Different Body Shapes

Many style advisors begin by telling you to measure specific parts of your body to discover which fruit shape you have. In my experience, very few bodies fit neatly into these classifications. For example, you may find that you have an apple shape middle and pear-shaped hips. Rather than delving into what type of fruit you might be, let’s talk about focusing on the parts you like best.

If your slim hips are an area you are proud of, don’t wear loose-fitting khaki cargo capris that hide your shape and make your legs look shorter and thicker. Instead, try white jeans or skirts that skim over your body and show your shape without hugging any part too much. Hemlines that end where your legs are most slender will show off your legs to their best advantage. This tip also applies to other parts of the body.

Hemlines and necklines are focal points. Sleeves that end mid-bust will draw attention to that area, so I don’t wear short sleeve tees. If you have narrow shoulders and a small bust, boat neck tops are golden for you. Tops or jackets with hems that land at your hips’ widest part bring the focus to that area. I prefer hip-length because it helps me balance my top-heavy frame, and I often wear jackets and tops at mid-hip to avoid hiding any part of my short legs.

Women sometimes comment that dresses are the perfect summer look, but if you wear a dress shape that isn’t a good match for your body shape, it can make you look much larger than you are. I’ll give you an example. When I wear a shapeless tank or T-shaped dress with no darts and no waistline details, I look like I am wearing a tent. This is because the shoulders, chest, and upper back are the largest part of my body, so a shapeless top or dress makes the rest of me look even larger since they fall from the widest part. On the other hand, I look much more slender in a soft dress that slightly gathers above my natural waistline and then skims over my tummy and hips. Note that the most slender part of the torso is often just below the bustline, not at your natural waist.

If you have an hourglass shape, your waist is your smallest part. You likely already know that you look best when you keep your waistline in focus. Bring attention to the parts you like best. Shapeless clothing will make us look larger than we are.

Garments that skim over the body and move with you will always be more flattering than those that hug too tightly and showcase the bits we aren’t fond of. Some advertisers try to convince us that a long top will hide a tummy, but it will bring all the attention there if thin knit fabric clings under a bulge. A loose-fitting top that stops just below the tummy will be a much better choice.

Wearing a light color belt in a similar tone to my top shows that I have a waistline, but the jacket hides that it is thicker than I would like. If I had worn a navy belt, it would have made my short waist look even more so. The jacket and loose-fitting pants also hide the fact that my behind is flat.

Styling tips are tools to help us present the best version of ourselves. There is no correct body shape or proportion. The magic happens when you learn how to flaunt what you’ve got. I hope that sharing my tips and examples helps you do just that.

Similar items are found in the following links: JacketTankPantsBeltShoesBag. (My jacket is a size large, the tank is a size medium and my pants are size six.) I wore this look to dinner at a casual restaurant. It had rained for most of the day, and the temperatures were in the 70s.

Many thanks to JoAnn H., who wrote to ask for more information about dressing different body types.

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59 Comments
  1. Light bulb moment for me! I’ve never been able to identify body parts of mine that I “like” and would want to emphasize…but your example description just helped me! I do have slim hips & thighs, and I’m so happy to say that I like them!!!! And I want to emphasize that area with my clothing choices! Thank you!
    And you made me laugh, talking about comparisons to fruit!
    Thank you for the happy thoughts today!

  2. Thanks for another reminder to dress the shape we have. Wearing the belt underneath the open jacket to give the appearance of a waistline is genius! By the way, I like the way you styled your outfit. It is feminine and put- together, but casual.

  3. There are varying degrees of fruit shapes. A slight pear after menopause might be more of a ripe pear or apple-pear. Part of the problem with fruit shapes is that weight fluctuations can really change things. An empire waist suits both an apple shape and the full pear. Things are rarely simple.

    What’s interesting is that some style bloggers don’t even know their own body shapes. One recently became a rectangle after being a pear. Geometry is less controversial? It was obvious to me that she was never a pear. Maybe we all need an honest second set of eyes.

    It really helps that some retailers have changed their silhouettes. A full pear would fit the “curvy” silhouette, with a waistline noticeably smaller than the hips. This waistline fits a generous bottom without gaping at the waistline. Curves are built into the shape of the garment. This is stated clearly at one retail chain where I shop. I find it unhelpful when women who are not curvy insist on buying the curvy items, then giving scathing reviews online for saggy bottoms. We all need to check our measurements and ask customer service reps for fit advice from time to time.

