Body proportions are actually more important than body shape, they create the balance that our brain so much enjoys.
I’ve made this short video to help you figure out your body proportions so that you can use this information to find how how to dress so that you look taller or shorter, slimmer or curvier – depending on the effect you want to achieve.
Proportions tell us where to end hemlines – it’s all about finding lengths, from skirt and dress lengths, to jacket and top lengths. Even if you’re better wearing 3/4 or full length sleeves!
How to Measure Body Proportions Video
What have you discovered about your proportions? Does it explain why you’ve thought some of your outfits more flattering than others? I’d love to hear about what you find as a challenge with proportions.
Want to know how to dress your proportions?
Here are some posts to help you.
Petite Proportions – Getting it Right with Skirts and Dresses
thanks imogen! i’m going to try this out! quick question – when i’m measuring my initial “head length”, do i measure from the top of my skull to the bottom of my chin, or from the top of my hairline to the bottom of my chin? in other words, is this a 3-D measurement, or am I measuring my flat 2-D image as it appears in the mirror? (hope that makes sense.) thanks!
Jenni – it’s a visual measurement from what appears as the top of your head rather than top of face to chin.
i did my measurements, and this was really interesting – i’ve always felt like i had a proportionally large head, and now i have proof! i am just a bit long through the chin to mid-bust (and i do feel like my decolletage is an asset) and everything else is proportionally short. i am about three inches short at the waist, and an inch short each at the leg break, knee break, and down to the floor.
i’m not sure if i should consider myself long body/short legs or balanced with short mid-body? (also, imogen, any suggestions for balancing the appearance of a larger head?) tx!
This was interesting Imogen. Turns out I am in proportion down to my waist but then I’m short all the way down from there. Which I sort of knew because I’ve always had trouble finding jeans and trousers (pants) that will sit “right”.
I’m just short of the 8 head lengths. 5ft 3in with a small head. 🙂
I read your old post on proportions and your theory that we’re short where we put on weight first fits me – I put on the weight around my hips & thighs first. 🙁
Sharon – it holds generally true that where we put on weight first is where we’re proportionally short!
I am very short from leg break to knee (about 1.5 rather than 2 heads) and long from leg break to waist (about 1.5 rather than 1 head). Is there anything I can do to look more proportionate? I have trouble finding advice to disguise both a long rise and short legs. I am an 8 shape.
A – check the post I put together today wtih more information on proportions and long rise https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/12/more-ways-to-flatter-your-body-proportions.html
What a fortunate post!! I’ve just discovered your website, and have been reading about proportions and body shape for the past few days, couldn’t figure out how to measure, but this is really simple. One thing, could you clairfy leg break for me? If I’m standing up, and bend my leg slightly, is it in the centre of my leg right at the bend point? Obv, the closer I go to my hip, the shorter the measurement. Should it be where the legs meet (crotch) or about two inches above that? Thanks for your help!
Liz – leg break is around 2 inches up from the crotch – in that kind of centre bit you talk about.
Hmm. Then perhaps I am more short in upper leg than long in the rise …
Olga – you may be a bit of both!
Thanks Imogen! Well it seems that my legs and body are equal, but I’m short in my waist and long in my rise. Not much, maybe an inch or two. I’m also a little long from chin to bust, but I think that can be remedied with a better fitting bra, lol.
I’ve always thought I had a long waist and short legs, I assume a long rise dresses different than a long waist? So I now have my proportions and body shape (X) and am looking forward to todays video for some style inspiration.
Liz – yes a long rise dresses differently from a long waist – have a look at the posts on dressing a long rise for some tips.
Liz – a well fitting bra can make a huge difference!
Ooh! Can’t wait to try this when I get home.
Fun exercise! I found I am:
– long in the neck/decolte (hence my fun with scarves and necklaces, lots of room to fill)
– short in the waist (my intuition for where the waistbands/belts should be was exactly right)
– long in the rise
– short in the upper leg (1.5 instead of 2)
– tad short in the lower leg
you’re exactly the same as me! so what are we? shot/long/short/long/short/long… 😛
It is nice to see it actually measured out, not just explained. At 5 feet tall and a US6, with an occasional US4, surprisingly I could never wear petite clothes in any size. Long torso, short limbs. I buy regular sizes instead and have the sleeve and leg length altered. Thank you for the video.
