“The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.” —Hubert de Givenchy
Sage advice from one of the best designers who ever lived. However, ladies, how many times have we done just the opposite of this? (I just raised my hand here.) Control top hose, shapers, corsets, butt lifters, breast lifters, thigh squeezers… what if we stopped the madness and learned to dress for our body type? What if the dress followed our shape, instead of the dress demanding we conform to it?
Let’s look at four basic body types: the pear, the apple, the rectangle and the hourglass.
First, the pear (or triangle, as it’s sometimes called), is characterized by having a narrower upper body and shoulders with more fullness in the lower abdomen and hips. Often, these gals wear a larger size in bottoms than in tops. Next is the apple (or inverted triangle), which is wider through the shoulder and abdomen. She has slimmer arms and legs, and usually takes a larger top than bottoms. The rectangle body shape is defined by being the same measurement in the shoulders as the hips, with little definition in the waist, and her clothing sizes for both top and bottom are generally the same. Finally, there is the hourglass shape. Her shoulders and hips are more or less the same measurements, but her waist and bust are very defined, and her bottom is round.
To find your shape, stand in your skivvies and look in the mirror. Move your arms and legs out slightly. Look—but don’t judge. Which form do you see? Got it? Ok, now let’s get dressed.
Here’s your best look for your shape: keep the attention on the top and bottom thirds of your body to draw attention away from your midsection. Go for blouses that have soft shoulders and are not too structured, and look for V-neck or scoop neck blouses and sweaters to accentuate your bust, drawing attention away from the midriff. Pair your top with bootcut or flare leg pants, or a skirt that hits just at the knee for the most flattering line. Finally, avoid dresses with belts or those that nip in too much at the waist as this will accentuate your midsection.
Lucky you, hourglass—you have a defined waist, so play it up! Tailored clothing is your friend. Use belts to complement your waistline as well as dresses that curve in at the midsection without much fuss—a wrap dress is perfect for you. V-neck blouses will accentuate your bust, and you should pair it with an A-line or pencil-cut skirt or pants with a slight flare. Most hourglass figures have naturally full hips and busts. Avoid fussy tops with ruffles, straight-cut dresses and skinny jeans as these looks will tend to make you look frumpy
Rectangular body types tend to be long and lean with a smaller bust and hips and little definition in the waist. To appear curvier, look for details that enhance your natural attributes. For example, a belt at the waist, a padded pushup bra or embellishments on the bust of your blouse will improve your silhouette. Skinny jeans are great for you, as well as skirts that end well above the knee and show off your long legs. Sometimes women with rectangular body shapes tend to wear baggy clothing in an attempt to create curves, but this can result in an unkempt appearance. Avoid baggy sweats, boxy jackets and shapeless dresses.
Overall, you want to create a balanced look when dressing. To achieve this with a pear body shape, first make sure that you have a well-fitting bra that will lift and enhance your bust. Next, choose a top that accentuates your shoulders so that your top and bottom are more in sync, but be sure that your top or jacket ends either above or below the fullest part of your hips. Next, don’t narrow your legs. Go for straight-cut pants to lengthen the look of your legs and create balance. Avoid flare legs as they can make your legs look heavy.
Once you know your body type and adopt a few simple tips to dress your best, shopping will be a breeze. Remember, the dress fits you, you don’t fit the dress. Use clothing to accentuate your best attributes, and love yourself, no matter your body type. You are not just your shape—you are uniquely, beautifully you.