- the best-selling styles at John Lewis

I haven’t worked with John Lewis for ages – there’s a new team in place and so today’s post is going be a little bit different. I usually do a summer post earlier than this and I tend to go straight to their own brand ranges because I find they suit all kinds of different body shapes and sizes. The good thing about working with new people though is that they have different approaches and they asked whether this time I might like to look at some of the third party brands in store. The ones they came up with weren’t ones that I’d usually feature and so even though they were happy for me to go back down my tried and tested route, I thought it could be interesting to go in and do a try-on of clothes that I’d usually pass by. And rather than just picking out the best outfits, I’m going to show you everything I tried whether it worked for me or not and while I’m doing it, I’ll talk through how to analyse the shapes and brands that suit you.

I’m aware from the things you tell me in the surveys and comments that some of you are very confident about the shapes and styles that suit you, others less so. Sometimes that’s because understanding how your frame affects the look of the outfits you choose is just something you’ve never got your head around or it’s because your body’s changed after menopause. I think accepting and loving the body shape you have is the first step. It’s so easy to believe that the one you want is just within reach and that when you start that diet/exercise regime you’ll have it within a few weeks… so you put off buying clothes… and on it goes. But there’s a lot about your frame that diet and exercise won’t change anyway so it becomes easier if you just view it as a structure. Imagine if you’d moved into a new house in December, you wouldn’t think, ‘it isn’t how I want it so I won’t put any decorations up for Christmas to make it sparkle.’ You’d work with what you have. And it’s the same with clothes – you just need to find the ones that are right for your body, that way you’ll feel good in what you wear. So let’s use this post to bring all of that to life.

As you can imagine it ended up being a huge dressing up session – some outfits looked better on me than others and it was enlightening as it always is when you go outside your tried and tested zone. And so as we go along I’ll talk through exactly what it is in an outfit that makes a difference to the body that wears it. Bear in mind that some of these pieces are now showing low stock – the sudden blast of sunshine last week triggered a rush to buy summer clothes in a huge burst of British optimism.

So, in a store with as much choice as John Lewis I needed a starting point and I’ve had a few requests for more neutrals which is fair, I know not everybody is as much of a colour fiend as me. And I was looking for a pair of cream jeans – I have my superwide long ones for wearing with heels but I wanted a regular length for trainers and flat sandals. So that forms the basis of this post along with a few other things I couldn’t resist trying that I’ll add at the end. And then finally I’ve read so much about John Lewis being the new kings of the high street in terms of their 2024 relaunch of swimwear that I wanted to try the quality and cut… so brace yourself for a quick swimsuit try-on.

I spent a couple of hours in store on my own one Thursday afternoon, narrowing things down and then went back with a very patient Mal at the weekend to take the photographs. The brands that JL suggested I look at were Mint Velvet, Hush, Nobody’s Child and Reiss. Now sadly Reiss wasn’t available in store so I couldn’t do that. Hush is a brand I used to wear a lot but haven’t really looked at for a while. I’ve always seen Nobody’s Child as a brand for dresses which is fine but I rarely need any new dresses. And Mint Velvet is something I always walk past – I have so many friends who love it to bits but I’ve always felt instinctively that it caters for a different body shape to mine. You can see why this felt like an interesting project so let’s begin.

How to analyse the shapes and brands that suit you – a trying on session

So here are the first jeans I tried on and it was a good start. I like the fact that cropped jeans don’t bunch at the ankles which can give them a crumpled look when they’re made from stiff cream denim. They had comfortable stretch and flattering patch pockets at the front.

In my quest for neutrals, I paired them with this extended shoulder t-shirt which is also available in plain colours – navy, black or white. This is a particularly good cut for anybody who is working on visual rebalancing – so if you’re drawing attention away from broad hips or an apple tummy, this shape is your friend. These are the tricks that Mint Velvet is particularly good at and this type of tee is also helpful if you don’t like the skin at the top of your arms – I’m not saying for one second that you should cover it, I just hear from lots of women who feel uncomfortable about it.

