Top tips on what styles of clothes to choose to flatter your shape.
Knowing what basic body shape you have can be a revelation! Clients often have an ‘ah, that’s why I’m not so keen on that style then’ moment once we’ve worked out their shape. It can explain why certain cuts work better than others, why certain fabrics are more flattering or why a neckline, shoulderline, waistline, hemline and everything in between work well … or not!
That said, it’s not the only thing that makes a difference when it comes to choosing clothes. In fact, I always maintain that your style personality (your styling likes and dislikes) and personal brand (who you are and how you want to be perceived) should come top of the list. Ultimately your clothes should express what’s on the inside of you, on the outside and really tell your story. You should totally dress for YOU.
Things like your height (are you petite, average, tall?), scale (do you have a fine or broader bone structure?), proportions (how long or short you are in your body versus your legs?), and the intricacies of your figure in terms of how curvy or straight, long or short, wide or narrow certain parts of you are, (e.g. long v short neck, straight re sloping shoulders,
toned v full upper arms, fuller v smaller bust, round v flat bottom, broader v narrower thighs, fuller v narrower calves/ankles), also make a difference.
On top of all of this is what your clothes need to do for you – how you spend your time has a big baring on your clothing choices.
Working out your body shape is definitely a great place to start your style discovery journey though, so how do you go about it? Beth and I created the video below that talks you through how to work out your shape.
Essentially you are looking to see which bits of your body are straighter and which bits are curvier when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. The 2 key questions to ask yourself are:
- Are your shoulders and hips in alignment (ie you can draw an imaginary straight line between the two), or is one part wider than the other?
- How curvy are you at the waistline? Is there an obvious indentation here or do you have a straighter rib cage?
From this you should be able to identify your basic body shape from one of the 7 shown at the top of this post.
If your shoulders and hips are broadly in alignment you could be a rectangle, hourglass, lean column or apple. A rectangle and lean column will be straighter at the waist, an hourglass figure will have obvious shaping at the waist and the apple will carry fullness in this area.
If your shoulders are wider than your hips, you will be an inverted triangle and if your shoulders are narrower than your hips, then you are a pear.
So here are a couple of ‘top tips’ for each shape:
This will be you if your shoulders and hips are in alignment and you are generally straighter at the waistline, ie. don’t go in much at the waist.
- Bring the eye upwards to the bust or downwards to your hemline and legs (if you are average to tall) and don’t add detail at the waistline (e.g. no belts (unless soft/low slung), don’t tuck things in etc.).
- create an uncluttered silhouette by avoiding lots of frills and flounces and instead choose clothes that hang straight with gentle shaping (eg darting) at the waist.
This will be you if your shoulders and hips are in alignment and if you have an obvious waist. You may be a ‘neat hourglass’ with a smaller bust and bottom or a ‘fuller hourglass’ with a fuller bust and curvy bottom.
- show off your shape by choosing clothes and accessories (e.g. belts) that highlight the natural contours of your shape – we want to see that waist! Avoid boxy styles that will hide your waist.
- Think fabric, fabric, fabric if you are a fuller hourglass as softer, fluid fabrics will follow, not constrict, your curves. Starchy, rigid fabrics will hang/jut out from your curves and add unnecessary volume.
This will be you if you generally wear a smaller size on top compared to the bottom. You are likely to have a lovely waist (which may be high proportionally).
- Bring the eye upwards to your top half by making this more interesting than what you wear below the waist – colour, pattern, jewellery, scarves etc. are all a great way to achieve this.
- Create balance by adding width at the shoulderline (think boat necks, pintucks on sleeves etc) and/or adding width at the hemline (so things like softly flared skirts, wider leg trousers etc.)
This will be you if your shoulders are wider than your hips. You are the opposite to the Pear shape.
- Create balance by visually narrowing your shoulderline (e.g raglan sleeves, halter necks, narrow v necks etc.), and/or adding width at your hemline to balance your shoulders (eg dropped waist flared or A line skirt).
- Show off your hips and legs by adding details here, such as pockets, or by choosing slim fitting skirts/trousers paired with a top that visually narrows the shoulderline.
This will be you if your central torso (tummy area) is broader than your shoulders and hips. You may have more rounded shoulders and often have fab legs!
- Bring the eye upwards to your decolletage (accessories are great for you!) or downwards to your hemline (if average to tall).
- Styles that ‘hang from the shoulderline’ and flow past rather than stop at or highlight your waist work very well. Drapey styles in fabrics with fluidity (not stiff fabrics) are flattering.
This will be you if you have a straighter shape and are quite lean.
- Add curves by choosing styles that add volume to your bust and hips, such as ruffles, frills, pintucks, pussy bows, pockets etc.
- You will suit the stiffer rather than too drapey fabrics as they flatter your straighter shape.
As I have already said, it’s so true that everybody’s body is different. You may be a rectangle, which is generally a straighter shape, but have been blessed with a lovely curvy bust, for example. Or you may be a high waisted full hourglass who won’t want to wear belts as they would sit too high up on your torso. So whilst the tips that I’ve shared here are very helpful, they may not hold all the answers! It’s well worth investing in a style consultation to understand how to dress each part of you – from your shoulders, bust, waist, hips, bottom, legs, all the way down to your toes! Not only will it save you time, plus the angst in the changing room that comes from trying on styles that don’t flatter, but it will also save you wasting money on clothes that you don’t enjoy, or worst still, don’t wear.