Jill Chivers of 16 Style Types and I were asked to discuss how your body shape may change over your lifetime. We’ve discussed in the past how your colouring may change here. Considering transitions such as pregnancy, menopause and even just weight gain and loss. Will you shape stay the same or change?
Body Shape Changes That May Happen With Age and Life Changes
Influence of Your Hormones
As women, being estrogen dominant, weight gain tends to go onto hips and thighs most naturally. As you lose your estrogen in menopause, weight gain tends to move up the body onto the torso which is why many women talk about losing their waists in menopause.
Hormones influence how your flesh is arranged over your bones – your basic body structure.
Influence of your Body Proportions
Body proportions influence where you put on weight first – whatever proportion is shorter will tend to appear to gain weight fastest as there is less space for the extra weight to spread out.
If you have a long body, you’ll find that you may retain your waist much longer (even with weight gain) than a woman who has a shorter torso.
Body proportions are about your bone structure – how far your rib cage sits from your pelvis. How long your thigh bones are etc, and this is something that you can’t change!
And remember, that as you age your discs in your spine may start compacting and you may find that the length of your torso shortens, impacting on your body shape.
Exercise Can Change Your Body Shape
Swimmers tend to become more V-shaped as they do a lot of upper body/shoulder working out – which broadens their shoulder as compared to hips.
Doing lots of core exercises may tighten up your mid-section (though it may not change your body shape).
You can grow some more booty with exercise too, if you start off with a flatter bottom and get those glutes activated.
Influence of Pregnancy
The hormone, relaxin, that courses through your body when pregnant, softening ligaments to allow for more space to carry a baby, means that after pregnancy, many women who may have had a tapered rib cage, are left with a straighter rib cage, which may make their shape change – moving them from either an 8 Shape or X shape into an H shape (depending how much it has changed).
Sometimes hips spread in pregnancy too, and they often don’t go back to what they were pre-pregnancy.
Breast sizes may change during pregnancy and breastfeeding, possibly making your body more top heavy. You may find (like I did) that your breasts don’t get smaller afterwards, but for many women, their breasts and almost completely disappear. This is a body variation, rather than body shape issue – and it will affect how you dress, but it’s more about having space in clothes and how you use the illusion of scale to compensate for these changes.
Feet can also grow around 1/2 a size during pregnancy – a few women have told me that they went back to their pre-pregnancy foot size, but for many of us, our feet stay that extra bit bigger and entire new shoe collection needs to be bought.
Weight Gain and Body Shapes
8 Shape – can become an H shape, if she puts on weight around the waist and loses her more defined waist, or can become an A shape if she puts the weight on in her hips/thighs.
X Shape – can become an A shape if she puts weight on at hips and thighs, or an H shape if she puts it on in her torso.
A Shape – can become X shape if she loses weight or starts a weight training routine that builds her shoulders up. She can also lose her waist with menopause and become more H or O shaped.
H Shape – can become an O shape most commonly as she tends to put on weight in her torso first.
I Shape – can become an H shape if weight gain is even, or may change into an A shape or X shape, depending on where the weight is gained.
V Shape – can become more H shape if she puts on more weight through the mid-body (or even O shape with a lot of weight gain).
Not sure of your shape? You can do my free body shape calculator quiz here. Alternatively, you can get my professional opinion with my 7 Steps to Style program which includes a body shape/proportion analysis.
Remember that Body Shape is Just One Piece of the Style Puzzle
There are so many different aspects of how your body may change over your lifetime. Body shape is just one small piece of what I call The Style Puzzle (find out all about the elements of that here). There is no particular pathway that you will follow – this is why putting together your own style guidelines as to what works for you is a layered approach – taking the elements that fit you and leaving what is not relevant to your unique body and features. An X body shape that is petite will dress differently from one that is tall. A small busted A shape will dress differently from a large busted A shape. A longer waisted H shape can play with belts in a way that a shorter waisted H shape just can’t.
How do you know if your body shape has changed?
If clothing shapes and styles which used to always look great, now no longer look so good – this is most likely a sign that something about your body shape has changed and it’s time to reassess your style.
More Tips on Understanding How to Dress Your Shape
What Guidelines to Follow When Your Body Shape isn’t “Standard”
Why Living with a 3D Body in a 2D Fashion World Makes Shopping Such a Nightmare
Amazing insight!! Incredibly helpful!!!
