classic style dress
Body and Face Shapes,  Style

How to dress for your Body Shape

This week I’m looking at different body shapes and how to dress for them. There are basically three main types of body shape: Straight, Semi-Straight and Shaped.

Within each of these categories there are more well-known terms – pear, apple hourglass, inverted triangle etc but for simplicity I’m just going to use these three body shapes.

Straight Body shape

If you have a straight body shape, sometimes called a column shape, your shoulders, waist and hips will be in line and you will have little to no waist indentation. Most models have this figure type and you can have a small or larger bust. Clothes that will suit this body shape are:

Straight cut dresses such as shift dresses & pencil skirts which follow your body’s natural lines.

Coats with straight design lines.

Straight cut tops and shirts.

The best fabrics for a straight body shape are firm, structured fabrics such as wool, gabardine, taffeta, crisp fabrics such as cotton or poplin, and leather.

Set in sleeves/shoulder lines rather than raglan sleeves/shoulder lines are best. It’s best to avoid fluid, draping clothes and curved hemlines on jackets. Little or no waist emphasis in clothes is better unless you are slim. If you are slim then you can use a belt to give some definition to the waist, but generally speaking, it’s always best to follow the lines of your body in your clothing. 

Ideal patterns for a straight body shape are: vertical stripes, checks and plaids, spots and geometric patterns. If you are slim and straight then you can also wear horizontal stripes and paisley patterns. As far as accessories are concerned then structured bags with straight lines are best. Avoid soft, bulky styles of bag, which are more suited to a curvier shaped body type. 

This shirtdress from Boden with it’s straight lines is good for a straight body shape, even though the skirt isn’t straight

Semi-Straight Body Shape

Let’s look at the second of the body shapes – Semi-Straight, sometimes referred to as softened straight. It can also cover a neat hourglass shape, which is different from a full hourglass shape, which I will look at next.

If you have a semi-straight body shape you will have some indentation at the waist with hips and shoulders of the same width. When you gain weight, it will be often just below the waist to the top of the thigh, although your weight is usually spread evenly over your body.

The clothes that you, as a semi-straight, could choose are:

Slightly fitted styles, neither too boxy nor very straight. Look for clothing which is described as semi-fitted in tops, coats, jackets & dresses.

Straight or slightly A-line skirts.

The type of fabrics you should go for if you have a semi-straight shape are smooth or slightly textured with some structure, e.g. lightweight wool, linen, silk, cotton, jersey. Avoid very stiff fabrics with no draping quality or fabrics which are too clingy. 

As far as patterns are concerned you can wear stripes and checks, as long as the fabric is not stiff but more fluid and drapey, also florals and paisleys in a slightly stiffer fabric.

For bags – structured bags in soft leather are best. Avoid stiff, angular bags in firm leather or very soft, squashy bags with curved lines.

If you are semi-straight this dress from Marks & Spencer is fine with not too straight design lines

Shaped Body Shape

A ‘shaped’ body shape or silhouette means you are curvy rather than straight up and down. You may have a small top half and larger hips and thighs but with a defined waist, often referred to as a pear. It can also include a full hourglass shape – a full bust and hips but with a waistline. If you have this shape your best asset is your slim waist so this should be emphasised where possible. Pear shapes should emphasise the top half, whilst aiming to minimise your bottom half. So, for example, on the top half of your body you can wear pattern and colour because this will draw the eye away from your fullest part, which is your bottom half, up to the top half of your body, where you want the attention.

Shaped body shapes should focus on wearing A line, flared or full skirts, fit and flare ‘skater’ style dresses rather than shift dresses or straight skirts. Bootleg or slightly flared jeans or trousers are also good for this shape.

Fitted jackets with waist shaping – anything without shape or is too boxy will make you look bigger than you are.

Belts and waist emphasis. If your shoulders are narrow you can wear cap, puffed and fluted sleeves, although if your bust is larger, don’t end your sleeves at the same level as your bust line.

Fabrics that are good for shaped silhouettes are fine wool and jersey, silk, soft cotton and anything that drapes. Avoid crisp cottons and structured, firm fabrics that don’t drape well. 

Patterns can be floral and paisley or anything with curves.

For bags choose soft, contoured bags with soft leathers/other materials but avoid rigid, structured materials. 

A way of deciding whether you are any of the above body shapes is to stand in front of a full length mirror, wearing a close fitting t-shirt and leggings and observe what your body does – e.g. does it curve in and out, are your shoulders narrower or wider than your hips, do your shoulders, waist and hips appear to be in a line? Write down what you see and, from the descriptions above, decide which one is closest to your body shape.

A great coat from Marks & Spencer if you are shaped as it has curved design lines and a belt

I do hope the above tips will be helpful in choosing styles of clothing for your body shape. It’s usually a matter of trying clothes on, seeing how well they flatter you and being really strict about only keeping what looks great on you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *