What to wear and How To Dress According To Your Body Type - Style Guides

By 1 Updated at 2021-09-29 23:27:46 +0000


Chances are you may have a couple of pieces of clothing, or possibly more, in your closet that you never wear. They may still even have the tags attached. You were excited when you saw them online or purchased them in the store but once you got them home, you weren't so in love with them anymore.


What happened? One of the likely reasons for this is that they just don't fit you correctly. You may have chosen those jeans or that shirt because they're the new trendy style and look great on the model, but in reality, they’re not great for you. 

Why? Well, it could be you’re trying to wear something that’s just not quite right for your body type. This guide for dressing for your body type will help you choose the clothes that look flattering on you.. not the model or your friend or your sister, but for you. 

Instead of buying a lot clothing items that are just okay, buy a few that are perfect and that will easily mix with other pieces. We'll provide some style tips here based on your unique measurements.  

How To Dress UP - Complete Guide

While there are many different body shapes, most women fall somewhere in the following five shapes:

• Hourglass

• Pear

• Apple

• Inverted Triangle

• Rectangle

Remember, body shape is almost entirely based on your bone structure and not on your weight. Your fit/size is your proportion as in regular, petite, tall, or plus. Since most of us fluctuate in weight, we can easily go between two body types if we tend to gain weight in one specific area. You could be an hourglass leaning toward a pear shape, or a rectangle leaning toward an inverted triangle. Knowing which type you are will help you learn how to confidently choose clothes and look your best. 

To figure out your body type, take four body measurements: shoulders, bust, waist, and hips. Once you know these numbers you’ll be able to figure out the shape of your frame. So grab a measuring type - the flexible type that can wrap around your body, and make sure you take the measurements while wearing just underwear so you can get the most accurate numbers.

1. Shoulders

Wrap the tape loosely around the very tops of your shoulders, at their broadest point above your shoulder blades. This measurement may take a second set of hands to keep the measuring tape from slipping off of you.

2. Bust

Wrap the tape around the fullest part of your bust. Keep it tight enough so that it stays in place, but not so snug that it flattens your chest. If you usually wear a bra, it’s good to measure over the top of it.

3. Waist

Your natural waist is the narrowest part of your waist, which is usually just above the belly button and at the very top of your hip bone. This most likely is not the same place as where your pants generally hit. Wrap the measuring tape all the way around but don’t pull it too tight.

4. Hips

Again, you’re looking for the fullest point so you’ll wrap the tape below your hip bones, around your hips and butt. It’s also okay if you’re measuring over underwear.


So what do those measurements mean? 


Hourglass Body - If your hips are fairly balanced with your shoulders and if your waist is more narrow compared to your hips and shoulders, you’re likely an hourglass shape. You also most likely have a larger bust and buttocks and can be described as curvy. 


The Pear Shape (also referred to as the triangular frame) - If your hips and thighs are wider than your shoulders and bust,  and you have a defined waist that is narrow compared to your hips, then you are the pear shape. This is also known as the triangular frame. 

Still not quite sure? If your hip measurements are more than five percent wider than your shoulders or bust, then it’s safe to say you fall under this general category. 

So what is the difference between an hourglass body and a pear shape? A pear-shaped body is typically narrower on top compared to the hips and an hourglass shape has a bust and hips that measure almost the same width. It’s possible to move between an hourglass and pear shape based on weight gain or loss.


The Apple Shape - If your shoulders, waist, and hips are fairly uniform -your shoulders and hips could be slightly narrower, and you have an undefined waistline and a large bust, then you are most likely the apple shape. This is also referred to as a round or circular frame.


Inverted Triangle -  For this shape, your shoulders are the broadest part of your body and you may have a larger bust. The narrowest part of your body is your hips and your waist.


Rectangle - This shape is also known as athletic or straight. You don’t have many curves, your shoulders and hips are of similar width and you don’t have much waist definition. You may also have long legs. The shoulders, chest and hip measurements are fairly uniform.

