Body Shape Bible: Understanding How to Dress 8 Shape Bodies


8 Body shape bibleAs I discussed here when I explained how lines work, body shape tells us:

  • Where to put the verticals
  • Where to put the horizontals to balance, broaden or highlight
  • Where to place detail
  • Where to keep boring/dull/plain/no detail

That’s it!  So let’s look at the 8 Shape (commonly called the hourglass shape).

8 Shape Body -  What to Wear


Putting this information into action let’s look at a dress shape for an 8 Body Shape.



8 Shape dress rules


You can see that the dress is a straight shape through the body to the knees, this follows your shape without overemphasizing your high hip.

Detail at the waist allows you to draw attention to your proportionally smaller waist, and keeping interest above the waist draws attention up to your face.


8 shape skirt and top


Even if you don’t define the waist with a belt, make sure your clothing has definite waist shaping as otherwise you will look boxy.

Now let’s have a look at an outfit with jeans and a cardigan.

8 shape jeans and a cardigan


Keeping the detail to your top half, defining your waist with a belt if a top is more voluminous.  Look for detail in your top or add it with a scarf or jewellery.  If you have narrower shoulders than hips then look for horizontal detail above the bust or at the shoulders.

More posts on dressing your 8 Shape Body

Body shapes explained 8 Shape

Don’t waste your money 8 shape

Real life 8 body shape

Dressing an 8 body shape

Download your 8 Shape Guide here

Not sure of your body shape? Then take my Body Shape Calculator quiz now.



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  • I really think I am an 8 shape…but I have a problem with putting a horizontal at my waist because though my waist is 10 inches smaller than my bust and 9 inches smaller than my hips, I find that if I belt at the waist, my high hip juts out almost immediately giving me a really boxy shaped hip line and almost makes it look like I must be squeezing myself in. Does anyone else have that problem? I also find I look awesome in a peplum…only if it is very fitted (nothing too ruffley) and I often find the peplum hits me in the wrong place, usually a little to high. For my shape…I love waist shaping, princess seamed dresses and shirts, pencil skirts and straight skirts. I would love to hear what other real life “8” women find to be successful for them. And do any of you other “8” women struggle with looking like you have a large tummy…due to your high hip?

    • I think I am an 8 shape, too, with broad shoulders. No belts for me (my stomach ist not flat), but waisted tops and pencil skirts.

    • I too am an 8 and with normal BMI/slim body I have a muffin top and flabby belly!! you can actually pinch the dough like fat in the middle while it’s almost skin and bones everywhere else.. makes me look a bit disproportionate and I personally hate it but apparently it’s feminine…

      I too have found that peplum tops don’t always fit. I also find that wearing skirts and dresses is much easier than wearing trousers, which again always result in the muffin top.

      I know what you mean about belting and then the high hip fat just juts out, but I wouldn’t call this look boxy, my silhouette (from the front) is more like a vase?! which is not bad, from the sides however there is a bit of a pregnancy look going on, not sure how to both emphasise the waist, forgo a looser flared skirt but hide the tummy and high hip flab.

      dieting and exercise is the only thing that’s truly worked for me, when I am super slim the flab from the middle does ultimately go too (or substantially lessen) and I can dress more like an X or an I then – much-much easier.

      • If you carry your weight in the middle, you aren’t 8 shaped at all… You could be top heavy (large chest?) or ruler shaped (straight up n down, no curves). Either way, try to follow fashion advice meant for your body type and you’d look fab!

  • I have the muffin top problem in some jeans but have found Joe’s honey curvy to be very comfortable and flattering. These are a bootleg style, which flatter an 8 shape. All the styles that Sherilyn mentions work for me, too. Almost any dress or sweater that is belted at the waist makes me look fat, because my waist is so short. I rely on hip-length sweaters and tops that are fairly close fitting (not tight, but follow my shape) with jeans or pencil or low-flaring skirts, plus dresses that do the same as tops, i.e., either fitted sheath dresses or flowy fabrics that skim curves.

  • Imogen, I think, is one of the very few stylists to recognize and talk about dressing the curvy high hip—this is one of the reasons why I continue to be a faithful reader of this blog. Thanks for another post on “8” shapes!

    That said, and though I do have a super curvy high hip, I don’t think I am a textbook “8” shape either, and like some others noted above, I can’t really wear belts at the waist.