I am an 8 with short waist and long rise and after pregnancy I got the ‘straight rib cage ‘ situation. I didn’t realize it until I read your post today!
Suddenly my body doesn’t feel as sexy as it used to be and I cannot wear easily belts whereas in the past I used to wear belts all the time.
Nevertheless, I have lost all the baby weight and I have no fat. I am even thinner than before pregnancy.
Will be I able if I do rib cage exercises to get my 8 shape back or should I start dressing like an H?
I would think that you are most likely to stay the same – so you may want to start looking at H recommendations if they work better for you!
Great post, very helpful! After caresful inspection, I’ve noticed that the ideal for me is the combination of 8 and H styles. I would definitely say that I am more of a wider 8 than a waisted H.
I can still wear high rise bottoms (because of my long rise short legs) and wide waistbands still look great as well as paperbag trousers and banded tops and tucked in tops, I just have to be more careful with belting because now not all belts suit me anymore as they used to. And because I was an 8 with slightly A shoulders, I still try to broaden my shoulders.
Regarding the H, I find the vertical details of the H now look amazing on my top half!
Final thought: a great transformation is Kelly LeBrock. She had this amazing X body and now that she gained weight she is a pure O !!!
It’s great you recognise yourself as a combination of shapes -really they are just vague guidelines and people aren’t geometric shapes or letters or fruit!
Thank you for this post, my body has changed dramatically over the past 10 yrs and truthfully I have been terrified at what havoc menopause will soon make. My weight has finally been stable for the last couple of years., enough that I practically bought a whole new wardrobe over the last 12mths just to cheer myself up. Medication is what my doctor told me was my biggest hurdle, it’s why I stacked on and will struggle to lose any of my excuses weight. I recently realised I also had my dads genetics so I now have the same shape belly he does. I also know all about old styles making you look horrible, my friend had to politely tell me to stop wearing anything that resembles an empire waste because it now makes me look pregnant. My wardrobe lacked patterned tops I realised after reading how they can mask a big tummy, so my last shopping adventures have been to add some in. Thanks for all your help and I love that you and Jill work together so often, having both of you with completely different ways has helped, plus I am biased, I am currently doing courses through both of you.
Thanks Melissa – and we are so glad we can help you in our unique ways!
Verywell explained, love the article, tons of love
Excellent post! I’m a former X , but post menopause, I’m pretty sure I’m an H. Once upon a time I used to dress to highlight my tiny waist, but these days I need to conceal the fact that I don’t have one! Acceptance is the only option, but I’m still trying to come to terms with it.
Imogen, I am a huge fan of your blog. The most overwhelmingly life changing thing I have learned is about how to dress for my value contrast and colour contrast. Applying this knowledge has changed the way people treat me and I’m so much happier! But I find myself wishing I could discover the same level of useful advice for body shape. I know I am an A (pear) because my hips are wider than my shoulders. But I really don’t find most pear advice useful because it’s assumed As have a small top half that needs filling in (bust and arm-wise, this is not the case for me) or short legs that need lengthening (certainly not the case for my A-shaped daughter). Dressing for a combination of body types (I think I might have X shape tendencies) is confusing. Yours is by far and away the best style advice I have ever read, and it helps me get dressed every morning. But if you could develop a new approach for defining our body shapes like you did for defining our colourings … that would be phenomenal. All the best for 2019!
Body shape is just one small piece of the body puzzle. This is why I separate shape, proportions and variations rather than add them together. That way you take the bits that are relevant for you and leave the rest
In addition to the less tapered rib cage, I noticed exactly what you say in this video: suddenly 2 months ago (and 2 and half years AFTER having a baby), weight has shifted upwards and my thighs, bum and hips have become leaner.
Also, my back circumference has increased but breasts have become slightly slower.
It is like my body was inserted into a computer program and suddenly changed! Lol! I am only 39 years old with no weight gain.
The good thing is that I always wanted leaner thighs and hips because it makes dressing much easier than being super curvy! I still have a waist but it’s not that small. I still have the hip dips. What letter is the combination of 8 and H? lol!
Thanks again for clarifying all those complex issues! You are truly intelligent and amazing!
Sounds like you’re becoming more H shaped as your weight has shifted upwards!
Thank you so much Imogen for the clarification! I was so confused with all those sudden changes.
Do body proportions also change? I have a feeling they do but I might be wrong. As a former 8, I have long rise, short legs, short waist.
Proportions don’t change (except if there is a significant change in bust size) or you shrink lots into old age!