10 Ways Personality Is More Important Than Body Shape When Choosing Flattering Clothes

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I’ve been working as an image consultant (personal stylist) for over a decade now and I realised in my training that personality would be an important factor in dressing, but probably not the full extent to how important it is when choosing clothes to flatter a client (or for yourself).

Like many of you, when I considered learning more about myself (and then learning about every body when I did my personal stylist training) I thought that it was all about my body and colouring and had no understanding of how much personality influences what you wear, what you feel good in, and what gives you confidence.  The likes of Trinny and Susannah (authors of The Body Shape Bible: Forget Your Size Discover Your Shape Transform Yourself)  had led me to believe it was all about body shape, the be all and end all of the flattery equation.  How very wrong I was. What I have discovered and has been hammered home to me over and over by every client (and my own experiences) is that personality is the number one key to finding clothes that make you look and feel good.  Body shape is just one tiny element of the whole puzzle, but nowhere near as important as personality.

Personality is key when choosing:

  1. Print and Pattern (or none)
  2. Fabrics
  3. Shoe styles and comfort levels
  4. Accessories – jewellery, glasses, handbag, belts etc.
  5. Hairstyles
  6. Makeup
  7. Underwear (can you believe it!)
  8. Detail on garments
  9. Colours and how you wear them
  10. Scale of details and accessories

Sure your body shape will tell you where you should put the detail (whichever sort you choose, based on your personalilty) and where you need to look for vertical or horizontal details in clothing.  But that’s all it tells you.  It doesn’t tell you:

If you should wear stripes, checks, florals, abstract prints or animal print (that choice comes down to your personality).

If you should wear knits or wovens, fabrics made from natural fibres or synthetics (that’s personality).

If you would feel best in a loafer or a pair of knee high boots (ummm, personality again).

The styles of jewellery you choose – cut diamonds or polished turquoise?

How much time you’re prepared to spend on your grooming, hair, makeup, nails, and if you should be sporting red lipstick or a subtle lip gloss, cos that all comes down to your, you guessed it, personality.

What kind of underwear do you choose?  Lacy? Microfibre? Cotton? Patterned? Plain?  I can tell something about your personality from the underwear you choose!

How about that garment detail?  Do you like a little velvet ribbon detail at the neckline of your tee?  Maybe you like embellishment which sparkles?  Or are you a fan of the polo style tee?

You may have a colour palette and know all about what your ideal contrast levels are, but you love to break all your rules.  Or you may just wear the more pastel parts of your palette, or maybe it’s the brightest, boldest mid-tones that rock your world.   Neutrals more your cup of tea?  Well of course all these decisions come straight back to your personality.

Average kind of size but love a big bold pattern or collar?  That too, my friend, is personality based.  Maybe you prefer really delicate jewellery?  Maybe a diamond can never be big enough and you’re happy to wear a rock the size of Australia – all down to personality.

As you can see, so much of what you choose is not based on body shape (or even many of the physical elements of you) but down to who you are on the inside.  When we dress to highlight ourselves in an authentic manner, we feel the most comfortable and confident.   Part of the reason in the Evolve Your Style challenge I push people to try something different or new is that they may discover they do or don’t like something (it’s a bit like trying new foods, you don’t have to like everything, but you may discover a new favourite).  In the end when you analyse what you do and don’t like, it will come down to a feeling so often.  How you feel in those clothes and accessories, not just, does this flatter my body. This is your personality talking to you.  Ever had that experience in store where you try something on and think “It’s just not me”?  Well that’s your personality talking.  The question is, do you know what is “me”?  Learning all about what you do and don’t love, and the breadth of personality style can really help you when choosing garments so that you don’t end up with things languishing in your wardrobe unworn. It’s the most common reason (other than fit) for why we buy but don’t wear garments.

What have you discovered about how your personality influences the styles of clothes you choose?  What do you love and hate?  What mistakes have you made purchasing clothes that you now realise are down to your personality?

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36 Comments

  • Imogen, this feels like the most important style post I have read this year. So much food for thought. Thank you!

    • Thanks Adelfa! I really appreciate you commenting. To me, personality is the number 1 most important factor in style and looking great. I spend more time talking to my clients about their personality than anything else!

  • One of my favorite posts you have written. Both your programs were of great value to me, learned and confirmed so much, best of all it taught me to break the rules and just be me…who ever that may be at any given time…I have evolved so much since I started the journey and in a way it brought me back home style wise.

    • Ruby, first off, I thought of you!

