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Dressing for Your Body Shape

Understanding your body shape (and how to dress it best)

If you're anything like me then you have no time (or patience) for window shopping. Nope, when I go shopping for new clothes I go with purpose. With determination. And usually with a particular look in mind. It goes a little something like this:

  1. I see an outfit I'm positive would look even more fabulous on me.
  2. I scour clothing stores until I find exactly what I'm looking for then anxiously try them on in the poorly lit box of a dressing room.
  3. I'm ultimately disappointed/confused at just how not fabulous I look in the style I was sure I could rock.

If you share a similar experience, then the good news is there's hope to break the cycle. All it takes is a little understanding about body shape and how to pin point what exactly yours is. After that it's all about learning how to dress your shape to enhance your best assets – and help detract from the ones you're not so crazy about.

Identify your body type:

First thing's first: identifying your body type. Yes, we know how that sounds, after all, no one likes being described as a piece of fruit. But the truth is, knowing what body shape you are can eventually lead to you knowing what looks best on your body without even having to try clothes on. That little perk alone makes it worth it, don't you think?

And by body type we don't just mean knowing if you wear a petite vs. tall or regular or plus size pants. Body type is more about proportions and curves than it is whatever size happens to be in your waistband. Knowing your bust, waist and hip measurements can help determine what body shape you are but sometimes all you need to do is stand in front of a mirror. Not sure what we mean? Let's break it down.

Pear shape:

If your hips are even slightly larger than your bust or shoulders and the bottom half of your body is curvier than your upper body then you are considered a pear shape.


If your bust and hip measurements are roughly the same (give or take 5%) and your waist measures smaller than both then yours is an hourglass figure.


If your measurements are all somewhat equal, with your hips being the widest part of your body and most of your weight carried up top then it's an apple shape that you are looking to dress.

Rectangular (AKA Athletic):

If you're less than curvy with your hips, bust and shoulders measuring roughly equal (your waist would be slightly smaller) and your legs are on the longer side then you have a rectangular or athletic body shape.

How can knowing my body type help me dress better?

Simply put when you understand what you're working with you are more likely to wear clothes that highlight the best features about your body while creating straight lines and balancing out proportions. Trust me, it's not as hard as it sounds.

What to wear if you're a pear shape

To compliment your curves on bottom you'll want to wear pants that help create a straight line throughout like bootcut jeans or straight leg jeans that taper out from the thigh. And, since your upper body is slimmer than your bottom half, you'll need to work at creating some shape. Opt for flowy tunics and V-neck tops over fitted shirts whenever possible. Not only will they give the illusion of a longer torso but they'll also contribute to that straight line you're going for on the bottom.

What to wear if you're an hourglass

Show off your natural curves on top and bottom by dressing in clothing that is fitted without being tight. Straight leg pants look great on an hourglass whereas skinny jeans can make your hips look even wider. Find waist defining shirts and jackets that hit at your hip or a belted dress or cardigan to help define your waistline. Dressing proportionately for top and bottom is important with an hourglass figure as well. If you wear a bold pattern on top pair it with a dark solid on the bottom. Also avoid wearing tops with too much flare like ruffles or peplum. These features are there to help create shape where it's missing. So not your problem.

What to wear if you're an apple

With a fuller middle you'll want to avoid bulky fabrics that could make you look wider and opt for lighter, flowy fabrics (never clingy) instead. Tops that fall a little past the hips are preferred over ones that cut you at the waist. Even layering a longer sweater over a shorter shirt can do wonders for tops that otherwise seem to cut you off at the middle. Avoid square necklines that will make you look boxy and instead go for V-neck shirts or scoop necks to help elongate your torso. And, like a pear, skinny jeans or capri pants can tend to make your top half look larger than it is. Go for wide leg or bootcut pants instead to even out your proportions and create those long, lean lines that everyone loves.

What to wear if you have an athletic body shape

Athletic or rectangular body shapes are usually described as straight up and down and need assistance creating curve appeal. Avoid shapeless tops and sweaters and instead look for added details like ruffles, princess seams or puffy sleeves to add some width and dimension to your upper body. Add definition to your waistline with high-waisted pants or tucking a fitted shirt into a pencil skirt or skinny jeans.

Loving your body shape isn't hard when you know how to dress it. Follow these tips for what styles work best for your shape and put an end to disappointing shopping trips today!