Fashion Formulas – Making Style Simple

I was kvetching (complaining) to a friend the other day that I seem to buy, sew and wear the same things over and over.  Then I suddenly realized that’s not a bad thing!  We all have certain colors, styles, etc. that look best on us — so why would we choose less-enhancing ones just for the sake of variety?  Let’s stop thinking of it as “being in a rut” and think of it as “finding my groove”.  I’ll show you mine if you’ll reply and show me yours …

Being an hourglass shape, on the short side, busty and a bit chunky, all my formulas are geared to be body-conscious and have vertical emphasis. If you are a different body type, of course your formulas will be different, but I’m betting you’ll spot some patterns when you look in your closet — at least in the things you most often choose to wear.

For me, Formula #1 is the shaped dress.  I love the way a matte jersey or ponte knit dress makes me look polished and is still as comfy as my favorite PJs.  I do that formula in two variations – the first is jersey print with some drape for camouflage and a surplice/wrap bodice to minimize my bustline. They aren’t always easy to find, so when I spotted several in my color range this spring I stocked up, suspecting that they won’t be as prevalent next year:


These 3 are ready-to-wear; I’m still searching for the perfect pattern to sew my own.  Check a review of  my best attempt HERE if sewing is your thing.  BTW – can you see how the green one in the middle isn’t quite as good on me because the color isn’t as strong as the other two?  More on that HERE.

UPDATE: Found a new jersey dress pattern that I  just love.  Read about it on and watch for my upcoming article in THREADS magazine.

My second variation on Formula #1 is a basic sheath dress with some sort of vertical detailing to break up visual width and elongate my stature.  The ones below I sewed myself from our ST Ponte knit – read details  HERE and HERE if you’re interested.  Talbots and Ann Taylor are my go-to for ready-made sheaths for clients. 

For casual looks, Formula #2 is a skinny bottom – pants, stretch jeans or a tapered pencil skirt – with an under-layer shell and a lightweight cardigan over — ideally duster length or with a shaped hemline.  The airy, open knit makes these sweaters comfy even in hot weather.

The open edge of the duster makes an emphatic vertical and the length gives me a stronger presence somehow (makes me feel like a tall girl, maybe?) and the body-skimming bottom and lightweight shell or tee avoid adding any bulk.  I try for color continuity between the bottom garment and either the shell or the cardigan (these were photographed over a black legging and shell to showcase the sweaters but some other color would be more interesting) and add an attention-grabbing scarf or necklace to anchor attention up near the face.

Now it’s YOUR turn!  What’s your body type, what fashion formulas work best for you and WHY?  I really want to hear, so snap a selfie and email me –  Can’t wait to share all your collective brilliance in a new post soon.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Kathleen on January 6, 2020 at 11:16 am

    I noticed that you really know your style, which is great! It is definitely a groove and not a rut. Also, somewhere I read that the most important thing you can wear is a smile. It sounds corny but it is so true. The photos in which you are smiling make the outfit look pretttier for sure.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on January 6, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      It IS true – but I find it DO hard to get positioned just right, get the phone-camera focused and the lighting OK and then press th button without jiggling … all the while maintaining a smile. Practice makes better – if not yet actually perfect.

  2. CeeJay on February 15, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Nancy,

    Love your site and your frequent posts. I’m an inverted triangle, 5’3″, small busted and slender. The column of color that you discussed above seems to work for me too. Although most of my pants are skinny bottoms or jeans, a couple of pairs of lightweight wool trousers found their way into my closet–navy and light grey. Do you have any recommendations on the type of tops that would look best? (I can also donate or pass the pants along if they are unsalvageable.) Thank you, Nancy.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 16, 2020 at 7:21 am

      Thanks for the lovely compliments. I can’t think of any reason the lightweight trousers shouldn’t work fine for you. If the legs feel too full they can easily be tapered.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.