I have always chuckled at the answer, “I am round, round is a shape.”
No two people are built exactly alike and that is what makes us special. Become familiar with your body type—knowledge is power and the tape measure is a necessary item in your style toolbox.
- Ladies are you average, petite or tall?
- Have you ever taken your true measurements?
Where do you carry your weight— are you bigger on the top, bigger on the bottom, bigger in the middle? We all carry our weight somewhere on our frame. Let’s define what your shape is today, not 10 pounds in the past or future, and move forward with purpose.
We come in all shapes and sizes and each one comes with styling challenges. We are who we are, so let’s embrace our genetics and work with what we have. Clothing can become our ally when we want to highlight our assets or disguise our liabilities – that’s called “styling!”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when dressing their bodies, is not understanding their specific body type. Quite honestly, where to shop, what to buy, and what to pay are all valid questions, but before you can tackle those you must answer the dreaded question, “What shape am I?”
Here are the basic body terms I use with my clients:
#1 – Bigger on the top – Ladies, simply put, your bust and/or shoulder measurements are fuller than your hips and bottom.
#2 – Bigger on the bottom – You are fuller at the hips and bottom and smaller on the top.
#3 – Bigger in the middle – There is a little extra in the middle – this could be from numerous things like Super Bowl food.
#4 – Curvy – You are a curvy girl with a full bust, a defined waist and full hips resulting in the ultimate hourglass figure.
#5 – Not Curvy – There is very little difference between your chest, waist and hip measurement.
Your tape measure is your friend! You wouldn’t buy a new table without knowing both the size of the room and the size of the table. Shopping for your clothing should be approached the same way. I have yet to walk into a department store and see signs saying bigger-on-the-top department on the left and bigger-in-the-middle department on the right, so you have to be your own advocate for both in-store and online purchases.
Let me give you a few styling tips for each body type for you to keep in mind when engaging in anything that has to do with dressing both by body proportion and dressing for success.
BIGGER ON THE TOP
If you’re fuller on the top, I find the biggest mistake that women make is to shop at stores that specialize in draping. If you are shopping there, your whole style might be built around draping loose fabrics in the attempt to hide – also known as tenting!
Here’s the bad news: you’re only creating a more obvious imbalance, making you appear even larger on the top and smaller on the bottom. We call that the light bulb silhouette!
What we’re going for is the hourglass silhouette, which is big, small, big. A great way to accomplish this silhouette is to look for solid color jackets, sweaters or blouses with a bit of structure in the tailoring to define the waistline. I recommend that you be measured by a bra-fit-specialist every two years. Feel free to reach out to me for referrals in your zip-code. This is one category that you should not assume your size, get it right from the get-go as the girls must be locked and loaded in order for your clothing to fit you properly.
Try to steer clear of the skinny-style pants, which will over-accentuate your larger top and create an imbalanced look. Look for a boot-cut trouser, with a little bit of a flare to balance the width of the shoulders or bust-line to achieve the hourglass look.
BIGGER ON THE BOTTOM
We’re going to do the reverse if you are fuller on the bottom and slimmer on the top. You want to add volume on the top, by incorporating color, texture, shine, a wider lapel, shoulder pads or even horizontal stripes here.
Your goal is to elongate and balance your shape by accentuating your top half. Don’t wear long tops that cover your bottom. This will shorten the look of your legs and draw the eye to your bottom half.
Do choose tops that sit above the hip and give you a waistline. Try a structured jacket with interesting details or prints that will direct attention to the top half of your body. Embellished or embroidered tops are great for centering the focus on your slim upper body. Scarves, earrings, and necklaces are also fabulous attention-grabbers, keeping the eye of the beholder at eye level with you!
Ladies, play down your fuller bottom by keeping your pants simple and unadorned. No booty bling, bedazzling, or patch and flap back pockets! Diminish the fuller-on-the-bottom challenge with a darker trouser and pointy shoes to elongate the leg.
Bonus Tailoring Tip: Often women who are fuller on the bottom struggle to find pants that fit both their booty and their waistline. The first line of defense is to shop for the “curvy” fit. If that still leaves a gap that could fit your cell phone, head to the tailor to nip in the waist for a well-tailored, professional fit. As I mentioned the tailor is your friend. You need to know one. Most dry cleaners can shorten sleeves, hems and take in a waistband. Be sure your sleeves are just below the wrist-bone and your hemlines never drag on the ground. For the women that find that perfect fitting pair of black pants, buy two and tailor one for flats and one for heels.
This is a tweet-able – you are not well dressed until you are well tailored!
BIGGER IN THE MIDDLE
This is another body type that commonly falls victim to draping which then incorporates your hips into the oversized proportion.
If you have a slim lower body and carry weight around your middle, your goal is to minimize your midsection by highlighting your shoulders and legs.
Opt for a top with structure to balance the middle. A button-front jacket or blazer creates a long vertical line. Look for a one-button fitted jacket with a low button stance. A loose, non-clinging, but not oversized top that falls vertically is the best way to de-emphasize your midsection.
On the bottom, look for pants that rise a bit higher with Lycra or “fit panels” to avoid the dreaded muffin-top. Women’s pants are available with these styling details; you just have to specifically look for them when shopping.
Ladies, don’t forget the all-important shapers that can rake in and contain just about anything. There are two options for controlling your extra-in-the-middle. You can attack from the top down, meaning wearing an over-the-head shaper that either fits over or under your bra-line and is tucked into your pants. Or you can attack from the bottom up with pull-up shapers that end high under the bra-line.
The point being, that fuller-in-the-middle needs to be fully covered in one way or another so that it is not exposed visibly to you or to others both from the front and the back. Remember, you have to look good when you leave the room, so before you leave your house in the morning, check yourself in your full-length mirror, both front and back!
You’re an hourglass! Congrats to you! Your goal is to look for items that follow your natural curves and accent the narrowness of your waistline.
Do NOT hide in shapeless garments! A single-breasted shapely blazer or cardigan sweater creates a waistline and a strong V shape from the neckline down. Be sure any v-neck blouses or sweaters are not cut too low.
Tailoring Tip: Shapely girls come in all heights – be sure your lengths are correct. Because you have to purchase the jacket to accommodate your curves first, check with the tailor to measure and adjust the sleeves. The same goes for hemlines. Curvy girls need to be conscious of the length of your skirts and dresses both standing and sitting. Sit down in front of your full-length mirror, cross your legs and check for side gaps in coverage.
Don’t attempt to wear clothing that doesn’t fit your chest or hips, as you’ll look like you are playing dress-up.
Do use substantial fabrications with texture or patterns to help create volume. Layer whenever possible, and try asymmetrical hemlines as this creates movement and depth. Use scarves to add color and interest – lucky you as you can use those huge scarves that most women do not know what to do with!
Tailoring Tip: Just because you are not shapely doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a tailor! When in doubt, tailor it out! Boxy jackets and baggy pants are not the way to go for you. Tailor them down, show that you care, and are well appointed!
Need some lovin? Give or get the Gift Of Style for Valentine’s Day. The gift certificate will be emailed immediately and followed up with a mailed copy.
BONUS – Through 2/14 gift certificate recipients will be gifted Doreen’s recently published book – Confidence Is Always In Style.
Happy Valentine’s Day!