Guest Post: Dressing For Your Body Type

Apples and pears - dressing for your body typeI’ve been interested in Stacy London’s new venture, Style for Hire, for a while now — so when one of the stylists offered to do a guest post, it seemed like a great idea. Today’s guest post is from Lani Rosenstock Inlander, a Style for Hire stylist in the Washington, DC area… – Kat

(Pictured: Apples and Pears, originally uploaded to Flickr by mksavage)

If you are not dressing for your body type, you won’t ever look your best. If only 8% of women have the so-called ideal hourglass body shape, the other 92% of us better learn to work with what we have. One must trick the eye by creating balance and proportion using clothing. Let’s go over some tips and tricks for four common body shapes.

What types of tops best flatter short torsos?
The secret to dressing this body shape is to create length in the body line with longer, leaner tops. No tucking! A vertical, open neckline, such as a v-neck or scoop-neck, will draw the eye up. Sometimes women with short torsos think they can’t wear belts. I disagree. A strategically placed belt can actually trick the eye into creating a new waistline.

Here are some additional tips for common body types. Not sure where to start? Grab a measuring tape and measure the largest part of your bust, your stomach and your hips/thighs. The area with the biggest number = your body type.

Bigger On Top
Structure is the best friend of women who are large busted. A jacket with a strong shoulder is going to bring the eye up from “the girls.” And while we are on the subject, get fitted for the best quality bra you can afford. Lifting the girls up will help create a waist and make your clothes fit better. A good bra can make you look as if you’ve lost 10 pounds! Create balance by adding volume to your bottom half with a wider pant or an A-line skirt. Wearing a short pencil skirt or an overly-skinny pant will only emphasize your disproportion.

Bigger on Bottom
Create balance by wearing heavier fabrics on top, like tweed or leather. A small shoulder pad can also be used to add more structure to your jackets. Keep the line clean on the bottom with a straight skirt or a mid-width pant that has a higher waist. No pleats, please! Deemphasize the hip with a trouser that falls straight down from the widest part of the hip and darker colors on the bottom. A pointy-toed shoe will keep your legs from looking short. One last tip for this body type: don’t be afraid of alterations. Instead of buying low-rise pants to prevent gaping at the waist, have a tailor pinch in the waist. The result? Pants that fit and flatter!

A Little Extra in the Middle
The key to dressing a body with a little extra in the middle is to trick the eye into looking away from the waistline while creating just that. Create a waistline with a jacket that has a nipped-in waist and a higher armhole. Add an a-line skirt and voila! Instant waistline. A mistake a lot of women with this body type make is over-emphasize their thin limbs. You’ll create more balance with a patterned skirt or one with a longer length. You can also move the focus up to your face with color, a v-neck or a strong collar. Always buy pants to fit the largest part of you. Low-waist pants will only draw attention to the middle. Buy pants that fit your waist and then have them altered to fit your hip.

Lani Rosenstock Inlander is a Style for Hire stylist in the Washington, DC area. Learn more at


  1. I too have been intrigued by Style for Hire! Any hints for short torso/big hips (I am nothing if not pear-shaped :))? Most tops seem to hit me at the widest part of my hips.

    • Same body shape here. I am intrigued by the notion that I could pull off wearing a belt. I’ve never been able to do that, and I don’t tuck in ANYTHING.

      • agreed – I can sometimes wear a belt with a dress but this is rare or under a jacket or cardigan with my short waist but otherwise I just cannot make it work. The belt either refuses to stay in place or emphasizes all of the wrong things.

    • My sister is the same shape and we encountered the same problem when I gave her a “what not to wear” style makeover after she graduated from grad school. Try petite tops, even if you have to go up a size. They tend to be cut shorter in the torso, and worked really well for her.

  2. Ms Raygun :

    I disagree with the “Bigger on Bottom” advice. Wearing heavier fabrics on top will only make your overall proportions heavier. And pants that “fall straight down from the widest part of the hip” will make your entire lower silhouette as wide as possible.

