The 5 Body Shapes

Determine Your Body Shape(s)

Pear Body Shape

Female body shapes are controversial - mainly because they are just confusing.

Simply check several websites and you will find celebrities typed as hourglass shape on one website and as pear on another. And it’s not just celebrities, we all tend to get it wrong when determining our own body shapes. Why is that?

There are a number of reasons for why it's hard to categorise bodies:

  • Firstly, everyone's body is different. It's hard to standardise something that is unique.
  • But also, our bodies are changing over time, and
  • weight gain or weight loss may distort your figure. We are not static objects.
  • And finally, there is no scientific way of measuring body shapes and sometimes it’s just simply hard to judge one’s own body.

Note: The body shape theory is somewhat outdated and best used to conceal or balance out particular body parts. If you are interested in a more comprehensive styling theory, check out style essences.

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I. Why are we still talking about body shapes?

It is not an exact categorisation of your body per se that we are interested in here. It has more to do with the aesthetics of balance.

Balanced objects = visually pleasing

Simply put, we like looking at balanced objects (or people for that matter). It is less important if you are a so-called “apple” shape or an “inverted triangle”. The point is, the more balanced your silhouette appears, the more visually pleasing your outfit will be.

And that is a great way to use fashion. You can highlight well-loved features of your body and play down other not-so-well loved ones by using the right fits and cuts.

To find out which features of your body require some balancing work the theory of body shapes can be a useful starting point, as long as you take it for what it is supposed to be: a rough guide. You don't have to bend yourself into any of these body shapes; they are not hard-and-fast categories.

More than one body shape?

Most likely you won't fit into just one of the body shape categories. More often than not, we fit into one category but also lean towards another.

The key is to know which body parts make you fit into which category and then work on playing them up or down accordingly. You might have big hips like the pear but at the same time you might have wide shoulders characteristic of a triangle. Be flexible in your categorisation!

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II. How to determine your body shape(s)

The least subjective way to find your body shape(s) is to measure yourself. Plus, by doing this you will always have your measurements ready if you are ever confused about the sizing of online retailers.

Measure yourself

You will need a cloth tape measure and wear as little clothing as possible to avoid incorrect measurements. Make sure you stand straight with arms to the side. The tape must be snug against the body, but not too tight so that it compresses the body - making the measurement inaccurate.

Let’s measure the following four areas of your body:

  • Shoulders - measure around the highest point of your shoulders.
  • Bust - measure around the chest over the fullest part of the breasts.
  • Waist - measure around the smallest point of your waist.
  • Hips - measure around the hip over the largest part of the buttocks.

Determine your body shape(s)

As mentioned before, chances are that you will have a primary body shape and a secondary body shape. To find out what they are, we can use three methods:

(1) Determine your body shape using your bust, waist, and hip measurements.

(2) Determine your body shape using your shoulder, waist, and hip measurements.

(3) Look in the mirror and determine which parts of your body are out of balance with the rest of the body.

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III. The 5 basic body shapes

Below you will find the characteristics of the five basic body shapes commonly used in the fashion industry.

If you have looked at body shapes before, you might have come across guides that contain more than these five shapes. That is because the five basic body shapes can be broken down into sub-categories, and as mentioned earlier, you probably won't fit into just one of the five categories.

But since we are not really concerned with a definitive categorisation but with determining which parts of your body require visual balancing, you can determine your primary body shape as the one you resonate with the most.

Each of these basic body shapes has a prominent characteristic, and they have been chosen for a reason:

  • The rectangle looks more or less like a column, i.e. the body is straight with little to no definition.
  • The pear has a bigger lower body compared to the upper body.
  • The hourglass has a wider upper and lower body with a narrow waist in the middle.
  • The inverted triangle has a bigger upper body compared to the lower body.
  • The apple is wider in the middle and upper body with a smaller lower body.

Rectangle Body Shape

Rectangle Body Shape

Bust/Shoulders and hips will be almost the same - within 5% of each other - and your waist will be less than 25% smaller than your bust.

Learn how to dress the rectangle body shape.

Pear Body Shape

Your hips will be the largest of the three, while the waist will be the smallest. Your hips will be at least 5% bigger than your bust/shoulders.

Learn how to dress the pear body shape.

Inverted Triangle Body Shape

Your hips will be the smallest of the three measurements. Your bust/shoulder measurements are more than 5% bigger than your hip measurement.

Learn how to dress the inverted triangle body shape.

Hourglass Body Shape

Your bust and hips will be almost the same (within 5% of each other) and your waist will be at least 25% smaller than both your bust/shoulders and hips.

Learn how to dress the hourglass body shape.

Apple Body Shape

Your bust/shoulders and waist will be larger than your hips. Your waist will be the same or wider than your bust. Your hips will be the smallest - up to 5% smaller than bust/shoulders.

Learn how to dress the apple body shape.

If your shoulders and bust are of similar width, your body shape category will be the same under both methods (1) and (2). But if there is a significant difference, you might end up with different results. That's perfectly fine!

For method (3), stand in front of the mirror and look at your figure. Which features do you like the most and want to accentuate, which ones would you like to conceal more? Looking at your body holistically will give you another opportunity to determine which body shapes you lean towards.

How to dress the body shapes

Below you will find detailed guides on how to dress each of the five body shapes. When looking through the guides, think back to the characteristic of each body shape.

Say you have wide hips and wide shoulders, but your bust is quite small. In this case, you would either fall into the pear or hourglass category, depending on which method you use.

But the feature that you would probably be most concerned with is your small bust rather than your hips or shoulders (since they seem to be balanced). The body shape that is characterised by a small bust is the pear, so you could find tips on how to add volume in that category.


Styling The Body Shapes

Learn how to dress each body shape:

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How do you build a flattering and functional wardrobe?

Buying a bunch of clothes because they look nice in the shop is not a good strategy for building a wardrobe. It implies that the look of your clothes is more important than your look. But clothes should have no other purpose than to bring out your natural beauty and to highlight it.

The wardrobe guide will help you discover those garments that truly suit you.

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