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How To Dress For Your Body Type and Female Body Shape Explained

How To Dress For Your Body Type and Female Body Shape Explained

We all have those Pinterest boards, or inspiration folders full of styles we love but somehow just can’t pull off. You buy the outfit but it still just doesn’t work for you. You chalk it up to not being skinny, the outfit being outside your comfort zone or some other “easy” excuse. But I’m here to tell you, all you need to dress better is to learn how to work WITH your body shape instead of against it.

Today we will be exploring the importance of proportions and what styles work with what body types easily so that you look amazing every day. 

We will start off by talking about the most common body shapes. I emphasize that every body is unique and beautiful and that you don’t need to lose weight or change yourself in order to feel better about your style.  However, knowing your body shape helps you choose clothes that look better on you.

Female body shape is based mostly on genetics and your skeletal structure. While you can adjust your body shape a bit with exercise and hormone levels, for the most part, it is pre-defined by your skeletal structure and your predisposed fat and muscle distribution.  So work WITH your body shape instead of against it. 

If you struggle with figuring out which body type is your shape- you can measure your hips, waist, and shoulders to get an exact placing. Here’s a guide on how to determine your body shape in under 5 minutes.

Do you struggle with fashion and your closet is an overwhelming mess? Check out my Craft the Closet of Your Dreams Playbook to curate a closet you love and find the style you were always meant to have.

Let’s start with the female body shapes

For my video/visual learners, check out the following video:

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Here an overview of each female body shape:
female body shapes, round body shape, pear body shape, inverted triangle body shape, rectangular body shape and hourglass body shape


The female body shapes include inverted triangle, Rectangle, Regular Triangle also referred to as pear shape, Hourglass, and round or apple shape.

The Inverted Triangle body shape:

inverted triangle female body shape , a body shape that has broader shoulders than hips

You typically have an inverted triangle body shape if you wear a larger top half than the bottom, and your shoulders are broader than your hips.  You also probably don’t have a lot of definition between your waist and hips.  Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore, and Rene Zellweger all have an inverted triangle body shape.

Avoid necklines like boat-neck or Bardot, big straps, halter-neck tops, big shawl collars, and larger patterns on your top half. Instead, opt for items that accentuate your bottom half like an a-line skirt or wide-leg trousers. 

The best pair of jeans that work with an inverted triangle body shape would be the boyfriend jean.

Need some help creating the perfect wardrobe for your inverted triangle body shape? I have your ultimate guide to the inverted triangle shape in this article, here. Filled with style tips, exact clothing silhouettes, and outfit guidelines to help you embrace your unique shape.

The Rectangle Body Shape: 

rectangle body shape, how to dress for your body shape, rectangle body shapes have equal hips and shoulders but little definition in their waist

With the rectangle body shape, you wear the same size in tops and bottoms, you don’t have an overly defined waistline, and have a straight shoulder line and hips.  It is also called the “athletic” body shape. Celebrities like Kate Hudson and Gweneth Paltrow have this female body shape.

Creating the illusion of a waist will help you with the rectangle body type. Belts around your waist, high-waisted trousers, and belted jackets are all great options.  You should avoid silhouettes that are too vertical- like a straight jacket with straight trousers which will give you little definition.  Softer fabrics can help you, as they look great belted and can draw your eye into your “waist”. 

You have a great body type for practically any pair of pants.  You can go looser or form-fitting, and in fact sometimes body-conscious pants can highlight your curves.  Mid-rise jeans are probably your best bet because they will help highlight your waist more, and don’t be afraid to belt your jeans to add a bit more emphasis on your waist. 

Regular Triangle or “Pear Shape” Body Shape

pearshape body shape or "regular triangle" body shape. how to dress better using your body shape, with the pearshape female body shape you have wider hips and a narrow top half

A triangle or pear-shaped body is identified by a wider lower half, so you probably have wider hips and thighs and a narrower top half.  Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and JLo both have pear-shaped bodies. Although Kim K does a lot to convince us she has an hourglass shape, her hips are in fact more proportionally in line with a pear shape.

