Apples, Pears, and Squares
Dressing with style and grace doesn’t necessarily have to do with overpriced fashion or the dictates of fickle fashion designers. Spending tons of money on clothes that neither fit nor flatter will leave you with an empty pocketbook and an inappropriate wardrobe. With the right choices in shape, drape, and attention to overall symmetry, you can hide figure flaws, highlight your best assets, and look professionally polished orbodaciously beautiful, whatever your budget.
Primary Body Types and Clothing Tips
There are five main body shapes, and although some women may not fall entirely within a single category, you’ll probably find that a majority of your traits lend themselves to one type. Keep in mind that weight fluctuations and fitness levels can make the difference between softer, or more defined, variations on these silhouettes.
Hourglass: Your shoulders are somewhat broad, with curvy hips of a similar width and a nipped in, defined, waist. You likely have a delicate bone structure, medium bust, and a derriere that’s definitely there. It’s one of the rarest body types, the most balanced and symmetrical, although it comes with its own challenges.
Best Dressed: Because you’re well-proportioned, you should strive to accentuate that classic waist-to-hip ratio. Don’t do it with skin-tight fabrics, though. Instead, use thin or wide belts to highlight your smaller waistline. Tunic tops that gently hug under the bustline and around the ribcage, lightly flaring out over the hips, also look fantastic on your figure. Sometimes that defined waist will serve to emphasize a less than ideal belly area—wear streamlined pencil skirts or wide-waistband trousers to tame the tummy. A knee-length wrap-dress with its slenderizing tie-waist and v-neckline, will look timelessly elegant. By all means, don’t hide your feminine form—you may sometimes wish your hips were narrower and not so noticeable in contrast to your slender waist, but these are beautiful feminine curves, don’t hide them.
Inverted Triangle: Another relatively rare shape, and rather athletic looking, with broad shoulders, a typically full bustline, and an average waist tapering down to narrow hips and long legs. You likely have a strong bone structure and are somewhat short-waisted.
Best Dressed: If you have broad shoulders and a big chest but small hips the ideal looks for you are wide legged pants, roomy skirts, dresses that are cut small on top and wider below the waist.
You’ll want to emphasize your lower half and de-emphasize the upper. Display those strong legs with higher hemlines, and steer clear of too many ruffles, frills or busy patterns on your blouses. Also avoid shirts or jackets that are too bulky, heavy or sporting shoulder pads. Lightweight cottons—fabrics that hang softly will look best. Try V-neck tops to “de-square” your top half. Your slender hips can easily handle pleated, full, skirts and lower-rise jeans. A-line skirts are great for balancing wide shoulders because they flare out generously at the hem, and embellished wide belts worn on the low hip flatter your body shape. Thick or ornamental ties at the waist help define your mid-section. A good idea is to go darker, sleek and minimal up top and fancier, brighter or more decorative below the waist.
Rectangle: This shape is also known as “straight” because your waist is undefined, with somewhat broad shoulders and square hips of equal width. You’re most likely slim but toned, with a small-to-medium bust, flat stomach and bottom, and slender arms and legs.
Best Dressed: It’s probably not too difficult for you to find clothes that fit. What you may want to do is coax a little more curve from your frame. Start at the top and wear blouses with ruffles, lace and other bodice embellishments that taper off toward the waist. (Halter-style tops are an especially good choice.) Wear lighter shades closer to your shoulders, with darker hues at your waist and hips. This creates the illusion of a nipped-in waistline. Tunics that tie gently at the waist are better than heavy belts that only emphasize the lack of curve. Lengthen your silhouette with long cardigans, coats and capes. Sheath dresses that fall in a straight (but not tight) line are perfect for your form. Wear tops untucked if your waist is heavy, with slender, color-matched bottoms for a slimming effect.
Round: Also known as the “apple,” your shape is quite common, and not as hard to dress as you might think. Your shoulders are well-balanced with your somewhat narrow hips, and you have an ample bustline, wide back, rounded midsection, relatively small posterior and slender, shapely, arms and legs. Apples are at their fullest around the middle.
Best Dressed:Since your upper body is a bit wider than your lower half, concentrate on minimizing your larger bust and thick waistline, and maximizing those slim hips and gorgeous legs. Tight shirts won’t flatter your torso and they’ll create a top-heavy silhouette. Opt for empire or drop-waist styles, to skim over your midsection. The V-neck blouse and A-line skirt combo, flattering on most body shapes, is especially nice on you because it slenderizes a heavy upper body, and adds balancing width to a narrow lower half. Show off those lovely arms and legs in sleek sleeveless tunics and above-the-knee skirts and dresses. Fitted jackets that hit at hip level matched with flowing slacks in the same (ideally dark) hue will elongate your line and camouflage a thick tummy. Avoid pleated pants as they add bulk, and too-tight jeans, as they’ll just accentuate your fuller top half. Remember, simple cuts and straight lines will work well for you. Long necklaces and flowing scarves will be very favorable. Also stay away from waist short t-shirts and short jackets. Not to mention horizontal stripes. Try polka dots instead of vertical lines.
Triangle: This body type is also very prevalent, and known more by its common nickname, “pear.” You have a slender elegant neck, a sloping, narrow shoulder-line, smaller bust, delicate ribcage, defined waist and wider low hips and round thighs. Basically, you’re a little “bottom-heavy.”
Best Dressed: Emphasizing the top half of your frame, particularly your shoulders, is key. You want more width there, so go for shoulder-pads, bold patterns, bright colors and embellishment on blouses. Noticeable, shorter necklaces, large collars, and medium long jackets are good choices. Boat and square necklines give the illusion of wider shoulders, and jackets with details on the sleeve will also balance that area. (Make sure jackets and blazers hit at the waist and don’t end at the widest part of your hipline.) Bootleg jeans, or trousers that flare out just a little toward the bottom, will look fabulous, as will full or fit-and-flare skirts, floaty empire-waist dresses, and slender belts (to highlight that trim waist). Avoid pencil skirts. A good rule of thumb is to keep your tops either fitted or layered and bulky, and your bottoms skimming, relaxed, darker hued and free of too much decoration.
Rule of thumb: It’s about balance
As a final word, regardless of what your body type, when it comes to dressing right, it’s really just about balance. With clothes we can influence the visual appearance of our bodies, enhance our assets and take the focus away from areas that we don’t want too much attention to. Clothes can’t change your body, that is a matter of diet, exercise and genetics and we better make friends with what we have, since it is what it is.
And remember, there is no rule for beauty. Every woman is beautiful in her own way. There are no real “rules” when it comes to dressing, though hopefully the above tips can help you decide and find outfits that bring out the best in you. And hey, if you happen to fall in love with a special dress, top or skirt that doesn’t technically suit your body type, if it makes you happy to wear it, get it and don’t worry about it. What really counts in the end is that you feel good in the colors and cuts that you chose. If it makes you happy you will radiate joy and that is a big part of what dressing well is about!
Mama: In closing, regardless of how we look in the physical, Family women possess the beauty secret that every woman in the world longs for. The Lord has given us lasting inner beauty, which is priceless. So in making this push on improving our appearance and in talking about the details of physical beauty and how to improve our God-given assets so that we can be a better witness, remember that we have the Lord’s love, His Spirit within us, and that makes us truly beautiful.
We may look to the System for some practical tips and ideas to enhance what the Lord has given us in the natural, but in the end, the women in the world are the ones who will be looking to us to discover true beauty, which is more than skin deep. That’s the goal, in all of our physical improvements–to draw others to Jesus, to give them His love, and to get them hooked on the power of His Spirit!