Thanks for sharing – regular tops but petite bottoms it sounds like for you!
Interesting! I seem to be balanced everywhere except in waist (breast to natural waist measurement), where I am short. I am the opposite of silvertree – regular bottoms but need petite jackets and dresses.
znip – having this proportion short is very common I find in my work! It’s useful to know where you’re long and short for when you shop!
I’ll have to try this AFTER I get dressed: my measurement would be significantly different with a bra on (by inches!). It will be interesting to see if what I have always believed is actually true: at 5’4 1/2″ I’m not short, but I have short legs (and arms) so I often buy my pants in the Petite department, so I don’t have to shorten them! Although, to be fair, I guess I don’t have to have a bra on to measure my legs…
Absolutely Carol – a great bra will make a huge different to the length of your waist!
I am just catching up since you moved your blog- I accidentally neglected to keep my links up to date. This is such a great explanation, Imogen! I had an image consultation with you a couple years ago and it transformed my ability to select flattering styles. My longest proportion is like yours – my bust point is low, so I wear necklaces and styles to add interest in the upper chest area. I have really enjoyed having this information!!
Thanks Robin – lovely to hear from you! So glad your consultation has made a difference to you.
Imogen, this exercise has sparked at least four threads over at You Look Fab. Just wanted to tell you what fun we’ve been having with it, and thank you!
I made some interesting discoveries. First, to my complete and utter astonishment…I am short-waisted! So THAT explains why petite jackets always fit me better.
Second, if I’m measuring correctly, I am also short from waist to leg-break. This astonished me because I can never find trousers with a long enough rise (even though I am only 5′ 4″. All I can figure is that my crotch is unnaturally lower than my leg break!
Next, my thighs are proportionately as short as my waist is short, and my calves are proportionately as short as my waist-to-leg break ratio.
In other words, I am short everywhere except chin to bust (which is normal). But I’m proportionately short, with equal head to leg break, leg break to ground. And I have a BIG head for my size!! I don’t know what that means for dressing, but maybe it’s a good thing I have short hair?
Thanks again for this great exercise.
Suz. All those short proportions are probably why youreo not a 6′ model! Do you have a more rounded bottom? That could be why your rise doesn’t seem short. Also these days with clothes being low rise you don’t notice it in the same way as you might have in the 90s
Thank you Imogen. I took a photo of myself in close fitting leotards and printed it in black and white. I then used a ruler to do the measurements. They confirmed that I am very short-waisted and that my upper leg, from knee to leg break, is very, very short. Interestingly, I do put weight on here as you predict, but I don’t put weight on my ribcage or waist. I have recently started shortening all my skirts to reveal my knees and that certainly does give me a longer leg line. The short waist is a fairly recent discovery and I’m all at sea how to dress it with my X body type.
Definitely have a rounded bottom! So that explains it.
It’s really interesting trying to marry the advice for vertical and horizontal body types. Quite a few of us have noticed that in many cases it can be contradictory. That is, let’s say you have a short waist; maybe you’re told it’s not a good idea to belt at the waist. Yet if you are an hourglass and your waist is your narrowest part, you might want to do that regardless of your vertical proportion. This is perhaps too easy an example since most of us wish for a long leg line and belting at the (short) waist with a skirt can give that illusion. But there were others that popped to mind as well.
It’s fascinating to work out the specifics in each individual case. Thank you for giving so much food for thought.
Suz, bodies are not standard, which is why what works for one X shape won’t necessarily work for another – as they have different proportions, and different variations – that’s why body shape is only one tiny piece of the ‘what to wear’ puzzle. I don’t think they are anywhere near as important as proportions to tell you the truth!
Fascinating excercise. My bust line is lower than it ought to be–and yet I have never, ever worn necklaces. (I looked up your advice for how to dress a short mid-body)
My waist is absurdly short–I’ve known this since I first developed a waist! Surprisingly, though, the waist to leg break proportion is long. Is that what is meant by a “long rise”?
The leg break to knee, is, once again, short–and my knee to ankle is bang on what it should be. I haven’t figured out my body shape yet.
I am obese, though–and wider front to back than I am side to side. (It’s as if my torso, thighs and backside were all pregnant.) I was wondering if you address the issues we women who have packed on a few pounds have?
