Body Shapes Explained – H Shape (rectangle)


Your hips and shoulders are pretty much the same width (you can measure them if you’d like to check), but your waist measurement is less than 9″ smaller than your hip/shoulder measurements.

So you don’t have a waist, and no matter how much dieting you do, you’re never going to have one. Why? Because of your skeleton, remember that set of bones that lies beneath your skin? If you feel your rib cage and find the bottom rib, and then feel down your body til you find your hip bone (that bone that juts out at the front of your pelvis), how far apart are they? The closer they are, the less waist you can have because there is no space for a waist. All those long waisted X’s and A’s have inches in between and the only bones at their waist is their spine, your rib cage and pelvis are sitting almost right on top of each other, which shortens your waist.

All this does is change the way you dress your body, your aim is to create the illusion of a waist, without drawing attention to the lack of it.
So the rules are – no waist details – no belts at the waist (no trench coats), no tucking shirts, no pockets on jackets around the waist. Look for tops that bypass the waist, they need to be shaped to create the illusion that you have more of a waist (so nothing boxy either), but not to highlight the area. Finish tops around the hip bone, or a little lower if your thighs aren’t wider than your bottom and you have longer legs.

Draw attention away from the waist and up toward the face by keeping detail on tops above the bust.
Dresses should be empire in line, as just below your bust is the narrowest point on your body, highlight this, then skim past the waist. The wrap dress is NOT for you as it will make you look boxier.

It’s more likely, unless you’re petite, that you have longer legs – so show them off. Skirts with asymmetrical hems, ruffled hems, straight skirts, skirts with pattern or detail below the hips.

Pants can be straight leg, boot leg, wide leg – you have more choices than many. Which is most flattering will depend on the length of your legs and your thigh shape.

Jackets should be free of patch pockets and be shaped through the waist in their construction. Single breasted is best. A lower button closure (not high up the neck) will give you more waist.

Coats can be 3/4 or long (depending on your height), and should also be shaped, but not belted or double breasted, which will add to your boxiness.

All pics from


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  • “So the rules are – no waist details – no belts at the waist (no trench coats), no tucking shirts, no pockets on jackets around the waist.”

    I’m wondering if the “no tucking shirts” rule can be broken if you are wearing pants/skirts where the top of the waistband rests below the natural waistband. Wouldn’t this give the illusion of a longer line, and therefore be OK?

  • Christine – if you were wearing a low hipster waistline you could tuck, but it probably won’t be as flattering as not tucking, unless you happen to be one of the more long waisted H shapes.

    If you do tuck, you need to blouse.

  • Hi there, Thanks for the tips – great blog. I thought I’d take the chance to ask about something that puzzles me – how is it that an empire line would be at the narrowest part of your body? I’m fairly straight in shape, a smaller-busted H, but even my short waist is narrower than the below-bust ribcage. Of course I’ve always thought I had a huge ribcage!

  • Fins – thanks so much for commenting and reading.

    Even though I’m an H my waist is smaller than my under bust/ribcage, but not as small as we would expect it to be in comparison, so therefore the empire line looks smaller because we don’t expect it to be as small as we expect a waist to be.

    Plus we’re comparing the rib cage to the bustline which also gives it the appearance of being smaller.

    Does this help?

  • Yes, it does – thank you very much. So, it draws attention to what’s proportionally narrow and fools the eye about what’s underneath – I think I knew that it worked, just hadn’t figured out how!

  • Fantastic blog – thank you, thank you, thank you! I suddenly realise why, being extremely short waisted, I’ve never got a waist!

    Now, cardigan question, I bought a cropped style cardi the other day, short (just under bust) and fitted, and wore it with a long contrasting vest underneath, which came to my hips? Does that work, or would I be better binning it?! (photos on my blog if you had a minute….!),

  • Thank you for looking at my blog and commenting! I didn’t think you’d have time! Very much appreciated, and I’m off to read up on I shapes now! (the wrap dress bit had confused me a bit, as I didn’t think I looked too bad in it, and now I know why, I not h!)

  • Imogen,

    I’m back to this post … can I be long-waisted and still an H? I have short legs (can’t wear petite pants, but definitely have to hem regular pants a good 2 inches), which give the appearance of being long-waisted, but my hips and ribs are very close together.

    My rib cage is quite rectangular … I’m 34 inches above my bust, 36 at the fullest point, and 34 inches below my bust, and probably still 33-34 inches a couple inches below that point. My natural waist line is 32 inches. My rounded behind is 38 inches at its fullest place (high hip, not saddle bags).

