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How to Dress Based On Your Body Shape (For Women)

As French fashion icon Hubert de Givenchy once said: “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”

Now that you’ve learned about the six body shape types of women (and hopefully learned and figured out which one is yours!), it’s time to learn about its body silhouettes.

Body Shape vs. Body Silhouette

The body shape is a person’s natural shape, often most obvious to oneself when wearing the least amount of clothing (e.g. in underwear). For women, there are six common body shapes, previously discussed in this article.

The body silhouette, on the other hand, is what a person’s body shape appears to be based on the clothes worn. For women, the hourglass silhouette is universally considered as most flattering. As such, it’s important to bring each natural body shape as close to the hourglass as possible.

There are a few techniques that, when necessary, can be applied to make a woman appear to have a hourglass shape. These are:

  • Balance the shoulders with the hips
  • Create a waist or give the illusion of a waist
  • Widen the shoulders and upper body
  • Narrow the hips
  • Elongate the body
  • Balance the top and bottom of the body With these general guidelines and your natural body shape in mind, read on to to learn about about the type of clothes can accentuate your good features and dress in a way that will complement your shape.

1. Hourglass

Women with an hourglass body shape should wear clothing that mirrors their natural body shape. Here are few do’s and don’ts to remember:

  • DO Wear garments such as dresses that accentuate your waistline
  • DO Highlight your curves by wearing soft fabrics which drape
  • DO Show off your waist, select great belts
  • DO Belt or shape in your jackets
  • DON’T Select blouses with a lot of volume around the waist
  • DON’T Wear bulky fabrics and construction
  • DON’T Wear straight cut clothing and boxy jackets

2. Rectangle

To add curves to rectangular bodies, dresses and jackets with curved construction in a stretch or blended fabric can help. Diagonal lines can also help give an illusion of an indented waist. Here are few do’s and don’ts for women with a rectangular shape:

  • DO Wear fluid construction or spandex in the fabric for comfort
  • DO Shape the waist of constructed jackets and dresses to create the illusion of a waist
  • DO Wear single breasted coats and jackets and edge to edge – keep lines curved .
  • DON’T Use cropped jackets with a boxy fit
  • DON’T Use thick belts cinched at waist
  • DON’T Wear double breasted coats and jackets, unless shaped at waist

3. Oval

Ladies with an oval body shape need to build up sloping shoulders and show off skinny bits such as the lower arms, legs, and neck. Some do’s and don’ts:

  • DO Use an internal silhouette that is darker than the outer garment
  • DO Use long vertical lines from shoulder to hem
  • DO Take in sleeves and trouser width to keep arm and leg silhouette slim
  • DO Use over blouses and ruching to soften clinging fit below waist
  • DO Take advantage of fluid and stretch fabrics such as jersey and knitwear
  • DO Wear forgiving elastic waistbands and over blouses
  • DO Create soft folds down the center of the body
  • DON’T Tuck in blouses at waist
  • DON’T Use wide belts
  • DON’T Wear shapeless tent-like dresses

4. Triangle

A general rule of thumb for women with a triangular shape is to wear darker bottoms and lighter tops. Use of patterns, details or textures on upper torso are also great for accentuating the upper body. Some more do’s and don’ts for pear shapes are:

  • DO Make use of layers on top half
  • DO Use shoulder pads and construction to build upper body
  • DO Fit trousers and skirts to widest part and take in waist
  • DON’T Wear tight tops tucked into full or pencil skirts
  • DON’T Try tapered pants without a longer jacket, tunic or shirt
  • DON’T Wear large prints below the waist
  • DON’T Wear cargo pants or patch pockets
  • DON’T Wear jackets which end on the widest area
  • DON’T Buy convex shaped pockets in pants which add to hip width

5. Inverted Triangle

In contrast to the triangle body types, ladies with an inverted triangle shape should generally aim for lighter bottoms and darker tops. Here are more do’s and don’ts for inverted triangle body types:

  • DO Balance lower torso with boot cut or wide-leg pants
  • DO Wear skirts or pants with details or prints
  • DO Wear skirts with fluid hemlines, wider than the hips
  • DON’T Wear a wide horizontal neckline
  • DON’T Add shoulder pads or epaulets
  • DON’T Wear wide puffed sleeves
  • DON’T Horizontal stripes on top half
  • DON’T Wear bulky construction, details or large prints above the waist

6. Figure 8

Women carrying a figure 8 shape should aim to wear low to medium rise bottoms to give more more vertical length through their waist area. Other do’s and don’ts for figure 8s include:

  • DO Try a shaped yoke on skirts over tummy
  • DO Wear fabrics that drape and shape your body and curved construction
  • DO Wear dresses and tops that elongate your midriff area
  • DO Use a “column of color” top and bottom
  • DON’T Wear skirts or trousers with a high set-in waistband
  • DON’T Tuck in blouses
  • DON’T Wear contrasting separates
  • DON’T Wear wide belts


Clothing is all about creating a visual harmony—it’s about accentuating the best bits and making the wearer look her best. With these guidelines in mind, start mixing and matching clothes (and maybe even replacing some!) to help you look your most flattering. If you need better advice on analyzing your body shape and how to dress, contact Radiance Image Consultancy today. Be sure to follow us on Pinterest for more body shape and clothes tips!

About The Author

Toni Miranda is a world-certified Image Consultant, and Executive Coach and Speaker, with over 20 years of experience in the corporate and retail industry. She is the founder of Radiance Image Consultancy. She is also the owner of blog site toni.ph.

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