Alana – Yes – a long rise is long from leg-break to waist.
So you’re Short Mid-body, Long top and bottom quadrants.
As far as wider around – check out my post on body shape side view – round or elliptical – it will give you some tips on dressing this aspect of your figure. https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/07/whats-your-side-view-round-or-elliptical.html
Thank you, Imogen! Fortunately, a side seam in a skirt (or dress) shouldn’t be too hard to find! Great advice.
I’ve had some time to explore the site, Imogen–what a wealth of information and advice! Thank you so much. Armed with your recommendations about how to best dress my body, I went looking for a Christmas dress on-line. Unfortunately, the choices out there are absolutely dreadful.
Thanks Alana – at least now you’ll know when you find a great dress!
Hmmm… With my best fitting bra I’m very slightly short from waist to leg break, no surprise… But if I measure 8 head lengths regardless of short or long, I still end up not quite reaching the ground. Though I guess it’s not that surprising that what’s wrong with my head is that it’s not grounded enough… lol
Seriously though, I’m having a bit of trouble working out how to dress my legs; they’ve got feet to match the length but not the width to match the feet. So to speak. And I don’t like heels. I’ve been going for wide leg trousers for quite some time and just now realized that they DON’T flatter me – except for being in proportion with my feet. I don’t feel comfortable in skin tight trousers or jeans and I really don’t like stretch. Then it hit me that cigarette styles are slimmer than straight and maybe could be found in the classic, “man-tailored” materials – and therefore might look good? Would cuffs be a good way to make my feet look proportionate?
I’ve tried drop crouch cuts (in dressing rooms), but feel that they upset my proportions, especially since I’ve a belly strategically placed for the waist bands. No matter how much I experiment, my waist bands must have been placed too low for many years and seem to be best placed very slightly below the waist… i.e. above the belly. Would I be wrong if I went for higher placed ones? Very obviously those “shaped” (rounded) waist bands do me real harm, but the other issues are less straight-forward. I-type body shape.
Also, Imogen, thank you for answering my question about belts a few months ago. Took some time before I corageously brought the camera out… Eventually I concluded that medium sized belts are good for me! That was also when I discovered my waist band and other trouser problems… but then we all know how problems are cowardly creatures that will only attack when flocked together.
Hi! Loved your blog. I had discovered it recently and couldn’t stop reading.
I used to think I was short-waisted, but than I took my measurements and discovered to my own disbelief that I have all 7 upper parts quite proportional (all them with 19 cm/7.5″ each). Only my half calve-to-foot is a bit longer [about 24 cm/9.5″], so I guess I have long legs, but I’m not short or long in waist or rise. Is that correct? If so, there is any post about it? I figured that my breast size causes the illusion of a shorter waist whenever I’m using normal bras (by normal I mean Brazilian, that have no differentiate cups – they are all B cups, what is kind of a problem since I’m a 32D ).
Marina, yes a large bust will visually shorten the torso so that it gives you the illusion of a short waist. So you may not want to tuck in tops, or wear cropped tops or jackets, instead end your tops around your hip bone.
oops. Measuring error. Legs are actually about 4 inches longer than the top half. And I always thought they were short! I think my problems with spatial perception and math are part of the difficulty here!
I think my proportions are messed up because I’m a human bobblehead – a men’s size medium head (as measured by my hockey and motorcycle helmets) on a 5’1″, size XS female body. Maybe I need some help learning how to minimize a giant head 🙂
Fascinating! I’ve always thought I should be taller, but it turns out I actually am proportionally tall – I’m 8 and 3/8 head heights! Maybe that’s why I can feel long-legged but not overly short torsoed, even with a normal inseam. I didn’t end up having any short proportions, so I guess that’s why the the ones that are “normal” (bust to waist and waist to leg break) are where I feel shortest, even though i don’t have trouble with waist placement on tops. Maybe it’s also why people always think I’m tall, even though I am about average height.
By the way, it’s not that I have a small head – I actually have a big head and can never fit women’s hats or sunglasses. It’s just wide, not long! (But I knew that…square faces R us!)
Very interesting exercise! I found out that I am ~1.5″ long in the decollete, ~2″ short in the waist, ~2″ short in the rise, proportional to the knee, and ~2″ long in the lower leg, and that I am right about 8 visual head lengths (head = 8″, height = 5’3.5″). Maybe this is why despite having near hourglass measurements (bust 39.5-40″, waist 31″, high hip 39.5″, low hip 41.5″) I appear more H-shaped?