  • Hi Imogen, great blog. When you say measure the width of shoulders and hips do you mean just front view, or all the way around? And waist 9″ less – again just front view? Or all the way around? I think I am H shaped. I always thought I was A but I do have a short waist (actually my torso is petite but legs are long). And eventhough I have only 5-6cms between ribs and hips, my waist is quite defined.

  • CB – yes you can be long waisted and still an H shape.

    Vicki – it’s the entire circumference, not just the front. It’s not a perfect measurement – if you’d like to email me a photo – wearing tight fitting clothes (such as jeans and a t-shirt), I can have a look and give you some guidance. imogen at bespoke image dot com dot au

  • Wonderful post! I can definitely recognize myself in this. Finally my body (and my lack of waist, despite those many crunches) are explained. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • well, i think i am H shape with bigger upper body and petite in size. i must confirm that 'no waist details' do apply to my shape ;)) but also no upper details as i am petite…. also, i found out that one tone shirt, tight and with V neckline is the best suited for me, it even gives me little bit of waist

    nice blog, by the way 🙂

  • Great website!
    One question: where do you exactly mesure your shoulders?
    Like from shoulderbone to shoulderbone or do you include your upperarm-width?
    How much wider have the shoulders to be to make you a V and not an H?

  • What a great blog. I just came across it. I'm an H and this really helps me to understand why I gravitate toward empire waist and longish tops with a low-slung belt. Thanks much for a great blog.

  • This is the first body shape article that I have sat and said "Yes! That's ME!!" Thank you! One question, can H shapes wear a shrug (short cardigan that finishes just under the bust)? I like them and wanted to know if they would look good on me layered with fitted long and/or short t-shirts/singlets? I think they might as they follow the empire line look, but not sure! Kirsty.

  • I bookmarked this page more for a girl friend of mine than for myself. She lives in NY (I live in FL). In any case, I often send her care packages full of clothes and reference this page when shopping. Her measurements are 34-27-35, but she’s very petite (4’11”), and has a full bust (D). Is there anything else I should keep in mind when shopping for her? I’d appreciate all the help I can get on this subject.

  • Very interesting reading. Especially the explanation that it’s the closeness of the hipbone to the lowest rib that makes the waist almost non-existent makes me understand my own body structure in a whole new way. It makes so much sense! And this new insight also leads me to another question: May it be the case, that people with a tendency towards scoliosis (like myself) are overrepresented in the H-category?

    I would also like to know about the difference between the H-type and the I-type, does it depend on bone structure or on body-weight? Or put another way: Can an I become overweight and still be an I, or would they turn into an H when they gain weight? And can an H become an I by losing weight?

    • Anon – H shapes are usually larger boned than I shapes who tend to be finer boned. An I shape when they put on weight may become an H shape, but and H shape isn’t necessarily an overweight I shape.

      I have seen I shapes that have a longer waist, they just have a narrower pelvis and ribcage so there isn’t the waist definition of an X shape.

      Does this make sense?

  • I have a question. I’m only an H shape because im overweight, im actually supposed to be an X (i can tell cuz my mom). So when i wear loose tops they just make me look like a big box and that can’t be a good thing. I thought it was in my best interest to wear tops that go in below my bust and come out at my natural waist, I feel like things like trench coats and a line dresses are flattering on me. The reason i ask is cuz im doing a project and i need to understand my body shape in order to do so. So if you could help me that would be awesome. thank you

    • Monique – H shapes aren’t supposed to wear loose tops – they still want to be fitted, just not with obvious waist detail. H shapes look best in clothes that come in under the bust and then flare will give you the illusion of an X shape.

  • Hi.. thanks for the article..but i am confused of my body type.. my measurements bust-waist-hip is 34A-27-36 and my butt is big..full and round like a bubble. 5’1″ is my what shape am I? please help. thanks again.

  • BINGO. no wonder my hit and miss is making me nuts! thank you!
    I wanted to add one more garment that seems to work well: the vintage style dress ( i think its 50’s) with cap sleeve, full skirt, V or scoop neck, solid or big pattern. Hmm now that i think about it, that’s because i am fuller busted, actually big rib cage ( I am an Opera singer) and my hips are narrow. I also do well in 20’s style dresses, and surprisingly, now i realize why I can wear pleated skirt… though I have been avoiding them for their storyline implication. Anyway I could chatter on and on why I have problems finding clothes, but I’m going to do your advice for awhile and see how it goes. Also i was overcompensating by making my bust too big with a padded bra, to create a shape. then i look like a tree ready to fall over. 😉 well thank you. Now for the right haircut.

  • Body shapes explained – H
    Great blog – it has just explained for the first time in my life why i don’t get some outfits right. Thanks
    I have just worked out what i have to send to charity shop and what to keep and/or buy.

