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Discovering Your Body Shape – Dressed My Way

Dressed for My Day...My Way
June 13, 2018

Discovering your body shape is only part of the style equation, but it’s an important and useful place to begin. We’re in the process of going through a style guide series called Dressed for My Day…My Way. This style guide will help you learn to dress your body so that you look balanced, well proportioned and beautiful. You can read the introduction to this series here if you haven’t already.

A Few Things to Note

Your body shape is simply your front-on silhouette or outline. It is your shape, not your size. And not the size of anything. Really your body shape is based completely on your skeletal structure, not where you have padding. A lot of women get confused on this, so we need to establish up front that we’re talking about your bone structure, not your weight.

Also, there is not a right body shape and a wrong body shape. There is not even a preferred body shape really. Knowing your body shape simply helps you dress in a way that trains the eye of the beholder to see you in your desired estimation.

In our American culture, that desirable estimation is a feminine shape. By that I mean we perceive soft curves and long lines as beautiful. We traditionally value long, shapely legs, slender and concave waistlines, curvaceous breasts and softly rounded hips and derrieres. And that is generally the silhouette that we will be aiming to achieve when we take our God-given body shape into account and then attempt to dress our bodies accordingly.

That doesn’t mean we’re trying to create something that we just don’t have. We’re not fighting against nature or reality. But we’re simply trying to achieve an aesthetically pleasing shape by drawing attention to some portions of our bodies, shifting attention away from other areas, and creating lines that are visually appealing.  And all along the goal is a feminine silhouette.

If you’d prefer a different silhouette, that’s fine. But traditionally, and here, you will find tips for dressing your body shape for a feminine silhouette. It’s pretty, it’s flattering and, quite honestly, it’s womanly. And even if you’re somewhat of a “tomboy” in your personality and lifestyle, learning how to maximize your body’s feminine appeal will ultimately serve you well. Even in the corporate world where women are striving to be taken seriously and paid commiserate to men, studies show that women who dress in a way that creates a feminine silhouette are, in fact, more successful at those goals. Don’t believe me? Check out the women sportscasters next time you are watching a televised professional sports competition. You’ll see that even these former athletes are dressed in a way that creates a feminine appeal.

One more thing, though. I’m talking about achieving a feminine silhouette, not a hoochie coochie one. Know what I mean?

Ok, back to discovering your natural body shape…

These are the steps you need to take prior to calculating your shape: (If you are a subscriber to Dressed for My Day, you should have received a printable, downloadable worksheet with these steps in your email.)

  • Dress in something form fitting and monochromatic. For instance, you could put on a snug black athletic bra and/or shirt with a pair of fitted, black leggings or shorts.
  • Find the natural bend of your waist. Standing straight and relaxed, simply tip over from your waist to your left or right. Put your hand where you feel your body bending. It helps to bend side to side, feeling for this point. Now stand back up straight and see where your hand is. That’s your natural bend.
  • Find a ribbon, string or piece of yarn that is about a yard long. You can use a measuring tape, but it’s not necessary, and you don’t want to look at the numbers if you do use one. Wrap the ribbon around the circumference of your torso just below your bust, around the bottom of your rib cage. Now, without letting go of the circle you’ve formed, slip it down over your natural waist line as determined above. Did you need to let the ribbon out some or would you need to tighten it to make it fit your waist? This helps you determine if you have a distinguishable waistline or not.
  • If you have someone who can take your photo, do that. Stand still, facing head-on toward the person, feet slightly apart and flat on the ground, good posture and arms relaxed but a with a little space between your torso and your arms if possible. Have them take a photo with a solid, blank background if possible, with head to toe in the frame. Make sure they aim the camera directly at you, level, not pointing up or down on your body.
  • If you don’t have someone to take a photo, stand as described above in front of a full length mirror.
  • With either the photo (even if it’s on your camera-phone will be fine) or your reflection in the mirror, mentally draw a straight line along the silhouette of your body, skimming the widest part of your hip or thigh (whichever is wider) and your shoulder bones (not necessarily your arms, but your shoulder bones).
  • Using either your reflection in the mirror or the photograph and your discoveries about your natural waist, answer the following questions:
  1. Are the outer edges of your hip bones and shoulder bones similar in width? OR are your shoulders wider than your hips or thighs? OR are your hips/thighs wider than your shoulders?
  2. Do you have a defined waistline? (Did you have extra ribbon or yarn when you moved the circle down from your rib cage to your natural bend?) OR is your waistline undefined, neither larger or smaller than your rib cage, falling pretty much in line with your hips? OR is your waistline rounded through the torso, curving out through the torso and stomach?
  3. If you have a defined waistline, answer one more question. Is the widest part below your waist like a shelf sitting at the highest part of the hips? OR is the widest area below your waist at your hips? In other words, which is wider… your hips or your thighs?

Now, using the answers to these questions, look at the diagrams and explanations below and see if you can identify your body shape. Remember, we’re just talking about your visual outline from the front. We’re not taking into consideration the shape or size of your rear, your bust or even your fat percentage. Think skeletal shape. Focus on shoulders, hips and waistline.

