“Do you think certain body types/faces look better in certain styles of clothes – and what I mean here is either casual, classic, sporty, etc.I have an X shape (hourglass) and with it being spring going into summer here in Canada, everyone wears t-shirts and capris/shorts a lot, but I find I look dumpy/matronly in them…I just don’t know.” Nancy
Match Your Clothing Shapes to Your Body Shape
My take on this is yes. Clothes that have straighter lines suit bodies that are straighter in shape.
Clothes that have built-in curves are better on curvy body shapes.
Straight with Straight
Straighter body shapes (such as Hs and Is and Vs) can look better in clothing that is more structured, so trousers, shorts and more classic shapes and styles of clothing and those with less defined waists.
Curves with Curves
Curvier shapes (X, 8, A shapes) tend to look better in more feminine styles, those that emphasize the waist, tops and jackets with shaping. Skirts and dresses in fluid fabrics are also more flattering on this shape as often the hip/waist measurements of commercially produced trousers are not designed for curves and don’t fit well.
Pants are one of the hardest garments to buy in stores for curvy shapes as it’s cheaper to produce straight cut clothing.
Whatever your shape, fashions will also dictate the silhouettes you see in stores. There will be seasons where the shapes don’t suit your body shape. Avoid the fashion trends that season as there will be new shapes and silhouettes in only a few months that may flatter you.
Don’t try forcing your body into clothes that are not designed – yes you may be part of the trend, but you won’t love how you look and those clothes will most likely be a waste of money as they have no lifespan for you, the minute a better trend comes around you’ll ignore them and they will languish in your wardrobe unworn.
Then if we think if we are more muscular, we will look better in clothes that have a more masculine feel, whilst those who are softer will look better in more fluid, feminine shapes and styles. Find out more about good fabric choices here.
Want to know your body shape but not sure? Why not take my body shape calculator quiz here then download your free body shape bible.
Alternatively, if you’d like my professional opinion on your body shape, colouring and features, you can get this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program.
As a curvy girl, I know this certainly holds true for me.
This is interesting, because I usually feel that my facial features are the determining factor. I don't have a soft look at all, so I feel that soft fabrics just look silly on me. I think that the rules posted do hold true, though.
That's a good take on the subject. Just think of those tall straight girls and how great they look in jeans and a t shirt where I just feel dumpy and boring. But, I gravitate to firmer, structured fabrics for everyday because they are serviceable for what I do. It does help that I sew my own pants that fit.
Nancy K: It's very cool that you sew your own pants. Did it take a long time to make the pattern? Did you copy an existing pair of pants?
– tall & slim anon
I agree – I have a curvy, hourglass shape and I find that the styles that look good on me – fitted, feminine styles – don't really suit my casual lifestyle. I want jeans or slacks with nice tees and easy jackets or cardigans, but struggle to find pieces that fit and flatter my shape.
I'm in a similar boat to Lois K. Imogen, what's your advice for women with curvy tendencies and casual lifestyles? 🙂
– tall & slim anon
What about women like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston, who are curvy-yet-well-muscled? Can they go either way?
Definitely true for me, and I'm speaking from experience with both sides. In my college years, I had a thin, straight, up-and-down figure, and lived in skinny jeans and t-shirts. Now that I'm more of an X shape, that same outfit doesn't flatter me at all. A dress is the best thing for my figure now.
Knit jersey dresses make it very easy for me to dress casually in the summer. I just add a belt and sandals. I have also had some success with skinny(ish) jeans if I add a tunic that has some shape to it. The tunic can be quite loose and airy, so long as it has a waist and is the right length for my torso.
Muscular and feminine are not mutually exclusive.
Nancy, I'm an x (a rather lazy X) and live in Canada. Capris look horrible on me; I live in floaty mid-calf skirts. (SJP "curvy"? YGTBK.)
I think people have different ideas about what 'curvy' means. Maybe we need to define the terms? Does it mean more flesh/padding/weight, especially on the hips and bust, or is it more about proportion/silhouette (eg SJP or Audrey Hepburn)? Or both?
I have a waist to hip ratio of .72, which is not too far off hourglass, but I am quite muscular/athletic, and have little fat – when I gain weight I just look statuesque and strong (I'm 5ft 8in), not soft and curvy. Not all athletic body types are rectangular – many professional sportswomen are athletic hourglasses (Venus or Serena Williams are obvious examples).
For a body like mine, the rules for hourglass dressing generally work ie I must show my waist or I look dowdy. But while fabrics can be fluid, I think I need structure in my clothes to suit my firm, structured body. They need to be quite form fitting. Whereas 'feminine' loose, floppy fabrics/styles even when the waist is defined – like the 'curved' example on the far right – look dumpy/silly on me. The black & white one would be better.
Imogen, you did a great post on fabrics for body types eg mid weight fabrics for mesomorphics. I would absolutely love it if you did a whole post on the muscular/athletic (or thin) hourglass, as most style guides don't cover that type.
Thanks for a great, thought provoking blog!
what a fascinating post! Imogen, you may have given me an explanation for why I feel so frumpy and unattractive in my work clothes, yet so happy with my leisure wardrobe. I’m a tall slim X shape who has a stack of work pants and blazers that look just like the example on the left of the Polyvore you posted. Now at least I have an idea of what style of pant suit might look better on me!
