How Body Shapes Change with Weight and Age


Blogger anks said…

Basic Question – Do body shapes change as we grow older / fatter / slimmer? Post pregnancy, my hips are definitely wider than my chest, but it wasn’t always so….
To answer  – YES they do.
As noted an 8 shape when carrying extra weight may turn more H shape, or may just become a more pronounced 8 shape.
An X shape may (especially after menopause if not very long waisted) become an H shape if weight is put on through the stomach or may become more like an A shape if weight is put on the hips/bottom.
 V shapes may become more H shape, or possibly even X shape with extra weight.
H shapes are more likely to become O shapes with extra weight
A very overweight X shape could also turn into an O shape (as could pretty much every other shape)
I shapes may put on weight through the hips and become more A in shape.
Body shape comes from your skeleton.   It relates to the broadness of your pelvis, the distance between your rib cage and your pelvis, the width of your shoulder bones, the shape of your rib cage (when you’re pregnant, your rib cage expands due to the hormone relaxin, this may be another reason why don’t have the same defined waist post-pregnancy).
The distance between my rib cage (at the front of my body, but near the side of my body) and my hip bone (that bone that sticks out a little at the front, a little below your belly button level) is all of 1 inch – so there is no way I can ever have a waist, no matter how much weight I lose – there isn’t the space.  Yet I see clients every day who have between 6 -8 inches who have lovely defined waists.
Some people’s rib cages taper toward the waist which gives them a more defined waist, even if they don’t have a big gap between ribs and hip, others (like mine) are pretty straight, so less waist is possible.


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  • Thanks… this whole series was awesome! I am definitely book marking these pages to come back to later when my body settles into a more defined shape after the baby arrives… also, a refresher doesn't hurt. does it?

  • Yeah, I used to have a much greater difference between the waist and hip than I do now. Menopause, weight gain and gravity have all taken their toll.
    This is a really great series and have really started me thinking about what is going to look good on me.

  • I used to be a V shape up until I was 25 (I have very broad shoulders, but was very skinny, with very straight hips). as I got older, I also put on some weight; since I never had a defined waist (nobody in my family has), I became an H. then I got really chubby, and was on my way of becoming an O. however, I managed to revert the process by dieting and exercising.

    later on, I had plastic surgery (a tummy tuck), and the doctor created a waist line in my torso through liposuction. now, I tend to gain more weight around the butt and tighs (as opposed to my stomach, where I used to gain weight before), so I became an X, for the first time in my life. I guess it makes me the poster child of body shape changes, hehehe.

    what I notice about body shape changes is that shoulders never change; for example, mine are broad, so there's no chance I'll ever become an A or an I. and if you're an A, you will never become a V or an X. but hips and waist can change due to many things (gaining or losing weight, having babies, having plastic surgery, defining your muscles, etc).

    (long time reader, first time commenting here, I guess).

  • Oh, another great post! My mother is a great example of an I who turned into an A. On the other hand, I'm an 8, no matter how much I lose or gain. With weight loss, I'm just changing from a bottom-heavy 8 to a more proportionate 8 🙂

  • This whole series has been so fantastic! My head is full of thoughts about what will look good on me as I continue to divest myself of this extra padding and my true shape reveals itself again.

  • Imogen, it is so very interesting to read about the way in which the actual skeleton determines body shape! I had always thought of myself as very shortwaisted and so rushed to get the tape measure! I think I was comparing myself with my sister, who is 6" taller than me. I actually have nearly 5" between hip and rib and a tapering rib cage which is very small – 28". Proportionally I am a little short waisted, but not as much as I thought! Still don't like wearing waist belts though because of the boobies! LOL!

  • Jacinta – thanks

    Anks – yes, it can take some time after having a baby to get your body shape back.

    Nancy – menopause does tend to diminish waist size.

    Fer – thanks so much for commenting and sharing your journey!

  • That's why so many actresses remove the lower 'floating ribs'. For the rest of us, drape, not box is our friend. And pearls.

  • The proverbial penny just dropped in reading some of the comments to your series…as an short-waisted H, I have had a surprising number of discussions like:

    Salesperson/family member/friend: Here, try this!

    Me: Oh, thanks, but that style's better on someone with a defined waist.

    Them: What are you talking about? You have a waist!

    I *do* have a (relatively) small waist, but it's undefined (aka does not go in much in comparison to hips, as you use the term in this series).

