Tips for Dressing for your body shape- Find your flattering style

how to dress for a body shape Dressing  for your body shape

Are you the kind of person who will go and select a dress or a pattern to sew, because you have seen your favourite actress wearing it? I used to do that. But with age, I have grown some sense and now I know that when selecting the pattern for my clothes, I should not forget who I am and How I am.

I am not under any illusion that I should have a mathematically proportional body and neither should you be. But realizing the specialties of your body is essential before selecting the clothes you should wear. When you sew your own clothes you come to appreciate the body you have and adjust the fabric to fit you rather than incessantly worry about the way your store brought clothes should fit you

Oval, circle, round, hourglass, diamond, rectangle, straight, triangle, inverted triangle, spoon, Christmas tree, cone ; terms which are fruit based like apple and pear – so many body shapes are there, you get confused where you fit. Check out the post on Body shapes for more details.

The basic thing to do before you select your next dress is to have a look at yourself in the mirror first and analyse yourself. Are you tall or short. Are you top heavy or boxy. Every one has a distinct body shape and that shape has some special peculiarities ( big bust ? no waist ? are they peculiarities? yeah) which should be addressed by your clothes.

If you know your figure type, you can select styles that will emphasize your positive features and flatter you and down play the negative aspects of your figure. The aim of correct dressing is to achieve balance and proportion. 

Read on for some tips for dressing according to your body shape.

  • Triangle Figure

( Also called A shape, Pear, Spoon or Christmas tree)triangle body shape

Distinguishing character of this body shape is that the Upper body is smaller than lower body. This figure has shoulders narrower than hip. Hips will be heavy mainly in the buttocks, low hips and thighs. A smaller or medium bustline is typical of this figure. A similar type, a spoon shape can be referred as having a definite waist and then it has a distinct area that projects from the hip area ( lovingly called the love handles )

  How to dress a Triangle body shape 

For this body shape, we have to create a visual balance between your narrow upper body and wider lower body. This can be achieved by drawing attention to the upper body or emphasizing the upper body.

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Wear boat necks or scoop necks, offshoulder styles and even plunging necklines to draw attention to the upper body. Shirts suits this body types.Donot wear any prints for the lower body clothes

Go for straight cut and Boot cut styles in Jeans. Loose pants like Patiala pants or Dhothi pants  with a sleeveless fitted tunic/ kurta  is an option. Make an A line silhouette this way.

Any pleats, embellishments like embroidery should be on tops not pants/skirts.. Ruffled collars, bold jewelry, trims and embellishments on the bodice can draw the eye upward and create the illusion of more width in the upper body. Shoulder pads and structured shoulders also give that same effect.

The hips and thighs being heavy should be underplayed with dark coloured fabrics or fabrics with small prints.

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The off shoulder style is a very suitable, glamorous style for a Pear body type. The flutter sleeves also look good as they add to the shoulders.

Avoid light coloured fabrics for bottom wear. Bright colored fabrics with bold prints can be chosen for tops. Dark coloured fabric is appropriate for bottom wear for this body type. So if using a light coloured top wear a dark pants or skirt. Stripes or print on the upper body and a darker, plain pant work well for this body shape.

Dresses should be well fitted at the waist as this figure has a small waist, and you need to emphasize this advantage.

  • Inverted triangle figure

( Also called Cone or V shape)inverted triangle body shape

It is basically the shape of a triangle figure turned upside down. The top part of the body is heavier than the lower portion. You must have heard of this figure referred as ‘top heavy’. Shoulders of this body type is wider than the hips, and this figure typically has a large bust line. The legs will be thin and mostly well shaped. 

  How to dress an Inverted Triangle figure.

The heavier upper body of this body type needs to be balanced to look slimmer. So V necks that makes you look slim is a preferred neckline for this body shape

Donot wear short tops. Instead choose tops that are long – even till the hips, which will elongate your body

Wear jackets which are structured and fitted with one button. This will define your shape and make you look slimmer. Check out the post 30+ tips to dress to look slimmer

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Dark colours have a slimming effect so wear this colour for the upper body garments. Wrap tops which hugs the body and create a curvy shape at the waist are suited for this shape. Cowl necks with a medium cowl also are good. Ensure that the tops do not have any over the top fancy embellishment which will add to the heaviness of the top portion of the body. Tunics which flare from the waist to the hip also create a balance. Pockets can  be placed below the waist to draw the eye from the upper part. 