FIT – I’m wearing a size M in the t-shirt and a 12 in the jeans – both are true to size

Style Tips

If you have broad hips like me, patch pockets will always break up the space visually and provide a narrowing effect.

An extended shoulder tee will help to rebalance broad hips or a round tummy.

With the forecast for summer 24 not being very optimistic, I also wanted to keep an eye out for summer jackets and couldn’t resist trying this knitted sequinned bomber. The colouring is too cool for me but it’s a really great option for anyone with a cooler skintone. It will work with dresses for a summer event and it will lift jeans and a basic tee like this – plus it would be great on holiday, sunshine would really make it sparkle.

FIT – I’m wearing a size M and it’s true to size

Style Tip

A sparkly jacket works hard all year round to give outfits a lift

Now the next outfit was the one I’d gone home to tell Mal about after my prepping session (luckily he does a good job of looking interested!). You know I love navy and I thought I’d spotted a wardrobe gap so I was looking forward to trying it but… it didn’t work as well for my body shape as it would for someone with more curves than I have – an apple or a pear for example.

You see in my head, the slightly cropped tee with the wide leg trousers and the short jacket would work vertically to lengthen my legs visually – but I was forgetting that my swimmer’s shoulders are the key horizontal feature that I need to consider. Here, even though the sleeves are neat, the bold stripes just accentuate how broad they are. It means that even though the t-shirt is nicely cropped, the boxiness makes my midriff look wide too because it’s hanging straight down from such a broad starting point. If you have nice narrow shoulders it will look great on you and it’s particularly good for skimming over an apple tummy.

I have a broad expanse at the hips too so with no nipping in at the middle, I look like I’m about to play American football, I’m just straight up and down. But for an apple with their neat hips and slimmer thighs, this combination of tee with straight jeans would be great.

FIT – I’m wearing a medium in the t-shirt which was true to size but I needed a 14R in the jeans

It’s still an outfit that I really like even though it doesn’t suit me as much as it would someone else so here it is with the knitted navy jacket which again is too boxy for me.

FIT – The jacket is a medium and it’s true to size

Style Tip

Never underestimate how your shoulder-line impacts the way that an outfit hangs

Just to show you what a difference the shoulder-line makes I grabbed this top from the rail next to the changing room because instinct told me it would work better on me. It’s from another brand I’ve never really tried and that’s the joy of trying things on in a department store environment, you make new discoveries all the time. I’m wearing it with the same pair of jeans but the cutaway arms minimise the width of my shoulders visually and the gentle ruching defines my waist without clinging so I look less like a Lego figure. The higher neckline also cuts across at a narrower point than the crew so my face doesn’t look as round. I go on about the importance of understanding body architecture all of the time and this post illustrates it well. If you’re an inverted triangle or an hourglass go for this kind of structure, if you’re an apple or a pear go for the above.

FIT – I’m wearing a 12 in the top and it’s true to size

Here are the two side by side so you can see what I mean.

There was one other pair of cream jeans that I wanted to try, this time with a slight flare which is another tool I use for balancing out my shoulder-line and they had the much loved patch pockets to break up my hips. They were on a rail with a neutral knitted tank so I picked that up to try with them. What mistake did I make? I didn’t check the cut of the armhole so once again you can see that it makes me look beefy but if you have neat shoulders you’ll look lovely in this.

I wonder if this trying-on session is feeling familiar to you. People so often tell me that they feel defeated when they go out shopping but it’s because they don’t understand their architecture and so they pull out things that won’t work for them – just as I have here. You have to understand the shape of your body so that you know what’s wrong with the outfit – and remember it’s ALWAYS the outfit that’s wrong, never you.