    Why can’t we see ourselves in a mirror that reflects reality, and be okay with it? Why is it so hard to find clothes that fit our shapes properly, even when we know what that is? One size does not fit all, but one shape does not fit all, either. And why, oh why, is is so hard to find clothing over size 14?

  4. Susan, thank you for this thoughtful, informative column! I really learned a lot today. This information helps me to analyse new purchases.

  5. I have a question about being top heavy. I wear a DDD but since losing 60 pounds a few yrs ago my band size decreased but not the cup size. I also have narrow shoulders. In your opinion would I be considered top heavy. Thank you for all the tips on dressing for different shapes. I will be the first person to buy your book when you write one.

    1. When I say I am top-heavy, it is my shoulders, wide back, and bust that I am considering. How does your hip area compare to your shoulders? You may have a more balanced shape than you think.

  6. Your recently recommended a book “Quintessential Style” by Janna Beatty with Sharon White. I read that book and another that was recommended: “Flatter Your Figure” by Jan Larkey. Both books were excellent, but the figure analysis in Larkey’s book was really helpful for me. She discusses 19 potential figure flaws. I found I had only four MINOR figure problems, instead of feeling that I had so many serious problems. A major point that Larkey makes is that we all have combinations of various shapes and it is entirely possible to make clothing choices that address both positive and negative issues. Larkey’s book is outdated, but the general concepts are applicable today.

    Thank you for inspiring me to take that second look in the mirror

  7. Susan I’ve always found your advice to be so right on in a world of crazy fashion geared for the much younger and trendy styles. You give clear and sensible advice for how we gals whose bodies have taken on a mature state of being can still look our best. It helps give us confidence in how we dress and feel as we’re in a “what is appropriate to wear” age. Thank you for all your energy and time you put into your blog. I always look forward to your timely guidance and advice and I always tell my friends to go to your website for great tips.

  8. I so appreciate all your tips. I love long tunics but they make me look short and squat. I, like you, look better in mid hip length tops. Thank you for continuing to encourage us.

  9. Susan, your blogs are always so informative. Do you have suggestions for undergarments for the bottom area. Thanks, Barbara

  10. I love your blog. I think you always look stunning.
    I am in my mid seventies and have finally given away all my work clothes and believe me, it wasn’t easy! I am now trying to build a smaller and more casual wardrobe so, what you say on your blog is taken to heart.
    Thanks for a great read and wonderful pictures.
    Linda McGilvray

  11. Thanks Susan for your insight and advice on how we can look our best. You have taught me to embrace my 68 year old body with love and fashion that makes me feel my best.

  12. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Words to an old song but they seem to apply to clothing too. I have learned so much over the years from you. I actually went back and binged on your blog from the very beginning when I started following you. So much fun and interesting to watch you evolve with the times. I especially love the last few years. Thank you.

  13. Susan,
    It may seem odd that a man gets such a thrill from your exquisite posts. But you are such a stylish woman, the kind of woman of style and substance that reminds me of the best of your gender. Thank you for brightening my Thursday. I send you best wishes.

  14. This outfit looks perfect on you. The shorter tops are so flattering. I have a few tunics that I wear but am slowly phasing them out. I am a pear shape with a long torso and wider hips and short legs. This post was very helpful. Thanks!

  15. And then there are us shorties! I am a petite in height, but not a teeny tiny petite. I am 5’2″…not thin…not heavy. I have a long torso, short legs and a bit larger bust. I am one week away from 72 yrs. old and always try to have an up to date look. It isn’t easy! Many very well known, good clothing brands/stores, say they carry petites, but they really aren’t properly proportioned for petites. In the past several years, I have started altering clothing to fit and give me a more slender look. I buy shirts/tops/ jackets to fit my bust, but then take them in to give a better waist and hip fit. If it’s beyond my sewing skills, I have the garment professionally altered. It isn’t easy, but I always get compliments on how I look, and I feel good with my look, so I guess it’s all worth it.

  16. Hello,
    You sometimes mention that you have a large bust, but I do not see this in your photos! You look stunning.
    I am 5’2″ and I am athletic, but have a large frame and 36 DD bra size. My waist and hips are nearly the same (thick waist) and my legs are nice, and I have no behind like you. I will be age 60 next year and would like to know if you could send me some dressing tips. I wear jogging shorts and short sleeve athletic tops a lot and do not know if this is the best for my shape.
    Thank you,

  17. Great article. Thanks for covering different body types. I am shaped like you. It can be tricky to dress until you understand it.

  18. Your tips are so helpful! Before COVID I used to go to stores and try on many many outfits to try to find the most flattering. Now that more of us are shopping on line, it’s really helpful to know your own body and what styles work for you. Thank you so much for clarifying what we need and helping us to eliminate mistakes! I wish I had this information when I was younger!!!

