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Stumpy calves 101
March 11, 2014 5:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I elongate and flatter my stumpy legs? Looking for exercise and fashion tips.

Hey hivemind, I like my body for the most part but my calves are pretty stumpy (some of it is muscle).

How do I flatter stumpy calves?
Are there any exercises I can do to elongate them?
Can I make the muscle part of them shrink?

Thank you!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think the length of your leg is determined by the bones, and once you're adult there's really no way to change it, I'm afraid.

Old fashioned stockings with seams are good for enhancing the appearance, though they may not match your personal style nor fit all circumstances.
posted by Segundus at 6:00 AM on March 11


Heels, shoes with a low vamp, same or similarly coloured dark toned tights and skirt above the knee with the shoes, to visually elongate your lower half. No ankle straps, ever. In the summer, go with foot wear close in tone to your skin.

As far as muscle, some of us are just prone to it, it's hard to fight your body structure, unfortunately.
posted by kellyblah at 6:03 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


I have "horse-legs". My ancesters were from Ukraine and we got the "strong-like-ox" thing going on.

The only thing that's going to work is optical illusion. In the winter I wear dark tights with my skirts and dresses. In the summer I favor long skirts.

When I find myself admiring someone's long, lean legs, and I think "Damn, why are my legs so big and short?" I just say these words, "I am thankful to be healthy and muscular, I appreciate the strength in my legs and I'm lucky that I'm so strong."

Sometimes you've got to play the hand you were dealt.

I wish I too, could wear a flippy skirt, but alas, it's not to be.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:12 AM on March 11 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure if you mean you have thick legs and ankles, or just visibly muscled calves with some bulk. Either way, here are some general tips for making your legs look longer and slimmer:

-Pants and skirts should hit at the slimmest part of your leg, or any part that you want the eye to naturally fall upon. That could be your above your knee, at your ankle, or somewhere else. If the hemline falls at the thickest part of your leg (say, right around the widest part of your calves) it draws the eye to the part you don't want to highlight. Think of how sleeves that hit at a slim part of the arm (elbow length) are more flattering to bigger arms than cap sleeves, which are flattering to few.

-Heels elongate and slim the legs. Nothing with ankle straps or a high vamp. Chunkier heels like this are more effective at balancing a thicker leg than teeny stilettos, which can look unbalanced.

-Monochrome looks lengthen. Black dress with black opaque tights or leggings, and black shoes or boots, create a long, lean line.

Just keep in mind to highlight your favorite parts (maybe a thin metallic belt around a small waist) and minimize the parts you don't (don't wear boots that hit at the widest part of your calves).
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:18 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Specific looks you might want to try:
- If you're wearing a dress or skirt that reveals your legs, wearing a nude heel that matches your skin tone can make your legs overall appear longer. It creates a sort of optical illusion--a first glance it's hard to tell wear your legs end and your shoes begin.
- Similarly, if you wear the same colored pants and boots, you can make it difficult to discern the leg-foot boundary. You could also try above/over the knee boots.
- High waisted, wide-leg trousers with a crisp, pressed seam down the center that are perfectly tailored. Wear them with heels, and be sure that the hem of your pants is not dragging on the ground but just above it; you don't want any breaks because that would disrupt the long, vertical line you're creating visually.

Honestly though, my only rule in fashion is to wear what makes you feel good. If that mini skirt makes your heart sing, wear it. "Pulling it off" is all about confidence.
posted by gumtree at 6:30 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Pants, pretty much any style that isn't cropped. No shoes or booties that come up around the ankle; if you want to wear boots, go knee-high. The idea is to create a vertical line as long as possible, from your hips to your toes. Shoes with higher heels will elongate your legs, too, but they may also make your calves look extra-muscley (tights can help conceal this if you so desire).

As for taking care of the actual muscle: it's largely genetic, and if you don't currently exercise much, you're probably stuck with mighty calves. I personally love mine and like wearing boots that emphasize my leg beef, but to each her own.

