I would never buy anything to wear without trying it on in front of a full-length mirror. Not even a pair of earrings. Never, ever a pair of shoes. This sounds like eccentric fashion editor woo-woo but is actually the opposite. It is the most practical way to tell when a look works and when it doesn’t, because proportion is the thing that matters most. Shape and silhouette are what make the difference between elegance and ugliness, and between looking modern and looking dated.
Sometimes what nails a now-looking outfit is how the volume of fabric sits on your body. (The answer here is, and has been for some time, to avoid sausage skin-tight.) At other times, the make-or-break ratio is width of jean leg at the ankle: flare, straight or skinny. Broad shoulder pads and a darted waist were the key in mapping the inverted triangle of a power-dressing jacket. But right now, what skewers an on-trend look is how high your waist is.
What, you thought your waist stayed in the same place? Nope. The waist moves up and down, over the years. In the early noughties, the rise from crotch to waist on a pair of hipster jeans was six inches. (Remember how Britney Spears’ hipbones were clearly visible above her waistband?) Since then, waists have crept up. Levi’s Ribcage jeans, with an extra couple of buttons added at the fly, have a 12in rise and reach almost to – you guessed it, the ribcage.
A high waistline – only an inch or two, not Jane Austen empire-line bra-strap height – will instantly make an outfit look up-to-date. This is not only about trousers and jeans. If a dress isn’t A-line it has a waistline, even if that’s just a seam, rather than a belt. And if that waistline is slightly raised it instantly elevates a body-skimming dress, making it look more elegant and romantic. A bit less Fox News and a bit more The Vampire’s Wife, if you know what I mean. And if you’re not sure, I suggest you look in a full-length mirror.
• Jess wears dress, £345, sandro-paris.com. Heels, her own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Kiehl’s and Laura Mercier. Styling assistant: Peter Bevan