Flared and pleated skirts are good choices for this figure types. But do avoid any embellishments or detailing near the waists

Never ever think of selecting a pattern with shoulder pads. Avoid

Body shapewear is a blessing for the top heavy figure. Take advantage of the many kinds waist nipper, shape enhancer etc out there. 

  • Rectangle Figure

( Also called H Frame)rectangular body shape

This is a body type with no definition at the waistline, with shoulders and hips of almost same width, and the waist only slightly smaller; Mostly a straight up and down figure.

Usually this figure is proportioned small at the top half of the body and larger towards the bottom around the hips and buttocks. This body type is usually referred as ‘Boxy‘ in layman’s terms. Do you know that it is also called a banana figure. Some may call it the boyish figure or an athletic figure

   How to dress a Rectangle figure

When choosing the dress for this body type we should be aiming at creating the impression of a waistline. You will need to reduce the boxiness of the figure. 

To define the waist always add belts to your tops and dresses. The belts will define your waist. Elasticized waist bands also work very well. But if you have no waist to speak of donot wear belts though. 

Necklines can be embellished with trims. Boat necks, scoop necks, U necks and off shoulder necklines are all suitable for this figure. 

Avoid over sized dresses or any styles that will not give you any shape, unless they are belted at the waist. 

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Skinny jeans is a good addition in the wardrobe of a rectangle body type. Tulip skirts and pencil skirts also work. A line skirts are another good silhouette for this shape

Choose clothes with flounces, pleats and other  embellishments near hips to make it look fuller

Wear wrap dresses that will make the waist line look more defined and curvy.

  • Hourglass Figure

( Also called figure 8)hourglass body shape

This is the dream body type which is the most sought after one. It is a well-proportioned body shape coveted by all. This figure has hip and bust of almost equal width, with the waist almost 10 or more inches thinner. 

  How to dress an Hourglass figure

This figure has a balanced figure and can carry almost all styles. But a well fitted style with soft flowing lines will suit this body type the best. Tops in light colours with darker belts work well in accentuating the waist. 

Avoid loose fitting dresses like loose tunics without any shape. Tops with empire line waist is a good choice. 

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Shorts , skinny jeans and mermaid skirts are very suitable looks for this figure.

Avoid heavy fabrics to sew the dresses as they can make you look heavy as well. Choose knits which will hug your curves. 

  • Oval Figure

( also called Apple or Diamond shape)oval body shape

This body type has narrow shoulders and hips of relatively the same width with fuller bustline and waistline.i.e narrow at the top and bottom of the figure and Chest and belly heavier than the rest of the body.Usually waist and stomach of this figure measures more than their bust.  This figure will have skinny legs. 

  How to dress an Oval figure

When dressing this figure the aim will be to draw attention away from the tummy and waist area.

This figure can benefit from shoulder pads and they will make the shoulders broad and hence comparatively make waist look smaller. 

Choose V necks for your bodices. 

Avoid tight leggings and skinny jeans. Tight bottom wear will emphasize the heaviness of the upper body. A straight pair of jeans or pants  would look good. Bootleg and wide leg pants also balance the look.

Short skirts work well showing off the shapely legs but not too short or it will emphasize the top-heaviness.Knee length skirts work well as well as calf length skirts

Try to create vertical lines with long jackets and long necklaces

Avoid wearing tops or tunics which are too tight or low waisted jeans which will emphasize the tummy. A sleevelss style is also another way to take eyes off the abdomen but only if your arms are well toned. 

Dark coloured Plain Tunics in soft flowing fabric ( not too clingy) which are hip length paired with  light coloured bottom wear are good options for a slimmer look. 

Tall and short figures

You may also be tall and short on top of these body types. Let us see how you can select your clothes taking into consideration your height and weight.

  • Tall Figure – How to look less tall ? 

Girls who are tall are so lucky – that is my thought process being short but all tall girls may not think so. But If you are concerned about your height and feel odd like a pole, you should dress to give an illusion of less height.

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Wear clothes with different colour combinations rather than stick to the same colour throughout. If your tunic or top is in one colour choose a different coloured skirt or pants. A contrast coloured bottom wear will work very well.They will cut the height and make you appear shorter if that is your aim.

Colour contrast at the waistlines and hip can make a tall girl seem shorter and fuller.

Dark coloured clothes suit tall people. But not all dark colours suit everybody equally. Depending on your skin color you may choose different dark colors like rust, navy blue etc. Bright colurs also suits the tall girls.

You can choose to wear a plain coloured dress if you can accessorize it with a contrasting colour shawl or scarf.