FIT – I’m wearing a medium in the top and a 12R in the jeans – both true to size

Knitted tank; Flared patch pocket jeans (also available in petite)

Style Tip

Look for a curved rather than straight armhole on a sleeveless top to avoid making the tops of your arms look chunky

Because I knew where the problem lay it was easy to segue and I knew the jeans were good so I tried a boatneck which was better… but the stripe going down the dropped shoulder was yet again made for somebody with a narrower bone structure than me…

FIT – I’m wearing a medium and it’s oversized

Cotton boatneck; Flared patch pocket jeans (also available in petite)

Style Tip

Boat necks are almost always more flattering than a crew because they elongate the neck

… so I had a go at an asymmetric cut which is high fashion this season but something I’ve never tried before. You see I like balance so I wasn’t sure if it would work for me. There was a pair of shoes on the display nearby so I added those…

… and bingo! This I loved. The right jeans with the right top, all in the right proportions for my body shape. It’s so annoying that I live in the frozen north – I was clearly meant to spend my days in California!

FIT – I’m wearing a size 12 in the top and it’s true to size

And I just want to show you one last thing because it’s so good – this jacket. I bought it in the stone colourway because I already have a black jacket like this and it’s proving useful for the mad weather we’re having. It comes up really big though – because I was in store I could try different sizes on and I ended up with a size 8!

So having solved the jeans conundrum and explored both Hush and Mint Velvet, I picked out a few other neutrals to try for those of you who’d asked for them. This is such a pretty summer dress, you tie it by the straps so it’s fully adjustable. Always play around with the fit of things if you can – this looked much better on me tied lower down where my chest narrows. When I tied it higher on the bust it was wide and matronly (yet again that won’t be a problem if you have narrow shoulders).

FIT – A 12 is true to size

Style Tip

If a piece of clothing has adjustable features built in it’s a clue that it should be played with until it works for your body

A non-jeans option for the neutral lovers, these linen trousers have a matching waistcoat but they didn’t have my size in store so I paired them with my favourite t-shirt of the season instead.

FIT – The t-shirt in a medium is true to size, the trousers were neat at a size 12, size up if you need to

If you’re heading off to sunnier climes this is an absolute bargain. It’s made from high quality denim and it’s smarter than shorts and a t-shirt – plus it doesn’t highlight any lumpy bits. It was just a little short in the body for me though so although I’m wearing a 12 here I found a 14 to be a better fit.

And last of all, from a brand I haven’t tried before came this lovely number made from very soft organic cotton. The bodice is shirred and there’s plenty of stretch in it so it won’t feel too warm if you’re wearing it on holiday and the legs are wide and wafty. No wonder it has five star reviews.

FIT – A 12 was true to size

Style Tips

Let’s recap very briefly on some of the topline bodyshape factors that are worth considering before you take clothes into the changing rooms:

  1. Your best necklines – if you have a round face like mine you’re looking for a V, scoop, boat or raised neckline. If you have a longer face you can wear crew necks well.
  2. Your shoulder-line – if it’s broad avoid wide stripes, dropped shoulders, straight cut or spaghetti straps and anything boxy. If it’s narrow you’ll look dainty in all of these shapes.
  3. Your waistline – if it has an indent cinch it, if it doesn’t, you can skim over it with cuts like the t-shirt I tried here.
  4. Your hips – how do they balance your shoulders? If they’re broad like mine look for pocket details to break them up. If they’re narrower with a rounded tummy, straight cuts work well on you.
  5. Your leg length – mine are short in proportion to my upper body so I tend to look better in defined high waists and longer lengths. If you’re the other way round you can wear crops well.

Swimwear and beachwear

Since I did my try-on in store there’s been so much press attention surrounding the launch of the new John Lewis own brand swimwear range that I thought I should have a quick look at that too. They’ve had a complete overhaul, changing up 75% of the range with the midlife body in mind. It means there are adjustable straps on a lot of pieces along with ruching, mesh inserts, belts, asymmetry and textured fabrics. The design that every magazine has pulled out is the asymmetric one because it’s so striking and after my happy discovery of the asymmetric top, I had to try it to see what it looked like on a non-model body. So this is what we do in our lunch hours should you ever wonder – which I’m sure you don’t. And we gave the DPD man one heck of a shock when he came through the side gate as usual, only to see Mal taking pictures of me in a swimsuit. Rumours are going to start flying round the village…

I’m starting with the navy striped one and I had to work with the sample sizes that were available so this is a 14 and it’s a bit too big so it didn’t have the supportive properties of the black one that you’ll see in a minute. It’s up to you to decide whether you like it – or maybe we should wait and see if the DPD man ever comes back again!

