How to Dress With Conflicting Body Shape Advice


Dear Imogen,
Thank you so much for creating Inside Out Style. Many of the style blogs I find are designed for models or teens, at least that’s how it seems to me. Most of your articles are for more mature women, with children. And you don’t pretend to have a perfect figure, you teach us how to make the most of the bodies we have, and work with our assets while covering our flaws. Thank you for a blog that helps the average woman – it’s a rare blessing.
And that brings me to my question. I have an A body type, with a long torso and short legs. I’m only 5’4″. I’m also about 170 lbs. This combination makes it very difficult to find clothing that works for me.
Some of the articles contradict each other, and I’m not sure which rules to break. Wide leg jeans are great for A body types, but they make me look shorter than ever. Belts are great, but not if you have a tummy you’re trying to hide.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I need a casual (but stylish)wardrobe. I love jeans, and basically live in them for most of the year. I don’t wear dresses often, unless I’m going out on a date with my husband of 16 years.
Thanks again, for everything you’ve taught me!

How to dress with conflicting body shape advice

How to Dress For Conflicting Body Shape Advice

Humans, strangely enough, aren’t all the same.  In fact our body shapes are quite varied and individual.

Body shape guidelines are that – guidelines, not rules and are merely suggestions of the kinds of shapes and styles to try.  They certainly are not the only information you need to know to dress well, and I’d recommend reading what knowing your body shape really tells you (and what it doesn’t cover).

Your unique shape and features, including body proportions, and body variations (such as being petite in height) will make it important to take all these pieces of the style puzzle (and you can read about all the elements of the style puzzle here) to find a formula that works for you.

Wide legs are great for some taller, but instead why not think about a more modified version such as a bootcut or trouser cut, which don’t have the same width or volume, so won’t shorten your legs down.  Shorter legs need overall narrower trousers, but they don’t have to be skinny!

Remember, body proportions are just as important as body shape guidelines.

You don’t have to belt, but you can make sure your tops are shaped to flatter – that they come in at your waist rather than going straight down.

Look at the recommendations for hiding a rounded tummy– you could use a print or pattern to help hide it, or think about which of these tips also work with your A Shape rules.

When discovering what works, it’s about looking at each element, the recommendations, and then with all your puzzle pieces together, finding the ones that work across multiple areas, leaving out the guidelines that aren’t relevant for you.

For example, I’m an H shape and belting is not something that is advised, but I’ve discovered that I can belt with a wide belt (never narrow) when what I’m belting over is voluminous – such as in this outfit.  The wider belt works as my narrowest point on my torso is just under my bust, so the belt starts to highlight this feature rather than just my wider waist.

How to dress with conflicting body shape advice


With the voluminous cardigan draped over the belt you’re not seeing a really obvious horizontal line around my body (which is widening) and because the shape under the cardigan (skirt) is straight I’m not adding lots of extra volume.

Take the pieces that work for you – as my mother always said “What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts”.   Body shape guidlines are not a hard and fast set of rules that will work for everyone, as you are unique.  They just give you a starting point to being experimenting with shapes and styles that might have a chance of flattering your beauty.

Futher Reading

Tips on finding your body shape here

What to Avoid A Shape

What to wear A Shape 

What does knowing your body shape really tell you?

Best pants for your body shape

Which are the best proportions to flatter your proportions

Petite proportions – skirts and dresses

How to measure your body proportions

whats my body shape


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Hi Imogen, I’ve been following your blog for many years and in the past I’ve felt confident in knowing what my body shape is, but as time has gone on my shape has changed and now I’m a bit lost. My shoulders are my widest part, but not much wider than my hips (2 inches tops). My waist is ~7 inches smaller than my hips, but again, my hips are narrower than my shoulders. The widest part of my hips is higher up (no saddlebags) and I also have a very generous bust. Should I dress my top half like a V and my lower half like an 8?

    • You may be a combination shape. I don’t take measurements as something that is particularly relevant as they don’t necessarily match up with what you see on the silhouette. But if you have the high hip of the 8. As far as your shoulders go, if they are only just wider you may just enjoy that feature, or if you want to minimise them, then do dress your top as a V shape.

  • I’m a odd one; my shoulders and lower hips are the same visually and by number, hip dips with my upper thighs then being slightly wider than my high shelf-ish hips, splayed ribs with my waist a sudden narrowing just to flair dramatically like 8 inches for my hips half an inch later, a chronic problem that leads to it being puffy right over my abs and lower pelvis for half the month, a flatish but not flat behind, 5’3 so neither petite nor regular cuts fit with any regularity, and small breasts that highlight the big ribs and wide shoulders. I’ve been told I’m a rectangle (H), a pear with broad shoulders (A), and a straight legged hourglass, (X? 8?) I just want to know what to wear, because all advice seems to clash. I can wear a sash around my hips with a semi-fitted item with shoulder details, a thin belt at my waist wearing a loose item, ballgowns look good if the skirt is full and it’s strapless or boatneck (with boob padding, lol), and pencil skirts are tricky.

    • Hi Heather, without seeing you I can’t tell you, and some people are a combination of shapes – remember that body shape advice is very general – and you have to take what works for you and leave the rest – plus body shape is only 1 small part of the style puzzle. 5’3″ is still officially petite but it can depend on your body proportions about what fits best too. Body variations also impact on what fits and works for you too. (these are all pieces of the style puzzle). My advice is to try different things and photograph yourself and see what shapes are the most flattering on you. If you want my professional advice on your shape you can get this as part of my 7 steps program –

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