Body Shapes Explained – Defining Points


body shapes explained defining points

I was asked the other day by a reader where are the defining points to figure out body shape.

How to Define Your Body Shape

Is it bust, waist and hips, shoulders waist and hips and where are the hips defined from – the thigh or up on the buttock area?

For me (and I’m sure there will be some out there who disagree), I use the width of the shoulders, the waist and the widest point of the hips (whether it be a high or low hip).

The bust is what I call a ‘body variation’  large and small busts can appear on all sorts of body shapes, plus we may gain or lose fullness of the bust over our lifetime due to various reasons (breastfeeding, breast cancer, breast augmentation or reduction) but this does not change our body shape.

The body shape is based on the skeletal structure – if we have wide shoulders, it is because our bones have the width usually, yes we can work out lots with weights and alter our body shape to a certain extent, but we can never move the pelvis further from the ribcage (without rib removal) no matter how hard we work out.

V shape body

For example, here on this V shape body you can see that the outer edge of the shoulders is wider than the hips.

defining the X shape body

Here is an X shape with shoulders and hips similar in width.

X shape vs 8 Shape body

Here you can see the waist is at the narrowest point on the torso, which is usually just under the end of the rib cage.  The hip point – which is the widest point is up high for the 8 and down low on the top of the thighs for the A, X, and some other shapes. O shapes may have been Hs or 8s or even Vs, they are much less likely to have been an X shape. The best way to figure out your body shape is to look front on into a mirror in tight fitting clothing and see what the outline appears to most resemble, where your widest and narrowest points are and how different they are from each other. Any measurement guidelines are really just a suggestion, as some people are more round and others more elliptical which can affect the appearance of the body shape. Read up on the body shapes explained and see which you find most relevant to what you have found most flattering to wear in the past.

Get more tips on how to figure out your body shape here (plus how body shapes change with weight).

Plus find out which celebrities have the same body shape as you.

Not sure of y our body shape?  Take the Body Shape Calculator Quiz and discover your shape today.

whats my body shape


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  • So Imogen, above, in the silhouettes, what are those body shapes? I recognize myself completely in the 3rd from the left. Is that a V shape?

  • LPC – in the top pic I think they're all somewhere between X shape and V shape – the one 3rd from the left is probably more V than X, but with a defined waist. It's just a stock vector image that I bought, not something I've had specifically made up.

  • Thank you for clarifying. I never really got the difference between X and 8 (and there are probably others I'm not thinking of right now)

  • Thank you! I've lost about 50 pounds this year, just a few more to go, and I am really excited to define my shape instead of guess at it. It'll be so much easier to go shopping when I'm well informed!

  • Imogen, I just have to say Thank You for your blog!! I found it a few weeks ago and have been reading up on your old posts. Your advice on dressing body shapes is particularly helpful for me. You definitely have a readership from around the world–I'm from the US (Idaho).

  • Thank you for addressing this. I had been wondering about it for a while. I guess I'm X (albeit a very flat-chested one!) as opposed to A then. Not that it matters a whole lot because I notice that the recommended dos and don'ts for them are almost identical.

  • In determining body types, it is the width of the rib cage relative to the width of the hip that really matters in my opinion as that is where you get the immediate visual impact of proportions. Some of the bodies that are pointed out as hourglasses look like pears to me.

    • Lola – why do you think they look like pears? The width of the hips of the pear is much wider than the width of the shoulders (the balance from shoulders to hips).

  • Very llate to answer for this post.

    My measurement is 37″ shoulders, 32″ underbust, 24.5″ waist and 33″ hipswith an inseam of 32″ inseam and my height is 5’5 and very slim (wearing children size in jeans sometimes).
    For years, Ive thought I was this body shape and are bit concious about my shoulders because they are 4″ wider than my hips, they make me look athletic despite Ive exercise or do any sport activities (and I doubt fishing/camping/golf activities have anything to with athletic sports…lol), but recently when looking at some outfits Im creating (to re-editing my wardrobe), I start think, I dont belong to this body shape (perhaps Im just decieved by the pictures…). (dark picture)

    Which body shape do you think I would “belong” to?

