without it.

  4. Reblogged this on harveynobum and commented:
    Lovely blog on body shape and flattering knits.

  5. Fantastic guide to slimming knitwear! Can’t wait for autumn and break out the cosy jumpers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s