Also, I once read a dumb survey in a fashion magazine that stated something like 37% of men thought muscular legs looked best on women, 33% preferred skinny legs, and the remaining 30% liked curvy legs. I may not be getting the numbers exactly right and it's silly to dress according to fashion mags or what you think guys' opinions might be, but the gist is that there's no universal consensus on what a good-looking leg is, and plenty of people like the stumpy tree trunks.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:51 AM on March 11


For skirts: go to a store with lots of different skirt lengths (ie, department store, large clothing store) and try on a bunch of different lengths and styles. ie, maxi, mid-calf, just-below-the-knee, just-above-the-knee. A-line, pencil, flouncy, and so on. Take careful notice of how they make your calves look, but also how they make your whole silhouette look.

I have short, "full" calves and for me, what works best are A-line or pencil skirts that hit right below the knee. This length makes my calves look less stumpy and more shapely. Maxi skirts make me look short and stumpy all over, mid-calf length skirts hit right where my calves are the widest. But just-below-the-knee is perfect for me. But I only figured that out by trying on LOTS of different styles.
posted by lunasol at 7:21 AM on March 11


I, too, have the cursed tree-trunk legs. I've started to just make my peace with it, but if you want fashion tips:

No shoes with ankle straps, especially if you don't have particularly slim ankles.

No tea length dresses or capri pants.

I'd recommend heels, but I don't wear them and fuck that, you know?

My biggest hurdle is finding boots and skinny jeans that fit my calves.
posted by Sara C. at 9:07 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Doing yoga and running has slimmed my legs down considerably but YMMV.

I embrace the stump by wearing chunky heels like so. NO KITTEN HEELS EVER.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 9:39 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I like Pilates for leg toning. But, I will always have large calves as many of my ancestors did. The only thing that makes them slightly smaller is losing weight and getting fit so that they look toned.

Fashion-wise, I avoid skirts and pants (capris) that hit at mid-calf as that makes them look extra huge. I also favor a wider heel or wedge and match my tights to my shoes. I've also bought boots from Duo, where you can buy boots sized to your calf circumference. My calves are not my favorite part of my body, but somewhat puzzlingly, I've had lots of men compliment them over the years.
posted by quince at 9:57 AM on March 11


High-heeled shoes make a big difference because they visually turn the front of your foot into the bottom of your leg, making the whole lower leg look 5 inches longer and therefore much slimmer. I think stilettos are OK, actually, as long as you can walk well and wear them with confidence.

Here are some shoe pics of Alicia Keys (who is gorgeous, and who has thick legs) that illustrate the gradient of how footwear can make legs look longer and slimmer. The VAMP is the part of the shoe that covers the top of your foot.

The high vamp on these flats visually cut off her leg at the ankle.
The high vamp on these heels also visually cut off her leg at the ankle.
High-vamp, nude heels. These have a shape that cuts off her leg at the ankle but at least the skin-like the colour makes it more subtle.
Ankle-strap toe cap stilettos- these are pretty flattering even though the ankle strap cuts off her leg- because the strap is thin enough that her foot continues the shin-line down, and the low vamp (part of it is clear so it's invisible) makes the whole front of her foot look like it's part of her shin.
Flattering booties / heels with matching tights. The monochrome look here makes her leg and foot into one long "unit", which makes it look longer. The short skirt that's the same colour is helping, too. Here's a similar skirt silhouette and heel hight, but the many colours make her leg-shape look "divided" into three shorter wider sections instead of being one long shape.
Here's Alicia Keys in very low-vamped shoes that make the top of her foot look like it's part of her shin.

But now that I've said all that, just forget it. Put some shimmery moisturizer on your legs and show them off, because strength is sexy and thick, strong legs are really attractive.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:49 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


My ancesters were from Ukraine and we got the "strong-like-ox" thing going on.

I'm half Polish and I, too, am strong-like-ox!

You've gotten good advice about the heels here. However, I practically live in sandals and flip-flops so if you're super pale like me, using a little -- emphasis on 'a little' -- self-tanner on my legs helps. Not Jersey Shore Orange, but something subtle that develops over time.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:06 AM on March 12


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