    • Men are much simpler – I don’t write about men here on this blog – but there are three main male shapes – the H, the V and the O – similar to women’s but men are less complex!

  • I have a high hip, but my fullest part is still in the thigh area. (36-25-38) This puts me in between an X and an 8. I don’t look quite as fluid as an X, but I’m still very hourglassy and look nothing like an 8.

    I have found that working out my core (lower and mid back especially) really helped to lower my waist. It wasn’t much, but I got the narrowest point to be a bit longer and less rigid. Dressing can be difficult and I often find myself in loose t-shirts rather than tight ones. High waisted jeans coming back into style have been a blessing for me because they help disguise it better.

    Put me in a high waisted A-frame skirt/dress and you can’t tell the difference between me and a true X. Put me in a catsuit and, well…

  • This was helpful. I started reading other posts, and I couldn’t figure out what I was. With all the types together in one post, I was able to get a better idea. I thought I was a V, but my hips are high, and I have a waist. So now I’m thinking an 8. Although, I have to dress on my upper half like a V bc my shoulders are my widest part; it is where I gain my weight / become the heaviest as well (back, arm, & breast fat). If I define my waist I look slimmer. And I’m petite in height, under 5.5; I’m gathering that means I have a short waist (my bottom rib to my pelvis bone is 7 “).

    • Lisa – sounds like you could be an 8 with V shoulders – so need to work with both pieces of information. Short waist means that the proportion between bust peak and waist (not rib to pelvis bone) is shorter than one head length.

  • Dear Imogen,

    I read somewhere on your page that there are 8 body shapes but I only know A, O, I, H, 8, V, X. Which one do I miss?


  • Hi Imogen

    Still trying to figure this all out, but I’m becoming increasingly certain that I’m an H.

    It isn’t clear to me, though, what makes someone short-waisted – ie. what length from hip bone to rib cage. Measuring at my side I have 3 – 4 cm between the top of my hip bone and the bottom of my rib cage. Would that make me short-waisted? And does that go along with having a “high hip”? I imagine that a high hip would result in a short waist, or am I wrong?

    Thanks so much for all this information, Imogen. It is very helpful!

    • Measurements are an inaccurate way of defining body shape. what do you see when you photograph yourself like the pictures in this post? Are your shoulders broader than your hips?

  • I think I’m somewhere between an 8 and an X. I definitely have a high hip “shelf”, but my upper thighs are the widest part. I think as I lose weight, Ill develop more into a proper 8 shape.

  • I’ve had such a difficult time finding my exact body shape, but I think I finally figured out that I’m an X. My shoulders measure 38.5-39 inches, waist 28 inches, upper hips 38.5, top of thighs (and around butt) 40, 5’7 and 144 lbs. Usually I don’t see these differences in lower and upper hips being talked about.

  • Hi Imogen
    I am an Indian girl with a height of 5’3
    I am confused between an H and 8 shape …I have a high hip..but I still measure the widest at my lower hip. And my waist is there…but I have a wide rib cage which makes me think I look like an H shape but I do have a round bottom and thighs like X shape. When I look in the mirror I look a combination of both the shape. Please help me determine my body

    • You may be a combination shape Smriti – the difference is – do you have a defined waist or not? If your waist is defined – and it looks narrow compared to hips when wearing a belt – then maybe X shape. But if you put on a belt and it just makes you think, this is making my waist look wider – then you will be an H

  • Hello,
    i read this page so many times and always i am not sure about my body type.
    I not sure between an H and and figure 8 / spoon.
    My waist is very high and i have a shel-hip, but i have not such an curved waist like an x.
    How can i find it out surely?
    Thank you so much.
    Greetings from Germany

    • I find that playing with the information for both and seeing which works best will give you your answer – both H and 8 require straight bottoms rather than flared -it’s then just a matter of seeing if you prefer more belted and waisted styles. Alternatively, if you’d like my professional opinion you can get this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program –

  • Thank you for your answer so much. The straight bottoms are a Great advice. When gaining weight can an 8 become a h or an Apple Shape ? I think this is the Thing, After two pregancies i am more of h or o Shape and when loosing weight maybe the advices for the 8 will fit me .. Thank you so much!

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