5 Principles That Will Put Shimmer To Work For You

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We’ve been talking about illusion lately. It’s important to consider how our eyes respond to the world around us. It impacts how we view our reflections. I’ve focused on the power of vertical lines and garment embellishments so far. Today is all about shimmer.

It may seem bizarre to discuss illusions and optics in this context but by understanding these principles, we can identify what creates balance, honours our unique proportions and pleases our eyes before we go shopping.

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Paying attention to what consistently works for you and sticking to it saves loads of time, money, and energy. That’s the goal, right? Learn what you love, shop with confidence, and get on with your life? I think so.

So before you hit the fitting room to try on something sparkly, here’s what you need to know in order to get the best out of your bling.

Consider this.

You’re at the ballet. The lights go down. Strains of music rise from the orchestra pit and within moments, a graceful body emerges from the wings and moves effortlessly across the stage in a glimmering costume.

Tell me. What is your eye paying attention to in this moment? The musicians in the pit? The heavy black drapes? Or the shimmering garment worn by the dancer? I put my money on the costume.

Here’s another example.

You’re driving along an unfamiliar road at dusk. Your eyes are glued to the pavement but suddenly, without your permission, they dart off to the right. An iridescent street sign reflects your headlights and grabs your attention. Why does this happen?

Shimmer captures the eye

Our eyes are intuitively drawn to light. That is their job, after all. We see this optical principle play out in the way we view shimmery fabrics, jewelry, and garment embellishments. 

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Things that reflect light--sequins, rhinestones, metallic threads, satin, beads, pearls, and so forth--all attract the eye, similar to that street sign at dusk. Sequins are not a matter of road safety but you get where I’m going with this.

By strategically applying shimmer, you can direct the eye to precisely where you want it to go and keep it from lingering in places you’d rather it not focus on. Shimmer is a wonderful tool when we understand how to use it strategically.

Consider The Shiny Paint Principle

Interior design can teach us a lot about building a wardrobe. The discipline calls on time-tested principles to honour proportions, foster balance, and create functional beauty. That’s the goal of a well-curated closet too.

Here’s something you may not know. Interior designers rarely suggest walls be painted with high sheen. Why? Shiny paint draws attention to any and all discrepancies. It’s like casting a spotlight directly on a wall’s imperfections: the patched nail hole, the cracked surface or the bump that never quite levelled out properly. Shine magnifies everything, good and bad.

Walls are not supposed to steal the show. This is why they are often painted without sheen. By applying a flat paint to a wall, your eye is free to enjoy the beauty of the colour alone. It can experience a space in its entirety—the stunning focal point, lustrous upholstery, dazzling light fixtures, and magnificent metallic accessories—instead of chasing the walls’ illuminated surface imperfections.

How shimmer works on moving bodies

Glitz is marvellous but it can easily become distracting. It can distort balance, warp proportions and draw attention to a mass of details instead of illuminating the entire picture. It can often end up playing the role of glossy paint on a wall.

For that reason, shimmer is most effective when applied with accessories or used sparingly on “prepped” surfaces. (Thank you, shapewear!) This way, the eye “experiences” your reflection as a whole without being pulled in multiple directions at once.

The best place to direct the eye is always your smile. If you want your eyes to steer directly to curves, by all means, wrap your assets in something snug and glittery. If not, opt for outfits comprised of flat fabrics and splashes of sparkles (or simply let your accessories dazzle instead.)

How to strategically wear shimmery clothing

The goal is to use glitz to balance the big picture and the guiding principle is simple.

If you want to highlight something or make it appear more prominent, choose to wear something that will reflect light. If you want to down play something, opt for a garment that will absorb light instead.

For women with fuller lower bodies

Shimmer on top is a beautiful way of balancing a fuller lower body. Adding a sparkling camisole under a beautiful cashmere sweater or a lovely jacket is always a winning bet. Wearing a shimmery top with a pair of classic evening pants is another way that you can achieve balance. This application of shimmer draws attention in a way that is discreet and oh so flattering.

For those with fuller upper bodies

Shimmer on the lower half is a fantastic way to balance a fuller upper body. If this is you, try experimenting with a lustrous skirt or pair of evening pants. Silk and satin are excellent choices.  If you’re feeling extra bold, why not play with sequins? They can be tricky if you’re sitting down for a meal but if you’ll be on your feet, go for it.

Don’t forget your shapewear

Remember the shiny paint rule? If a surface isn’t smooth, sparkle will magnify bumps and distract the eye from the overall picture. This is when shapewear steps in to even out curves and lay a firm foundation for shimmery fun. Wear the clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you, right?

Fool-proof ways to add shimmer to your wardrobe

Even if you don’t have a big need for evening attire, having some things at the ready for those times you do need something extra special means you won’t have to think about it when the occasion arises. Having something on standby eliminates stress associated with formal occasions.


When worn around our neck and on our earlobes, shimmer draws the eye to our smile which is the ultimate goal. On our wrist, it adds sparkle and interest in a way that any woman can incorporate. In these particular applications, it will always be attractive.


Every woman can add a metallic shoe to her wardrobe with great success. Many of us are past the stiletto heel stage (and our backs are thanking us!), but nearly every type of shoe is available in a metallic finish: sneakers, flip-flops, ballet flats, brogues and more. Playing with eye-catching footwear is a fun way to make every day a special occasion.

Silk scarves and pashminas

There nothing quite like the lustre of silk, by day or by night. When the colour is spot on, your face will positively glow. Silk is luxurious fabric and it lasts if it is well cared for. (More on maintenance next week!) I’ve never regretted investing in silk scarves. I have some that are over 30 years old.

Investing in exquisite pashminas is a guaranteed way to make your skin glow. If you choose one with a metallic thread woven through, it can make you immediately feel dressed up. Pashminas are the epitome of timeless functional beauty. They transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Evening bags

If you have not yet invested in a (small) shimmery evening bag, treat yourself! I’m not one to suggest you run out and shop but nothing destroys an elegant silhouette like a big everyday handbag. Every woman needs an evening bag. Bite the bullet and have fun finding something fabulous.

If you have a preference for cool colors and wear a lot of black, grey, navy or red, you will never go wrong with something in a silver application. If you are drawn to warm ivory, camel, rusts and browns, opt instead for something in gold or bronze.

To recap

  1. Use shimmer strategically. It’s a powerful optical force. The goal is for YOU to sparkle.

  2. Balance is key. Pay attention to the complete look.

  3. Remember the shiny paint principle. This will avoid visual distractions.

  4. Prep surfaces like a pro. Remember your shapewear.

  5. When in doubt, accessorize. Jewelry, footwear, scarves, and evening bags are always a terrific fit.

There you have it! How do you like to wear shimmer?