#2 Identifying Your Shape

Before you begin creating a look and style that's right for you, you need to work out both your horizontal and vertical body shapes.

There are six main horizontal body shapes.

1. The Triangle
You tend to be larger on your lower body especially around the hips, tummy and thigh area, and smaller on your upper body particularly around your bust and shoulders. The triangle body shape is also referred to as the pear shape. If you have this body shape, the aim is to bring the body into balance by making the upper body appear wider and the lower body more narrow. This can be done by wearing darker plain colours on the lower body and more patterned styles on the upper body. A scooped or round neckline will help make the bust and shoulders appear wider while a longer cut top or jacket with lapels will help minimise the lower body.
2. The Inverted or Upside Down triangle
You tend to be broader and heavier across the shoulders and bust while smaller on the hips, rear and thighs. Darker, plain tops and longer cut jackets and shirts worn on the upper body will help correct any imbalance. Avoid bulky jackets, large necklaces and tops with heavy frills or lots of material as well as big sleeves. V necklines instead of scooped or rounded styles will have the effect of drawing in the shoulders making them appear narrower. 
3. The Diamond
You tend to be bigger around your middle mostly around the tummy and waistline area. Both bust and hips can be smaller in proportion. A layered look is often a good tactic for reducing the appearance of bulk. We call this dressing over your widest point. Basically, clothes that do not have specific style lines such as a firm waistband, darts or tight seams are perfect for this shape. The softer the fit, the softer the look which should have the effect of smoothing out an irregular shape. Go for longer line tops, shirts and jackets and avoid bulky or stiff fabrics that have no give in them.
4. The Oval
You tend to be rounded and fuller bodied especially around the middle and from the neckline to the knees. Again, opt for a softer, layered look of vertical lines that will cover your widest points while balancing out your shape. Choose clothes that give you height and try and avoid bulky clothes that add horizontal width to your natural shape. Emphasise the length of slim ankles and wrists by wearing strappy shoes and three quarter sleeves.
5. The Rectangle
You tend to be boyish and athletic in shape where there is little in the way of curves. Often there is no definition of a waistline. The biggest challenge with a rectangle shape is creating feminine curves and shape. The best clothes to wear are those that are styled with curves in the design, such as skirts and dresses cut on the bias. In this case, fabrics that have some fullness or flair out slightly, can help to soften the edges of any hard rectangle lines. Avoid straight box jackets and padded shoulders along with any garment that creates a straight vertical line down the body. You need garments that give you a waist.
6. The Hourglass
You are regarded as the perfect shape where the body has a hip and bust measurement with a defined waist measurement of 10 inches smaller than the hips and bust. Mostly, it's a shape which resembles an egg timer rather than an exact measurement. Clothes to wear which are the most flattering tend to be simple rather than overstated. Bulky, heavily patterned fabrics will make you disappear. Opt for well fitted, neat garments to frame and flatter your shape.


Now that you understand your horizontal shape, you need to know your vertical body type. 

This is where the body is divided into four separately measured parts from the top of the head to the nipple, then from the nipple to the fullest part of your rear, then from the rear to your knee and finally from your knee to the ground.

A series of equal measurements between all body parts would suggest a balanced vertical body. However, if your lower body measures longer than your upper body, you are said to be long legged and short waisted. If your upper body measures longer than your lower body, you are said to be short legged and long waisted.

In the latter cases, often the need is to balance the lower and upper body in equal proportions by choosing fashion styles carefully.

For example, to balance out a short upper body with longer lower body, it's a good idea to wear tops and jackets that sit at lower hip level so that they give the appearance of lengthening the upper body. If you have a long upper body and short legs, the trick is make the legs appear longer by wearing shorter tops and jackets with longer skirts and trousers. Again, easy to do once you know how and experimenting with different styles and looks is always a worthy exercise. 

Copyright Nina Wornham.