Style 101: How to Dress Well for YOUR Body Type
Friends, you spoke loud and clear through the results of my reader’s survey: You want to figure out how to develop your sense of style without spending a ton of money or compromising your adherence to modest clothing standards. You also want to figure out how to dress in a manner that’s flattering to YOUR body, which is an important skill to master to develop your style. In response to the many requests and questions I received, I crafted a series of posts dedicated to getting back to the basics of style and fit that ANY woman can follow:
Part One: How to Dress Well For Your Body Type
Part Two: How to Conceal Pesky Body Hang-Ups (next week’s post)
Part Three: 8 Wardrobe Fit Mistakes You’re Making That Make Your Clothes Look Frumpy
Part Four: How to Determine Your Personal Style
Part Five: How to Mix Prints Like A Pro (Even if You’re A Noob)
Part Six: How to Build Beautiful Outfits Using Color Theory
Part Seven: One Simple Rule That Can Change Your Wardrobe Game
A new post in this series will go live every THURSDAY for the next 8 weeks. Want these tips sent straight to your inbox every week? Let’s be email buddies! Sign up in the pink box at the end of this post.
First, we will tackle a difficult yet essential topic: How to dress well for your primary body type. I learned some time ago that the key to looking put together and well dressed is having a firm understanding of how to dress in a manner that’s flattering for YOUR body type…not your dream body type or past body type, but your current shape. Since I started dressing modestly three years ago, I also learned that you don’t have to show tons of skin to look great in your clothes and you certainly don’t have to bare your body to feel confident in your clothes. You simply have to know what kind of clothes work for you so you feel confident in them.
If you’re several pounds heavier than you like, don’t fret. You don’t have to be skinny to dress well (despite what magazines will have you believe). It’s more important to have a good understanding of where your weight is distributed on your body and how to subtly emphasize the flattering parts of your body while de-emphasizing others areas of your body to create a balanced figure (or simply hide the problems areas that drive you crazy – more on that topic next week).
First, you need to identify your primary body shape. To help with that, I’ve combined *hours* of research into a few simple infographics.
Since your body is pretty much straight up and down with little to no defined waistline or curves (nothing wrong with that!), you’ll have to rely on clothing if you want to balance out your shape and create the illusion of curves. Belted tops and dresses, skirts with volume increasing details, and anything draped that gathers near your waist are your closet besties. You can also embrace your athletic shape and rock sheath styles that look best with your body shape.
Your closet besties: empire waist dresses, A-line dresses, and drop waist dresses. What does each of those classic dress silhouettes have in common? They elongate your body and glide over the widest part of your body (your stomach). Drop waist dresses, in particular, work well with your body shape because they create volume on your lower body. Low waist pants are also a good item in your clothing arsenal because they don’t sit at your waist.
A structured jacket with eye-catching details will give structure and draw attention to the upper half of your body. If you’re wearing something plain on your lower half (like black trousers), it well help you’re your body appear proportional because your lower half will appear smaller. A-line silhouettes highlight smallest part of your body (waist) while gliding over the widest part (your hips). The result? Your whole body appears more balanced.
If you’re an inverted triangle, A-line dresses, skirts, flared pants and especially cropped jackets with a peplum hem are essentials for your closet. Those items create definition around your lower body while minimizing your broad shoulders and upper body. The result? Balance.
Why the suggested pieces above work: Your body is already fairly balanced and proportional, so you’ll want to wear clothes that gracefully accentuate your natural shape (we aren’t talking body cons here…). This is my primary body shape (and my sample measurements above), so I can personally attest to the power of belted jackets, wrap tops, and pretty much anything with a nipped waist that isn’t skin-tight.
You’ll notice I included measurements in each body shape infographic. That’s because that’s the best way to determine your body shape is to measure your shoulders, bust, waist, and hips. So grab a measuring tape, and measure the circumference of shoulders, the widest part of your bust and thighs, and the narrowest part of your waist. Need additional guidance? Check out this handy article on Who What Wear and this simple graphic from eShakti.com:
That all seems easy enough, right?
Well, here’s the tricky part. You may have a secondary or tertiary shape depending on where you gain weight. Example: You may primarily be an hourglass, but when you gain weight, those pounds gather around your stomach and midsection. In that case, your secondary shape would be an apple. To further complicate this matter, there are actually more than 5 body shapes (because, well, all of us aren’t shaped like fruit, rulers and hourglasses). If you’re having trouble figuring out your body shape because you don’t fit within these traditional shapes, don’t fret. Just remember this one principal: Emphasize the smaller parts of your body while minimizing the widest or largest. If you follow that principle alone, you can create a sense of balance and proportion with your clothing.