    Instead, here is what I do. Wear lighter, brighter colors and prints on top to emphasize the smaller part of your body. The silhouette of your clothing should skim your body at the narrowest point – the rib cage and limbs. Empire waists, tailored shoulders, tunics, A-line skirts, and cigarette pants are good for this. You want to have darker colors on the bottom, and an unbroken line from your waist to the ground. Make sure your pants and skirts are tailored close to your body, without distracting flap pockets or other details. Avoid things that will “break up” your leg line, like ankle-strap shoes, awkward tea lengths, or capris. Try to keep things monochrome below the waist.

    I have a very pear-shaped body, with a 14-inch difference between my waist and hips. It’s no fun, but I have learned to dress around it and look more balanced.

    • Most of this is good advice, but I completely disagree with clothing skimming the rib cage. I’m also very pear shaped and empire waists/tunics tend to make me look pregnant, unless they are belted. Imo, clothing that hides the waist just tends to make pears look larger overall. De-emphasizing the bottom half, emphasizing the shoulders (with color, cut, etc.) and highlighting a smaller waist (with belts, a-line dresses that have seams near the natural waist, etc.) helps create a more hourglass look overall.

      • I agree about accentuating the waist in some cases. My sister is a pear with a really short waist and ultra long legs, so she looks kind of ridiculous wearing belts or tucking anything in. I have a long waist and a bigger chest, so belting or high-waisted skirts are both great looks for me and they both tend to elongate my legs. It’s pretty much guaranteed that tops/dresses that look awful on me will look great on her and vice versa.

    • I agree with lighter colors on top darker on bottom, but *strongly disagree* with A-line skirts (which make it look like your hips just keep on expanding) and cigarette pants (which emphasize the proportion issue). I’m a big fan of pencil skirts and boot cut pants.

  3. Chicago K :

    My hips and chest really are the same size, and my waist is 11 inches smaller.

    So this post doesn’t apply to the 8% of the population who are so called hourglasses?

    I didn’t realize this was “ideal” in fact, I find clothes make me look bigger than I am, as they never fit my waist. Take a sheath dress – I have to get a big enough size to fit over my big chest and hips and my waist is nowhere to be found. Usually there is so much fabric, adding a belt wouldn’t even work. So I avoid sheath dresses.

    • Same — didn’t realize I was perfect & needed no advice. Also, this was the kind of generic advice I have read in fashion mags since I was 12. Not trying to be mean, but . . . meh.
      I am intrigued by the idea of a my own personal what not to wear person, though, but minus the public humiliation involved with a national cable tv show!

    • Anonymous K :

      Same here, Chicago K! (OK, my hips are actually 1″ larger than my chest, but same basic body type and chest/waist ratio.) I find it so difficult to find clothing, especially professional clothing. I can find some things to wear on the weekends that really play up my curves, but during the week I want to downplay my curves while still wearing flattering styles. I definitely don’t feel like most clothes are made for me!

      • Chicago K :

        Yes, exactly! I feel like I have to wear a clingy top to show that I have a waist. Not exactly what I want to be wearing to work everyday! And adding a belt to a cardigan/top can make me look a bit “too curvy” as it emphasizes my chest. I feel it makes me look like I am trying to be sexy when really I just don’t want to look like I am wearing a burlap sack!

        • Anonymous K :

          I feel the same way. I’m guessing, like with most things like this, it’s worse in my mind/to my eye than in the minds/to the eyes of my coworkers, but who wants to be self-conscious at work all day?

    • Glitterachi :

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

      Something I’ve found to be a good choice is to go with the classic looks from when the hourglass figure was big in Hollywood. Basically, high-waisted pencil skirts with tailored shirts. If the skirt at or past the knees, and absolutely zilch cleavage is showing, you can get away with the form-fitting look. It very clearly shows your hips, but in a way that celebrates them. I am still having difficulty picking the right blazers, though. I am finding that short-waisted ones work best, but any ideas?

    • Wow! I seem to be suddenly in an ‘ideal’ category for the first time ever but honestly unless one is Sophia Loren, we need advice too!!

      Some days, it seems like no matter what I do, I am all curves. Tasteful, yes. Covered up, yes. But curves nevertheless. While that might sound wonderful in theory, I hate to be too va-va-va-voom at work!! Makes me self conscious.