Patricia, I have discovered that measurements aren’t a really accurate reflection of shape, some people carry their measurements out the front and back, others to the side. It’s what you see in your silhouette that makes your shape – so I’m guessing that’s why you appear H shape.
As I’m petite, I always thought that I have short legs as I always need to alter the hem of my jeans.
After this exercise, it seems that I have shorter bust to waist by an inch. But what surpises me is that my lower leg (from knee bend to floor) is actually longer! (2 heads +2 inch). The rest is proportionate.
I never actually thought that body proportion is important as usually its all about shapes. Since I’m on the petite side, I always thought that I’m somewhat an “I/H shape” but after reading on your site, I kept wondering that I may be an “X shape” since I sort of have a defined waist.
Zafie – just being petite doesn’t mean you can’t be any of the different body shapes. You may well be and X shape – with a short mid-body.
I tried this and got : head 22 cm, 21 cm, 16.2 cm, 19 cm, 22 cm, 22 cm, 22 cm , 27 cm whats that mean? what kind of proportions I have? I measured to the middle leg break, is that right (I mean the middle point of the leg break when you lift up your leg)?
Casanda – Sounds like you have a short body longer legs. The leg break is where the leg bends at the hip
Hi imogen, I found this topic very informative. It brought back exactly what I was taught in a fashion/dress making class (as a hobby) years ago. The measuring method was simplistic yet very effective. You explained it brilliantly. Thank you.
I know this is an old post but i see some comments from bot too long ago lol this was very helpful but i am still a bit confused 🙂 I seem to measure right on until I get to the bottom of my leg it’s a big longer , however I am petite !!! Like 5’1 and tiny like 102 lbs and have always thought that I had a small torso because I hate short tops ! Even as short as I am I like tunics . I always hear that shorties should wear cropped or tops that hit at the waist and I find mysel trying to pull mine longer (never works btw , just ruins my tops lol).
It could just be because you’re petite. Also I tend to find for many people that ending tops around your hip bone is flattering.
I have checked and doubled checked and I am exactly in proportion the whole way down my body … wow.
What a fab, easy little exercise! I am in proportion down to the leg break, then my upper legs are significantly shorter, and the calves balance out again. Which makes perfect sense to me, because my daughter’s femur measurements while she was in the womb were behind all the other measurements and consequently I had a few months of worrying that something was wrong. But there was nothing wrong with her at all, she’s just inherited the short femurs that I have. I always thought I had a long torso, but now I realise that it’s not long in comparison to the rest of my body, only long in proportion to my upper legs. I would say I am a 7 3/4 head length kind of girl. 🙂
This was fascinating, thank you so much for posting this!
I wonder what the ratios are for men?
Women are generally more 7.5 – 7.75, men are more traditionally 8 head lengths.
I am actually impressed! Thank you for all these informations!
I am in love with your blog I discovered so many things about my body shape and measurements. That’s probably why the clothes I usually wear don’t exactly flatter me the way I want them to!
I took the measurements, and It appears I am proportional everywhere except on my bust to waist that is shorter.
So I just did my measurements.
I seem a little long in the bust measurement, but only very slightly. Slightly shorter in the natural waist and then pretty much on par the rest of the way down! thanks Imogen!
I measured my proportions and it said I’m balanced with a short mid-body. But when I look in the mirror, it’s my calves that look disproportionately short. I measured from mid-knee. Any advice you have would be great.
Not sure why Katherine, maybe it’s the shape of them?
Wow! This blog! I have always been told that I am all legs, but have found now that I am an H, have a slightly short waist, and that I have a short thigh? So eye opening. Thank you!
I just wanted to verify. To measure whether you have a long torso/short legs, long legs/short torso, or balanced body you measure from the top of your head to the leg break right? Not the top of your head to the crotch? I keep reading conflicting articles about how to measure your body. If I measure from top of my head to my leg break-I find i have a balanced body, but if I measure the top of my head to crotch, my top half is longer by about 3 inches. Please help? Which is it? Thank you.
Yes to leg break not crotch (leg break is normally around 2 inches above the crotch).