I can confirm that it’s comfortable and it certainly covers the lower part of your midriff which seems to get more troublesome every year. I feel a bit torn about swimwear at the moment, partly because the Americans on the boat in Thailand were so surprised that I wore bikinis. They explained they automatically stopped wearing them after children but I generally feel more comfortable in them, mostly because I have a long body. Anyway this is a good hybrid option if you’re dithering like me. It’s incredibly good value and as I type, it’s almost sold out in this colourway .

Asymmetric swimsuit navy and ivory stripe

I absolutely love the beachwear that JL have come out with this year. These linen blend trousers are fantastic and I’d wear them any time, not just at the beach because there’s no transparency in the navy. They come in ecru too but they look to have less opacity – still good for the beach though. I’m wearing a medium and I’m giving them an absolute 10/10 and this is where the cut of the swimsuit’s really striking.

Asymmetric swimsuit navy and ivory stripe; Linen blend beach trousers

Here’s the swimsuit in the black colourway which has more stock available at the moment and I think I prefer it on my body without the horizontal lines. This time I’m wearing a 12 and it’s a better fit. I love the textured fabric, it doesn’t feel as hot and clingy as the usual smooth lycra. It has padding at the bust but it’s easily removable if you need less of a boost in that area than I do.

Black textured asymmetric swimsuit

And once again when you go from beach to bar it comes into its own with a simple pair of cotton beach trousers which make such a nice change from a sarong or a kaftan. These are a slightly slimmer cut than the JL ones and you’ll see they have a breezy slit up the side, they come in navy or white as well.

Black textured asymmetric swimsuit; Black cotton beach trousers

And I almost did it – a whole post on neutrals without any colour… but then I saw this. The last piece of holidaywear I want to show you and it could definitely be worn at any time because it isn’t remotely see-through. It’s such a lovely, sunny colour. Once again it’s a breathable linen viscose blend with a tie at the back that would cover a strapless bra and pretty scalloped detail at the hem. It’s also available in a soft sage green and it’s very reasonably priced.

Halter beach dress

So I hope this little study on how to analyse the shapes and brands that suit you has been helpful. The starting point with clothes is your body shape and remember that whatever build or shape you are there’s nothing wrong with you – it’s just a case of finding the shapes, cuts and fabrics that work hard for you. If you don’t look good in something it isn’t your fault – it’s the clothes.

If you want to go deeper into it, here’s a much more detailed post about understanding your body shape and silhouette that I wrote a while ago. In the meantime I thought it would be interesting to finish by asking JL about their current bestselling beauty products and this is what’s flying out for summer.

The bestselling beauty products at John Lewis – summer 2024

1. Shiseido sun cream

I keep reading about this everywhere because its power is actually boosted by heat and water. In addition to that, the bottle is 90% derived from plants so it truly is a futuristic sun cream.

Shiseido sun cream

2. Hello Sunday tinted lip balm

Another product that’s hitting the beauty headlines with its high SPF, berry flavour and hint of colour.

SPF50 tinted lip balm

3. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Skin Tint

A sheer tinted cream that is said to be sweat and humidity proof.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Skin Tint

4. Philip Kingsley Swim Cap

I told you about how good this is when I came back from Thailand but it’s almost too late to get it because it’s selling out everywhere. This is the best value set though – if you’re quick.

Philip Kingsley Swim Cap

5. Acqua di Parma  Mandarino di Sicilia

There’s nothing better than buying a new fragrance for your holiday because it bottles all the memories and revives them every time you wear it. This is set to be the fragrance of summer 24.

Acqua di Parma  Mandarino di Sicilia

And with that I’ll leave you to your weekend. The youngest has finally arrived home this week for the first time since Christmas so I’m going to be enjoying clucking around for a while. It feels as if summer is starting at last.

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    Disclosure: ‘How to analyse the shapes and brands that suit you’ was commissioned by John Lewis but as always, they were happy for me to take my own approach to thoughts and pictures. Thank you for supporting the brands that help me to keep on writing this blog.