How to Dress for Your Body Shape

Simple advice on how to find out what body type you are and exactly how to dress confidently for your body shape.

When it comes to dressing well, you first need to discover what to wear and what flatters you. The best way is to find out what body shape you are because this will determine what styles look best on you and what is best avoided. Here are the main UK and US body types – hourglass, pear, boyish, apple and athletic – and advice on what to wear for your body shape.

How to Dress for Your Body Shape

How to dress an hourglass shape

Women with hourglass shapes tend to have slim, well-defined waists and their shoulders and hips are generally of a similar width. Hourglass shapes tend to be the easiest body types to dress. Emphasising your curves is the key to dressing if you are an hourglass, without adding too much bulk. Waist-defining clothes are also highly flattering.

What to wear if you are an hourglass shape:

  • Choose semi-fitted or fitted clothes will emphasize your curves well, but try to avoid fabrics that are too clingy.
  • Stick to tops or dresses with low or v-neck necklines which will help to flatter your bust.
  • Dresses are wardrobe staples, particularly dresses with well-defined waists, or detailing around this area.
  • Belts are staples for hourglass shapes. Make sure they sit on your waist to cinch it in; belts that sit on your stomach will only cut your in half.
  • Choose trousers with a slight flare or boot cut shape to balance out your bottom half.
  • Heels and calf high boots bring length to your frame and accentuate your figure. Be sure to be prepared for wet weather with Cozy Winters boot dryers during the colder months.

What not to wear if you are an hourglass shape:

  • Heavy, stiff fabrics will only add bulk and make you look larger than you really are.
  • Instead of hiding your curves, baggy clothes will only make you look heavier so avoid them like the plague.
  • Hourglass shapes tend to have large busts so high necklines will be unflattering; instead, choose v-necks and low cut necklines to show them off.
  • Try to avoid trousers like harem pants that are wide at the waist and taper in towards the ankle – they will make you look heavy.

How to dress a pear shape

If you have a pear shaped figure you appear bottom-heavy. Your hips are wider than your shoulders and you have a slim, well-defined waist. Your top half, including your bust, is more than likely to be slim and small. Dressing pear shaped figures is all about focussing on your top half in order to balance out your bottom half.

What to wear if you are a pear shape:

  • Jewelry and accessories around your top half are highly flattering, such as necklaces and earrings.
  • Short sleeve or tank tops will help to emphasize your top half
  • Clothes that show off your slim waist are a safe bet, for example a dress with gathered detail around this area.
  • Low rise trousers are a godsend for pear shapes because they will skim over your curves, thus avoiding the dreaded ‘muffin top’.
  • Boot cut or flared trousers are your wardrobe staples because they’ll elongate your figure beautifully.

What not to wear if you are a pear shape:

  • Avoid loose of baggy clothes because they will only add pounds to your problem areas.
  • Clothing that brings attention your hips is also best avoided – instead, choose clothes that gently skim over this area.
  • Pleated skirts or trousers will only draw attention to your bottom half and will not give you the streamlined silhouette you’re after. Stick to smooth, long and fuss-free styles.

How to dress a boyish shape

If you have a boyish shape your bust line and hip line are about the same width and your waist is not particularly well-defined. You are also likely to have a small bust, slim legs and a flat bottom. When it comes to dressing a boyish body shape, the key is to wear clothes that will add curves and define your waist.

What to wear if you are a boyish shape:

  • Semi-fitted clothes will look fantastic on you because they will emphasize curves.
  • Shoulder pads is a secret to adding curves to the top half of boyish frames; make sure they aren’t too big though, the affect needs to be subtle
  • Tops and dresses that flow through the waist and hip line will give you a more feminine silhouette.
  • Short sleeves tops or tank tops are great at adding emphasis to your top half.
  • Trousers that flare out to a gentle boot cut at the ankle will help balance out your bottom half.

What not to wear if you are a boyish shape:

  • Stay away from tight, figure-hugging clothes because they will only emphasize your boyish frame.
  • Low necklines are also to be avoided as they will make your top half look even smaller.
  • Baggy, loose-fitting clothes will only look bulky and unflattering so avoid them at all costs
  • Narrow skirts will only bring attention to your boyish bottom half; instead wear A-line and flared skirts.

How to dress an apple shape

Apple shapes generally have a round shape, particularly around the waist. If you are an apple shape you probably have a large stomach, wide hips and thighs and an undefined waist. The trick to dressing if you are an apple shape is to draw attention away from your problem areas – your stomach, hips and thighs – and highlight your slimmer areas – your shoulders, chest and legs.

What to wear if you are an apple shape:

  • Wear statement jewelry to draw attention to your slimmest parts, including chunky necklaces and statement earrings.
  • V-necklines are best for apple shapes because they will take the emphasis off your bottom half and draw the eye to your top half.
  • Shoulder pads will help lengthen your torso and balance out your frame
  • A good fitting bra will work wonders and help to slim your top half.
  • Long tops and dresses that do not have any detail at the tummy and thigh area.
  • Flat front trousers that flare to a long boot cut will help slim your thighs.

What not to wear if you are an apple shape:

  • Large, intricate prints and patterns will only add pounds and give you an unflattering shape.
  • Tight clothes are also a no-no as they will easily draw attention to your problem areas.
  • Belts will cut you in half and emphasize your round shape so avoid them at all costs.
  • Tops and dresses with high necklines are also best avoided.

How to dress an athletic shape

If you have an athletic build chances are your shape errs on the side of masculine, with broad shoulders, a small bust, a flat bottom and an undefined waist. Like boyish shapes, dressing if you have an athletic shape is all about giving the illusion of extra curves and defining your waist.

What to wear if you are an athletic shape:

  • You can wear fitted clothes fairly easily, especially if they have a v-neck or scooped neckline because they will draw attention to your top half well.
  • Tunic tops are also a good buy; make sure they flow through the waist for a smooth silhouette.
  • Insert shoulder pads into tops and dresses to balance out your top half
  • Choose structured or draped dresses which are cinched in at the waist and flare out at the skirt.
  • Tulip skirts will help widen your hips to give you a good shape.
  • Trousers that are fitted at the top will help define your curves.

What not to wear if you are an athletic shape:

  • Stay away from baggy clothes which will only make your frame even smaller.
  • Athletic shapes should avoid high necklines as they will only display your small bust; v-necklines are a lot more flattering.
  • Avoid trousers and skirts that are high-waisted; instead, wear clothes that sit on your waist in order to give it better definition.
  • Very fitted or tight clothes are also a no-no because they will only make your figure look more masculine.

About Teri Hatland

Lifestyle blogger for Motherhooddefined.com & founder of BR&O. Travel Reporter, Content Creator, Panelist Speaker, Brand Ambassador, Plus Size Fashion & Beauty Lover, Author, Midwest MomLife Writer.

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