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A fashion and style blog for the over 40s covering body shapes, colour palettes, how to wear neutrals, style personality and capsule wardrobes. Come on in!

11.05.2013

Body Shape Bedlam


Apples, Pears, Triangles, Rectangles, Strawberries, Bananas, Diamonds, Tubes, Sharp Straights, Soft Straights, Vases, Cellos, Bricks, Lollipops, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!

Is there any wonder that many women are confused when it comes to body shapes? I mean would you be happy describing your shape as a brick?

Well for the moment, let's just forget all that. It's far too complicated. We'll go into more detail further down the line.

I'm going to ask you just TWO questions today:

1. Are you curvy or straight up-and-down?
2. Do you ever consider the type of fabric you wear (yes it really does matter)?

Let's get down to business.

For some women it's so obvious which category they fall into. Take Kelly Brook for instances. This woman doesn't have a straight bone in her body. She oozes curves and I'm so not jealous! Now look at Mary Portas, she has a much straighter line. Both understand their body shape and dress to flatter (well most of the time anyway).


But it isn't always as obvious as that so here is my guide to working out which camp you fall into...

You have a curvy shape if you have

- a defined waist
- a full bust
- a rounded bottom
- full hips
- no defined waist but a very rounded top half including sloping shoulders

You have a straight shape if you have

- a straight shoulder line
- a straight bottom
- straight hips
- no waist definition
- either a full bust or no bust
- you may carry your weight around your middle

Some ladies fall into both categories for example pear shapes (curvy on the bottom and straight on top so you will need to pay attention to both sets of rules below and adapt accordingly).

You may not fully fit into either category. Don't fret. Just look in the mirror, what do you see? Curves and softness or a much straighter frame? And, you don't have to be a skinny minnie to fall into the straight category. Look at Jennifer Saunders, she has a straight shoulder line, carries her weight around her tummy and has little waist definition (regardless of her current dress size). So she's a straight!

Ok so you've decided which camp you're in, let's consider the next question...types of fabric.

Curvy Mamas

We need to use an analogy for this. Let's suppose you have bought a curvy vase as a gift for a friend. You pop to John Lewis and buy that gorgeous luxury wrapping paper - you know the stuff I mean, it costs an arm and a leg and is nearly as thick as cardboard. You start to wrap the vase and the present looks a right old mess. The stiff paper won't mould around the vase's curves. In fact it looks much larger than it really is!

Now let's apply this to a curvy lady. She tries on a crisp cotton A-line skirt and starchy box jacket What happens? The straight lines stand off the body making her look much larger. In fact upto 2-3 dress sizes larger! Her waist, if she had one has totally gone. Why would anyone do this???

So what should she wear. I think this sums it up nicely...


So we're looking at soft, drapey fabrics preferably that don't cling but follow the bodyline. If you have a waist, your tops should always nip in or you will add pounds. That is unless you are very rounded and don't have a waist in which case the fabric should hang from the bust.


Straight Bodied Gals

I couldn't think of an analogy for this one so you'll have to trust me! Well other than the other day when I went shopping with a friend and she tried on a beautiful drapey top (she's a Kelly Brook) and looked stunning. Being straight-bodied, I wondered if I could get away with it and let's just say it wasn't good. I didn't come out of the changing room!

Drapey fabric often means 'more' fabric. This can give a bulky look to someone with straight lines particularly if it's a thicker fabric. Soft shoulder lines can look as if she has bad posture - take Mary Portas. Sometimes her posture looks a bit dodgy and invariably this is down to wearing the wrong fabric. And let's not even go there with a belt. If you don't have a waist, don't try to create one if you are thick-set in that area (I'm thinking the Tina Malones of this world - yes do Google her). The belt will just gather the fabric around the tummy and hips making her look much larger than she really is. Much better to have either a straight line or slightly nipped in style.

Here are my suggestions for a straight body...


So in summary, we're looking at straight cut fabrics with some structure. These can be straight up and down or slightly nipped in at the waist to give the illusion of one. The only time I would suggest wearing a belt is underneath a jacket - this is a little tip that tricks the eye into thinking that you have a waist (eye sees belt, eye relates to the brain, brain thinks waist)!

And that's it really. I would be really interested to know if anyone has ever considered fabrics when buying clothes. Or maybe you have tried on something but just can't put your finger on the reason it doesn't seem to work. Could it be the fabric?

As always, this is just one way of dressing your body shape. I'm sure there will be some readers who think I'm talking gobbledygook and they look fantastic in everything - these ladies are probably neat hourglasses and they do indeed look fantastic in everything.

Until next time

Donna x
12 comments on "Body Shape Bedlam"
  1. I'm totally with you on this! I'm curvy and I can only wear fine knits and thinner fabrics. I look bulky if I wear anything stiff or chunky. I also agree that the shape categories are far too complicated! Another fab post! Lynne x

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  2. I'm a pear shape & just can not do bias cut for love nor money! They look horrendous on me as one hip is a different shape to the other & they cling in all the wrong places! Thank the Lord for Spanx as I can now do body con without looking completely odd! Silk is something I've always avoided (for dresses) since a shock in a changing room years ago in a bias cut! Great advice & tips again here Donna! Ax

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    1. Thank The Lord indeed Andrea. We all have our little challenges don't we. Donna x

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  3. Great post! Gosh I hate being an apple!

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    1. But I bet you have great legs! Apple shapes normally do. Donna x

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  4. Your blog is great, I love reading HOW to dress, rather than slavishly following the latest fashions. Sharron says that she hates being an apple, but I am built like a man, and would love to have smaller shoulders and a waist. Funnily enough I wore a shape that you recommended today, (completely unlike anything that I own and £1 from charity shop). I thought the high collar would make my chest and shoulders look even more gigantic, but actually it did the reverse, so I will invest in something non polyester in the same style. I was in a 6 hour meeting in a hot room and the polyester, sweat, deo smell isn't my favourite!

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    1. Thanks Alexandra. I'm really flattered. I will be doing some more bodyshape stuff soon. It sounds as if the top was drawing the eye inwards to the collar (as oppose to a boat neck cut that would draw the eye outwards and emphasise the shoulder line). It's all about trickery!! Donna x

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  5. Very interesting indeed Donna. I'm a definitely more straight than curvy. Although I go like wearing things that nip in my waist. In clothes I look straight up and down but in underwear I look curvy I think. Could I be straight with a defined waist, therefore a bit of both?

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    1. It's a hard one isn't it. Put it this way I'm a soft rectangle - basically straight up and down, very small waist definition, small hips but not terribly angular. My overall look is straight though. Totally agree that jackets and tops that nip in give the illusion of a waist. Sometimes a belt on thicker set ladies just hi-lights the fact that they don't have one. Are you sure you're not a neat hourglass - everything in proportion (obviously not right now!!!). If so, you can wear pretty much anything! Hope that helps. Donna

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  6. This is quite the best post I've seen on understanding shapes! I have a waist but my shoulders and hip are the same size so always avoided calling myself 'hourglass' as I have a neat bottom. The point about wrapping a curvy vase in thick paper is a near-genius analogy! I will now go and chuck out the boxy jacket I love but which always looks dreadful on me - now I understand why - I'm not only covering up my curves, I'm actually padding myself out!!

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  7. So pleased to be of assistance. I truly believe that if you find something that works, it can literally transform the way you see your body shape which results in you feeling more confident about yourself x

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