    I think a fair number of people hear "undefined" and think "love handles" or something vs "bone structure."

    Maybe because women do tend to "lose" their waist during pregnancy or menopause?

  • Duchesse – if it weren't for the pain and expense I'd love to have those ribs removed. Ain't ever going to happen! Just have to drape and wear pearls!

    Vix – yes you've got it.

  • This has been an interesting series. It has really made me look at my body differently – and in a good way 🙂

  • Well my hips changed from early twenties, to 25+. They just moved further up, and made me a bit more short-waisted. it's abit annoying because they make me look more boxy, yet they give a nice curve when Im in the nude, but the boxy look when in clothes. How do you elongate your silouette with your clothing..?

  • What a great blog! This is the best and most comprehensive information I have found to date on how to determine your body shape.

    Question: How exactly do you measure the width of your shoulders? The width of the upper arms also comes into play when determining the silhouette. Some of us have larger arms that can add to the look of broader shoulders and a V shape. This is true even if the shoulder bones and hips are of similar width. Women with thinner arms will look less broad shouldered. Where is the vertical line on the shoulder that determines whether your shoulders are as wide as you hips? This line seems to vary somewhat in your photos. In some of your photos, the line is drawn almost to the very edge of the shoulders. In others, the line seems to begin further in. These days, most women (especially younger women) seem to have shoulders that are broader than their hips, regardless of whether they have a defined waist. Plus, there seems to be little consensus on many celebrity shapes. Many sites refer to Giselle Bunchen as an inverted V, while others call her an I. Many call Kim K a pear or an A, while others label her an hourglass or X. Thanks for showing examples of real women!

    • Yes a full upper arm will come into the appearance but I go from the shoulder bone – so it may appear to move if the arms are wider or narrower. But it doesn’t make you broader in the shoulders, just broader in the arms which are often widest lower down than the shoulders. Arms are a body variation not body shape. I certainly don’t see lots of V shapes in young women but that could be cultural too depending where you are. Not sure where you have noticed this. Kim Kardashian is more 8 Shape – but may vary from a wider bottomed 8 as compared to shoulders to balanced depending on the weight she’s carrying. When she puts on weight she puts it on hips/bottom so that can change her shape. Giselle is a very slightly broader shouldered I shape. I generally think there has to be significant unbalance rather than a tiny amount to make a real difference in shape.

  • Thanks, Imogen. If you have time, could you please show exactly where the shoulder bone is and how to measure shoulder width? Those of us who work out with resistance or weight training often have slightly more developed upper arms and deltoids. This can add some width to the upper arms in the form of “shoulder caps” that would not be there otherwise.

    To my eye, American women today generally seem to have broader shoulders and less defined waists than in the past. Our bodies have definitely evolved over generations. If you watch older films and TV shows, it’s clear that hourglass figures were much more prevalent than they are today.

    • Ah – what you are seeing is the difference between corsetry and now no corsetry! As Marion Boyce (costume designer) told me recently – she made the bodies fit the silhouette of the hourglass, rather than the other way around. That’s why you don’t see the waists anymore as we are not attempting to change our shape to fit the fashion any longer.

      The bone is at the turn of the shoulder you should be able to feel it – kind of on the outside edge.

    • Evolution doesn’t work that fast, Jada! Corsetry, costuming, and nutrition/exercise have changed. My mom says that a lot of the curves in the 1950’s were foam…

  • I am 56 years old. I am 5 ft 6 inch tall. I weigh 119 lbs – I am only 4 lbs heavier than when I married. On my 10 year anniversary after being pregnant 4 times (once with twins) I still fit in my wedding dress perfectly. I still wear all the same size of clothing (to this day) that I wore since I got married. But this last anniversary I tried on my wedding dress and I could not zip it up. Where my rib cage is below the bust it would not zip. I do not have fat there. Do women’s rib’s expand even if you haven’t put weight on there? (My bust is actually smaller after nursing babies.) I know that it isn’t from having babies as the dress fit after all our of our babies were all born. Thanks so much! This is really bothering me. Thanks again! I would like to be anonymous.

    • Yes bodies change with age, weight shifts and so things fit differently. Weight doesn’t tell you about fat – you may be the same weight, but have less muscle and more fat (fat is lighter than muscle, but takes up more space – making your clothes not fit anymore).

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