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How to dress big calves and create visual balance at the same time

Here some generic style tips for big calves

  • Choose a monochromatic look (in darker colours) in your clothing – especially when dressing your lower body. This will not only elongate your leg line, but will also distract from your calves by creating visual balance

  • Wear your skirt/dress hemline on the thinnest part of your leg line e.g. below knee or ankle length

  • Wear medium to chunky heels to balance with your calves

  • Opt for straight or boot-cut style trousers instead of a narrowing leg line

  • Avoid any bulk and detail in this area e.g. finishing hemline, short boots, buckles on your boots, ankle straps, kitten heels

  • Don't wear mini skirts, short trousers or capri trousers

  • Stay away from patterns and light colours in your trousers or hosiery

How to choose the right pair of trouser

Opt for full length trousers to hide bigger calves. Your trousers should flare below the knee, so opt for straight leg, and boot-cut or flares might also work well. Avoid wearing tight trousers that taper towards the ankle as the material will cling to the calves and enhance their size. Unless you are in the garden, on the beach or at home, avoid shorts, capri or any trousers that are cropped below the knee since this will call attention to the calves and shorten leg length. On these occasions choose those trousers without any style details - keep them as simple as possible.

How to choose the right skirt style

It's true skirts are not your best friends, but there are ways to make them work for you. The key is to avoid a clingy skirt line that tapers and stops either before or at mid-calf. Instead, choose a hemline that either finishes on the thinnest part of your leg line e.g. below knee or ankle length that covers your ankle.

How to choose the right shoes and heels

When you select a shoe, choose a style that balances a bigger calf. The make and style of the shoe is as important as the heel that comes with it. That means don’t opt for petite shapes such as ballet shoes, because this just highlights the chunkiness of your calf size. Avoid any styles of kitten or stiletto heels and shoes with ankle straps. All of these styles will draw the eye to your bigger calves. Open toed shoes with a solid heel tend to be more flattering, as well as boots that stop just below the knee when worn under your trousers - never expose them by wearing with a shorter hemline. As well as this, avoid wearing boots that stop mid-calf or below unless you plan on only wearing them with long trousers. Knee length boots are your best option, but choose them in a simple style, dark colour and ideally they should have elastic side panels for the best comfort and fit

Selecting boots for bigger calves

Boots with bigger calves have become more widely available. Previously, boots were only sold in very basic styles and colours. Now manufacturers are providing a larger selection of colours, styles, shapes, and heels for various occasions. In the same way that everyone’s build is different, legs, calves and feet vary as much in shape, size, length and form. Everyone has different “sizing” issues and in order to create visual balance one needs to know how to address each individually.

When buying a pair of boots for your larger calves, please consider the following:

Boots with bigger calves have become more widely available. Previously, boots were only sold in very basic styles and colours. Now manufacturers are providing a larger selection of colours, styles, shapes, and heels for various occasions. In the same way that everyone’s build is different, legs, calves and feet vary as much in shape, size, length and form. Everyone has different "sizing" issues and in order to create visual balance one needs to know how to address each individually.

  • Always measure the calf or ask the width of the calf before purchasing. The terms used to describe the width of the calf may be misleading, because there is no standardized measurement for a "wide” calf boot. A wide calf boot by one manufacturer can be the same width as an extra wide calf by another manufacturer. The boot shaft on a wide width boot is usually 14inches (35.56cm) . Wide calf boots are starting normally from 15inches (38.1cm) onwards. The width of the boot may be the same at the top as it is at the bottom, like a stovepipe. In some boot styles the boot might flare out from the ankle with the widest portion of the boot being around the top.

  • Don't assume that the larger the size, the larger the calf. There may be a slight increase in calf width as the shoe size increases. But the big increase in the shoe size may make the boot too uncomfortable to wear (ie if the shoe is too big for your feet), even if it provides a slight increase in the width of the calf.

  • It's important to know that the boot height is the distance in a straight line from the bottom of your foot at the heel to the top of your boot. The height of knee-length boots normally increases slightly with the shoe size, calf size and style of boot, ranging from 27cm to 51cm in a full length boot (more for over-the-knee styles).

  • Wide/narrow feet - most wide calf boots are combined with a wide width shoe. This works for many plus size women. However, there are plus size women that don't need to wear a wide width shoe. Until recently these women had to suffer along with a too-wide shoe in order to have a boot that fit their larger calves. In recent years, several boot manufacturers have introduced the wide calf option on a narrow or medium width foot.

  • Wide/narrow ankles - the sizes of the ankle on most boots changes with the size of the leg and the foot. If you have particularly large or slim ankles compared to your calves then maybe the bespoke route is the way forward for you. Nowadays there are many bespoke shoe retailers available online where you can choose trendy as well as elegant options for an affordable price.

  • Remember to try the boot on with the same leg wear that will be worn with the boot. A boot can feel great with tights but be too tight when worn with thick socks.

  • A shoe repairman can stretch a leather boot if it is slightly too small. Up to an inch can usually be added to the width of the boot if an elastic gusset is added.

Choosing your shoe and boot style

Shoes and boots are key fashion items regardless of dress size. They add the finishing touches to every outfit and can turn an normal outfit into a fashion forward one or vice versa. Use them as a way of personalising your look and creating your own signature. A key to selecting the right boot style is to find a shape that fits the leg e.g:

  • Elastic side panel

    Choose an elastic side panel in your calf or ankle boots (even if you should wear them under your trousers) to ensure a comfortable fit, because only a comfortable fit will give you a better leg line and avoid any unsightly overspill caused by a too tight fit).

  • Scrunch style

    Some boots are soft enough to push down toward the ankle. This "scrunching" of the boot gives a more casual look. It also moves the boot down the leg, making the boot more comfortable for a larger calf

  • Choose an inside zipper

    A long zipper on a boot lets the boot shaft be opened wide enough to insert the foot, pull the boot shaft around the leg and zip the boot up easily.

  • Stretchy fabrics

    Stretchy fabrics provide additional room in a boot. Some boot styles are now made with a combination of leather and stretch, which can provide a little ease where necessary. Boots which are constructed completely of stretch fabric are excellent for the woman whose calf is a little fuller than average, but not full enough to require an extra wide calf boot.

  • Lace-ups

    Back-laced or front-laced boots can be widened or narrowed by adjusting the laces. This is a great style for a wide calf leg that needs a boot to be pulled in around a narrow ankle – but stick to the under trousers rule! Laces add detail and focus to your calf. So as much as it is useful it is not a style you want to make a feature of.

    • Ankles

      expect your boots to wrinkle around the ankle over time especially with regularly use. There needs to be space between your ankle and the boot to allow for freedom of movement and if there are too many wrinkles they can become unbearable due to lack of space and movement.

    • Narrow heels

      should never been worn by someone with big calves or by women of a larger size. Their calves and silhouette will only look bigger in comparison with a narrow heel. So best for visual balance is to choose a medium to chunky heel. Also, note that when buying a pair of boots or shoes with a narrow heel, the pressure exerted on the heel is significant and the heavier the wearer, the quicker the rubber heel tip will wear out and need replacing more regularly.

    • Pointed styles

      make sure that the pointed styles are not too pointed but come to more of a rectangle style at the front. A too-pointed style has the same visual effect as a petite heel. It will make a woman of a larger size and calves look even bigger, because the pointed style will look disproportional. So, best for visual balance are square toed shoes. Plus pointed styles in boots or shoes can wear more quickly at the toe-piece. Make sure you replace the tips when they begin to look worn.

Clothes Guides: Calves


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