Sunday, 22 September 2013

Body shapes and What to wear to look great!

So last time I talked about colours; today I'll dive into the world of body silhouettes. Some people identify up to eight body shapes. I'll talk about five.  It's great to know what suits your body type in order to look a knock-out. You'll also understand why pretty dresses from Japanese sewing books don't suit all of us.

P.S.Please bear with my drawings, I was tired after a six-hour karaoke session with friends which ended at 5.00am ;)

Inverted trianglekeystone or Y-shaped body type 

This body type is common amongst sportswomen or opera singers. Features particular to this type:
  • wide shoulders, narrow hips
  • upper body is often shorter than the lower body
  • sometimes the waist is wide, but not very prominent
  • when gaining weight, the excess masse is concentrated at the bust, arms, belly and back area
The most important thing for Inverted Triangles is not to accentuate the shoulder area. Minimum details on shoulder lines, keep is simple!

What to avoid:
  • big collars, cleavages
  • ruffles
  • decorative elements and pockets at bust level
  • long skirts and sleeves
  • narrow silhouettes which might accentuate the imbalance between the upper and lower body
  • double-breasted jackets
  • curved accessories

What to wear:
  • details below the waist like pockets, pleats, dropped waist, peplums
  • V-necks
  • raglan sleeves
  • diagonal designs
  • dark colours on the upper body

Jackets: simple cut, without any decorative elements or shoulder pads.
Tops: simple cuts
Trousers: any cut, but especially breeches
Dresses: A-line dresses, shirt-dresses with decorative elements at the hem
Coast: straight lines, flared at the bottom
Swimwear: preferably two-pieces. For a one-piece swimsuit, choose one with details on the hips. 

Triangle, teadrop, pear or A-shaped body type 

Triangles are defined by narrow shoulders and a small bust extending to a much wider hips. You'd want to elongate your legs and visually look like Hourglass . Particular features of Triangles:
  • upper body looks more elegant than the lower body
  • sometimes the waist is lower than in other types because the t
  • triangle's torso is usually longer than their legs
  • when putting on weight, the excess  stays on the lower area (hips, buttocks, sides)
  • when putting on weight, the proportional difference between the shoulders and hips increases, and you have to consider how to diminish this imbalance visually
  • posture is very important for your figure type: if you keep your back straight, the imbalance between the upper and lower body is less visible
What to avoid:
  • baggy clothes because they will make you look heavier and bigger than you are
  • clothes that cling to your body too much. When wearing tights garments, the difference between the upper and lower body will be more accentuated
  • any detail which is located on the widest part of hips, thus making your hips visually bigger (peplum, belts, ornamental finished, obvious seams and prints)
  • rigid and non-draped fabric
  • tulip skirts
  • raglan or halters
  • skirts or trousers with in-seam pockets
  • jeans (too many pockets)

What to wear:
  • details at the neckline and shoulders
  • scarves, contrasting trims
  • wide collars
  • dark colours on the lower body and lighter on the top
  • shoulder pads
  • jackets and tops should stop either just above or below the widest hip area
  • longer skirts
Garment suggestions:

Jackets:  with buttons and pockets, double-breasted
Tops: bright, with horizontal stripes
Skirts: simple lines, long flared, gored, skirts cut on bias
Trousers: unicolor, with side fastener, slightly flared at hemline, if you have longer legs consider also wide trousers 
Dresses: cut at the waistline
Coats: straight shoulders, big collars
Swimwear: many details on on the upper body. Avoid swimsuits with big openings at the widest hip area

Hourglass body type

Considered a classical type, hourglass cal also be quite problematic, especially if your are a lucky owner of significant breasts. Your dressing goal would be to show off your curves. Hourglass type's distinctive features are:
  • equal width of shoulders and hips with a prominent waist
  • visually,  the upper and lower body appear proportional
  • when gaining weight, the hourglass keeps excess on hips and bust
  • regardless the weight, waist remains quite accented
What to avoid:
  • shapeless garments, including untucked tops (remember Japanese sewing books? That's why most of their garments don't fit!)
  • very tight garments, including jeans and trousers
  • very pronounced prints (strips, squares, geometrical ornaments)
  • boat necklines, unless your bust is very small
  • heavy and bulky fabric
  • garments with volume at shoulders and hips

