How to dress for your body shape.

Have you ever been so excited to get a pair of jeans you ordered online only to be uber disappointed when they arrive and don’t fit? How could they look this bad? They were so cute on the model and she was even pretty close to your size. You think, “What is happening here?”

Well, it all comes down to body shape, not just size. 

Body shape is actually very important when it comes to filling up your closet with the clothes you look amazing in. We all want that hourglass figure, the perky chest we once had, and the height of the most popular supermodel at the time, and just because that’s not our reality doesn’t mean we can’t dress for the body shape we have, highlight our best attributes, and look like a million bucks!

Let’s go over a few things that you’ll want to know as you determine your body shape and what clothes to look for that fit your shape.

What do the body measurements mean?

Body measurements are the proportions of your body in relation to your shoulder, bust, waist, and hip. These measurements will determine if your shape is rectangular, oval/apple, inverted triangle, triangle/pear, or hourglass. There are lots of descriptions for these shapes but these are good to get a visual for this article. You might fall into more than one body shape category if your measurements are very close, and if that’s the case you’ll want to take both body shapes into consideration when shopping and styling yourself. Your body shape also might change over time. I’m sure you’ve noticed that your body shape looks different after you’ve had babies than it did just after puberty. The female body is designed to accommodate these changes. A very common thing that happens as we age is weight gain/weight loss. As you experience this your body shape, and measurements will change.

What is the most common body type?

The most common female body type is an inverted triangle or pear shape. This body shape is characterized by a larger hip, with a narrow bust, and subtle waist definition. Which isn’t surprising when we consider that the female body is designed for childbirth. Our hips are designed to allow us to give life to humans. If you’ve had babies you’ll likely have wider hips than you did before having those babies. That’s a beautiful thing, not one to minimize.

What is the rarest body type?

The hourglass body shape is the rarest body shape as it requires equal bust/shoulder and hip proportions with a dramatically smaller waist size. Isn’t it interesting that the shape we all are coveting is actually the rarest of them all? There is no body shape that is superior to another. Body shapes are ever changing and each shape has features that are beautiful and worth highlighting.

How to take measurements to determine your body shape.

In order to accurately determine your body shape we need to take some measurements. It’s a quick and painless process, and you’ll want to grab these items before you start:

  1. Fabric tape measure: Grab one on amazon or your local fabric store.
  2. Fitted clothes:  A sports bra is best for the top, avoid any padding in the sports bra, and I find leggings or yoga pants work well for bottoms.
  3. Pen & paper to write down your numbers or grab my FREE body shape tracker here.

Time: It only takes about 10 minutes to do and can be done by yourself or you may need someone to help you to get accurate measurements.

So, how do you measure yourself accurately?

Shoulders – measure from the top of one shoulder all the way around

Bust – measure the fullest part of your bust. Make sure to hold the tape measure tight but not so taut that you squash your bust so you get a smaller measurement than you should.

Waist – measure around the smallest part of your waist, usually just above your belly button.

Hips – start at one hip and wrap the tape measure all the way around at the widest part.

Now, I totally understand if the thought of writing down your measurements gives you a slight heart attack, no problem, you can easily figure out your shape by looking in the mirror and knowing what you’re seeing. You’ll want to be wearing form fitting clothing just as if you’re writing them down so you can really see your shape.

How to determine your body shape without writing it down.

Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders square with the mirror and your feet shoulder width apart. Take a quick snapshot with your phone so you can easily clarify your shape. 

These are the things you will need to know:

→What is the widest part of your body- bust, waist, or hips? 

→Is your waist defined? Does it appear noticeably smaller or larger than the widest part of your body? 

→Where do you tend to gain weight easily? This can be a good indication of where you hold your weight and what body shape category is dominant. 

→Are your tops generally the same size as your bottoms? Or are you a small on top and a large on the bottom or vice versa? This will give you a good idea of what shape you are.

What does this all mean?

Now that you have a good idea of your shape, what does it mean? Knowing your body shape is an important tool to have so you can more easily find the clothing that highlights the good attributes of your body. Use this information to make the best decisions on styles and design as you shop. Remember, there’s no body shape that is better than another, only better styling information for your body shape.

Apple or Oval Body Shape

If you have an oval or apple body shape you:

  • Will have a waist that is equal to, or greater than your bust and hip measurements 
  • Will have have no definition in your waist 
  • (generally) have a larger bust 
  • Weight tends to form on the stomach first

If your waist is larger than your bust, waist, or hips by about 2 inches, you probably have a circle body shape.

Dressing the circle body shape:

This body shape goes by many names: circle, oval, and apple.  It can be one of the trickier body shapes to style because you want pieces that draw the attention away from your midsection and ideally elongate your entire frame.  

To do this, separate more structured pieces will be helpful.  Blouses and skirts, separate tops and bottoms. Empire waists and wrap styles in dresses will also help define your waist and will look more balanced. You can also look for tops that draw attention to your cleavage, instead of your stomach, if you’re comfortable with this. Also, jewelry and accessories that draw the eye upward and away from your stomach.

Avoid boxy cuts or anything with a lot of embellishment along the waistline. Choose longer shirts that go past the waistline. Longer jackets and cardigans will help draw the eye vertically and help this body shape. 

Celebs with a circle body shape: Queen Latifah, Amy Schumer, and Jennifer Hudson.

