Body Shape Bible: Understanding How to Dress X Shape Bodies


how to dress the X or hourglass body shapeAs 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 X Shape (commonly called the hourglass shape)

X shape - hourglass body shape tips



So putting these rules into action, see some examples of what flatters your X shape.


For example this dress has a shape that follows the line of your body so enhances your smaller waist and gorgeous curves.    The open neckline draws attention up to your face and balances your hips.  Adding a necklace to it’s otherwise plain neckline creates detail and a focal point near your face.  The belt shows off your smaller waist and the princess seams that run through the dress create lovely elongating verticals through your body.


X shape dress guidelines



Skirt Top and Jacket – here I used a striped fitted tee to highlight your hourglass shape, belted at the waist to make it a feature.  The skirt flares gently over hips and thighs but is in a plain fabric so draws less attention than the lighter coloured striped tee.  The scarf draws attention up to your face.  You can create a column of colour using a similar coloured jacket or cardigan  that is also shaped to show off your waist.


X shape skirt and top



Jeans and a jacket outfit – the bootcut jeans balance your hips and thighs by replicating your hourglass shape, notice that they are dark and plain so they are not the feature (distressing on jeans often creates detail and unflattering lines across your hips/thighs).  I’ve also created another column of colour with a navy jacket, this one has the added advantage of having diagonal hems so no extra horizontal lines are draw across your hips.   The waisted shape shows off your waist and the necklace draws attention up to your face.


x shape jeans and jacket



Using the rules show off the waist with horizontal detail and draw attention up to the face with an open neckline and some accessories.  The jacket and jeans are a similar colour which helps to create an elongating column of colour.

Notice also the diagonal hem detail on the jacket – removing the standard ‘horizontal hem’ that is created with many jackets and tops around the hip area means you are not drawing a widening line across your widest point.

Avoid double hems on tops that end around your hips/thighs as they draw a widening line across them.

Body Shapes Explained

Don’t waste your money on these X Shape

X Shape explained

Download this blog post X shape bible as a printable guide.

Not sure of your body shape?  Take my Body Shape Calculator quiz and learn how to flatter your figure.


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  • Imogen, is it possible to be an X shape and have a belly roll/pot belly? I find I agree with a lot of what you have in this article and others, but I never wear a belt. My best guess of all the body shapes is I’m either and X or 8.

      • Thanks for that. I was thinking I’m more likely an 8 but sometimes the stuff for X applies for me as well. I’ve always found dressing tricky because, even though I have a belly and big hips, I do have a waist and anything loose on me just makes me look dumpy. So obviously I need the shaping/fitted tops, but because of my belly find it hard to make things work

  • I have to quibble a little bit with the no detail below the waist rule. If your shoulders and hips are in proportion you can maintain that balance by having details both top and bottom that balance each other (for example a wide neckline and a horizontal detail such as stripes at the hem). I have found pants and skirts I disliked because they made my legs look too long and thin (I know, nice problem to have, right?) and therefore I look top-heavy.

  • Afraid once again this x gal is going to be a rule breaker..I love my new to me printed skirts and pants and though I do wear prints on my top half, prefer them on the bottom half. I do agree with your guidelines, just my personality and personal prefrence to wear my prints on the bottom.

  • I was thinking about the affect my short waist has on how I apply my X shape design lines and how true your statement is that body shape is only just one piece of the style puzzle and doesn’t give us all the answers. Too many people focus on body shape alone but my vertical proportions alter the way I have to implement my X shape design lines. We are all so wonderfully unique!

  • Thank you for putting up different examples of outfits; very inspiring. Since I like to cover up my top half, V-neck and scoop neck tops are out of my comfort zone. If I were to wear a boat neck top or asymmetrical top with a necklace, would that be acceptable? Or could I fill in the V-neck and scoop neck with accessories that cover up that space?

  • Will the Body Shape Bible have a section for 8 shaped bodies? I am looking for more info. on this. It is hard to find. I was an X shape. I am not in my mid 40’s and have become an 8, adding weight to my middle that I never had before. But, I still have hips and a full bust. Any more info. on 8’s you could share would be great!

  • I’m a petite X Shape, who just had baby #3 two months ago so I’m still carrying a round belly for now. I get so lost on what to wear postpartum. I feel that when I wear anything to attempt to hide my belly I just look overall heavier because it hides my waist. After my first two babies, I felt too embarrassed of my belly to wear anything fitted. But this time (with more time and experience and less of an ego on the whole), I’m actually feeling like I look more pulled together in fitted tops despite the belly, because it still shows my waist and makes my figure look like it still exists. But I’m not sure this is actually my best bet. I know it’s a relatively short phase in the grand scheme of things, but I’d be nice to figure it out and feel more confident durning the in between times.
    Do you have any tips for this particular phase I’m in? Should I be looking at a different body shape for now?

    • One of the things I love to wear is a shapewear cami – you can get them lots of places from Kmart and Target to Yummie Tummie which has some built in smoothing support. They are not restrictive like the shapewear pants, but they do make a big difference to a post-partum tummy.

  • I have a question: what if you are X shaped, but flat chested? Most websites label hourglass as being curvy, as in: having boobs and curvy hips. Now, I do have a fairly round bottom, but in the upper area I am very…ribcage-y, for lack of a better word. =/ I avoid A-line and flowing skirts, because it adds volume at my hips, I’m afraid it will make my breast look even smaller. Instead I wear tight fitting or straight skirts. I am not an A or I figure, I do have a defined waist and shoulders that are the same width as the hips.

    • Size of your bust has nothing to do with body shape – that’s what I label a body variation. It’s shoulders, waist and hips. Are you sure you’re not an 8 shape? You may also want to broaden your shoulders with shoulder detail.

  • I have a large bust 34 E and a smaller waist 30″, and my hips and thighs are 40″. if anyone can give me a clue to my body shape it would be great. I look in the mirror and am a clueless mess. I had part of my leg removed in 2010 and went through 5 years of treatments and surgeries before my wound was healed. I am glad they saved my leg, but 5 years of limited activity and pain changed my weight. I went from a 32 c cup, 24″ waist, 34″ hips and 32″ thighs, a size 0 5’7″ and 105lbs max to these new measurements and 35lbs weight gain. I am willing to provide photos of before and after the surgeries and 5 years to anyone who is good at looking at a shape and knowing what kind of shape it is! I am up and about now, and want to start getting out more, and as much as I love how big my boobs are now, and I have always thought women with curves are beautiful; I am not used to this changed body and feel so self conscience. I can’t figure out what shape I am, and have no idea how to dress. Oh yeah, and I don’t wear anything that goes more than 2 inches above the left knee because of the scarring and big chunk gone from the side of my leg. Someone please help me. Oh and any suggestions for dresses? I am going on a girls trip with my sisters and our daughters; to my nieces wedding, and I don’t have one single dress that fits. Someone please help me.

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