I hope these tips give you greater confidence about your body and how to dress it! Have specific questions about your body type and measurements? Let me know in the comments below!
Linking up with: More Pieces of Me and On the Daily Express // Style to Inspire // Manic Mondays //Mix It Mondays // Pink Sole // Still Being Molly // Turning Heads Tuesday // Style Elixir // Garay Treasures // Pleated Poppy //Because Shanna Said So //Stylish Housewife // The Wednesday Pants // Style Me Wednesday // Happiness at Mid Life // The Red Closet Diary // Mix Match Fashion // Thursday Fashion Files // High Latitude Style //Friday Favorites // Birdie Shoots // Pumps and Pushups // Because Shanna Said So // Favorite Fashion Friday
Oh man, this is so helpful! I cannot wait to read the rest of this series. So interesting!! Thank you so much for sharing!! 😀 My hips are the widest part of my frame and I cringe at some of the pictures taken of me…I love myself and am confident in my own skin, but think I need to work on dressing for my shape…I think that would help my confidence show through. 🙂
I’m SO glad to hear this post was helpful for you, Jessica! Just out of curiosity, I have to ask: What type of clothes are you wearing in the pictures that make you cringe? If you tell me a little bit more info about your shape (particularly your measurements) I can give you more detailed advice. It was difficult to break down EVERYTHING I wanted to say about each shape in this post. Also, hips are beautiful and feminine. I’m so glad you’re confident in you skin and shape because you have nothing to be ashamed of. 🙂
This is awesome advice! I’m incredibly rectangular shaped haha. I always find anything that divides my top half from my bottom looks best on me (like pencil skirts with tucked in blouses, dresses with belts or gathering at the waistline…).
Exactly! Anything that will define and accentuate your waist will look great on you. But of course, you already know how to dress well for your body shape (which is why I LOVE your blog). 🙂
This is really SUPER great advice on dressing a certain body type !!!
I hope you will pop over and share this at
Thank you 🙂
Elizabeth> leticia justus
Thank you, Leticia! so glad yo hear you found this helpful. I will definitely share on your link-up. Sorry it has been a while!
Great post! So many helpful comments!
Thanks so much for reading, Margaret!
I guess I’m an hourglass?? Who knew lol I don’t think I have quite enough hips for that shape, though lol My mama is more of rectangle. I’m always telling her “Ooh, that cardigan would look great with a belt over it” but she ALWAYS says she can’t wear belts because she doesn’t have a waist. But I’m wondering if she can 🙂
Elizabeth> Elizabeth Williams
Oh, she definitely can! Belts actually help create the illusion of a waistline, so you should keep urging her to give them a try. She could also benefit from tucking in her shirts when wearing skirts that hit at the waist. That’s a simple trick she might be open to. As for you, do you know your measurements? If you like, you can share them with me privately so I can give you an accurate read on your shape.
Oh wow, thanks! I’ll have to keep encouraging her 🙂 And my measurements, top to bottom, are 30″, 25″, and 33″. But those are approximate, as I didn’t measure the best lol
I’m gonna shoot you an email with my thoughts and suggestions!
Happiness at Mid Life
This is a great post and look forward to the whole series! Thank you for joining TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you next week.
Elizabeth> Happiness at Mid Life
Thanks, Alice! I’ll definitely be back next week!
What a great and helpful article!
I like the pictures and all of the body type helps! I’m a rectangle, and I need to pay more attention to the fits of my clothes! I really appreciate the options and the suggestions.
Great series. I came over on Modest Mom, and I’ll be back to read more~
Hope you have a blessed day,
Elizabeth> Melanie Redd
Thank you so much for that sweet comment, Melanie! I’m so glad you stopped by and found this post helpful. You have a lovely, versatile shape that will allow you to get away with most clothing, but anything that gathers or creates line near your waist will look great on you (think: pencil skirts with shirts tucked in, wrap dresses that flare out a bit, draped skirts and dresses) that I hope you’ll join me again this Thursday! God bless!
Victoria / Justice Pirate
Our measurements are almost equal but I never considered myself to be hourglass because of my smaller bust (33-26-38 are my measurements). I guess I am more like a triangle?
This was pretty interesting!!
Elizabeth> Victoria / Justice Pirate
It’s crazy what a difference one digit makes for each of those measurements! IT sounds like you are a pear, but I’m guessing hourglass is your secondary body shape. I recently learned about a mathematical way to determine your body shape (it’s outlined in this post), and according to that method you are indeed a pear. Crazy!
I think I am an inverted triangle but I am not sure. My measurements are 37″ shoulders, 36″ bust, 29″ waist, and 35″ hips. I am more on the short waisted side and I am only 5’2″ tall. So, am I an inverted triangle or a rectangle?