      Imogen, I can’t tell you how much every one of the 7 Steps contributes to such a realization for me. I was re-doing the Values step yesterday to remind myself of what I like and what I don’t before finally getting to shop. Even being reminded of not liking to iron or dry clean; liking to have unique handmade jewelry; etc. was so valuable. I think that the best we can all do is learn what makes each of us unique and try to incorporate that as much as possible into our lives and style. Thank you for the great post to the same effect!

  • Great post and a lovely liberal approach but I’m gonna comment in a different vein to the others.

    We all have physical attributes, whether our colouring or body shape or the texture of our hair, etc. there are colours that especially suit us, a contrast level that especially suits us, the type of fabric that harmonises with us better than the next etc. (all the things that you inform a client of during a personal consultation, I believe?)

    I, like the next woman, can be critical of my attributes and am a bit of a perfectionist. so while there are things about me I’d change, there are many incredibly lucky features that I feel so grateful about. By dressing according to the SCIENTIFIC rules you have explained to us over the years Imogen, I can maximise my potential, bringing out the best by creating harmony and flattering my given/liked attributes. this way I feel that I have done my best, and this distracts away from my imperfections/attributes I do not like.

    you might think that for me my personality simply happens to match my colouring (I have cool, deep colouring, with high contrast, as you know – I mostly dress in a dramatic way) or my body shape (8-body shape and I v rarely wear trousers, prefer a straight skirt to A-line skirt, love belts and waist definition etc), but no, I used to wear pastel colours for one period of my life. they were gorgeous colours too. but noone ever commented how beautiful that peach looked on me. whereas with my current clothes choices, I know that people approve and not that I seek their approval, but a lot of this is subconscious and the way we look matters a great deal, esp for first impressions, so looking my very best makes me more confident and makes me feel that I’ve done my bit.

    so what I’m trying to say: now I love being high contrast and being one of the few people who can really pull off black. but when I’m a bit older and start greying, I too will probably follow suit and dye my hair blond (similarly to you Imogen) and then no matter how much I love black now, seeing how it will no longer suit me as much, I’ll opt for a different neutral and I’ll probably grow to like that new style. So what I’m saying is that my preference for what I put on is not immutable and for me my personality can shine the best if what I’m wearing is really what suits me and creates harmony, not if I wear what I would have chosen just because that’s a gorgeous cut/gorgeous colour/gorgeous material or because I want to look pretty and feminine and a pastel outfit flatters my nurturing side etc.

    in the picture of the model on the right in pastel colours, those colours are simply not hers, as far as I can tell. in a past post when you told us about Cate Blanchett’s frock: http://www.vogue.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/22/cate-blanchett-oscars-red-carpet-2015.jpg
    say that her personality demands black. this outfit still simply doesn’t look as right as when she was wearing the pastel colours the year before..

    in sum (sorry for long post) for me it’s wonderful to be able to understand what suits us best and why. and the ability to choose the most flattering outfits based on rules that are far from ad hoc is fantastic. perhaps the appreciation for this is part of my personality, which is why my dressing personality is ‘willing’ to (subconsciously) make a compromise. there is still a lot of scope and a lot of choice involved, but I genuinely do feel most comfortable when I’m wearing an outfit that fundamentally harmonises best with my physical attributes of colouring, body shape, body scale etc.

    • If you read up my posts about colour personality you will see that there is an element of which colours you choose (that hopefully suit you) you wear https://insideoutstyleblog.com/?s=colour+personality Any person can wear 50000 colours, but whether you choose the bolder, the lighter, the darker, the neutrals comes down to personality. And of course, body shape is a useful tool, but it’s only one element of the style puzzle. I don’t dismiss everything I write about finding flattering clothes with this post, I’m just saying that body shape is not all about where it’s at.

      • Yes thank you, I do remember, but this still doesn’t mean that someone high contrast looks her best in all pastel colours or someone low contrast like Cate Blanchett can go for a deeply black full length gown and look like a million dollars, even if their personality demanded that? physics/science comes into contrast and there personality can have a say, but for me it v rarely does/will 🙂

        • Susie – what I was saying was that this post was about body shape and personality, not colouring and wearing colours. Sure Cate looks better in her lighter colours, but for some people they will never choose to wear what may look best as their personality is too strong.

  • WONDERFUL POST! I hope it inspires others to follow your lead.

    Who are we as women to judge each other. Yes certain things may work, but clothes have to say who we are and that isn’t someone out of a colour palette or book. These are just suggestions for us to do whatever we choose with.

    When people are critical of others choices they need to spend that time ENJOYING themselves not picking apart others.

    And Cate looks amazing in dark colours. She’s not a typical (dyed) blonde. She has dark blue eyes and can carry of bold colours as she has a bold still nature.

