How to Wear a Summer Tunic Top

Tunic TopTunic tops and I aren’t really friends.  Being a curvier girl, with big boobs and thighs, and also a defined waist, seldom do they look all that great on me.  In my head they do, but in photographs, and in the mirror, tunics just make me look like a big box.  So if tunics and I don’t get along, why would I give my time and blog real estate to the topic?  Well, a summer tunic top can be so incredibly fabulous for the summer, so some tips on how to not look like a shapeless blob when wearing one seemed wise.

Figure Flattering Tips on how to wear a tunic top

Due to the shape of a tunic, which is typically a relaxed shirt style, they, at first, seem to hide a multitude of sins.  Has having babies made your stomach look like a topographical map?  Would you rather not show the world that you’ve gained 15 lbs.?  Want to hide that muffin top?   A tunic top surely has you covered with all of these issues, and more.  But that’s the problem, a tunic will cover you like a big shapeless tent.  The issue with most tunics is they have little to no shape.  If you lay one on a flat surface and look at the side seams there is not much curve in the waist.  Therefore, if you have a waist it gets hidden, which makes you look as wide as your hips and thighs (rarely a good look) and for those who don’t have waists, it emphasizes this fact.  Truly, most people who look good in tunics don’t need the tunics to hide anything.  Damn you, <as I shake my fist to the sky>you genetic freaks of body perfection!!

So does this mean you should never buy or wear a tunic top again?  Before you collect all your tunics, throw them on your barbecue grill and grab the lighter fluid, hear me out, you can wear a tunic, but you may need to a) look for certain silhouettes or b) seek out the help of your local tailor.

Feel the sides of your body, right at your ribcage.  For just about every woman this is the part of the mid-section where she is the slimmest.  When wearing a tunic, you want it to delicately graze this part of your body.  What this does is create a slimness in the top that shows your shape while not losing the ease of a tunic’s natural silhouette.  If a tunic you own is too big or loose in this area, this is something a tailor can fix for you at a small cost and this tip works particularly well for women with tummies who like the way a tunic grazes the body but don’t want to look too round in the mid-section at the same time.  For pear shaped and curvy women, the same tip works, but for a different reason.  With relaxed tunics the waist is bypassed. If you have a defined waist losing this, through way of  shapeless top, can make you look heavier than you are.  Imagine it, a tunic falling straight from your bust and directly straight to your hips, nobody wants their entire body to look as wide as their hips and thighs.  This is why that subtle shaping at the sideseam is important.

Next, let’s talk about the length.  For pear shaped and curvy women this is important.  You never want the hem of a tunic to end right at the widest part of your thighs.  I remember seeing a photo of myself in a pair of skinny cropped pants and a tunic that ended at this point.  Seriously, my thighs looked about 10lbs. heavier.  Not good.  Hemming a tunic is something a tailor can easily fix.   Either wear a tunic shorter or longer than your widest thigh point.

How to style a summer tunic

Below are five outfits I created using this sleeveless tunic top from J. Crew.  Check them out to not only get some styling tips but also some additional dressing tips for your body.

Outfit #1- With shorts

Looking good in a tunic is often just a game of proportions and optical illusions.  Take, for example, a tunic worn with shorts, like how I styled this tunic with yellow Boden shorts.  With a long and relaxed top, the look calls for a pair of shorts that are slim and on the shorter side.  You don’t need to wear a pair of butt cheek revealing shorts, you just don’t want to wear a big tunic over a big pair of shorts, unless you want to look 10x your size and like you are standing in a hole.  Long relaxed tops often look good over leaner silhouettes.

To finish this casual outfit, I added a pair of TOM’S printed shoes, a yellow leather bracelet from Max & Chloe and a blue Vince Camuto handbag.

