How to dress for your body shape

How to dress for your body shape

Women come in all shapes and sizes but let's try and keep it down to 5 key shapes.

Generally they are referred to below.  Try and think about your shape and where you might fit.

  • Hourglass
  • Inverted triangle
  • Pear
  • Rectangle
  • Apple

Characteristics of the hourglass:

  • Well defined waist
  • Hip and bust tend to be similar.


Upper body

  • A good bra is essential (this applies for almost everybody). Make sure you get a good supportive bra, it's amazing how many women don't get fitted properly.  V-shaped tops will be the most suitable. High necklines will just make your bust area too bulky.
  • Look for dresses that fit your bust and accentuate your waist. They should fit snugly and follow your curves.
  • If you have some weight around the tummy then make sure your buy your dress in supportive fabric or wear a body shaping dress underneath.
  • T-shirts look best when they fit your waist.  Some extra shoulder detail is good too.
  • When you buy a coat or jacket make sure that it highlights your waist.
  • Wear single-breasted jackets that are tailored. They will often look best when left open to create a nice vertical line.
  • Choose shirts that enhance your bustline and that have a nice open neckline.  Don't button up to the top.
  • Tops that are pleated or gathered just below the bustline and are longer in length are flattering over pants.
  • Slightly fitted jackets that shape over your bustline will look really good.
  • Use scarves in the cooler months to cover your open neckline
  • Wear darker colours on top to make your bust appear smaller (if you want to)

Lower body

  • Straight skirts that fit well are best for the hourglass as they fit and flatter your curves
  • Just make sure your skirts end around the knee
  • Go for flat front pants in stretch fabrics, again to showcase your curves.
  • Shoes like peep toes, open toes or highlighted with bows are also good.

What not to wear

  • Don't add frills, you don't need the extra.
  • Avoid voluminous styles for the same reason.
  • Avoid belts and let your clothes do the talking.
  • Flat lace-up shoes, but why would you?
  • Be careful with casual clothes. The same rules still apply so don't wear baggy ones.


Characteristics of the inverted rectangle are:

  • Shoulders are wider than the hip
  • Bust tends to be proportionally large
  • Hips are small


Upper body

  • Create vertical lines with vertical stripes
  • Open necklines and collars, like halternecks
  • Wear soft feminine textures to soften the shoulder line
  • Avoid extra width and wear single breasted tailored jackets
  • Wear jackets open to create a vertical line
  • Look for tops that will accentuate the waist, like tops with banding or nipping at the waist or wrap style tops
  • Wear tops that accentuate a vertical line, so go for V-necks and keep your shirts unbuttoned
  • Also find tops that balance the bust with your hips (if you have a large bust)
  • Wear tops just below the hip bone
  • Wear a darker colour on top
  • Wear strapless gowns and tops
  • Use belts to define your waist even more

Lower body

  • Create more width below with A-line or full skirts
  • Use bold textures to create more bulk
  • Horizontal stripes will make the lower body wider,
  • Fuller leg width in trousers, full or bootleg pants
  • Have pockets or embelishments on your trousers or skirts
  • Wear bold and eye catching shoes

What not to wear

  • Avoid shoulder pads or anything that accentuates the shoulders
  • Boat necks
  • Horizontal lines on top
  • Avoid oversized collars or lapels on jackets
  • Tapered skirts

Characteristics of the rectangle are:

  • No defined waist
  • The hips tend to have a similar width as the shoulders
  • You do not have a lot of curves
  • Your bust tends to be small or average

This is one of the easier body types for dressing. Many models tend to have this body shape. Many clothes will usually suit you and fit you well, although some of the taller rectangles may have trouble finding clothes that fit properly. However, many rectangles will get extra weight around their tummies as they age (usually after menopause) which will make dressing a bit more of a challenge.

With your clothes you will mostly want to create more curves and a great silhouette. You can do this by defining the waist and creating curves on the bottom or top. On the other hand, you can also get away with a straight look and surrender the waist line altogether, which is a look that I’m quite fond of.

What not to wear?

  • Avoid shapeless clothes
  • If you want to add curves then avoid straight dresses, but you can also opt for the waistless look!

Which garments are good for a rectangle body shape?