  • (Love the top pic.) This makes so much sense as I’ve spent the last year really working hard on identifying my style. I’ve followed advice of this blog and others and run into the sometimes heartbreakingly expensive “but I don’t feel it’s really *me* after all” wall several times, and finally I think I’ve figured out My Style Right Now.

    BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Before now, I have always been a “well, I don’t know how I feel, let’s give it a shot” sort of person about all sorts of decisions. Now, I give my gut reaction much more credit, and I base that on this year of wardrobe experimentation that has given me a mirror to see my personality. Also my “prune the extra” skills are getting better, and it’s easier to say, “I’ve grown out of that activity” and get rid of extra paraphernalia, even identify toxic acquaintances!

  • Dear Imogen,

    This is such an important post! I think I have all Trinny and Susannah’s books plus a whole lot of style books by other authors. I have to say that T&S touched the subject of personality in “Who do you want to be today”, but not in a serious way.

    Knowing almost every theory and rule out there I have had a hard time understanding why I kept buying so much clothes that didn’t work for me. In fact one of the most expensive theories has been the capsule wardrobe idea. Since separates don’t sit very well on my body due to an asymmetric hip, I prefer to see myself in dresses. Living in Scandinavia that is just not very functional. Also, everywhere I’m told that with a short, fat neck I should avoid heavy necklaces.

    Then I found bloggers like Sacramento from Mis Papelicos and Ariel Maile Adkins from Artfully Awear and saw that you can look fantastic in clothes that aren’t the wisest choice for figure flattery, or in a problematic colour. Now the mentioned ladies are very colourful, but also wildly inspiring in their creative dressing.

    So, little by little I have come to the same conclusion: Personality always precedes rules and theory. Now I’m beginning to work out how to create a dressed based capsule wardrobe. Maybe you can help with that? I cherish and wear every day my large and eye catching necklaces, and I feel great!

    So, I don’t think we should ignore the theories, just pick the ones that work with our personality and leave the rest. Then we should forget about how we look and concentrate on the people around us 🙂

    Thank you for all the tips you share with us every day!

  • “If you would feel best in a loafer or a pair of knee high boots (ummm, personality again).” It would be nice if you got over whatever it was in my comment that rankled you so deeply and stopped getting traction for your blog by shitting on my comments. I’m a person, I participated in your blog in a genuine manner, if my suggestions for one of your other participants bothered you so extremely that you have to engage in a campaign of putdowns, perhaps you should have a look at why that is. Having a business or blog or being a public figure isn’t an excuse to make meat out of “the little people” who fund your empire.

    • It is Imogen’s blog so she can write what she likes. There are tens of thousands of other style blogs out there so just move on to another more sympatico blogger.

  • I like flower prints (and pin tucks). I don’t even look at animal prints in shops even if they are in my colors or contrast levels. I’m sure I would look alright in them. I am plus size and I have a photograph of me in a plain yellow t-shirt and the big block of color just made me look very big (which I am). I have now bought a few tops that have a pattern on the front (usually floral) and that just softens my look. I don’t know what it is about animal prints that I don’t like but lots of other people like animal prints so good on them. Each to their own.

  • Imogen,

    Personality trumps all and adds the individual’s signature to every outfit. This is a very important post and clearly needs to be read again and again. The analysis of what works and does not for body type, coloring, contrast level, face shape….is of equal importance.

    I enjoy fashion and having fun with it. I am very aware of all the features of my figure and face. Although it is not always my goal to enhance and flatter EVERY ONE of these features when putting together an ensemble I am acutely aware of them and work with them…or around them to tell my style story of the day.

    Most great artists studied the rules before breaking them. It is the final and last lesson. To let your individual style story take center stage usually is a balancing act and compromise of rules. I never break all the rules…I just choose which ones I will break or find a way to work around. Fashion is fun after all and I am beyond the age where I care to look fetching….I rather look interesting with a story to tell.

  • Thank you Imogen! I so relate to this and it is such a relief to be given permission to let personality not only show through, but rule my choices. I really like the analogy with great artists and agree you need to know the rules to break them.

    The focus on colour and body shape by most style analysts can lead to a rather prescriptive and rigid way of dressing. I hope as people relax into their colours and shapes, they also allow their personality to flow into their dressing a bit more. Me, I actually ought to work on my colours and shape a bit more, as I’m all about the personality at the moment!!

  • Thank you Imogen. While perusing your post this week, I found a video of you showing how to wear a cascading vest when you are petite. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved it. I’m an H I think but it even looks good with the belt! I couldn’t find the post again to comment there but I wanted to say Thank You!