    My curvy high hip is very noticeably there, though I might be barely at the borderline of the requisite inch differential between the waist and hip. As others noted above, I too have a muffin top, carry weight in my tummy. I am short waisted, and my bottom looks small and flat in comparison to the weight I carry at my curvy high hip. I am fit and toned for my age (mid 50’s) and have long lean legs and arms.

    So it’s always a toss up for me whether to just skim over and hide my problematic midsection…or to try to highlight the high curve, which can actually look really attractive (dare I say sexy?) if the form-fitting clothes are right.

    Lately I have been thinking that I am maybe an odd combination of “H” and “8” shape. When I shop, I consider pieces recommended for both body types. I try them on and I am finding garments from each type that work on me. I also find garments from each type that don’t work on me due to proportion, scale, fabric weight, decorative details, or whatever. Anyway, this strategy is currently working well for me.

    I have always known that belts at the waist just don’t work for me, even skinny ones, probably due to the combination of short waist and heavy high hip. Simple seaming or shaping at the waist, however, often looks fantastic. Streamlined peplums, if cut correctly, are amazing.

    The straight bottoms recommended by Imogen definitely work on me too, that was the biggest insight for me from this blog a couple of years ago. Makes all the difference.

    From the “H” side, empire waists with streamlined bottoms can work really well on me. They are narrow right under the bust and skim over my entire midsection. Putting on an empire waist garment can be heaven sometimes, when I just want to forget about my midsection. Detail near the face or near the hem can work on me. A straight skirt with a slight flare out or border around the hem can look super.

    One idea Imogen doesn’t mention which works for me:

    Pair a dark toned fitted top, skimming but not clinging, which defines the waist and high hip curve and ends at low hip…

    With a lighter toned and straight-shaped bottom.

    The dark color covering the high hip minimizes it’s size. The lighter color over the more slender low hip and thighs highlights them.

    • Great tips Judy – like any body shape there are proportional variations that change the way you wear your clothes and accessories. There are many H/8 combinations around! So you need to take recommendations for both to make it work for your unique body.

  • I am an 8 with narrow shoulders! I never really thought I fit the pear shape since my hip weight is rounded out from the waist. I have a waist and a full bust. All of the advice for pears don’t look good on me. But, I really look good in recommendations for the 8. Thanks for this post.

  • Quick question regarding the images a the top of all of these posts. Why does the image of the V body shape have a picture of an apple? I thought the apple was associated with the O shape?

  • Another shelf-hip perspective. I’m petite and very short waisted. Belts rise up under my (rather large) bust. Peplums make my bottom look like a balloon. Fitted blazers are my best friends, especially ones which taper in at the waist and have some stretch. My favorites also have vertical seaming, barely visible pockets, and bottom front eves coming to points so there’s no horizontal to draw attention to my widest part. Very hard to find and fit, so I collect them and treasure them and wear them for years.

  • Woohoo!! I love 8 shape posts! I agree with Judy that one of the reasons I love Imogen so much is because she addresses the 8 shape so well. I distinctly remember reading the post from a long time ago where a woman had sent in her picture and Imogen pointed out her high hips and how she was an 8 instead of an X. I was so excited because it was me!

    Imogen – I follow the rules for an 8 but LOVE full circle skirts with fitted tops, either separates or shirt dresses and always with a wide waistband or belt. I have broad shoulders and carry my weight in my lower front belly and hips. I get compliments whenever I dress in these retro styles – IF they’re truly flattering on me, is it because of my broad shoulders and that the bulk of the skirt volume is below my hips near my knees? (I guess I could be getting the compliments just because the clothes themselves are cute.)

  • Hello,

    thank you for this articel.I think you are the only blogger who adresses the “high hip”.

    Finally found out that i have a high hip – but my shoulders are broader than my hips, my upper part of the body is very slim). I noticed that a-line skirts look quite good on me. So my question is similiar to jesselyns – is that because of my broad shoulders ?

  • Thank you so much for recognizing the 8 shape! Advice for apple or pears really didn’t work for me. I am also quite short with a short torso, I can easily look like a box depending on what I wear. It is a difficult shape to style but I will say for those struggling with jeans/pant alot of styles are low rise which is terrible on us. Mid-rise pants/jeans are the most flattering but also the hardest to find now a days. Belts don’t work for me but belted tops or wide waistband dresses or shirts that hit at empire work well.