For this body shape, you want to draw attention to your upper half. You can do this by choosing prints or brighter colors for your top half. Wider necklines like boat necklines and sweetheart necklines broaden the shoulders.

You can also layer your tops to add more volume to your upper half.  You want your shirts to be the right length.    You want your shirts to hit just at the widest part of your hips, avoid extremely long shirts and extremely cropped shirts. (again these are just basic guidelines, not hard and fast rules- think of these as jumping-off points, but as you learn your body you can evolve and expand your own recipes for successful outfits)

Also, a padded bra or push-up bra can help accentuate the top half, if you are comfortable with them.  It is KEY to have a bra that fits properly, no matter your shape. I love Thirdlove for this, as they have half sizes.

Also, you can use dark colors on your bottom half to slim your hips down a bit. 

Want an exact guide on building a wardrobe for the pear-body shape? Check out my detailed step-by-step pear-shaped body wardrobe with style tips, outfit guides, and best silhouettes.

Hourglass Body Shape

round body shape, how to dress better by knowing your body shape, the hourglass bodyshape is defined by having equal widths in your shoulders and hips and a smaller, defined waist

An hourglass shape is defined by an equal size in hips and shoulders with a waist that is well defined.  Celebrities like Beyonce and Dita Von Teese are famous for their hourglass shape. However, Marilyn Monroe is the most well-known hourglass figure out there.

via GIPHY

With this body shape, you still want to accentuate your waist, because that is the slimmest part of your body.  

With an hourglass shape, you want to avoid shapeless or baggy clothes that will overwhelm your frame and can even look lumpy. 

Hourglass shapes usually come with a more busty figure.  If you want to be more modest or minimize your chest you can opt for a boatneck, or scoop neck and avoid high neck tops like turtlenecks. 

You should also look for pants with angled pockets, instead of inseam pockets, as they will not tug across your hips as much (which can create unflattering lines). Pocketless pants also achieve this. 

Because your figure is already very “feminine” ( I say that in the stereotypical definition of femininity) you can rock styles like a cute flirty dress with sneakers easily. A miniskirt is also a great option for you, to show off your legs. 

Peplum tops or Empire waist dresses are also great options- as they highlight your strengths. 

Want an exact guide for building an hourglass wardrobe? Check out my detailed hourglass wardrobe with all the must-have silhouettes and style pitfalls for this female shape.

Round Body Shape

round body shape, also known as an apple body shape that is defined with a broader upper half and no defined waist with slim legs

The round body shape, also known as an apple body shape, is known for a larger upper body than lower body with no defined waistline. This body shape has a slim waist and great legs but lacks definition from the hips up.

This can be a difficult body shape to initially buy for, as the tendency is to buy things oversized to compensate for the broader top half. A proportional dressing emphasis will help this, and we will discuss that in the video below.

But for now, keep your tops and jackets more streamlined and simple. You don’t want to have shoulder details or embellishments that draw too much attention. You want to aim for a balanced look, so that means well-fitted, tailored tops and jackets that are not skin tight.

For dresses, you want to avoid body-conscious dresses and opt for a slim-fit dress that hits above the knee. Pencil skirts also work nicely with a loose-fit top.

The easiest jeans for your body type is a straight leg jean, as it highlights your fantastic legs, while also defining your waist a bit more. To balance a casual outfit, opt for a looser sweater or top. Because you are missing that waist definition two tight pieces on top and bottom will feel off-balanced and top-heavy.

How to dress better using proportional dress rules (golden ratio dressing)

While your body shape is very important, and there are individualized style tips for each and every body shape- your overall proportions are also INCREDIBLY essential. 

The rule of thirds is very important.  The most visually flattering proportion we have found is thirds.  Once you have mastered your proportions and have evolved your style, you can expand these proportions to sixths and beyond. BUT! That is a more advanced skill and takes time to hone your style.  So for now, remember the rules of thirds. 

