What Guidelines to Follow When Your Body Shape isn’t “Standard”


How to figure out your body type if you have a significant difference from the usual features. For example, I have very, very broad shoulders, a slight waist, medium hips from the front and a protruding bottom. If I do a body calculator, I come out as a pear or a ruler. I am neither. From the side and back I look like an hourglass. From the front and three quarter view, I’m definitely an inverted triangle. So when the front and back don’t match, what styles should you aim for? Thanks!

Apart from the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, humans are not geometric shapes that are standardised.  This is why body shape guidelines are:

  1. just guidelines (not hard and fast rules)
  2. one small piece in the style puzzle
  3. generic and you need to create your own specific set of guidelines that work for your unique figure

The Body Equation

Body Shape + Body Variations + Body Proportions = Your Figure Flattery Guidelines

Body shape is the silhouette from your front view (not the side or back).  Body shape guidelines just tell you where to add horizontal details to balance and where to add vertical details to elongate.  They tell you a little about the styles but certainly not everything about what flatters your figure.

Body variations are the other bits and pieces that go on your body, the protruding bottom, in your example, large busts, fuller upper arms, saddlebags, curvy calves,  etc.  Body variations tell you where to add detail (if you want to highlight) or keep plain (if you want to camouflage) and how to balance using scale of garment features, fabrics to choose and accessories to distract.

Body proportions are also just as important, these are the longer or shorter legs, the longer or shorter waist, rise, decolletage etc.  Body proportions tell you where to end your hems – tops, skirts, sleeves, trousers.  And where you also may want to add verticals to elongate and detail to highlight.

Without taking all these into consideration, no one set of “body shape rules” will give you the right advice for your unique figure.

The body shape equation for figure flatteryDiscover Your Body Equation

So let’s break your body down and find its shape.

Why not measure your body and use this to discover body shape?

Well, because it doesn’t work (and that’s speaking from my experiences of over 14 years as an image consultant working with thousands of clients).

A diameter measurement does not tell you where the body goes out and in, it just tells you a diameter (useful when choosing the size of a piece of clothing so it fits on your body, but other than that, useless information).

From the front you have broader shoulders than hips and only a slight waist – this is the V shape (or inverted triangle) body shape – so that’s your body shape

From the side and back you have a rounded more protruding bottom – this is a body variation that you need to understand how to flatter, but it doesn’t change your body shape.

You’ve not mentioned anything about leg or body length, so I’m guessing nothing too out of the ordinary here (but it’s so useful to know, as body proportions tell you where to end hems on skirts, tops and jackets etc.)

What does your protruding bottom change about what you wear?  Well not much except you need to find clothes that fit it and you may (or may not depending on your personal preferences) want to highlight it as a feature, or camouflage it, I mean Kim Kardashian is certainly not trying to camouflage her protruding bottom.   That decision is totally up to you.

You may find fit in pants a little tricky, as you’ll tend to get pulling across the hips if there isn’t enough fabric through the bottom, but it doesn’t change the overall style of pants to choose.

You may not want detailed pockets on the back of your jeans that highlight your butt (but you also may, depending on whether this is a feature you want to highlight).

Outfit for a V shape (inverted triangle) body with a protruding bottomYour Body is Not Unusual But it is Unique

If there around 4 billion females in the world, then there are going to be a lot of women who don’t fit exactly into any body shape guideline.  This is why some experimentation using different guidelines is useful to work out what really works for you.

All the body shape guidelines are generic and everyone needs to take what works from them and throw out the rest.

Some of us will have more body proportional aspects (long or short waists etc.) that influence our style decisions, others of us will have a bunch of body variations (large bust, fuller upper arms, short necks etc.) that impact on what we choose to wear.  This is just part of being human (and not a Barbie Doll).

You may feel that your body doesn’t “fit” to the shape rules, but that is completely normal!

Remember that your style is layered, with all the elements of your unique features, scale, body shape, proportions and variations and of course your personality preferences too.  All the different aspects of the style puzzle go into making your style.

What Guidelines to Follow When Your Body Shape isn't "Standard" - Discover the body shape equationNot Sure of Your Shape?

If you’re unsure of your body shape, then take my Body Shape Calculator Quiz (you’ll see in the instructions what to take notice of and how it’s always about the front view).  You can then download your free Body Shape Bible that will give you tips on flattering your shape.  You may also want to read up on Body Proportions and Body Variations too, to help you find the layers in your style.

If you’d like my professional opinion on your shape, proportions and variations, you can get this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (along with a personal colour analysis plus so much more) as it will really help you understand all the layers in your style cake!


More Tips on Flattering Your Shape

P is for Pants

How to Minimize Wide or Square Shoulders

How to Choose Flattering Jeans Pockets

Why It’s So Hard to Find Pants that Fit

Easy Style Guide to the Best Pants for Your Body Shape

What Does Knowing Your Body Shape Really Tell You?

How to Dress With Conflicting Body Shape Advice



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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  • Imogen, you are incredible! You keep coming up with new ways to suggest clothing styles to flatter our varied figure types…..thank you! If you keep banging on us, we’ll get it eventually!

    your faithful fan,

  • I did the measurements for the straight waisted which is what I got but when I did the body style quiz, it said I was an 8 tho. I did it again and every time I chose no to hip shelf, it restarted the quiz! What’s the closest straight waist shape to the 8? My shoulders match my waist and hips are wider but my measurement below the bust is smaller than my waist! I am still a little overweight but another site says body shape is the same whatever your weight!

    • April – something must have gone funny with the quiz software if it was restarting – H and 8 have some similarities – just that H has less waist, whilst 8 has more defined waist.

  • It took me so long to figure this out! There were certain stiles I knew looked awful on me but I couldn’t figure out why. They were all the things that I always see suggested for my body shape. I have wide shoulders and hips and a small waist. A lot of things say I should be able to wear a skirt at the waist, or even a belt. But they always made my hips jut out like a shelf, making me look much older and heavier (I’m in my 20’s). Finally I realized I have a short waist.. Only a couple inches between my ribcage and hip bones. There’s very little guidance to be found for that abnormal proportion, but what I have found is consistent with how I had instinctively been dressing! (Longer, fitted shirts, never tucked in; belts at hips, never the waist; only empire waist dresses; only stretchy skirts (NO pleats).

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