If you are wearing plain clothes do carry accessories of contrasting colours or unusual designs

Button down garments make you look all the more taller so avoid it.

People with a tall figure can wear wide collars, boat necklines , full sleeves, and full dresses.

The skirt styles that suit a tall girl are flared, gathered, pleated and tiered

Fabric with thin vertical  lines are to be avoided by a tall girl. But other than that prints, stripes and checks are very suitable for tall girls. Ensure that the bodice of the dress is plain and uncluttered. A boat neck is one of the most suitable necklines for a tall girl.

Big bags and purses also suit them. When selecting jewellery, go for big and bold designs.

  • TALL AND SLENDER – How to look less angular?

This is a figure which is coveted by most girls. The kind of figure that make high fashion models.

A problem faced by this type of figures is their extreme thinness which may make them look angular. The solution is to soften the outline and create the illusion of feminine curves. Avoid bare necklines and shoulders. So waterfall ruffles of an off shoulder dress is not for this figure.

Do not go for too well fitted clothes. It could make you look all the more thin. Slightly loose but fitting clothes ( semi fitted) like jackets will add fullness to the figure.

Puffed sleeves and padded shoulders are suited for this figure. Full sleeves also suits them.

Look for fabrics with slight stiffness to sew clothes for you if you have a tall and very thin body. Fabrics like organdie, Taffetta are like that and best suits this body shape.Clinging fabrics that hug the figure, also will work .

When selecting patterns to sew for this figure choose one with a fitted waist. As  the waist is thin for this body type,  emphasizing the waist with waistbands or belts works very well. Straight dresses like the sheath dresses should be avoided. Choose skirts which is gathered pleated or tapered.

  • Short Figure – How to look tall ?

This is, assuming that short girls want to appear taller, and not for those who are happy with their short stature.

The best silhouette for short girls is an A line one.

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Other styles which suit short girls are Princess lines, gored skirts and narrow front panels. Tiered skirts and other such styles that flare below the hips should be avoided.

Plain colored clothes will make you look tall. As does same coloured clothes for top and bottom.  For eg a plain  top and pants in the same colour will elongate the silhouette and make you look tall.

Fabrics best suited for short girls are soft fabrics in light colours and also light or medium weight fabrics with small pattern design.Do not select big prints in your upper wear instead go for small prints. Fabrics with big borders should be avoided at all costs by the short girl.

Dark colours do not suit short girls.

Horizontal lines should be avoided. Big dots also should be avoided. Vertical lines obviously create an illusion of tallness, so go for them.

Donot wear wide belts. If you have to wear belts, choose a narrow one in the same colour as the pants or dress. Belts in the same colour as your dress will give a trim look

To sum up, to look taller

  • Wear outfits of one colour or pattern
  • Avoid too much fullness, large pockets, large accessories.
  • Vertical patterns elongate the figure
  • Heavy Figure – How to look thin ?

The clothes you wear should be aimed at trimming down your figure.

Avoid fabrics which cling to your body emphasizing portions you do not want to be accentuated. Another kind of fabric to avoid is heavy fabric and piled fabric like velvet.

Do not wear clothes which has too many colours. Too many colors distract the eye and make the wearer look heavy. Wear same colored top and pants to look slim.

Light colours tend to make the wearer look fat. So avoid those colours.

Avoid dots or checks. , horizontal lines and big prints ( maybe even medium prints). Vertical lines in the fabric will elongate the silhouette and make you look slim.

Select clothes in dark colour ; Dark colour will make you look slimmer. Light and vivid colours are to be avoided as they can make you look large.

Select fabric like crepe, Dull finished silk, fine wools in colours which suit your skin tones.

A long jacket in a dark colour is a good choice for the heavy figure.

If you have a heavy body especially near the hips you should wear a long skirt; this will elongate your legs

Short and Heavy

  • Donot wear clothes with shoulder padding.
  • Avoid bulky textures and big patterns.
  • Avoid sleeveless styles if your arms are heavy.
  • You should wear outfits of one color or pattern.
  • Very light- or very bright-colored outfits are best to be avoided.
  • Wear gored or slim (not tight) skirts.
  • Avoid wide belts, full sleeves, ruffles, and curved lines.


Hope this post has helped someone out there in selecting the right fabric and suitable patterns to sew. Though at times I ignore all the rules and select those beautifully printed fabrics with stunningly bold designs in spite of knowing that they do not suit me so well. But you live and learn.  

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