What to wear:
  • shirtwaist dresses
  • tailored jackets
  • straight skirts
  • pair full skirts with close fitting tops
  • contrasting colours to show off your shape
  • details should be of equal interest on top and bottom to keep balance
  • vertical lines

Jackets: fitted
Tops: fitted, wrapped
Skirts: straight, gored, long flared at the hem,  gored or cut on bias
Trousers: any type with a waistband
Dresses: any type fitted or with a waistband
Coats: fitted or with a waistband
Swimwear: any type

Oval or apple body type

Compared to other body types, Apples are the most disproportionate type, however throughout history Apples were often inspirations for artists such as Rubens. Your main goal is to emphasize your legs and cleavage. Distinguishing features of the Apple type are:
  • the middle section of the body is the most prominent
  • the width of the shoulders and hips is the same
  • when gaining weight, the excess stays on the belly and hips
  • they are distinguished by their thin legs and lean hips and buttocks

What to avoid:
  • tight clothes
  • mini-skirts
  • narrow skirts and blouses
  • big prints
  • bright colours or shine at the waist
  • garments wider than your waist
What to wear:
  • garments that draw attention to your legs and cleavage
  • use vertical or diagonal details at the body's vertical center
  • draw attention to your shoulder and hips by adding interest with volume (gathers, pleats, ruffles, shoulder pads)
  • flared skirts
  • three-quarter length or short sleeves

Jackets: fitted at the waist with shoulder pads
Tops: flowing tops from sheer, light, transparent fabrics
Skirts: long, narrow skirts, skirts with a vent, high-waisted skirts, knee-length skirts narrowing toward the hem
Trousers: straight or narrow cut, cigarette trousers
Dresses: cut on the waist, not very fitted but flowing, assymetric dresses
Coats: straight or cut at the waist
Swimwear: one-piece with details at the waist line

Rectangle, H-shape or column body type

With shoulders and hips being the same width, there is no clear waist line. Because of this you should not accentuate on your waist, but rather on the neck/shoulder area and hips.  The distinguished features of Rectangles are :

  • the waist is not visible, straight hips
  • Rectangles tend to gain weight more easily than other body types
  • usually very small breast

What to avoid:
  • baggy and shapeless clothes
  • narrow or low waist skirts and trousers
  • tight belts and waistbands
  • wide garments with elasticated waistbands
  • dresses cut on a straight line below the knee
  • shoulder pads

What to wear:

  • garments with details on the bust and hip areas
  • horizontal lines, adding dimensions to your shape
  • contrasting colours on the top and bottom
  • trousers with full or flared legs and narrow waistbands
  • bright colours 
  • any detail accenting your bust and hips
Garment suggestions:

Jackets: unstructured, tailored jackets, preferably with one button or peplum
Tops: tunics, tops with a hem reaching mid-hip area, ruffles at the neckline, top with one shoulder
Skirts: trapeze, flared towards the hem, full, tulip skirts, tulle skirts
Trousers: straight or wide trousers, low-waisted; if you are thin, straight trousers with the leg narrowing towards the hem
Dresses: Empire waist dresses, trapeze-shaped dresses, bustiers or corset bodice (they'll lift the breasts, adding some volume), wrapped dresses 
Coats: half-fitted with or without belt, if choosing a double-breasted coat, make sure that the buttons are parallel and very close to each other
Swimwear: two-piece, bright colours, full bottoms , decorative waistband


I hope that this short overview will help you improve your wardrobe, but also help choosing the right pattern for the jacket sew-along. For instance, several of you have made remarks along the lines of "a boxy jacket is not for my". I have to tell you that the boxy jacket is not for me either. When working with my pattern I'll make it fitted.