  • I join everyone else in thanking you for recognising the 8 shape! I am certain this is me as advice for pears didn’t quite work. I cannot wear belts at all and find skirts almost impossible to fit – which is OK as I don’t really like skirts and dresses much. I find it almost impossible to wear shoes without socks or heavy tights mainly because I have a broad flat foot and anything that isn’t shaped like a Croc tends to rub bare skin. Mid-rise jeans are a must as are loose fitting (but not baggy) tops.

  • I should say though that while my waist is narrow (9 inches smaller than my hips) it is quite high (5 inches smaller than the measurement over the top of my hips which are in line with my bellybutton). Also I have solid barrel ribcage even when slender although average shoulders and breasts (plus a small head – really didn’t win the lottery when it came to body shape). I’m a stocky build and a little overweight at the moment with a large tummy and fat over my upper hip bones. The latter is a characteristic of all the women in my family – no matter how thin or fat they are! I’ve been avoiding anything which shows my waist because a stylist said I had a large midriff (due to the tummy and upper hip fat) and should avoid waist shaping. Are there guidelines for stocky 8s?

    • For some of us our waist is wider than our under bust or rib cage – your waist is technically the point between where your rib cage ends and the top of your pelvis – it may or may not have anything to do where your belly button is (though for many people it is related). You may be more of an H shape than an 8 shape (or extra weight can turn an 8 into and H)

      • Thanks, Imogen. My waist is 1 1/2 inches smaller than my under bust and 9 inches smaller than my hips but my rib cage does end close to my hips. However, I definitely do have a waist and curvy hips which is why I’ve probably been identified as a pear by other style consultants. However, I think from now I will look at both 8 and H and use these as guides when looking for clothes. Thanks!

  • your 8-shape suggestions are invaluable; thank you. i am what i would call an “extreme” 8, in that i am short (5’3″ on a tall day), stocky/muscular, broad-shouldered (extremely) and very full-busted (32J US). so violating your figure 8 principles is even more disastrous than the norm! every ounce of excess weight sits on my (extremely high) hip, shortening my waist further. my bra has to be *perfect* to pull my boobs up and in, slim my profile and reveal my waist (which is 10 inches smaller than hip and shoulder, even if i am chubby — even more if i’m not). thin or stretchy belts can work with the right fabric and cut, but are problematic in many cases (i often have the sensation that they are riding up and ending up directly under my breasts — yuck!). i have learned that the following help me feel comfortable and streamlined: statement bib necklaces; voluminous scarves with ends that hang vertically over the lower belly; nipped-in dark blazers over dark bottoms, open if they don’t fit the bust (and they never do, obviously); jersey fabric dresses (wrap, pencil, v-neck). A-line skirts, pleats and most pants are a disaster. i have a LOT of trouble looking good in jeans and pants if i don’t cover my hips and they aren’t cut perfectly. i think one of the biggest sartorial challenges of my extreme 8 type is that our torso is shortened by both having high hips AND large bust, so, often, the nipped-in garments that would flatter us hit in the wrong spot (the smallest part, the waist, hits at our largest part, the high hip, if not tailored). honestly? i have given some thought to throwing out my entire wardrobe and starting over with 5-10 custom-tailored garments; i know it would make me look 15 pounds thinner. i DREAM of a tailored, slim-cut button-down shirt that actually fits my bust and waist. right now, my waist is the same measurement as my under bust (31 inches) and i get the same measurement whether i squeeze tightly or tie loosely (not much fluff — the fluff collects lower, on my high hips and across my lower belly). a weight loss or gain of 2 pounds can annihilate someone as short, stocky, busty and high-hipped as me…all this to say: do you have any specific advice for those of us at the extreme end of the figure of 8 scale? the short, broad, busty ones who have an hourglass of sorts hiding under those small fashion errors? and whose figures need some degree of body consciousness to avoid bulk and tenting, but can look instantly cheap if they go too far? thanks!

  • I am so happy to have discovered this! I am totally an 8. I love being curvy (and high hips = long legs), but oh man some items of clothing are so tricky. If a dress is too baggy or has an empire waist I look fat and pregnant… But obviously a dropped waist looks ridiculous too. I accidentally discovered that those short jackets and wrap dresses are super flattering, assuming the wrap stays closed at the top (!!!). I have to say that I don’t wear belts at all, because I feel like I look like Urkell, but I might try them now with these suggestions! I also like the idea of skirts that are either straight or flare at the knee. I am totally trying that. (Anyone else have to wear a bridesmaid dress with front pleats?!? EEEK.)

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