Outfit #2- With jeans

Now it is perfectly fine to wear a tunic with a pair of skinny jeans.  However, it is important to point out that if you have wide hips and thighs the size of them may be overemphasized if you wear a tunic with them, especially if that tunic ends at the widest part of your hips.  Instead, to create body balance, a pair of jeans with more of a bootcut hem can create a slimming line through counterbalance .  You won’t want to wear a baggy pair of jeans, for the same reason why you wouldn’t want to wear a baggy pair of shorts, with a tunic.  A pair of jeans that fit slim to the legs and then flair slightly at the hem may make your body look more proportioned.  Here, I styled this tunic with a pair of white Lucky Brand jeans.

You will also notice that the the outfit is finished with a pair of navy wedges.  There is a reason for this.  When you add length to the body, like through heels, the elongation also creates a slimmer appearance.  Where the relaxed shape of the tunic can create a look of body width, the heels mitigates this and creates length and, therefore, creates balance.

To finish this outfit, I added a gold handbag and a pair of navy and mint chandelier earrings.

Outfit #3- With cropped pants

Cropped pants and a tunic can be very summery and a fabulous look for those who hate wearing shorts.  There are a few things to keep in mind when wearing an outfit like this.  First, make sure that the hem of your cropped pants don’t end at the widest point of your calves and, secondly, that they aren’t too wide and relaxed.  a tunic top and a pair of gauchos is no bueno.   Remember, tunics look best with a relaxed over lean look.  Here, I styled the tunic with a pair of olive cropped cargos from DKNY.  If your pair of cargos have a drawstring at the hem, like this pair does, open up the hem a bit wider vs. wearing them tight around your calves so you don’t look like a human light bulb.

This outfit is finished with a pair of purple sandals from Jessica Simpson (because I just love purple and navy together), a casual striped tote and, for an additional pop of color, a pair of green earrings from Stella & Dot.  You may notice that I am using a lot of earrings in these outfits.  There is a reason.  Often tunics have a lot of details around the necklines and necklaces look too busy next to the neckline details.  If you prefer a necklace, choose a finer one that hangs longer to avoid too much activity near the neck.

Outfit #4- With a mini skirt

Again, like I said earlier, wearing a tunic is a game of proportions.  Sometimes, the right proportion can be the difference of an inch.  When wearing a tunic with a skirt, typically a slimmer, shorter skirt is the way to go.  A longer pencil skirt is usually too long, unless you are balancing the proportion with a sky-high pair of heels, and a full skirt can just be too full for a top that is so relaxed.  Here the tunic is styled with a denim mini skirt (again, you don’t have to go butt cheek revealing short), a pair of flat sandals from Anthropologie, a peach handbag and a slate blue bracelet.

Outfit #5- With a maxi skirt or palazzo pants

I definitely wanted to touch on wearing a tunic with a pair of relaxed bottoms, with with a maxi skirt or pair of palazzo pants.  This can definitely be done but you have to be careful.  Unless you are like Top Model tall and thin  (basically you are built like a clothes hanger), a relaxed tunic over relaxed bottoms isn’t going to do your body a bit of justice.  However, with the introduction of a belt to the outfit your body and your outfit can be saved.  By using this beltthe tunic and this pair of printed palazzo pants from Mango gets a more shapely and balanced look.  A tunic can be fabulous for belting because it usually has enough ease and length to be cinched.  It’s also a great way to change up the look of a top like this.  For arm coverage, I added this Boden cardigan, which I highly recommend leaving unbuttoned so the shape of the waist can show.  I finished the outfit with a pair of orange and navy wedges, a pair of gold chandelier earrings from Banana Republic, and the same blue bracelet and Vince Camuto handbag used earlier.

Yes, tunic tops can be your friends if you just know how to wear them and how to style them.  Don’t be afraid to take your favorite one, that may not be doing your body any justice, to your tailor if you need to add some shape.

Shop for a summer tunic

Still looking for a tunic?  Check out these styles from around the web.

  • Irene

    Thank you!
    This is so educational and fun.
    Irene

  • Dawn

    Great topic. I love me a good tunic!