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.

  4. Marlette on March 14, 2022 at 10:32 am

    Claudette, if you are referring to the person sketches of the women with the different styles, I agree, it may be misleading. But, if you are short waisted and or have long legs in proportion to your body, the tapering still hols true.

    My dear friend, who is 6′ tall and short waisted with an inseam of 36″ would never wear and A-line skirt or wide leg pants. In fact, she loves leggings and wears fabulous tops with them. She has s a very edgy style and loves glitz. BTW, she’s 77 y/o!

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