Having said that, I've created five new Pinterest boards with clothing suggestions for each body type. You can see them by clicking "Garment suggestions" of each body type.

Are you aware of your body type and do you try to dress accordingly?


  1. Karaoke, I'd love to go someday! We often sign at home with PS3, but it's not the same. *^-^*
    I'm an hourglass, I had no idea I should avoid strong patterns like stripes, squares, ect, I love stripes! *^v^*

  2. We should meet up and go to a karaoke!
    The thing about stripes and strong patterns for Hourglass (I am one as well) is that they will hide the hourglass shape which we want to accentuate, especially if you are skinny.

  3. Good idea, there is a teeny tiny chance I'll be in Tokyo some time next year. Well, wishful thinking at the monet but we never know. *^-^*
    I'm not skinny, I'll play with the stripe directions next time I'll have a chance of buying stripy fabric for a dress. *^o^*

  4. This is great information. I am looking forward to this Chanel jacket sew along. I am a pear shape. One thing I was told is not to wear clothing too high to the neck. So I am thinking I will open up the neck line.
    I did some research on the chanel jacket and discovered that she had many variations. I am used to the simple neckline but she also designed it with lapels and collars.
    I designed a pattern using the Pattern Master Boutique software. It has princess seams front and back and a 2-piece sleeve. Susan

  5. haha! "I was tired after a six-hour karaoke session with friends"
    sorry! ;)

  6. Maider....Masustak23 September 2013 at 11:22

    WOW Inna!!!! Thank you! I think that your overview is very interesting. It is very important to have all this information on mind when you are sewing...but sometimes I can´t stop making something that I like, although isn´t nice for my body shape....ha, ha,ha!

  7. 6 hr karaoke session, and you still had the energy to write all this?! You are a superwoman! Thanks for a really great and informative post :)

  8. Not at all! I would stay six more hours :)

  9. I've never heard about Pattern Master Boutique software but have to research now ;) The good thing about the French jacket is that you can go crazy with your imagination :)

  10. I know! I am the same ;)

  11. Thanks Carolyn! I've just spent some time admiring your paper dolls! I'd love to be able to draw like you instead of using silly shapes~

  12. As a rectangle, your list of avoidables describes is spot-on. I became frustrated last year when shopping from all the loose, squarish tops that seem to be all the rage right now. Back in the 90s, I used to cut the shoulder pads out of all my shirts and dresses because they made me look like a football player (and then contemplate stuffing them in my bra).

    I have a confession to make--while I was fascinated with the French Jacket, and all it's dazzling trims, I shied away because of the shape. It wasn't until I saw your jacket last spring that I realized that one *could* make a French jacket that didn't look like it belonged to a poodle-loving grandma. I fell in love with your yellow jacket!

  13. PS--I also follow the "guidelines" when dressing. I also like my tops and bodices quite fitted to show off the figure I worked hard for.

  14. As sewers we need to keep shape and siloutte in mind--not just pattern and color. I find this interesting when we consider the urge to buy the newest inde pattern out there because everyone else on the blogesphere is doing it. For me (and I stress that). I would never in a million years buy and make the Sewaholic Saltspring dress or a BHL Victoria Blazer. It doesn't mean they aren't lovely patterns or that I'm not "plugged into" the beat of the online sewing community just because I don't make them; although it sometimes seem very had to resist the urge! Great post.

  15. Very useful information, thanks!

  16. Such great series of posts Inna, although like the colour post I'm still not sure which I fit into - that is bad isn't it! I think I'm pear or H but clearly i'm making all the wrong things for my body type. Mmmm.. I think height must play a part as well. So, what are your karaoke songs of choice!

  17. Even if say so, I have not seen garments which would not suit you. You have a good eye for fabric and print combination. Don't be hard on yourself!

    Well, our karaoke repertoire contains pretty much everything: Elton John, Bon Jovi, Bonnie Tyler, Arctic Monkeys, Frank Sinatra etc etc. The louder the better :).. although my friend managed to fall asleep

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