This fall, it's time to accentuate the positive and focus on fashion's newest erogenous zone -- the waist. Take a deep breath and cinch it all in. Forget the breezy tunic tops of summer; rein in your best assets and show off those curves. Check out the newest sashed dresses, form-fitting belted jackets and Empire-style blouses.
"Have you ever noticed that some women never make a fashion misstep and always seem to be flawlessly pulled together?" asks Jenny Levin, author of Harper's Bazaar's "Great Style: The Best Ways to Update Your Look." "Take a closer look and you may notice that those whose sartorial sense you admire may wear the same style over and over. They know how to emphasize their assets, obscure what they aren't so proud of and make their bodies look their absolute finest."
Here are some tricks from Levin on mastering the art of defining the waist and making the clothes you wear flatter your figure:
--Whether you are tall or short, a size 2 or 12, cinching in your middle almost always creates a feminine and flattering line.
--Pick pieces with a slim belt or ribbon for subtle definition. Or for a more dramatic effect, choose a super-wide waistband, such as a cummerbund or an obi.
--The waist doesn't have to be smack in the middle. A drop waist elongates your torso, and an Empire gives you a leggier look.
--Details on the waist -- for example, big bows -- work well in distracting the eye from your top or bottom.
--Extremely high-waisted styles will make your legs seem miles long. They are a good option when you prefer midlength skirts.
--Avoid anything overly adorned or patterned. The simpler the better when it comes to a streamlined look that shows off your waist. The effect works best in solids. Loud colors, prints and embellishments detract from the dramatic impact.
--Halter dresses and asymmetrical styles are ideal for showing off your waist. Pick pieces in draping jersey that shield but simultaneously emphasize curves. A woman with a very thin figure can benefit from the draping fabric and the dress's ability to emphasize the waist. A full-figured woman looks great in the hourglass-enhancing silhouette and the loosely falling fabric.
--A deep V-neck on a gown or cocktail dress -- or even a slight plunge on a more casual top during the day -- will detract from your hips and accentuate your waist.
--Dress up old classics with a new belt. Cinching your waist over your suit jacket not only instantly gives your suit a new look but also introduces a sleek and flattering line. Go for a belt that matches for a conservative approach, or add spirit with one in a contrasting hue.
--You also can play up your curvy assets at the waist by choosing pieces with details, such as beading or ruching, at the midriff.
--Remember that feminine clothes that enhance the hourglass shape are always flattering. To accentuate your figure, experiment with wearing form-fitting dresses and skirts that are cut diagonally or on the bias. They should nip in at the waist, hug the hips and fall loosely over the thighs and calves. Be brave; be a body-hugger this fall!
Sharon Mosley's column, "In Fashion," can be found at creators.com.