  • I wondered if H body shapes with a large bust can wear shirts or blouses? If so any tips to how to wear them? Presumably softer fabrics , worn open style work best with a cami or Tshirt underneath. I need to use them as cover-ups from the sun especially. Thanks.

  • Imogen, I’ve been sewing my own clothes for over 30 years and your blog explains why I’ve been getting some clothing design choices so wrong. I’m a 5’8″ slim H with a “long décolletage” and was always mystified as to why I appeared to have no waist and looked so incredibly bad in oh-so-coveted wrap dresses. Mystery solved! I’m enthusiastically spreading your informative blog to my Canadian friends and family.

  • I am also discovering that the H type plus V type define my unfortunate body type.
    Thank you, thank you for all the posts, I finally realize why some of my girlfriends always dislike my appearance – because I always ALWAYS wear a tulip skirt exactly on_the_waist_line, I accessorize with a belt on_the_waist_line…etc.
    OMG, what was I thinking…really, not thinking at all.

    Thank you! *

  • Dear Imogene

    I love your blog and have learned a lot from it. I have a question about a shirt Imust tried on. It ends at the top of the thigh and is trapeze shaped. I love it but haven’t bought it because I an an H shape and I think I. Need clothes that are fitted not flared.

    Can you please advise me?

    Many thanks.


    • Trapeze shapes tend to work best on I shapes and V shapes, but can just make an H shape look even boxier. I’d try it on as sometimes it may have some shaping, but wouldn’t bet on it!

  • Thank you for concise explanation of body types. I knew by wt gain I had become an apple but now realize I am truly an overweight H. I am so happy to be once and for all free of that nagging guilt about not liking wrap dresses and tops. loved Diane Von F. for forty yrs but not for me. I love boxy waist jackets and now wear longer soft top underneath. Long legs so pants. Now also free of guilt about not tucking shirts in or belting pants! Hurrah! Age 60. Any more info on Plus size H would be wonderful. You have great sense of taste.

  • I am an H and OK I can deal with that but what can I do to give the illusion of having a butt ? I am flat as a board in the back !!! So unflattering!!

  • Can a person have a slight hip shelf and still be an H? Or an X? My waist is only 4 inches smaller than my hip measurement and 3 inches smaller than my bust. My shoulders and my waist are the exact same width. My shoulders are 3 inches smaller than my hips so do I dress my upper half like an A?

    • Yes you can have a slight shelf hip and be an H or possibly an X or even V. If your shoulders are narrower then dress your upper body as an A and your lower as determined by your waist/hips

  • I’m also small boned so am an I shape but am bustier (H cup).I’m 5’8 and have a long thin neck and very long legs, slim hips and flat rear-end. I’m just all bosom, lol. Do you need a picture?

  • Hi, Can you tell me which body shape I am? I’m 5,7 tall and my measurements are shoulders 45, waist 36, hip 45

  • I feel reading this that i must be an H shape, i would say when i was a lot slimmer i could possibly be an x but since putting on weight i don’t seem as much waist.
    I have equal shoulders and hips and reading your information about waist under my bust to my natural waist is similar in size.
    Can an x turn into an H? it is interesting as i always thought I had more curves, but i don’t think i have ever had a defined waist, just a gradual sloping.
    Very good blog love reading what you have to say.
    thank you.

  • Very petite and muscular with H shape, but it seems to be also leaning on bottom portion of body towards bottom hourglass. Dressing up for speical occasions, events, parties and etc is more of a problem. 5 foot 2 with a very lean upper body, seems to be only shape is right at upper thigh, but narrower than hips. 30-23.5-30. Seem to put muscle on much easier than weight. Being petite and right around 100 pounds not always easy to dress my body, at and around ages of 40s.

  • Hi Imogen,
    I can’t decide for sure if I’m an H or I; I’ve just lost a substantial amount of body fat (12kgs) and elements of both descriptions fit. Ribs and pelvis practically sitting on top of each other and a medium frame ( just). My rib cage goes straight to the waist ( the defined waist test would make it non-defined). My favourite dress – a true hero- is a trapeze shape and really suits me. I would describe myself as slim and boyish bit a bit curved. I don’t look truly horrendous with waist details in clothes. Can one fall between two shapes?


    • I recommend adapting for your shape – take the recommendations from each that work for you and leave the rest! Absolutely you can be in-between shapes as humans are unique, and body shapes are general.

  • Hi there…and thank you. I have 30.5-23.25-32 with high hip at 28, a short waist, long legs. I’m 5’7. I always thought this was a slight pear? So maybe I’m just barely a rectangle? I do have a waist. Maybe this makes me a tall gamine in kibbe?

  • In letters it would be *I* could’ve had a *V* *8* That’s how I remember I, V and 8–the 3 that fit. Sorry for invoking other systems!

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