Here is your body cut up into thirds:

how to dress better using the golden ratio, body sketch front and back with lines defining each 1/3 section (at waist and at knee)

So you should have one-third on top, and two-thirds on the bottom (like with the below image).

golden ratio dressing, 1/3 top and 2/3 trouser to appear more stylish

OR you should have 2/3rds on top and one-third on the bottom. Never cut your body up in half, it won’t look flattering on any body type. 

how to dress using the golden ratio, woman in dress that hits just above her knee composing of 2/3rds of her body, bare legs below coming 1/3rd

As you become more accustomed to your body shape you can tweak this ratio and explore it a bit more. But until then, try to always hit the golden ratio for the easiest, most flattering look.

how to dress using the golden ratio, 2/3rds on top and 1/3 on the bottom with her waist defined. girl wearing a turtlenck tucked into long skirt and blazer over

Style Tips to Dress better

Let’s start with a few basics to get us started. This is foundational advice to get you on the right track with fashion. 

  1. Don’t buy or keep something that doesn’t fit. It’s disheartening when you buy something a size too small and then can’t fit into in a week. Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Unless you have  a tailor on speed dial, skip it. 
  2. Set up a wardrobe with basics that can be used as a foundation to more outfits.  Personally, I love trying new fashion trends and don’t believe in confining myself to one style. However, I still have a set of basic pieces in my wardrobe that are timeless and act as supporting pieces for all my “riskier” outfits.  I have an entire post for you on how to build a chic wardrobe from scratch (no matter your budget), check it out here.
  3. Avoid rushing the process. Don’t buy things just because they are heavily discounted, don’t go on massive shopping sprees, and don’t copy outfits exactly.  These are all things that will lead to you losing yourself in your style and making rash decisions when it comes to your closet building.  
  4. Don’t give up.  I get it can be frustrating when you try an outfit or a trend and don’t get the response you want. But, it can take a few times to conquer a new trend or style.  The more you try it, the more success you will have, and in turn the more authority your style will hold. 

Because my friends and family know me for my fashion, I can wear riskier trends and not have them doubt them.  They have come to know me for my authority in fashion (long before I was a fashion blogger) and that comes with more flexibility in my style.  While I don’t recommend dressing for other people- I do know that getting criticized or judged on your clothes is devastating, so remember 1. You can’t please everyone and 2. Your fashion is about you.

But now, here are some easy style tips to help you with any self-conscious doubts.  Just as a reminder, any flaws you feel your body has, are not what other people see. I understand it is easy to feel self-conscious about your hips or your shoulders or your stomach- but every body is beautiful and I don’t say these tips because I think you need to “fix” yourself. But I say them in hopes you feel more comfortable in your clothing. 

How do I look slimmer?

1. Invest in Shapewear; Brands like Spanx and Skims grew into major sensations because they actually work. They help eliminate bulges that can distract from your overall outfit and silhouette. And they can help define your waist, which helps you achieve better proportions overall.
2. Looking slimmer is sometimes just about elongating your body, and in essence, looking taller ( think about a lot of runway models).  One way to look taller is to wear an all-black outfit. This creates a long vertical line and makes you appear both slimmer and taller.  Darker hues tend to work better as they have a natural slimming effect. 
3. Also opt for a heel with a low-cut vamp.  What is a vamp you ask? It’s the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot.  So a low vamp would cut across the base of your toes like the below image. This elongates your legs and makes them look slimmer.
4. Use stripes as an asset.  Vertical stripes are your friend.  They once again create a visual line down your body that makes you appear longer.  Most people stay away from horizontal stripes because they can be trickier to pull off, but if you have a great horizontal blouse or dress, try it on in front of the mirror and take pictures.  Refer back to the pictures after an hour and assess where you can highlight your proportions to help.  It could be as easy as adding a belt to your dress or opting for a pair of high-rise jeans to have a better thirds proportion.
5. High-rise jeans and pants are your friend. Now, you must find a pair of jeans or trousers that fit you- meaning you don’t have to suck in to button or zip them. But when you wear high-rise jeans they help elongate your lower half and you appear taller. You want your high-rise pant to hit just above your belly button for the easiest proportion hack. 
6. Have good posture. Standing up straight helps your proportions and your clothes sit properly.

low cut vamp on heel. where the heel stops and your skin starts to show

How do I make my thighs look slimmer?