Dressing for your body shape

Now that you have the information you need, you’ll see how easy it is to dress your shape. Let’s explore the best ways to highlight your specific body simply by choosing the right clothes for you. There’s truly something wonderful about an outfit that’s meant to fit your unique body type. 

To help you think like a stylist and create outfits you’re excited to wear, keep reading for style tips, clothing suggestions and general guidelines.

Follow these tips

First, anyone can create a proportioned frame by following these three universal tips:

Balance out your body shape

As we said before, your body shape is almost entirely based on your bone structure and not your weight. Use your outfit to balance your shoulders, bust, waist, and hips.

Focus the eye

Lines can help you create curves, lengthen, or emphasize your favorite parts of your body so use them to draw the eye to where you want it to go.

Think about color

Keep colors in mind when choosing separates since our eyes are also drawn to light, bright colors and patterns more so than solid black or navy. 

So now let’s explore the clothes that will fit and flatter your unique body type.


The key to dressing this body shape is to follow its natural silhouette and make sure you don’t unbalance the frame by making it too top- or bottom-heavy. You should dress proportionally for both the top and the bottom and accentuate the waist. Choose clothes that show off your curves and go with simple clean lines. The idea here is to not overly accentuate the hips or the shoulders and make sure you don’t cover your defined waist with boxy styles or straight cuts.


Avoid necklines that widen your shoulders or add unnecessary volume. Wrap tops will highlight your waist and v-necks will draw the eye toward your defined midsection. Go with slightly rounded necklines, as well - such as oval, deep oval, rounded or jewel since they are not extremely wide or narrow. Other necklines that flatter the hourglass shape are off shoulder, scoop and sweetheart.  

For this shape, tops should be fitted and accentuate the waist. If you’re looking to slightly de-emphasize your curvy hips, make sure the top extends to your hip bone so that it skims over the curves. Avoid any embellishments that add volume to your upper body, and again, always highlight the natural slimness of your waistline. Avoid anything that is loose and chunky as it will hide your hourglass shape.


Always coordinate pants with the top you’re wearing so that you balance out your top half with your bottom half. For instance, high- and mid-waisted  pants will accentuate your defined waist and lengthen the leg for a flattering fit, and a slim, skinny style will show off your natural curves. Flared and flowy pants will add volume, so if you choose to wear these styles, make sure you have enough volume on top so that you don't appear too bottom heavy.  

If you're looking to de-emphasize your lower body, try to keep your pants on the slimmer side and avoid any embellishments around the hips.  For jeans, simple and clean styles with a bit of stretch such as classic bootcut or straight leg are best for the hourglass-shape. And remember, belts are your best friend.


For a pear shape, create a balanced silhouette by highlighting the smaller upper body to make it appear fuller and playing down the heavier lower body, to make it appear smaller.  


To balance out your overall silhouette, you’ll want tops that accentuate your top half as well as your defined waist. Look for light, bright colors or prints to help draw the eye upwards. Open-necks such as a v- or square necks show off your collarbone and chest, cowl-necks add volume due to the draped fabric, boat-necks with their horizontal necklines broaden your shoulder line and blouses with a high-darted waist accentuate pear-shaped curves.

Tops should not go past the hips and should crop at the waist or be tucked in at the waist. The idea is to keep the lines along the hip clean and simple. 


Bootcut denim in a dark wash helps balance out the hips, as well as  straight, slim, and flared cuts. Do not go with skinny jeans as these will make you appear bottom heavy and you will not achieve a balanced silhouette. Other pant styles that will flatter a pear shape are wide legs. Remember, go with relaxed fits that fall straight down from the widest part of the hip.


The apple body shape is top-heavy. ‍To balance this out, choose clothes that add curves and fullness to the lower body and de-emphasize the midsection. Create a more defined waist by adding detail visually just under the bust and avoid light colors and patterns around the midsection.