And, hey! One more thing. Don’t let words like “unbalanced” or “undefined” throw you. These are judgment calls, just identifiers. Leave it at that, sister.

Body Shape - the inverted triangle V body shape (1)
You want to create more balance by keeping shoulders free of detail and adding flared and fuller shapes below the waist. You’ll want to use vertical lines above the waist and horizontal lines and details on the hips and below.
the hourglass X or 8 body shape
You get to highlight your waist with belts and cinched waistlines. Fitted dresses look beautiful on you. Boxy shapes are not a good fit for your body.
the oval or O body shape
Tops that drape loosely will flatter your figure. Avoid clothing that is tight around the torso. Layering works beautifully to create the illusion of a defined waist. Many ovals have great legs, so draw attention there with details around the hem line.
the rectangle or H or I body shape
You can wear a variety of clothing easily. If you want to create the illusion of a more defined waistline, add a belt with some flounce in the fabric above. You can create the illusion of more hip with fuller skirts and belted waistlines.
the triangle A body shape
Draw attention to your slender upper torso with interest and detailing. Divert attention from your hips by keeping it plain in that area – no embellished pockets or detail along the hem of your shirt.

Now, because I don’t want to leave you hanging, I’ve also given you a very brief “goal” as far as how to dress each body shape. But we’ll delve more into how to dress the different body shapes in the next post in this series, probably next week. Feel free to ask me questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’ve done extensive research in order to bring you the best information I could. So I don’t mind fielding your questions…if you’ll be patient with me.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, I hope you’ll share it on Facebook or Pinterest. That is so helpful to me in growing this space for us all. And don’t forget to encourage your friends to subscribe to the blog so they can receive the worksheets, too. I encourage you to print out your worksheets if you have the ability. You could keep them in a notebook…or a stack on your desk! Ha! But I really think that if you’ll keep them, you’ll find that they help you become a more knowledgeable and focused shopper.

Blessed for My Day

Today as you analyze and examine your body shape may you also allow the Lord to carefully examine your heart. Instead of finding that process uncomfortable and embarrassing, may you rest in His loving gaze, knowing that He is fully aware that you are made of dust – you are human. I pray that you can rest easy and listen patiently as He points out anything that needs to be confessed and turned from. Instead of wrestling against His instructions with pride and resistance, may you relinquish control and find joy in the freedom that brings to you. May you relish the grace your God lavishes upon you. And may you find that seasons of refreshing always follow difficult acts of repentance. Blessings, dear one.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! ~ Psalm 139:23-24

You can find out more about subscribing to Dressed for My Day here.

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xoxo, Kay
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15 thoughts on “Discovering Your Body Shape – Dressed My Way

  1. Thank you Kay, for going to the trouble to help us discover our body shape and HOW to dress for it. I’m really looking forward to this and just printed off all of the pages!

  2. Thank you for doing this series. I assume we judge our body type at our current weight? I used to have a waist but gained weight in that area. I did your instructions and my shoulders and hips are balanced but waist a little bigger than lower rib cage so I assume I am an oval now? I know you said not to measure our bust and hips but mine are exactly the same measurement. I think I used to be hourglass but am now oval because my middle has gained weight. Do you think that is correct?

    1. Hi Pam! Yes, from the research I’ve done, especially as we age and enter into menopause, our mid section changes due to hormonal shifts. So it’s perfectly normal to go from being an hour glass to an oval. And as far as the measurements go, it’s fine that you measure, but what we’re really looking at is your appearance from the front. That’s why measurements are a little pointless. For instance, this morning as I looked in the mirror, I began to debate whether or not I had diagnosed my body shape correctly. I think I’m an hour glass (X), but upon second glance I’m thinking my shoulders may be a little wider than my hips (thighs). So I thought about measuring these areas. But then I remembered that just because the circumference (all the way around my shoulders or all the way around my thighs) may be the same or different, the diameter (just straight across…the way we see someone) would not necessarily be the same proportions. Does that make sense? We can’t really use the circumference; we have to use the diameter measurements. Talk about math!! I’ve had to go back and review my basic knowledge of geometry for this!

      Hopefully I answered your questions without muddying the water! Ha! Let me know if I just confused you more. 😉

  3. I was wondering if I used to be an hourglass shape but have gotten bigger in my midsection, should I be dressing for an oval shape?

    1. Hi Karen. It really depends. Has your defined waist disappeared? Or do you have a front pooch? Hahaha. You don’t have to answer that. But those are the questions that determine the answer. But you could certainly play around with the guidelines for the oval shape and see if those work for you better.

  4. I’m so glad to have found you in my mid-60s and finally searching the internet for fashion sense. I am a Missionary Kid who moved to the Southeast as an 8 year old, TOTALLY out of my element, but through the rough years the Godly Southern women became my favorite people, you remind me dearly of them!