Dressing for your body type isn’t about hiding parts of your body others tell you to cover up. It’s about highlighting the features that are unique to your body and showing off what you love. We’re not trying to look like a stereotypical model or the thinnest we can be. When we dress for our body type, we dress for ourselves — and the best version of that we can be.
While we can group ourselves into specific categories, our bodies grow, change and shift throughout our lives — we may not be the same shape as we were 20 years ago. Finding how to dress for our body type means understanding and loving our body as it is now, and finding clothes that we love just as much.
Before you can start dressing for your body type, it’s important to understand what body type you have. This type is largely defined and pre-determined by your genetics; however, it can shift with anything from age to diet to pregnancy.
The most accurate way to determine your body type is by measuring. If you have a measuring tape, you should measure four areas: shoulders, bust, waist, and hips. These numbers will help you see what areas of your body are smaller and larger than other parts.
To measure your shoulders, measure from the tip of one shoulder and go all the way around your body. The tape should remain high on your shoulders. Measuring around the bust is similar; start at the fullest point of your bust and measure all the way around your body as well.
To measure your waist, start measuring above your belly button and go all the way around; for your hips, start at one hip below the hip bone and measure around including the largest part of your butt.
Women who are apple body shaped have slim arms and wide shoulders, with their weight mostly in their midsection and chest. While their bust may appear bigger, those with naturally smaller breasts can still be an apple body shape; they often keep their weight in their waist rather than their chest. Apple bodies usually include well-defined waists with slim legs below.
The opposite of apple body is a pear body; while weight in apple bodies is concentrated at the top, weight in pear bodies is concentrated at the bottom. Women with pear bodies have significantly wider hips than busts, as well as fuller thighs and hips. The top of their bodies — specifically the shoulder area — is not broad but narrow.
Nearly half of women’s bodies fall into the rectangular body type category. Unlike the apple or pear body shapes, the straight shape has a generally consistent waist, hips and bust measurements — with the waist only about one to eight inches smaller than the bust. Those with a rectangular-shaped body do not have curves around their waist but rather find definition in the rib cage area. Despite the generally even measurements of waist, hips and bust, those who are rectangular-shaped can still have a larger butt or midriff.
The hourglass body is the least common of all body types. While the equal hips and bust measurements of this body type mirror rectangular shape bodies, those who have hourglass bodies have a smaller, narrow waist. Women with hourglass bodies are not always thin; they may have larger arms, shoulders and butt and still be considered this body type.
Those with apple body shape often feel their best when they flaunt the top and lower body. Loose-fitting blouses and freeform dresses work especially well to draw attention to the top area, especially when the clothing items are tighter, more revealing or even more ornate on top. On the bottom, focus less on your waist and choose to emphasize the lower third of your body. Wide bottoms like flared pants and skirts are great for highlighting this area.
Pear body shapes work well with clothes that flaunt the upper half of your body, specifically your shoulders and bust. Fun tops, including blazers and jackets, feature this area well — so experiment with bold patterns, bright colors and v-necks! Because most of your outfit’s attention will be at the top, you can balance the bottom with darker, straight-leg or slightly flared pants.
The rectangular body type can have fun breaking up the equal measurements on their body. If you choose to focus on your waist, high-waisted clothing items work well to pinch your area; this same look can be achieved without naturally high-waisted items by adding belts with dresses and skirts. On the bottom, you can work like the pear body shape and use straight-leg pants or skinny jeans. If you’d like to add more shape to your body, shapewear works great with rectangular body types. If shapewear’s not your thing but you’d still like to add some shape, try clothing with embellishments around the bust and rear.
Like the rectangular body type, pinching at the waist helps flatter an hourglass figure’s narrow waist. Clothes that follow your body’s natural curves — like form-fitting tops, v-necks, skinny jeans and leggings — help highlight your figure when compared to boxy, looser clothing. Because this body type has even bust and hip measurements, try balancing your top and bottom clothing items while adding flair or a pinch at the waist.
Dressing for your body type can be an exciting way to reassess your wardrobe and start feeling great about what you’re wearing. Not every body fits perfectly into one category, and not every style or trend is made for every body. Use your body type as a guideline, not a rule, and soon you’ll learn how to flaunt your favorite parts of your body while feeling comfortable and stylish.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.