 Keep the clothing line straight to slightly fitted to avoid bulk around the bust, waist and tummy. Show off your legs and bustline and keep the midsection plain and simple. Achieve this with structured garments that hold in and camouflage extra weight and keep details above the bustline and below the hipline. For this shape, wear bright colors on your lower body.


Necklines should be both wide and low. A wide neckline makes your shoulders appear wide, while a low neckline will help elongate the body and break up the chest area. Choose tops with embellishments and details around the neckline to draw the eye upwards. Other necklines that flatter your shape are v-neck, scoop, sweetheart and square. Your best shirt style is a flowy top that falls loosely over the mid-section and ends below the hipline. Remember, never tuck in your top and do not wear tops that are cropped at the waist.


Wear flowy, wide-leg, bootcut pants to balance out the wider midsection with the slimmer legs.  Cargo pants will add curve to your hips with their prominent back and/or side pockets. Pants should not cling to the body and should be flat-fronted with no details or embellishments around the midsection. Choose low- to mid-rise with a wide waistband and a side-fasten to avoid extra bulk around the stomach. 

 Do not wear skinny jeans as they will accentuate your slim legs and your upper body will appear larger. The best jeans are bootcut, wide-leg or flared, which will balance out the slim legs with the wider torso area. Go with darker colors  and clean lines without any details. 


With broader shoulders and/or bust and narrower hips and waist, you’ll want to balance this shape by choosing clothes that add curves to the hips and bottom.  You’ll also want to create a more defined waist and de-emphasize the upper body.


Keep your upper body lines clean and uncluttered and play down the wide shoulders by choosing tops that have a deep and long neckline, such as a v- or u-neck. Other flattering necklines include the scoop neck which makes your collarbone the focal point of your top half and for a higher cut top, choose the crewneck. Peplum tops have a built-in waist that creates an hourglass like shape around your hips. Make sure your tops extend past the hip line to take away attention from the shoulders.


Since your lower half is slimmer, you’ll want to balance out your silhouette by adding volume and curves with pant styles such as the cropped-wide leg which provides a fuller leg line.  Look for embellishments, pockets, patterns, prints and lighter colors to draw the eye downward. Culottes and harem pants are also great choices.

For jeans, choose the boyfriend style which is baggy and creates curves around the hips and thighs, the flared cut, which will balance out your shoulders and the straight-leg, which will not exaggerate your shape, like the skinny jean. 



You can wear just about anything and look fabulous in it but keep in mind that anything too fitted will accentuate the straightness of your frame. So, balance out your look by going with flow and volume on top and fitted on bottom, or vice versa. 


To create the appearance of curves and to flatter your silhouette, choose flowy fabrics like silk, cotton, chiffon, and satin. You can also accentuate your waist with a belt or try wearing short jackets and/or tops with fitted bodices.

Since your silhouette tends to be proportional, have fun with prints and colors. If you want to emphasize a certain part of your figure, use bright colors and bold patterns.


Tailored and fitted pieces look great on an athletic shape, so try a piece such as a pencil skirt or slim or straight jeans, styled with a peplum top or a billowy blouse tucked in. Remember,  you can go with skinny jeans but super skinny jeans will exaggerate a rectangular shape.

Here are some other jeans to consider. To make your legs look longer, choose high-waisted jeans in darker washes, or mid-rise for a shorter torso. To create a roomy silhouette and fill out your hips, thighs and bottom, choose a wide-leg jean and for a flowing hemline, go with flared jeans.

Celebrate your unique shape

Remember, you may not be just one body shape. Since we are all so unique, be open to a possible secondary body shape. The more confident you feel in styling your specific body type and balancing your silhouette, the more excited you'll feel about buying and wearing specific clothing items that make you look great. You'll no longer leave that new blouse or pair of pants hanging in the closet.

By LJ Young  |  Global-Gathering 

Staff Writer, San Francisco