  4. I’m finding this post a bit too high-level and simplistic to be helpful, a bit like the blurbs that would appear in a photo spread in a magazine. I’d rather see a series of posts focusing on different body types. It seems the answer for Top, Bottom and Middle is always the same — wear a sharp looking jacket — that isn’t required by most women’s work wardrobes and is probably the most expensive variety of top a woman owns.

    I’d also like to see tips on being long-waisted yet petite (i.e., I can’t buy Tall blouses to tuck in and expect the arms to be remotely well-fitting), as well as finding items that suit an hourglass figure (just because the proportions are “ideal” doesn’t mean clothes are always easy to fit).

    • legalchef :

      Yes! This! I am really long waisted, and 5’3″, not to mentioned being quite ample in the northern region, if you get my drift. I’d love to know how to fit at least SOME of those issues!

  5. How do I know what is considered a “short torso” or “bigger on bottom”? I don’t really know what category I fall into. Some would say I’m fairly thin, though I am “average” on the BMI scale at 5’6 and 122 lbs, and have wider hips/thighs proportionately. Is that a “true” hourglass? This post kinda confuses me…

    • haha, your measurements are almost the same as mine, and I don’t think i fit any of these.

    • Makeup Junkie :

      I’ve never understood terms like short torso, long waist, short waist.

      • If you don’t understand the terms, then hopefully it’s because you don’t have any of those issues. Those of us who have short or long waists or are bigger on bottom or top know about them because it’s hard to find clothes that fit (if you’re short waisted/short torso, shirts are always too long; if you’re long waisted, shirts are always too short and show your midriff; if you’re bigger on bottom or top you have to buy separates in suits, bathing suits, etc. because you need a size on bottom that is bigger than the size you need on top or vice versa)

  6. If you are looking for a more in depth post on how to dress your body the following wesbsite has suggestions for all body types. I have linked to the pear article but the others can be found on the website.

  7. Anonymous K :

    I think this has been mentioned here before, but I may have read it elsewhere: Trinny and Susannah’s “Body Shape Bible” is a great resource for dressing for your body type. They give 12 different body types instead of the usual 3 or 4.

    • Anonymous K :

      Here’s an overview:–you.html

    • I like Trinny and Susannah’s advice. I tried on styles they recommended for my shape (hourglass) and think they are right. V-necks look better than crew necks, pencil skirts look better than A-lines, and round toe shoes look better than pointed.

      I don’t take all their humorous advice to heart, i.e. “Keep it tight and wiggle your bum.” :)

    • I love T&S and miss the British version of WNTW. I always found that show to be so much better than the American version because they didn’t feel the need to try to fit all the makeovers into one (in S&C’s case NYC) area’s fashion sense.

      • Chicago K :

        I agree. I thought the clothes were so much nicer – very classic. If the series was any indication, they show a lot more cleavage in the UK than would fly here!

    • Yes, but they keep trying to have you wear dresses with pants, which is pretty much the ugliest thing I have ever seen. They have a cute book though.

      • Anonymous K :

        Eek! I did not realize that. Admittedly, I don’t really follow them all that much. I just have a few of their books that I really like.

      • I agree that it’s not a look that works for most people, but I’ve seen many women who dress modestly for religious reasons look quite chic and stylish with the pants under dress look.

  8. glad to hear :

    Agreed-done well I really like the look.

  9. Thanks for the much-needed tips! It can be really depressing to try on outfit after outfit looking dumpy in each one. Now I at least know what styles to avoid.

  10. I really hate the lock and load advice for women who are bigger up top. If I wear a nice v-neck sweater over a button down, I have 2 breasts. Large ones sure, but appropriate nice looking ones. And if I wear some buttoned up to there lock and load blazer monstrosity, instead of 2 breasts I have a bosom. It is large. And formidable. And. Not. Cute!

    • Anonymous Poser :

      This. Well said–thank you!
      Thank you also for the grin your description gave me.

  11. To fully understand this, you can have your body shape and proportions accurately assessed by a Holobi DRES Stylist who uses a math based formula. Keep in mind that every body is unique and any body shape advice is just a generalization. To find out what works best for your body shape and proportions you should work with a professional. The Holobi site has a forum for different body types that you may find helpful!

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