I think the muscular Anonymous hit the nail on the head: bodies have so many variations, it's really not possible to categorize them into a few groups.
However, it's useful to know rules of thumb, such as: the more curves you have, the more curves you should look for in your clothes.
So I say – forget "which type am I?" – just learn what gives what effect (e.g. leggings slim calves) and apply them to your UNIQUE body. Or just hire an image consultant 🙂
– tall & slim anon
I'm very curvy, and I've found that too much softness and fluidity tends to make me look sloppy rather than feminine. So if I wear a flowing dress or skirt, I need to balance it out with some structure somewhere: a cardigan or bolero that fits well and has some structure, a wide belt that lends some straight lines along my waist to all the flow of the rest.
Holds true for me as well! LOVE LOVE the two outfits you chose for curvy figures!
That's the reason why I can't do casual (jeans and t-shirt). As an X body type, I look much better in shapely clothing. My casual clothing has to have shape, so I end up always looking more dressed up than most people. That's not a bad thing, though! It's just hard to find casual clothing that's not made for straight body types.
As muscular Anonymous and others said, there are conflicting issues here. I am a v prominent 8 so quite curvy big hips, tiny waist, but apart from hips and lower abs, there is no fat on me, ie thin/toned everywhere else (and smallish breasts 🙁 ). Floaty doesn’t sit well on me, I am guessing structured is what is needed. But waist definition is a must! I need something in-between, something structured, but for curves. I have a beautiful velvety peplum jacket with waist definition and shoulder pads. I love it on me ten times more than the cotton cardigans I have, which would perhaps suit someone more curvy all round better.
Susie – you may want fabrics with more drape (not floaty) below the waist, and stiffer fabrics above.
Yes! Makes perfect sense, for me: above waist is toned/bony, below waist is more round/softer. Could you perhaps direct me to some real-life examples of such outfits?
PS Something’s just occured to me that could perhaps provide the explanation:
a slim 8/X may now be an I? Is Abbey Clancy an 8 or an I? (Google ‘Abbey Clancy bikini’) Or at least a slim 8 should not be considered a true 8 anymore?
(Similar to Os which would be an H if they were slimmer, perhaps there is a similar tendency for Is to be 8/X shaped if they gained more weight?)
Is Kate Middleton I? She still wears feminine dresses all the time and there is always waist definition. She rarely goes for truly floaty materials though. I think she provides a good example of in-between. We are not likely to have her budget though, or her tailor-made dresses. 😀
Abbey Clancy does look like a very slim 8.
Kate Middleton is an I who has actually dieted herself into broad shouldered I – she has barely any waist definition.
I’m not really sure whether that is always true. I have a V-shape and I really avoid sporty or masculine styles… It just makes my masculine shape more obvious. Feminine clothing also can add a lot of curve where there is not enough… On the other hand, I feel that lots of A and X shapes look much better in sporty, simplistic clothing. Their nice curvy shapes work for them and they can pull the androgynous looks off wothout looking androgynous. It just gives them a nice bit of edge. Think of biker jackets for example, boyfriend jeans or trench coats: you can only get away with those, if you have small shoulders, a nice and tiny waist and a bit of booty to fill it out nicely.
I have a n 8 body shape, so I definitely understand when you talk about pants.Every season, I’m filled with new hope that this will be the season that pants will fit me like a glove, yet I come home empty handed often as they pull across the front and gap in the back. Skirts and shirts are the same- they both ride up and end up in the small of my back (the hip shelf, I presume?) So frustrating! the problem is my body shape contradicts my face shape, which is a diamond, and I just read your post on how to find the best neckline for your face shape which is a V shape for me. I agree with this as I looked at all the crew neck t-shirts and cardigans in my closet, and most of them have gone unworn. What do you wear with such a contradiction between body and face? How do you make it copacetic?
Humans are interesting and varied. Diamond face and 8 body shape work perfectly well together. No reason not to have V neckline that works with your face. I’m not sure why you think they are in conflict! Yes fitting pants is hard for 8 shapes and mass market manufacturing is not geared up to make clothes for your shape so much.
Thanks for all the wonderful advice! I guess I got the impression that having a softer body and strong angular features did not jibe, (sharp vs. rounded) that if I had rounder features, it would somehow work better for me. Having a V shape neckline really threw things off for me. After reading your posts and mention of the book, I recently purchased the book Triumph Of Individual Style. When I assessed my features, I have lines in my face just like the Young girl With Long Hair, Henri Matisse (page 19). Line movement is predominantly curved and line direction is predominantly diagonal. (Okay, now I feel like a dork because it’s all staring to make sense!) I’ve been confused as to how you put body type and facial type together when you dress. I don’t feel they get into detail about those aspects in the book. Your posts are helping me to make sense of all. 🙂
Fantastic that you’ve started to figure out blending your more angular facial features with your more curved body shape – there are so many elements to design of clothing – patterns and prints, seams and of course fabrics! You can have combination of elements easily – with more angular design lines with curvy prints, or details etc.
I find this very accurate. I have an X body shape, yet I’m somewhere between an ectomorph and a mesomorph. I’ve always found curvier clothes with stiffer fabrics more pleasing to the eye.