Learn Your Body Type and How to Dress for It
Show your curves some love by discovering what styles work best for you.
Do you wonder why some clothes look great in the store, but not on you? Or why your bestie can get away with styles you can’t? You may blame it on lousy store lighting, your weight or genes, but it’s probably because you’re not dressing for your body shape.
Our bodies generally fall into one of four shape categories — pear, hourglass, apple and rectangle — based on the proportions of your shoulders, bust, waist and hips. Keep in mind, one body type is not more desirable than another, and shape is not synonymous with size. For example, you can wear a size 4 and be a pear. Or you can be a 14 and be an hourglass.
The shape of your body determines which clothes look great on you and which ones look, um, less than flattering. So learning how to dress for your particular shape is crucial.
Bradley Bayou, fashion designer and author of The Science of Sexy, says the best way to learn your shape is to measure yourself and do a little math. According to Healthline, knowing your measurements can also be helpful when buying clothes in general. So grab a measuring tape, a calculator and your bestie to discover your body shape.
Shoulders: Have your friend measure the widest part of your shoulders. Place the measuring tape at the tip of one shoulder and wrap it around your body until it meets the same shoulder. The measuring tape should be so close to the top of your shoulders, it almost slips off.
Bust: Measure around the fullest part of your bust and back. The measuring tape should be snug, but not so tight that you squish your breasts.
Waist: Measure your natural waist (the smallest part of your waist), which is typically just above your belly button.
Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your hips and butt, usually below the hip bone.
Once you have your measurements, Bayou, who's dressed numerous celebrities including Oprah and Beyoncé, suggests using his formulas to learn your body shape.
This shape is also known as triangle. You have a pear shape if your hips are wider than your shoulders or bust.
Do the math: Your hip measurement is at least 5 percent larger than your shoulder or bust. For example, if your bust or shoulders measure 38 inches, then your hips are at least 40 inches.
What works: Silhouettes that highlight your waist, bust and neckline but provide the room you need for your curvy hips and bottom. Try scoop necks, deep V-necks, cropped or waist-length jackets, A-line dresses and skirts, maxis, boot-cut jeans, classic trouser fits and floor-grazing flared bottoms.
With this shape, your shoulders and hips measure almost the same and you have a very defined waistline.
Do the math: Your shoulder and hip measurements are within 5 percent of each other. Also, your waist measurement is at least 25 percent smaller than your shoulders, bust and hips. For example, if your shoulders and hips measure 38 inches, then your waist is 28 1/2 inches or smaller.
What works: Styles that accentuate your waist, highlight your neckline and embrace your curves. Try form-fitting knits, V-necks, fitted button-up shirts, fitted blazers, wrap dresses, fit-and-flare styles, belted waists, high-waisted skirts that hit right below the knee, high-waisted jeans, floor-grazing flared bottoms and regular-length skinny jeans and leggings.
With an apple shape, also known as an inverted triangle, your shoulders and bust are wider than your hips and your waist is not defined.
Do the math: Your shoulder or bust measurements are at least 5 percent bigger than your hips. For example, if your shoulders or bust measure 38 inches, then your hips are 36 inches or smaller.
What works: Styles that highlight your bust, legs or arms. Try A-line silhouettes, flowy tunics, V-necks, relaxed button-ups, vests and blazers that hit at the hip or upper thigh, miniskirts, knee-length shifts and sheaths, maxi dresses, wrap dresses, skinny jeans, flared and boot-cut pants and leggings.
You have a rectangle shape, sometimes called straight or athletic, if your shoulders, bust and hips are roughly the same size and your waist isn’t defined.
Do the math: Your shoulder, bust and hip measurements are within 5 percent of each other. Also, your waist is less than 25 percent smaller than your shoulders or bust. For example, if your shoulders, bust and hips measure 38, then your waist is 28 1/2 inches or larger.
What works: Styles with volume-adding details that highlight and draw attention to either your top or bottom half (you choose which one you want to play up!). Try halter styles, scoop necks, boat necks, strapless styles, belted styles, dusters, bomber jackets, flowy styles and ruffles. When wearing voluminous tops, go for skinny jeans, structured trousers and leggings, or add volume to your bottom with cargos and wide-leg pants.
As you explore dressing for your body shape, use these guidelines as a starting point, but remember they’re not written in stone. As a pear myself, I love (and dare say look good in) cargo pants, even though adding bulk to my bottom half is a no-no for my shape. Use some trial and error to discover what you like and what works for your beautiful shape and curves.