Triangle Body Shape (or pear body shape)

If you have a triangle body shape you:

  • Will have hips that are larger than your bust/shoulders 
  • Have a waist that is defined and smaller than your hips 
  • tend to gain weight in your hips, butt, and thighs
  • may have narrow shoulders

The triangle body shape consists of a larger hip measurement and a smaller waist and bust/shoulders measurement.  As a general rule for this shape, the hip measurement is at least 2 inches larger than your shoulders, or at least 4 in. larger than your bust.

Dressing the triangle body shape:

When dressing the triangle body shape we want to highlight our small waists and minimize the attention on our lower half.  While it is great to have those curves, the most flattering outfits create a feeling of balance. 

Avoid having tops that end right at your hips, or anything that has volume around your hips like a ruffle or a bell effect, as that will make your body feel unbalanced.  Puff sleeve blouses are a great option to help add some volume to your shoulders. Off-the-shoulder dresses and tops can achieve this as well. 

Fit-and-flare dresses work well for this body type. High-rise pants are your friend, as are straight-leg pants. Choose a roomier bottom that doesn’t draw attention to your larger hips and more form fitted waists.

Celebs with triangle body shape: J Lo, Beyonce, and Kim Kardashian (although she does a lot to try and look more hourglass!)

Inverted triangle body shape

If you have an inverted triangle body shape :

  • Your shoulders and bust are wider than your hips
  • You gain weight in your upper body/bust first 
  • You don’t have a lot of waist definition
  • A smaller butt, hips,and legs
  • prominent shoulders.

For this body type, your shoulder and bust measurements will be larger than your hip measurement.  In order to quickly assess this, your shoulder measurement will be at least 4 inches bigger than your hip measurement.  Or, if you go by your bust measurement then your bust will be about 2 inches larger than your hips.

Dressing an Inverted Triangle Body Shape:

Anything with a nipped-in waist will help balance out your body shape. A high waist belt, fitted jackets, flares, or anything with a higher rise.  Avoid tops with large shoulder details especially when paired with skinny bottoms. Wrap tops and dresses also work well as they help accentuate the waist while not hugging your bottom half.

The goal with this body shape is to add some waist definition and add the illusion of curves to your bottom half.

Celebs with inverted triangle shape:

Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie, and Demi Moore

Rectangular Body Shape

If you have a rectangle body shape you:

  • Will have a bust, waist, and hips that are almost equal
  • have little to no definition in your waist 
  • don’t have a lot of curves
  • Will likely have a bust that tends to be small or average

The rectangle body shape is also called the “athletic” body shape and has a roughly equal size bust, waist, and hips.  For this body shape, your waist measurement will be less than 8 inches different from your hips and shoulder.

Dressing the rectangular body shape:

The rectangular body shape is very flexible because of the balanced proportions between the shoulders and hips.  Our goal with this shape is to add some definition to the waist and to add the illusion of more curves.  Boat necklines can help broaden your shoulders, paired with wide legs. This will create a more narrow waist.

Embellished dresses also work well. They highlight the waist while also adding some volume to the shoulders and hips. 

Try to avoid boxy cuts and anything that is too straight up and down.  High-rise bottoms and belts will help define your waist and give the illusion of an hourglass shape.

Celebs with rectangle body shape:

Natalie Portman, Lara Spencer, Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, and Kate Middleton.

Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, and Kate Middleton.

Hourglass Body Shape

If you have an hourglass body shape:

  • Your bust/shoulders are about equal in measurements with your hips
  • You have a very well defined (narrow) waist
  • You most likely have a larger bust and butt

In order to determine if you have an hourglass body shape, you should look for your waist measurement to be at least 8 in less than your shoulders/bust/hips.  

Plus, your hips and shoulders should be within 5% of each other.

How to dress an hourglass body shape:

The hourglass body shape is very coveted because of the balanced proportions and well-defined waist. 

High-waist wide-leg trousers will be extremely flattering for this body shape.  As well as fitted tops that cinch in at the waist. You want to make sure tops fit your bust and waist well.

Boxy items aren’t flattering to this shape because they can make you appear larger, as it eliminates your waist and only highlights the larger portions of your body. While, low-rise pants can overly-accentuate your hips without any waist definition. Pencil skirts work very well with this body shape, but they look best if they hit above your knee.

Wrap tops and dresses draw attention to your petite waist and curves well.  High-rise bottoms also highlight your figure, however it can be hard to find jeans that fit properly and are not too big around your waist.

Celebs with hourglass body shape:

Blake Lively, Christina It can be all too easy to compare yourself to a friend or celebrity.

However, determining your own body shape can really help you to dress for YOU, without trying to emulate anyone else.

Understanding your body type and how to highlight your best attributes will make getting dressed everyday and loving your body so much easier.

Remember, it is important to know that your body shape changes.  Depending on what measurements you use, your age, and where you gain weight your body shape can fall into two categories. 

You will see this if you use your bust measurement versus your shoulder measurements. So don’t get discouraged if your shape isn’t what you want it to be. You might just need some help making sure you’ve gotten the right numbers. 

If you fall generally into two body shapes, and you’re just not sure which one is best, take notes from both body shapes and try things on.  You will know which one is correct when you put clothes on, because the clothes will make your body feel balanced and proportionate.  

Knowing your body type is not about changing how you look, in fact, it is about leaning into your body shape’s strengths to highlight your ideal silhouettes. Knowing the different kinds of fabrics, colors, and styles that are right for you, make getting dressed so much less stressful and way more fun.