  19. I love that you always look so polished and with your ideas I have begun to get more compliments on my fashion choices. Thank you.

  20. As always, a great article that points out things that I would not have paid much attention to. It’s so nice to see information specific to older women that’s not unrealistic!

  21. I love this look. It’s always nice to see a sharp look like this when I know I have similar items in my closet. It gives me the incentive/idea to wear the highlighted pieces. In fact, I have similar pieces because I follow your excellent advice in choosing classic capsule pieces. Thanks!

  22. Thank you, Susan, for another educational and inspiring post. I learn so much from you. I feel like I am finally getting a closet of clothes that I can wear and feel good when wearing them. I still make impulse purchases and then find I don’t wear them. I’m trying to get better about that!

  23. Thank you, Susan. You are my go-to for style advice. The critical piece for me was learning about body shape and then maximizing the positives. It was a little hard because my shape is very different from yours but once I got the hang of it I was able to make the adjustments that suit me best. I am 5’6 hourglass shape with small shoulders and bust and nicely shaped behind. I find keeping my weight down also helps significantly.

  24. Thank you once again for passing on invaluable teaching and experience to help us all look our best!

  25. Thanks for your excellent article! Recently read an old blog regarding your health bout with diverticiulosis, how do you combine the nuts, seeds so one doesn’t have a flare up? Experienced pain last fall and trying to avoid a second episode. Thank you in advance and appreciate any tips. Could you possibly share your porridge recipe, and do you eat same in the hotter months?

    1. I have oatmeal for breakfast with some fruit and a glass of water with half a lemon most mornings. Dates and frozen blueberries may be substituted for peaches or strawberries in the summer. I use almond or coconut milk for cooking the old-fashioned rolled oats. Then, add cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, and any other spices you like. I also add blackstrap molasses for sweetness, but it also contains Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium.

  26. Thanks again for an excellent column! I wonder do you have any specific recommendations for bras for large breasted women. I find that that is the area of my body that looks the most matronly and I don’t like it!

  27. Susan Thank you for all your posts! I found you initially because at 5’1″ and not “tiny” I find it increasingly difficult to dress stylishly. Your tips are always helpful. I also enjoy reading about your travels.

  28. thank you. I admire your style and advice so, but my body is a sweet 65 year old pear-shape. Your experience and wisdom are such a treasure. Thank you for sharing so kindly.

  29. Thank you again Susan for a wonderful post which is definitely also a “lightbulb moment” for me. I’m in Australia, so our seasons are opposite (and we never get as cold here in Sydney!) but I still find your advice so helpful. My body shape is similar to yours except that I’m heavier.
    My major issue, apart from having “no waist”, is my ankles/lower legs which are heavy and have no shape We call them “csnkles” here !
    Can I send you a couple of photos to ask for advice? I’m happy for you to publish them if they work in a post about my issue.

  30. Thank you again Susan for a wonderful post which is definitely also a “lightbulb moment” for me. I’m in Australia, so our seasons are opposite (and we never get as cold here in Sydney!) but I still find your advice so helpful. My body shape is similar to yours except that I’m heavier.
    My major issue, apart from having “no waist”, is my ankles/lower legs which are heavy and have no shape We call them “cankles” here !
    When I wear short booties, I find that my lower leg becomes visible when I sit, showing my socks or tights (or worse still bare skin!) . Do you have a solution?

    1. I always wear short booties with tights in the same color or tone as the pants and tights. Keeping the color the same all the way down to the toe is one way to minimize this area.

  31. Thank you Susan for the helpful tips on dressing our shape and giving a reference on sizes .

  32. Thank you for your sensible approach to fashion. I absolutely love the beautiful nature pictures you show. And the mountains. Oh,Susan they are so magnificent!

  33. These tips are so helpful! I have been following you for years and I always learn something new! You have helped me clarify my style and shop wiser and smarter. Thank you for your time, knowledge, and commitment to helping others look their best! I look forward to each new post.

  34. Great post. I like it when you give your dressing tips dressing for your body. You always look so put together!

  35. I truly appreciate this model and how it shows how I should & shouldn’t be dressing. I am in my early 70’s I am thin, but I also have a flat behind. I’ve tried padded panties but people that know me know that behind isn’t mine.

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I blogged for five years as Fifty, not Frumpy. Now that I am in my sixties, I am sharing ideas and inspiration for using and loving what you already have.

Thank you!
Susan

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