Dressing for your body shape is not a new topic, but it continues to fascinate my followers. One of my most watched YouTube videos is about dressing for your body shape. View it here. I also spoke about whether body shape guidance is a form of body shaming in Episode 35 of my podcast here.
While interest in dressing for your body shape continues, there’s chatter about whether this advice is relevant today. Many now say, “Why don’t we just wear what we want?” Bottom line, I want my clients to be happy in what they wear. However, my primary job is to educate my client on flattering shapes, colors and more. How they use this education is up to them.
This education empowers my clients as they shop and get dressed. Must they follow all of my guidance all of the time? Of course not! On the contrary, if it suits my client, I love for her to take the “rules” and put her own spin on them.
How to Dress Well Vertically
There is a science to dressing well, and I always explain it to my clients. It starts with understanding vertical proportion, and how to dress in a way that is appealing to your eyes. The human eye finds a ratio of 1:2 appealing, as well as 2:3, 3:5 and so on (the Golden Ratio). In simple terms, to make this work on the body, one garment should be slightly longer than the other. For example, the top is one length and the skirt is two lengths.
When I explain vertical proportion to my clients, the light bulb goes off. Often, they will recall a time when something didn’t look right, but they could not pinpoint why.
How to Dress Well Horizontally
When I speak about dressing for one’s body shape, we are looking at horizontal proportions and creating balance on the body. Body shape terms I use in this post are hourglass, oval (or apple), pear (or triangle), rectangle and inverted triangle. I will explain each shape in its own section below. My guidance takes “generic” shapes into consideration. However, there are as many body shapes as there are people! Therefore, take the information and make adjustments as they work for you.
A Brief Body Pep Talk
How we feel about our bodies is complicated. Most of all, I want a client to appreciate her body, even if she does not love it. If she makes peace with all of her body, she can dress in a way that communicates she feels good about herself. A client who is grateful for her body is less likely to micro-focus on areas she doesn’t love. She can see herself as a whole and beautiful person who deserves to dress in a way that makes her feel great. Can I get an amen?!
My Dress Recommendations
As summer events are starting, below are several dress options.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start shopping and trying on:
(1) Be open and patient as you try on various styles and shapes.
(2) Hire a tailor to make the garment look like it was made for you.
(3) Hire me if you get stuck. I am always happy to help!
Best Dress for the Oval/Apple
The woman with an apple (or an oval shape) is full through the middle. The goal is to lengthen the body by using vertical lines, open necklines and clothing that flows over the body. On a dress, a tapered hem to just under the knee will look sleek. This is an easy task for your tailor assuming the dress design allows for it. One of my favorite dresses for this shape is the Miki dress by Gravitas. Find it here. It is obviously not the best dress for summertime but a great dress shape for this body shape. For something more summer-friendly, try the Geneva Tank Dress by Universal Standard.
Best Dress for the Inverted Triangle
This shape is wider through the shoulders than through her hips and thighs. The waistline is usually undefined, so we do not wear belts with this shape most of the time. We balance this shape by keeping it simple on her top half. We widen her bottom half with lighter, brighter colors and patterns/prints. One-shoulder and halter necklines are usually flattering. This teal one-shoulder dress by Trina Turk might be just the thing! If this style is too “snuggy” to the waistline, look for a shift dress that flows over the body. Here’s another style by Trina Turk that flows over the middle. For those who love a little drama, this tiered floral halter neck dress is perfect.
Best Dress for the Pear/Triangle
This body shape typically has full hips or thighs, a defined waist, and a top half that appears smaller than her bottom half. To create balance with this shape, we bring focus to her top half with fullness, prints or lines and allow for flow over her bottom half. A fit & flare dress is typically a wonderful option for this shape. This feminine dress by Dress The Population is a nice option. For a slightly dressier option, I love this Kay Unger dress.
Best dress for the Curvy Hourglass
A curvy hourglass shape has a “Marilyn Monroe” silhouette, a defined waist with breasts and hip/thighs. Typically, her shoulders are about the same width as her hips or thighs, creating a balanced silhouette. The goal is to respect this shape by wearing clothing that has shape, like a wrap dress. Since Diane Von Furstenberg invented this dress, it’s only fair I share one of hers here. A v or a scoop neckline is ideal for this body shape.
Best Dress for the Straight Hourglass
This shape has a defined waist but has smaller breasts and less curvy hips than a curvy hourglass. For this shape, we still look for clothing with shape. A sheath dress is a wonderful option to flow over her body and show her form. This bright blue Tadashi Shoji one-shoulder sheath dress would be a knock out at a summer wedding.
Best Dress for the Rectangle
This shape is straight through the body from shoulders to waist to hips with little to no curve. For this shape, we look for clothing that creates a shape like an A-line dress, which is similar to a fit and flare dress, but it typically does not have a defined waist. If you have a small bust, this printed La Ligne dress is flattering. A cinch right under the bust accentuates her most narrow spot and flows over her waist. This dress by Birds of Paradis does not cinch too tightly in the waist while still providing the illusion of a curved silhouette.
Shop My Dress Catalog
I created a dress catalog here. In it you will find dresses, cardigans (for those who like to cover their arms), shoes and bags, including the dresses linked in this post. Some of the links, though not all, are affiliated. This means if you make a purchase directly from a catalog link, I receive a small commission. As always, this is greatly appreciated!
Guidance Versus Rules
Remember, this post contains guidance, not rules. Rules suggest this is hard and fast, while guidance leaves the door open for one’s own judgment. We want our clothing to skim our shape, not hug too tightly or fit too loosely. Dressing for your shape is about respecting your shape!
I’m Here to Help
As always, I’m here to make it easy for you. I want you to get dressed every day with confidence and ease regardless of the occasion. If you feel stuck or confused, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send me a message through my website here. I’d be delighted to help you!