Do you have a boss, co-worker, or BFF whose style you admire and wonder how she does it?!
A surefire way to becoming an instant corporate fashionista is to understand how to dress your body type. There are five basic body types: hourglass, triangle, inverted triangle, oval, and rectangle. (Note: I am choosing to reference geometric shapes for consistency purposes, but feel free to use common fruit names or otherwise.) You and I, both have some variation of one of these common body types, regardless of weight or height.
It is easy to feel some style anxiety when it comes to dressing your body type, especially when you start factoring into the equation all of the wonderful (yet fashion challenged!) parts that make our bodies so unique, such as different shaped and length torsos, busts, arms, shoulders, legs, derrières…the list goes on and on.
Today, let’s simplify the process and focus on the bigger picture, by learning the science behind dressing your general body type – measuring from your bustline to your hips. It is the crux to great style.
Here is a style guide to dressing your body type I’ve created for you, to use as reference, so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed, like you’re trying to fit a ‘square peg in a round hole’, and instead learn how to play up your shape & flatter your figure, once and for all:
An hourglass body type is considered the ‘ideal’. Why? Because an hourglass shape distributes weight equally between the upper and lower trunk of the body with a well defined waist at its center (ie. the busts and hips are basically the same size), and the collective ‘we’ find symmetry visually appealing. Think about when you’re trying to decorate a fireplace mantel or note the dual nightstands flanking the sides of your bed – the end pieces don’t have to be an identical match, but there does need to be an overall visual balance for it to be considered a decorating success. Dress your body type using the same styling principals.
It may surprise you to know that an hourglass body shape is not necessarily any easier to dress or to find flattering clothes for over other body types. This is mainly due to the standardized fit models most designers use when creating a fashion collection. What should you wear if you’ve got an hourglass shape? Focus on pieces than enhance your natural curvy shape, such as fitted sheath dresses, pencil skirts, v-neck tops, and slim fit pants. Look for garments with figure flattering panels, seaming or piping details too.
Without a doubt, there are varying personal preferences when it comes to body types, but for this exercise, we will focus on the fundamentals of body-type styling, and the symmetrical hourglass shape will be the target type.
HOURGLASS SHOPPING IDEAS:
A triangle body type, commonly referred to as pear shape, is when the lower trunk of the body (aka. hips) is wider and disproportionate to the upper region (aka. bustline). Plus, it’s got a defined waistline.
The question becomes, “How do you get a triangle to look like an hourglass?”…
…by redirecting visual attention away from the hips, and towards the upper body, to create body balance. There are a variety of ways to achieve this with your clothing and accessories, such as wearing a v-neck or scoop neckline, shoulder design details, a statement necklace, a colorful top and neutral bottoms, plus strategically placed and/or designed prints and patterns.
TRIANGLE SHOPPING IDEAS:
An inverted triangle body type has the exact opposite proportions to the triangle body shape. In this case, the upper body (aka. bustline) is wider and disproportionate to the lower trunk region (aka. hips). A waistline is still defined.
The question becomes, “How do you get an inverted triangle to look like an hourglass?”…
You got it! By redirecting attention away from the upper body, and towards the lower region (aka. hips). There are multiple ways to achieve this with your clothing and accessories. For example, wearing an a-line skirt or one with strategically placed design panels, even putting on eye-catching shoes will do the trick, or pairing a solid top with printed pants or a skirt.
INVERTED TRIANGLE SHOPPING IDEAS:
An oval body type, commonly referred to as apple shape, is when the body has a thick mid-section which extends beyond the circumference of the bustline and hips, preventing a waistline from being clearly defined.
The question becomes, “How do you get an oval shape to look like an hourglass?”…
…by creating the illusion of a well-defined waistline, and, thereby, obtaining visual balance between the upper and lower trunk of the body. There are several ways to achieve this with your clothing and accessories, such as wearing a dress that has built in panels to create a narrowed waistline, strategically placed patterns and prints, and, of course, a tried-and-true favorite, belts.
OVAL SHOPPING IDEAS:
A rectangle body type, also referred to as a banana, athletic, boyish, or straight shape, is similar to the oval body type in that a waistline is not clearly defined, but the difference is the mid-section is basically the same circumference as the busts and hips.
The question becomes, “How do you get a rectangle to look like an hourglass?”…
That’s right! Once again, you must create the illusion of a well-defined waistline and bring visual balance between the upper and lower trunk of the body. There are several ways to achieve this with your clothing and accessories, such as wearing a curve-enhancing blazer, or even a cropped jacket over a top or dress, a slim fit top paired with a full skirt, and a narrow belt worn, directly, at the center of the waistline.
RECTANGLE SHOPPING IDEAS:
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What are your challenges in dressing your body type?
Image credit: All images via Barneys New York – Stella McCartney blue dress, Givenchy green dress, Alexander Wang burgundy dress, Stella McCartney black dress, and Barneys New York white dress. Graphics by Kristina Moore for Corporate Fashionista.