One of the questions that comes up when I teach Proportions for EveryBody is about hem lengths. Often Knitters want to establish a couple of best hem lengths for all of their sweaters. I think this is a good idea in theory but in the real world fashion rules aren't quite so simple. Students often tell me they have followed the fashion pundits rules but the rules just didn't work for them. What I've noticed is that usually when something goes wrong it has to do with colour contrast, garment shape, pattern size, fabric texture or shine versus matte fabrications. All of these topics deserve a post of their own so I'll cover more on each topic separately later.
Recently we have experimented in class with these details to see how they interact. After establishing what we think is a good hem length point for a student in a black on black top and bottom we switch out the top to a high contrast colour of the same length and suddenly the top looks out of balance. If the high contrast top is boxy I pin in the side to establish a waist and wow all of a sudden the top looks to be the right length again. I take out the waist shaping, leave it boxy and fold up the hem 2 inches and it looks good at that length. So often it is just a little tweak that makes the garment look good on an individual.
A very petite student tells me she has a wrap dress in a solid colour that she feels great in. She recently bought the same style in a print and does not feel that it looks anywhere near as good. I ask about the print and it turns out to be a high contrast, large, bright motif on a white background. We discuss the fact that as a petite the silhouette may be perfect for her but it sounds like the print is fighting with her small proportions. This one is a harder fix but we talk about wearing the dress with a coordinating colour jacket to cut down on the overall visible amount of the print.
I have a jade green rayon sweater I made a number of years ago. I knew it would stretch in length so I shortened the knitting from my desired length to account for the stretch. It stretched even more! I thought about cutting it off and knitting a new edging down but I just didn't want to put the effort in. So I tried it on with a lot of different things instead of the white linen skirt I originally planned to wear it with. The only way it looks good on me is with slim trousers that are hemmed to wear with high heels. The extra 2 inches of leg length is just enough to balance the length of the sweater. I also aim for a medium to low contrast in colour with the trousers. After I wore it a few times I realized that if I tucked it a little on one side at the waist band of my pants I could turn the hem into a diagonal line that was more flattering.
So if you hate the sweater you just finished once it is on your body, try changing what you are wearing it with. Look carefully at the proportions, look at the colour contrast of the item you paired it with, think about the textures of the pieces, try a belt for shaping or a higher or lower heel. Don't just give up on it until you have experimented a little.