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How to know what your body shape is

Knowing and understanding your body shape is key to building a beautiful wardrobe that works for you, and to avoiding the frustration that comes with wanting what will never be "right" for you. Spending your clothing dollars wisely means selecting pieces that help you look and feel your best, as well as avoiding trends that will not enhance either your looks or personality. Here, we will discuss how to know what your body shape is, and provide a few simple tips for you to consider when you dress the body you have.

The fruit salad conundrum

You will have heard of some figures described as "pear shaped," and in fact there are other fruit terms applied to other body types. Some fashion writers and body-positivity activists don't prefer this custom, saying it is reductive and objectifying. Personally, I think it is fabulous! Think about fruit—it's generally pretty, fragrant and healthful. There's no "bad" fruit, and I believe that is a great metric for body comparisons! A person might a preference, but all fruits have a place in the bowl, just like all bodies have a place in fashion.

Determining your body shape

If you have a good eye and a reliable full-length mirror, you may be able to decide on your body shape simply by casting a critical eye over yourself. Wearing your underthings, look at your figure. Do you carry weight in your hips and thighs, or your mid-section? Do you have strong swimmer's shoulders that are wider than your hips? Is your figure well balanced with a smaller waist, like that of Marilyn Monroe or Ashley Graham? Is your torso straight up-and-down, with little variation in your bust, waist and hip lines?

If you don't trust your eye, a measuring tape—the soft kind used for home sewing—can provide the specific information you need to determine your body shape. Measurements will tell you the bald truth about which are the widest or narrowest parts of your body.

Simply put, these are the basic body shapes, although there are further variations:

  • Banana: Little difference between the bust, waist and hip measurements. This is a straight figure, and many people with this shape are slender.
  • Apple: Generally, carrying your mass in your bust or midsection while your legs and arms remain relatively slim means you have an apple shape.
  • Pear: In contrast to the apple, pears carry weight in their hips and thighs, so their hips are noticeable wider than their shoulders. Even slim women can have this shape.
  • Hourglass (this isn't a fruit, though!): This body shape is a classic balanced bust and hip with a smaller waist.

Know your body shape, dress your body shape

Once you have determined your body shape, you may want to consider the best way to enhance your figure to help you look and feel your best. We encourage you to shop for versatile, flattering clothing you will enjoy wearing over and over again.

  • Banana: To dress this body shape, you have two main options. You can lean into your slim figure and choose elegant sheath dresses and cigarette pants that look especially good on trim, straight figures, or you can create volume and definition to fudge a curvier look. A great bra and a peplum jacket can create an hourglass where there was none before! Color blocking to define your body, and the judicious use of belts will maximize a banana figure, too.
  • Apple: Balance a larger midsection with puff or flutter sleeves, and look for tops and dresses with details between the shoulder and bust line. Empire waist dresses and tops work for an apple shape, as do longer, shawl-collar jackets and cardigans. Mentally divide your body into thirds and try to focus attention to the top and bottom thirds to create visual balance.
  • Pear: Since we're in the age of the "booty," you have to option to show off your assets! If you want to achieve balance, consider a fitted bottom, such as skinny jeans or a pencil skirt, worn with a blazer or cardigan over your top. Deep V-necks are great for this shape, as are fit-and-flare dresses!
  • Hourglass: To make the most of your shape, consider drawing attention to your waist with wrap dresses and belts. Fitted deep-V or scoop-neck tees that fall to hip bone level will show your natural shape. Generally, most dresses and skirts look great on an hourglass figure, although sheath styles may be challenging.

Dressing the body you have

Do remember to have fun! No body shape precludes you from wearing any single piece, you just may have to have it tailored or style it carefully. You deserve to wear what makes your heart sing! It's okay to dress the body you have in the pieces you love. At the same time, when you know what your body shape is, you can make informed and considered choices about what to add to your wardrobe to make it as comfortable, attractive and flexible as possible. If you purchase too many aspirational or "just because" garments, you will end up feeling frustrated and not great about yourself or your shape. Think over our tips as you build your everyday wardrobe to achieve maximum versatility with clothing that helps you look and feel your best about the body you have.

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