Why So Complicated?
If you’ve ever asked “What body shape am I?” then you’re in the right place!
Knowing your body shape is super useful. Especially when it comes to creating a capsule wardrobe. No matter what size you are – the shape of your body is what determines which clothes look good. Or not.
And flippin’ ‘eck if I hear one more woman tell me she’s an ‘apple’ just because she has a tummy….!!!!!!!
Here’s the thing. Figuring out your body shape is MUCH easier than you think. But, thanks to those lovely clothing stores who are genuinely on our side when it comes to providing us with clothes that ACTUALLY fit and flatter us (can you detect my sarcasm here?) and their GENIUS marketing ploys, it’s all become just far too complicated.
And back in the day of Trinny & Susannah, they made things complicated with about 213 different body shapes including stupid and unflattering names like BRICK and VASE.
It doesn’t need to be this way. We can keep things really simple and 100% figureoutable if we strip away the BS, forget the marketing manipulations and deliberately confusing descriptions and names. So let’s do that.
We can ALSO make things REALLY complex because we are all very different shapes and sizes and there are other things to consider such as rise, scale, height, body length, leg length and so on.
Know The Shapes
For the purposes of getting you started, we’re ditching all that OK? We’ll stick with simple and quick results. If, like me, you get obsessively interested in this stuff, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.
So. Here we go.
There are 5 Body Shapes. None of them are FRUIT. They are:
- Hour Glass
- Bottom Heavy
- Top Heavy
- Straight Up & Down
And here are the KEY characteristics of each one…
Wears the same size on the top and bottom.
Has a defined waist – comes in in the middle (regardless of size/weight)
Wears at least one size bigger on the bottom than the top
Has a defined waist
Struggles to find trousers/skirts/dresses that fit both the waist and the hips/thighs
Nothing to do with chest size!
Broader shoulders than hips – wears at least one size bigger on the top than the bottom
No real defined waist
Straight Up & Down
Wears same size top and bottom
No defined waist
Arms & legs are most slender part of body
The waist is the widest part of the body
It’s THAT straight forward.
It’s A Start!
Now before we go any further, I just want to point out that there are more Bottom Heavy ladies in the Western world than any other body shape. And since I became a Personal Stylist in 2011, I’ve met precisely 2 women who are Ovals (also known as ‘apples’) though I’ve met approximately 2,745,819 who THINK they are!
Now. Knowing the 5 basic body shapes is one thing. The magic is in working out which one you are.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ve read the characteristics and recognised your body shape from that. Bravo me old mucker – well done! But if you haven’t, don’t despair. You’re not alone and I have a super simple trick up my sleeve that will tell you EXACTLY which shape you are But… You’re going to need a friend to help!
OK here’s how it works. The BEST way you determine your body shape is from… behind! Things can be too distracting ‘up front’ for us ladies – our back shows our shape much better.
Get a friend/ Stand with your back to her face, in a normal stance. Now your friend takes her hands and, as if she’s playing Cat’s Cradle, hold hers hands level with your shoulders.
Then, keeping her arms moving down your body (she doesn’t have to touch you) in as straight a line as possible, she moves down to your waist and observes – does it go in? Does it go out? Is it the same width as your shoulders?
She continues the downward motion to your hips and asks the same question – are your hips wider, narrower or the same as your shoulders?
So her hands travel down your body from your shoulders IN A STRAIGHT LINE and she visually determines your waist and hips, based on whether they are outside or inside the distance of her palms (which is also your shoulder width). Get it? Good!
Waist is smaller than shoulders
Hips are same width as shoulders
Waist is smaller than shoulders Hips are wider than shoulders
Waist is smaller than shoulders
Hips are smaller than shoulders
STRAIGHT UP & DOWN
Waist is same width as shoulders Hips are same width as shoulders
Waist is wider than shoulders Hips are smaller than the waist
A FRUIT BY ANY OTHER NAME
I’ll be honest, if there’s one things that REALLY gets my goat, it’s women’s bodies being compared to FRUIT.
Pear, Apple, Banana are the main ones. I also detest the whole ‘A’, Ruler, Vase, Lollipop nonsense too. But I accept that these terms are often more commonly understood by women. So for the purposes of clarification ONLY here are the body shapes and their synonyms.
STRAIGHT UP & DOWN
Now excuse me while I vomit at this hideous references….
OK I’m back!
So now you know your body shape right? EXCELLENT! Now remember, within each body shape there ARE differences – short/long bodies, high/low rise, short/long legs, scale, height proportions and so on. But like I said at the beginning… We’re starting with SIMPLE. SIMPLE gets you looking for the right clothes in the shops, gets you understanding why certain styles are just no good for you, and HOPEFULLY plants the seed that your size is irrelevant – it’s your SHAPE that matters.
