Are You In A Box?

Don't Box Me In

A lovely not-box: Kathy Zimmerman's Dovetail Pullover

Sorry. I couldn't resist that…

Many folks avoid wearing garments with any kind of body shaping, preferring to wear boxy silhouettes, as they think that boxes hide areas they would rather not show off: a generous belly, a small bust, or hips which are less than "perfect" (whatever perfect is!).

In reality, if you are largish, a boxy sweater can make you look bigger—people see the outlines of the box and they mentally "fill in the box," imagining that you fill the entire sweater up and down. If you are smallish, a boxy sweater can make you look even tinier, as though you were a little kid wearing Mom or Dad's clothing. On the other hand: A boxy sweater is comfortable and easy to move around in; its clean lines are particularly good for showing off intricate cable patterns. There's nothing wrong with wearing a boxy top, if it is balanced with other elements: beautiful stitch patterns, a bit of gorgeous jewelry, a pretty scarf, an interesting neckline, fabulous shoes… But if boxes are all you wear, maybe it's time to give yourself some more choices in your wardrobe.

Perhaps the first question is: If you have a less-than-perfect figure (and don't we all!), why wear shaped garments at all? Doesn't shaping just emphasize what you have (or don't have)?

In fact: Yes. But let me re-phrase that a bit: The right shaping for YOU, wisely chosen, can balance your figure, show off your good bits, de-emphasize the bits you are self-conscious about, and make you feel fabulous.

Because let's face it: Sometimes a girl's gotta strut. And defining your body's curves, instead of hiding them, can actually make you look better than you imagine. Here's why:

Out of the box: Stefanie Japel's Cable-Down Raglan

Our eyes naturally seek out curves to look at, because they are visually more interesting. (We humans like "interesting." It's one of our favorite flavors.) If you wear a box, the eye will rest on whatever curve it can find—which might be the very curve you are hoping to mask, pushing its way out of the confines of The Box. Waist, bust, or other sorts of garment shaping gives the eye a curve to look at; curves force the eye to move up and down, providing interest (see above) and balance. Waist shaping, in particular, is a visual trick: It forces the eye to see you as an hourglass-shaped, more-or-less balanced whole, instead of staring at your biggest or smallest feature.

Knitwear designers accomplish hourglass shaping in as many clever ways as there are clever knitwear designers. Some make ingenious use of traditional decreases and increases; some work vertical darts; some use pattern stitches, such as ribbing and cables, to pull in the fabric; some use gauge changes to change the way the fabric fits. Shaping, of course, is not the only way to keep the eye moving: Vertical lines of any sort, such as cables, lace patterns, or interesting colorwork, can engage the eye enough so that The Box is less of a box and more of a painterly canvas. Combine interesting stitchwork with clever shaping, and you have the Dynamic Duo of flattering fit.

Take a moment to look at the photos in this post: They start with what appears to be a traditional box shape, but each designer has added both shaping and stitch detailing to produce a lovely result.

Garment shaping is your friend. No matter how big or small you are, no matter what you think your flaws are, a little bit of shaping in the right places can help bring curves, balance, and world peace to even the simplest of knitted sweaters.

OK. Maybe not world peace. But a little more knitted beauty certainly can't hurt!

Have Knitting Questions? Get Them Answered on Knitting Daily TV!

Not everyone has a knitting instructor down the block—and even if you do, sometimes it's hard to get up the courage to say, "This might be a dumb question, but…" Part of learning to be a fearless knitter is learning that there is no such thing as a dumb question! We're all in this together, and your "dumb question" might just be the same one thousands of other knitters are curious about.

So ask away! We invite you to email your knitting and fiber-related questions to [email protected]. We'll choose a handful of the ones submitted to be answered on our new public television show, Knitting Daily TV, which will begin airing on PBS this July. Watch for the regular show segment titled "You Asked It!" and see if one of the hosts (maybe even Eunny Jang, editor of Interweave Knits!) answers your question on TV!

Find out more about Knitting Daily TV!

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I've been kissed by a llama! There was an alpaca show near where I live, and a llama named Roxy took a fancy to me. And I bought alpaca fiber to spin. What's that? My knitting? Oh yeah. I'm back to the Gathered Pullover, which has spent some time in the meditation pond, and more Secret Project knitting. But I'm still swooning over Roxy and the alpacas…

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