Tips for Tapering

Despite what you may have heard on TV makeover shows, tapering is an almost sure-fire way to make you figure look more sleek and trim.  This optical illusion will help you understand exactly why …

Which of the two top, horizontal lines – A or B –  appears to be longer?   Which of the two vertical lines – X or Y – appears longer?

That top line represents your hip width – see how the top figure appears wider even though A and B are actually identical?

The vertical line represents your height – see how the bottom figure appears taller, therefore narrower even though X and Y are equal?

The top figure represents an A-line skirt; the bottom one is a tapered pencil skirt.  Which garment do you think is likely to be more flattering?

The same holds true for pants, capris and shorts.  A narrower leg is almost always going to give you a sleeker look than a fuller one.  It doesn’t have to be skin-tight.  But if you have been avoiding a narrower silhouette, head to the mall and try one on to see the difference.

You might even consider tapering jacket sleeves.  It is very common for a manufacturer or pattern maker to design sleeves too full – adding visual bulk through your middle body – ugh.  Sewing them gradually narrower from the underarm to the sleeve edge will also slim your look.

Go find a skirt or pant in your closet, pin in a narrower side seam and see for yourself just how much difference it can make!

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. Violet Kurylak on December 5, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for the reminder, Nancy. I recently discovered this for myself, after decades of wearing boot cut pants because they “balance my wide shoulders” , I tried on a pair of skinny jeans. I was amazed at the transformation! Suddenly, I look like I have longer legs, a narrower outline, and about 10 pounds lighter! All pluses.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on December 5, 2018 at 10:09 am

      Thanks for the validation Violet. Lots of women have been so brainwashed to the opposite viewpoint that it is hard for them to even try on a narrow skirt or skinny jeans. (Interesting side note: we also get brainwashed that wide shoulders are somehow a bad thing – they’re not! I’m envious of yours.) But the taller/trimmer impact is unquestioned.

    • Lyda Wilson on December 27, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Violet, I had the same revelation! Boot cut made me look shorter and wider. That myth about it balancing out your shoulders or hips is definitely malarkey.

      • Nancy Nix Rice on December 27, 2018 at 6:53 pm

        Thanks for confirming – there are so many voice incorrectly proclaiming the opposite.

  2. Claudette Barber on February 19, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    The longer back length in the illustrations exaggerates the improvement.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 20, 2019 at 6:44 am

      I’m not sure which illustrations you are referring to, but I certainly agree that a shaped or high/low hemline can often be very elongating in a similar way. Thanks for that reminder.

  3. Sarah Turnbull on December 25, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I hadn’t noticed TV makeover shows commenting on tapered silhouettes. Do the TV experts recommend against tapered styles?

    • Nancy Nix Rice on December 30, 2019 at 10:04 am

      Yes, many of those “experts” recommend A-line skirts and boot-cut jeans instead of narrower ones – when in fact for the vast majority of figures those wider styles shorten and widen the sihouette.

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