1. Put your emphasis on your top half, so any eye-catching pieces should be above your hips. 
2. Try a fuller skirt or a wide-leg trouser that won’t hug your thighs. 
4. Opt for black opaque tights when an option, as they will have a slimming effect.
5. Heels elongate and slim your legs.  Avoid ankle straps and opt for a pointy heel to emphasize this natural effect. 
6. Try a Nude shoe (especially heels) which have a natural lengthening effect

How do I minimize my broad shoulders?

1. Emphasize your waist. Any outfit that cinches in at your waist and then flares out slightly at your hips will help minimize the width of your shoulders. Check out the video above for more specific examples.
This may seem obvious, but avoid garments that draw your attention to the shoulder.  Large padding in the shoulder, epaulets, or any other major shoulder design should be avoided. 
2. Scoop necks and V-necks will be the easiest neckline to style and minimize your shoulders. 
3. Longer necklaces draw your eye down instead of focusing on your collarbone. This helps draw the eye away from broad shoulders. 
4. You can also opt for a darker top and lighter bottom, this will slim your upper half and eliminate the appearance of wider shoulders. 
If you are going for a tank top, opt for thicker straps or a halter neck. Avoid super skinny spaghetti straps because they will highlight your shoulders and make them appear broader.
5. Avoid strapless or off-the-shoulder dresses unless you have tried them on and really evaluated their impact on your proportions.
6. Dolman sleeves- because of the slouchiness of this garment and the position of the shoulder seam, it can appear like your broad shoulders are smaller. Likewise, kimono-style pieces have a similar effect. 

Do you still need some help looking taller and thinner? I have a complete guide with visual examples of what will make you taller and all the outfits that made me look short!


Again, these are not hard and fast rules. So don’t limit yourself forever to never wearing horizontal stripes or never wearing a strapless dress.  Instead, start with these tips, and then as your fashion knowledge and your confidence grow, you can expand past them.

But I don’t have a good relationship with clothes: how to improve your fashion mindset

fashion mindset, woman frustrated on bed with thought bubble of an overwhelming amount of pinterest fashion images

Ok, so fashion.  You probably waft and wane from loving fashion to loathing it.  The visuals you present to the world, no matter what type of person you are inside, actually matter.  We can’t help it, as much as we are trying to be judgment-free, evolved people our brains make assumptions about a person based on what they look like. 

Now, I’m specifically referring to clothes and how put-together you look, this does not and should be casually linked to race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual preference. 

I am talking about your fashion mindset.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “dress for the job you want”, which is why we go into job interviews looking put together and professional.

This is also why we look at women who spent $100 on their outfits and can view them as more sophisticated than a woman who spent 10,000 on hers. As long as the first outfit looks sophisticated and stylish, the dollar amount has nothing to do with how we are evaluated. 
I have a whole post on how to look expensive no matter your budget, you can find it here.

You have less than 20 seconds before a person starts to build a first impression of who you are, and honestly unless you’re a very very speedy talker, you won’t get much out in that amount of time.

But your fashion can tell people who you are, where you come from, and even your values. It is a communication device and not just a frivolous pleasure. 

So how do you improve your relationship with clothes? 

First off, start by slowly implementing the style tips and guides above.  We want you to feel GREAT in your clothes and be empowered by your fashion choices. 

Each item you buy and wear is a personal choice.  It is articulating to the world who you are.  And just like with any journey, there will be some misses and some triumphs.  Accept that is a process, but one that will pay off extremely well. 

Just like with any skill you require, you learn, grow, and adapt as you progress. 