    • Thanks Glenda – yes waterfall cardigans and vests can be hard to wear – and I’m an H and it’s one of the few instances that belting works

  • Sorry if commenting on an older post complicates things but I tend to binge read your blog and re-read posts. I have been on a big lifestyle change finding my style again sort of journey for the past couple of years, mainly experimenting with thrift shop purchases to figure out my style before investing in anything. I have learned so much about how my personality, my likes and dislikes and the fact that I am very kinesthetic affect what I am comfortable wearing and that above all I must be both psychologically and physically comfortable. I am fortunate to have no restrictions or dress codes to consider. In fact my very casual lifestyle was part of the problem as I missed dressing nicely for work. My body shape is similar to yours, Imogen though I am tall. In a body-con dress I can pass as an hourglass but once you get regular clothes on me I appear pretty much H shaped. I hate hate hate belts on my waist and structured clothing. Trying to flatter my figure, not look fatter than I am but be comfortable in what I wear has been my biggest challenge. My aesthetic is natural with some romantic tendencies. My colouring is soft, muted, cool, and my contrast value is medium. I am an introvert. I am creative but not bold. I like comfortable shoes. I have figured out much of this with the help of your blog and a few others and significantly I can say I understand that it is okay to be who I am. It is more than okay and I am no longer trying to be someone I am not.

    • It’s fine to comment on any post – no matter how old – I consider most of the content here to be evergreen and in my eyes age is no issue! And be who you are, there is no point in trying to dress like someone else if it doesn’t make you feel comfortable both inside and out.

  • Fantastic, this is the most important post you’ve written and its so well written. I laughed heartily and agreed with every word.
    I can shop with my three daughters and I know the eldest will choose chiffon and girly things, the middle one will end up with delicate and fragile things like necklets you can barely see and pearls and the younger one, well she will wants sparkles & colour.

    By the way, I hate loafer and love knee high boots. I was so dismayed when I was told ankle boots are the only thing in next year. Who is the woman who loves leopard print, knee high black boots, and jewellery that makes a statement. I have to bury that so often in my world. Its considered vain, vulgar, self obsession, pride, etc., etc., etc.,
    Its so hard to be someone else, when you live in small town community and the shop is the local chat station and everyone else wears their hubbies worn out gumboots and his old t-shirts.

  • Imogen, I would love it if you would do part II, III, IV & V on this.

    Can you go into descriptions of these personalities, their style and why/who they are? I would love to read it. I’m sure others will too. I mean the last question is so searching, isn’t it? Do you know your personality style? Who are you?
    Sometimes you are pressured by those around you who say:
    Why do you have big hair? (I dunno, why do you have flat hair)
    Why do you always have to wear leopard skin? (Uh.. I liked it)
    Why do you always have to wear obvious lipstick? (I thought that was the point, or else why wear it?)
    Why do you still wear high heels, you are bordering on 50 you know. (these are much lower than I used to wear, do I have to be on the bowling green already?)
    Get the picture….
    So, would you do a post to explain some of the above. I would dearly love to know.

    And how to survive the attitude of those who are different, yet cannot tolerate differences!

  • I don’t know if this will be seen but I love this post. This is my first time here. I have the opposite problem to those bold expressive women. I am no shrinking violet but I usually am perscribed larger prints animal prints and large jewelry. I know I will never be Comfortable in that style. I will tell you what I think if its important or if you ask me directly, otherwise I usually stay quiet. I like natural elements and florals drapy scarves and cardigans anything comfortable but still some structure. A balance of color, body shape and size, and personality. But if I’m not personally comfortable, it matters not how good it may look.

    • Welcome Karen and thanks for commenting. It’s so important that you express your personality through your style as that’s when you’ll feel the most comfortable and confident.

  • This post made so much sense to me!!! Believe it or not, what you said about underwear is amazing too! I never really thought of it, but when I thought of what I wear, black Jockey string bikinis, I thought to myself, yes, those underwear are really me! They have a mixture of being a little sexy with the string bikini and being black, but they are cotton and very comfortable. It’s pretty much how I’ve dressed–comfortable, natural, but a little sexy. Anyway, I just want to say that this post really helped because I have had an in-person style and color consultation here in the US and what was recommended just did not feel right as far as style–certain aspects did, but a lot of it just did not feel like me. Even the colors–I am a true winter and I actually was draped twice and I really saw it for myself, but what you said about personality really hit home because I tend to wear the more natural/neutral colors in my palette with just hints of color. I struggled with being a true winter more natural style because I had previously been wearing warmer colors–which were all wrong, so being a true winter really threw me and I just had a hard time putting a natural style together with that kind of cool-toned, brighter color palette. Your site is very helpful!!

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