  • Use strong blocks of colour to help define your body
  • As for most body types, be sure to wear a good bra to define what bust you have
  • Wear tops and jackets that emphasize the waist
  • Choose a coat with a good waist or that is belted at the waist
  • Any jacket tailored around the waist will look great
  • You can use some shoulder padding (don’t overdo it though)
  • Medium to high necklines usually work well, especially if you have s small bust and long neck
  • If you like to create the illusion of bigger breasts, choose tops with pockets, rushes, pleating and other front details
  • Halter necks will also give the appearance of a bigger bust and shows off your back
  • Accessorize with belts around the waist. Heavy belts can be really good if you’re also long waisted
  • Blouses can look really good if they are tucked in


  • A-line skirts work really well for this shape
  • You can also go the other way and wear a tight skirt or pants to highlight the curves that you DO have
  • You can wear almost any shape trousers but slightly flared trousers will look great on you as it will add more shape to your body
  • A knee length pencil skirt that tapers in at the side will also add some curves and look good
  • If you like the waistless look you can opt for straight skirts and shirt dresses

Characteristics of the pear:

  • The hips are wider than the shoulder
  • Fat tends to accumulated on the hips and buttocks

The aim of dressing for your body type is to achieve a flattering look that accentuates your strengths. In general you will want to achieve a nice hourglass shape. In order to achieve that you will accentuate the shoulders, draw attention to your upper body and waist and elongate the legs. Please note that these are some general guidelines as everybody is different.

How to dress for you pear body shape?

Pears tend to store their weight on their thigh and their legs may be heavy. Often they have a very good upper body which is why much on the emphasis in dressing is on the upper side of the body.

What not to wear?

  • Skinny jeans (can be worn with some tunics or A line long tops)
  • Pencil skirts
  • Bias cut skirts
  • Very short skirts

Which garments are good for a pear body shape?

  • Since your hips are a lot wider than your shoulders you want to emphasize the shoulders and widen them. So it’s actually good for pears when shoulder pads are back in fashion!  Puffy shoulders will work too. Always make sure that the shoulders are properly fitted.
  • To give the impression of longer legs and a shorter torso you can wear a a few layered tops with one very short, like a short jacket. This well break up your enlongated torso and give the illusion of longer legs. You can see an example of this in the left image at the top.
  • Wear trousers that are not too tight or light. Boot leg trousers are very good for pears.
  • Wear something catchy on top. Either a catchy colour or some nice detail on your top.
  • Use accessories to further emphasize the top
  • Waist belts will look good on you as they emphasize your small waist
  • Make sure that your trousers or skirt are the darkest part of your outfit.
  • Wear structured A shaped coats of knee length
  • Wear a good bra
  • A line dresses will always look good on you. See middle and right picture above. The dress on the right is particularly good as it has clearly defined shoulders and a good a line.
  • V line tops will draw further attention to your upper half
  • High boots are very flattering for your legs
  • Be careful with high shoes or shoes with ankle straps as they will shorten your legs
  • Wear heals with a bit of height to further elongate the legs

Characteristics of the apple

  • No defined waist
  • Weight tends to form on the stomach
  • Average bust size

This is a body shape that often develops after 40 when you start to experiences symptoms of (peri) menopause where many women experience the gain of weight around their waist.

To be honest this is not the easiest body shape to dress as many women with this shape will be well aware of. Some women tend to cover it all up with lose garments, which in most cases is not the right thing to do. But the fact is that you can look extremely good if you are wearing the right clothes! What you DO want to do is create the illusion of a waist and a silhouette, highlight your cleavage and create nice vertical lines.

Below are some rough guidelines what will and will not work for many apple shaped women over 40.

What not to wear?

  • Big puffa jackets
  • Big shapeless garments that don’t show any waist
  • Bulky trousers with lots of pockets and zippers at the front
  • High necklines
  • Tight clingy T-shirts
  • Avoid wearing everything in one solid colour. Better to mix colour with a texture


  • First of all, since a lot of attention is going to be drawn to the top part of your body, get yourself a good fitting bra.
  • Tops that highlight your body at the slimmest point which is often just underneath your bust. They should have enough space for your belly but not be too wide.
  • Buy t-shirts that are ruched in the middle. This will confuse the eye and you can’t tell that there’s a big tummy underneath.
  • Get Tops with a V-neck to break up the size of your chest and create a lean line.
  • Look for tops with a thicker texture that don’t cling so much. Woven tops can be great.
  • Patterns tend to look very good on a apple shape body as they flatter and camouflage.
  • Tops should cover the whole belly area and end just below the hip bone.
  • Shirts look nicest when they are tight just underneath the boobs and then go out. Also try to get the v shape with your shirts.
  • Choose tailored jackets that have a nice v shape at the top.
  • Having a tie at the waist is great as it highlights the waist and hides the belly.
  • A straight duster coat that ends just above the knee will create a nice long silhouette.
  • Make sure that the jacket fits the shoulder perfectly, so choose the size for your shoulders, not your belly. If you can’t close the jacket, you can always use a scarf to fill the gap if you like.
  • Dresses should have their waistline just below the bust.
  • It’s always good to have some detailing on the tummy area for camouflage.


  • Get pants that have zippers at the side to avoid adding extra bumps on the front.
  • Pants should be wide or straight and not cling to tummy or thighs.
  • Also choose jeans that are tailored and wide legged.
  • It’s best to get pants with some stretch for extra comfort and a good fit.
  • Choose skirts that have their zippers at the side.
  • Make sure that any pleats of skirts start below the tummy to avoid adding extra volume.
  • From under the tummy skirts should hang straight.



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