Tall and skinny is more than the description of a low-calorie drink from Starbucks.
It was a depiction of beauty portrayed by sylphlike models posing in glossy beauty magazines and billboards for the longest time. The not-so-subtle message in ad campaigns by fashion brands was, that if you want to be attractive and desirable, then you should strive to look like them (models who are around 5’10”, weigh between 90-130 lbs, and wear US sizes 0 to 2).
But if we are honest, this image of beauty is a far cry from the ordinary woman. The average adult female is 5 feet to 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs between 149-177 lbs. A 2016 study by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education found that the average women’s size in the United States is between 16 to 18.
Thankfully, beauty standards have evolved, and many fashion brands are embracing size inclusivity. Because the reality is women have diverse bodies that are shaped differently. Instead of trying to fit into an unrealistic standard, define your own beauty by learning your body and finding what works for your body shape. It can certainly make clothes shopping a whole lot easier and more enjoyable, whether you’re looking for petite, tall or plus size clothing!
How To Determine Your Body Shape
“Do I need to know my body shape?”
Well, if you want a closet full of clothes that best suit your body and flatter your figure, then, yes, you do. By finding out your real body shape, you learn the right way to dress for your figure and how to pick clothes that work for your distinct body type.
To help you determine your real body shape, we turn to Bradley Bayou, fashion designer to the stars and author of “The Science of Sexy.” In his book, the fashion guru teaches women how to pick clothes that make them look and feel fabulous.
Bayou uses math to help women determine if their silhouette is a rectangle, inverted triangle, triangle (also known as the pear shape), or hourglass. He then takes that information and combines it with a weight/height chart to pinpoint a woman’s exact body type (in his book, Bayou identifies 48 different types!).
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll limit this article to the four basic body types. So get a measuring tape, and let’s get started.
Step 1: Measure the shoulders. You may need some help with this. Place the tape at the end of one shoulder and take it all the way around till it meets back where you started. The tape should be high enough that it almost slips off your shoulders.
Step 2: Measure the bust. Wrap the tape around your back and across the fullest part of your bust. Pull the tape taut but not so tight as to squish your breasts.
Step 3: Measure the waist. Wrap the tape flat around the smallest part of your natural waistline which is usually above your belly button.
Step 4: Measure the hips. Hold the tape right below the hip bone, which should be the fullest part of your hips. Keep it flat and take it around the largest part of your backside, the other hip, and back to where you started.
The Four Basic Body Types: Which One Are You?
Now that you’ve got your measurements, use them to calculate the shape of your body.
You are an inverted triangle if your bust or shoulder measurement is more than 5% bigger than the measurement of your hips. For example, if your bust is around 36 inches, your hips will measure 34 ¼ inches or less.
You’re a rectangle if your hips, bust, and shoulders measurements are within 5% of each other. Your waist is not defined and measures less than 25% smaller than your bust or shoulder measurements. For example, if your shoulder measurement is 36 inches, your waist measurement will be 27 inches or more.
You’re a triangle (or pear-shaped) if the measurement of your hips is more than 5% bigger than your bust or shoulder measurements. For example, if your bust is around 36 inches, your hips will be 37 ¾ inches or more.
You’re an hourglass if your hip and shoulder measurements are within 5% of each other. You have a well-defined waist that is at least 25% smaller than your other measurements. For example, if your hips and shoulder measurements are 36 inches, your waist measurement will be 27 inches or less.
You’ll notice that the shoulder or bust measurements are used interchangeably. This caters to those who have especially small or big busts, or especially broad or narrow shoulders.
You may find that using your bust versus shoulders measurements categorizes you in two different body types. For instance, you’re more of a triangle when you use your bust measurement and closer to an hourglass when you use your shoulders measurement. If I’ve just described your situation, don’t fret. Keep both body types in mind when buying clothes and ultimately pick what looks good on you.
Dressing A Pear-Shaped Body
The trick to dressing any body shape is knowing how to balance out the body proportions. For a pear-shaped body, the fashion aim is to elongate the bottom-heavy figure. You can achieve this by adding more volume to the upper body, emphasizing the waist, and slimming down the lower body.
Best Tops For Pear-Shaped Bodies
Choose tops that show off and draw attention to your top half.
Prints and bright colored tops are your friends. A peplum top that ends above the hip bone is a great way to define your waistline. Tops with kimono or dolman sleeves do an excellent job of adding volume. A square neckline shows off your chest and collarbone, while a boat and cowl neckline help to draw the eye up.
Avoid potentially unflattering lines around the widest point of your body by picking tops that end above the hip bone or fall lower than the widest part of your hips.
Best Pants & Jeans For A Pear-Shaped Figure
You want pants in fabrics with enough drape and stretch to skim your curves. Stay away from stiff materials that can potentially add weight to your lower half. Go for darker colors, especially when choosing jeans.
The subtle flare of boot-cut pants or jeans balances out the hips. Flat-front pants that are tailored give an elongated and structured appearance to your lower body. High-waisted pants and jeans highlight your waist and make your legs look longer. Pants and jeans that fall in a straight line from the waist to the ankles are a flattering fit.
Best Skirts For Pear-Shaped Bodies
Go for skirts with a cinched waist and wide hems.
Bias or A-line skirts are great for balancing out the hips. If you like it short, don’t go more than 3 inches above the knee. Skirts that fall between the knee and mid-calf help to elongate the body. Choose fabrics that lightly skim your hips without adding volume.
Best Dresses For A Pear-Shaped Body
Opt for dresses that play up the features you are most confident about.
You can never go wrong with the fit-and-flare design. A roomy skirt that falls away from the hips helps to slim down your hips and butt. Wrap dresses are great for defining the waist. Off-the-shoulder and strapless dresses take attention away from your lower half. Add a belt to emphasize your waist.
Best Jackets For Pear-Shaped Figures
Jackets help to give more structure to the top half of your body.
If you like cropped jackets, let them end at your waistline. Longer jackets that end mid-thigh elongate the body. Patterned and textured jackets draw the eye upwards. Get a denim jacket that is nipped in at the waist instead of the more common boxy design. Belted trench coats are flattering as they emphasize your curves.
At the end of the day, do remember, nothing is set in stone when it comes to dressing your body. Pick clothing that makes you feel confident and accentuates your favorite body part. Experiment with different items to find what works best for you and develop your own personal sense of style.
Author Bio: Leanne Lee loves fashion to no end so she writes about it for Blue Bungalow, reads about it and basically lives and breathes it every day. She’s an avid collector of oversized handbags, indoor cacti, and loves a good G&T to cap off the week.