How to Dress According to Your Body Shape

Choose pieces that will make you feel confident and comfortable.

Contrary to some labels, one size doesn't fit all. Even if one item of clothing could fit every person, that doesn't mean it would be flattering. Everyone has a different shape — some people may carry their weight in their middle, while others have broad shoulders or less noticeable hips.

These features can make it hard to find clothing that not only fits but is also flattering. Choosing clothes in your size that flatter your body shape can improve your self-esteem, making you feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on the world.

The Basics

Determine your body shape. Fashion experts Clinton Kelly and Stacey London advise that you stand in front of a mirror and assess your features, making note of your waist, shoulders, bust and hips. Here are a few things that can help.

1. Assess your current wardrobe. Examine your clothing for fit and feel. If a piece of clothing feels comfortable and allows you to move without pinching, riding up, falling down or making you feel bad about your appearance, it's probably a keeper, advises fashion expert Margeaux Tartarotti in "The Fine Art of Dressing."

2. Look to celebs for inspiration. Find photos of celebrities with a similar body shape and take fashion cues from them. While a sparkling gown worn by inverted-triangle shaped Jamie Lee Curtis may not be suitable for everyday wear, take a look at the cut of the garment and the fabric choices and look for similar, more practical items that you can incorporate into your wardrobe, says Tracy MacWilliams in "Dress to Express."

3. Break fashion rules sometimes. If you're an apple shape but want to wear a wide belt at your hips, go for it. If you have an hourglass shape but enjoy the comfort of flowing, tent-like dresses, give it a try. Experiment with your clothing choices to find what works best for you, says MacWilliams in "Dress to Express."

4. Avoid ill-fitting clothing. You don't want to wear anything that's too tight or too baggy. Neither feature is flattering to any body shape and can lead to discomfort and the illusion of looking larger than you actually are. Choose well-fitting clothes, always.

Rules are meant to be broken.

Advice for Specific Shapes

If you simply have no idea where to start, here are some general tips and guidelines. But remember, just because these are the "rules," doesn't mean you always have to follow them. If you love the way you look in something, wear it!

Rectangular Shape

Choose jackets with collar details and shorter waists if you have a rectangle or column shape. Flared, A-line skirts with pleats add width to your bottom half. Flared dresses with princess seams and pants with pockets at the waist and hip give the illusion of more curves, according to "The Dressmaker's Technique Bible."


Wear unfussy clothing if you have an hourglass figure. Jackets and wrap style shirts that emphasize a small waist work best. Skirts and pants with firm, unfussy waistlines similarly enhance the small waist of an hourglass figure. High-waisted dresses add leg length, and bias cut fabrics avoid skewing proportions.

Inverted Triangle

Steer toward V necks and halters for an inverted triangle shaped body. Tailored, straight skirts and dresses work well for this body shape, and low-rise jeans with pockets and embellishments add the illusion of width toward the bottom of the body, where it's needed.

Pear Shape

Create the illusion of a fuller top half in pear or bottom-heavy triangle shapes by focusing details on the necklines and bust areas of shirts and dresses. Puff sleeves, square necks and tailored collars work well for this shape. Uncomplicated A-line skirts and pants that flare from the knee are preferable, according to "The Dressmaker's Technique Bible."


Consider adding height and accentuating the neck and legs if you have an apple- or circle-shaped body. Wear simple tops with neckline details, and dresses with flared princess seams or tunics. Pants and skirts made from heavier fabrics add structure to an otherwise soft figure.

Remember to Put Yourself First

Embrace your body's unique shape and features and take pleasure in the clothes suited to your frame. Ignore fashonistas and celebrity stylists. If you have the confidence to wear something, do it. Having confidence in your choices often determines whether your outfit is a success or a flop, say style experts Trinny Woodward and Susannah Constantine in "The Body Shape Bible."