It's a basic fact that our bodies change over the course of our lifetimes. Weight gains and losses, pregnancy... even those blessed thin and fit from birth will have to deal with the effects of gravity. I'm still coming to terms with the fundamental alterations my own body incurred from my recent twin pregnancy. (These sweet little girls were so worth it!)
Knowing your own shape really is crucial to looking good. Accenting it, enhancing it, sometimes camouflaging and counteracting it. Even an elementary understanding of how best to dress your shape will simplify your shopping and have you creating outfits more confidently.
But get ready for a roller coaster ride! You probably grew up hearing about the basic 4, Hourglass, Rectangle, Apple and Pear. Made sense. But nowadays there are many more ways to define body shapes. Here is just a sampling.
- Trinny and Susannah (brilliant British ladies and originators of What Not To Wear) revealed 12 shapes in their Body Shape Bible. Click here for some very realistic pics to go with the 12 shapes!
- Imogen Lamport from Inside Out Style uses 7 shapes; 8, O, A, I, V, X, H. And explains them very clearly in various posts on her blog.
- myshape.com does it with letters, 7 to be exact: M-Y-S-H-A-P-E
For a basic beginning on how best to dress your particular shape, I've posted the highlights (with edits for modest dressers) of a great article from the February issue of InStyle magazine. For a fun activity, click here to visit their Fit Profiler.
- Draw eyes north with bold or light colors on top and dark shades on bottom. *Light-reflecting earrings invite upward glances.
- Broad necklines (boatnecks or off-the-shoulder shirts) equalize your figure. For modest dressers, think broad lapels, strong shoulders (not shoulder pads!) and puffy sleeves.
- Jackets, long cardigans and dress shirts worn open create a lengthening effect, minimizing the appearance of wider thighs.
- Baggy clothes have a body-shrinking effect. Ensure fit; get things tailored if need be.
- Be creative with waistlines: Drop-waist tops make torsos look longer while high-rise bottoms add inches to legs.
- Too billowy a blouse or dizzying a print can overwhelm. Classic, structured shapes concoct an illusion of tall and narrow.
- Foundation is key: INvest in a good bra with sculpted cups and sturdy straps to maintain allover smooth lift and to prevent side bulges.
- Avoid bulky turtlenecks, which make you look heavy from the waist up.
- Subtle accents on top complement decolletage while bold details (like, yes, stripes) add unwanted volume.
- Enhance a smaller chest with necklines that expose a bit: Pick ones with a flirty dip, like a sweetheart or a deep V. (For modest dressers - go ahead and pair a bright or sparkly camisole with those deep V necklines!)
- Add curves to narrow hips by wearing a thick, low-slung belt with jeans or trousers.
- Experiment with new fabrics, like boucle or ones with sequin, that give a little dimension to a straighter figure.
- By keeping the silhouette close - but not snug - to your body, you look trimmer than you would trying to hide under baggy clothes.
- Dark palettes minimize, but you can also go lean with bright, monochromatic hues.
- Too tight sleeves accentuate arm bulge. Fabrics should skim upper arms. Bell sleeves are always chic too.
- Accentuate your profile with a few pretty belts and cinch everything (from dresses to blouses) at the small of your waist.
- Jersey and silk lightly graze curves. Wool and tweed add bulk.
- Defined, structured shoulders and exposed necklines (think V-neck) flatter busts.
- When dressing up, wear bottoms that rise over your belly for the smoothest lines under tops.
- Go for clothing basics, but make a statement with jewelry like bold necklaces or cocktail rings, which can be trotted out post pregnancy too.
- Don't spend a fortune on maternity wear. Empire-waist blouses, cardigans and dress shirts untucked and open all work.