(Now might be a good time to point out that even if you put on loads of weight or lose loads of weight, your body shape will stay the same. That’s good news and you can pick up the bar of chocolate. But I also get it can be BAD news if you’ve just realized that those 100 crunches you’ve been doing each day for 3 years are actually NEVER going to make your waist more defined if you don’t actually have a defined waist to start with… Sorry!)
WHO WEARS WHAT?
My favourite part! Again – keeping things SUPER simple. There WILL be exceptions to every rule because actually when it comes to clever dressing, it’s all about tricking the eye and visually adjusting proportions.
But I want to get you wearing the best clothes as soon as possible otherwise why would you have read this in the first place…? Here we go!
THE GOLDEN RULES
You’ve got a waist – show it off! Quite seriously though, the point I’m making here is that you MUST wear clothes that accentuate or highlight your waist. If you like T- shirts, wear shaped ones. If you like shirts wear fitted ones and so on. Hour glass ladies will look frumpy and about 10lbs heavier when they hide their waists with baggy or ill-fittng clothes. And yes – even if you have a ‘tummy’ you will always look slimmer in shapely, fitted clothing.
Bring it all up top. Remember I said that clever dressing is really all about visually manipulating proportions? This is where it comes into play. What we’re trying to achieve is a balanced look – so that your shoulders look the same width as your hips. And we do that by bringing the eye up to your neckline/shoulders and making a fuss. Use shoulder pads, swanky necklaces, scarfs or sequins if that’s what floats your boat. And keep everything below the waist quite plain and minimal in comparison.
Time for another caveat – there are loads of ladies who have broad shoulders and are Top Heavy who LOVE their body shape, who feel strong and athletic and want to show off their broad shoulders, not create balance. If you are one those ladies ignore this. Follow the rules for the Bottom Heavy if you want to emphasise your physique even further.
For those who want to create balance, keep your shoulders and neckline fuss-free and add lots of pattern and detail below the waist. Wide leg trousers are great, as are fuller skirts. Stiffer fabrics, texture and pattern draw the eye line down and away from your top half creating the illusion of balance.
Straight Up & Down
Avoid detailing on the waist such as waistbands and belts and instead, wear clothes with detailing above and below the waist. Oh – and you know those shift dresses that have the darker panels down the side and make it look like you come in on the waist? They are PERFECT! And if you’ve got a trench coat (or other belted coat) wear the coat open with the belt knotted at the back.
Seriously – wear shed loads of accessories!
Clothes should be straight in line and sop in fabric, and should hang from the shoulders. When it comes detailing and ‘fuss’, keep it above the bust and below to avoid bringing the eye line to your widest part – your waist.
WHEN YOU’RE OVERWEIGHT
I just wanted to add a little note about this because most women I meet believe they are overweight. Most women I meet don’t particularly like their reflection and have this twisted logic where they want to wait until they are slimmer BEFORE they look nice. So they feel bad now, and would rather continue to look bad than ‘risk’ buying some new clothes (that will make them look gorgeous and most probably a lot slimmer) which will need to be thrown away once they lose all this weight.
Let me tell you, if this is you, and you’ve been overweight for over a year without really committing to doing anything about it, you’re NOT going to. And I say this with love. And I’ve been there. My best advice for you? Accept that you are where you are right now, and buy some clothes you like and fit you NOW. I promise a gazillion times, you wont regret it and you WILL like the way you look. Please don’t wait.
WHAT’S NEXT ?
Now, have fun and play with clothes in your wardrobe. Familiarise yourself with the different clothing lines, take notice of whether your skinny jeans look better than your boot-cut, and just start looking at yourself in a less judgmental and more matter-of-fact way. The shape of your body is just that – it’s your shape. It doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you more or less sexy, and it doesn’t dictate how much money you can earn. It simply affects what you wear. That’s it.
Just be aware, however, that shopping for clothes is really frustrating for pretty much everyone but it can often feel like it’s just you. Here’s the truth. The majority of clothes are manufactured to fit a set size and shape of person. This varies across stores, but they each have their own ‘pattern’. Marks & Spencer, for example, create clothes for women who are 168cm tall with an inside leg measurement of 79cm. So if you’re 152cm with an inside leg of 69cm, you’re going to struggle to buy clothes that fit you perfectly from that store.
It’s not YOUR fault. It doesn’t make YOU anything less than perfect. But it will make shopping challenging. Just keep it mind as you navigate the retailers and explore fashion magazines. There ARE clothes out there that will fit and flatter you and your shape. And for everything else, there are dressmakers!