What happens if I don’t feel good in my clothes? Or it causes me anxiety to get dressed?

Well, we need to talk about the underlying reasons causing this stress.  Is it because you don’t like your body? Or maybe you feel too exposed?  Or maybe you’ve had a bad relationship with clothes in the past? 

All of these issues need to be addressed and contemplated with a therapist or outside resource. I’ll list a few options below for some articles that might help you digest those:

How to feel better about your body without losing weight

How to feel better about your body right now

How to improve your relationship with yourself

However, a huge reason I see people struggle with fashion is they fall into the comparison trap.  They get consumed in a social media wormhole and don’t understand why they can’t look like Bella Hadid or Kendall Jenner. 

And the quickest way to stomp out your fashion spark is to compare yourself and not own your own style.

Your style should be your OWN.  While taking inspiration from anyone, including fashion bloggers like me, is great; it should only be a guide.  You need to let your fashion voice speak for you. 

For example, you could have an AMAZING singing voice but by trying to replicate the gritty-alto voice of Janis Joplin you would not showcase your talents, or highlight your unique individuality.  Janis Joplin embraced her own unique voice and was rewarded by a loyal fan base of people who loved her for her talent. 

Also, remember the importance of context. Don’t compare your fashion journey to anyone else’s. Celebrities and models have stylists whose literal jobs are to pick the best trends for their body types and make them an authority in fashion.  And fashion influencers have probably been crafting their styles for a decade at least.

That doesn’t mean you are behind, or can’t do the same thing.  You need to understand it will take time, but that you can be as stylish as you want to be.

The second part of context is dressing for the event or activity.  Examine your lifestyle, your goals, or even just what you are doing that day- and dress appropriately.

You wouldn’t wear a ballgown to a baseball game, right? Likewise, on a smaller scale, you wouldn’t choose sky-high heels if you have to chase a bunch of kids around the playground. 

Picking clothes that work for your lifestyle, will make this journey much easier.  So stop comparing yourself to an influencer at Paris Fashion Week. Even she doesn’t wear that outfit on an everyday basis. 

If you need some extra guidance on finding your personal style, I have two resources that will help. One is a style guide that dives deeper into your fashion mindset and gives you some actionable steps on how to improve it.  And the second is a 10-day email challenge to help you try some new trends.

I hope this post and supplemental information help you take the first bite out of your style journey.  You’ve totally got this, and I’m so proud of you for taking your fashion voice seriously. I can’t tell you how much it changed me as a person and improved both my self-worth and confidence.

I used to be very insecure and was rarely the loudest person in the room. But finding my own fashion style and using that as a means to communicate gave me the confidence to be myself and embrace the world.  Look at me now teaching people about fashion, that’s how powerful it is. It is your superpower, use it!

Pin the below image because this will be your ultimate resource for fashion fundamentals and female body shapes!

how to dress better using your body shape and proportions, image of all body shapes and illustratation of multiple different body shapes

Reyna Callejas

Wednesday 14th of July 2021

I am confused on my body type...my measurements were Shoulders:43in, Bust:39in Waist: 34.5 and Hips: 41in. I think I am a mix...I feel that my belly is big and I need to gain weight there most. Do you do consultations? Thanks, and love your site.

admin

Friday 16th of July 2021

I have this post on how to get accurate measurements and a guideline on what those numbers mean https://gabriellearruda.com/how-to-determine-your-body-shape/ . However if you want to email me some photos I'm happy to help you figure it out. If you don't feel you fit into the traditional body typing system, you could try a kibbe body type, which accounts more for how your flesh sits on your bones. https://gabriellearruda.com/kibbe-body-types-introduction/ My initial reaction would be to classify you as pear-shaped or triangle, but just barely. Sometimes taking the shoulder measurement into consideration can have more confusing effects. So if we eliminate that measurement and focus on the other three, and the fact you said you tend to gain weight in your stomach, I would go with pear. Hope this helps!