The 5 Body Shapes

Hourglass Body Shape: A Comprehensive Guide

Hourglass Body Shape

The hourglass body shape characterised by hip and bust measurements nearly equal in size, with a narrower waist measurement.
This makes the body appear like an hourglass shape.


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The shoulders are slightly round and the legs are in proportion with the upper body.

Read if you are concerned about:

- Defining your waist

- Maintaining balanced proportions

- The body is too curvy

Note: The body shape theory is somewhat outdated and best used to conceal or balance out particular body parts.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.

I. Characteristics of the Hourglass

  • Slightly round shoulders
  • Bust and hips are of the same width
  • Small and defined waist
  • Bottom and hips are rounded
  • Bigger thighs
  • Weight gains typically distribute evenly throughout the body

Other body shape tendencies

It is difficult to categorise your body into just one of the basic body shapes. Be open to a possible secondary body shape:

  • You lean towards an inverted triangle shape if you have slightly fleshy upper arms, which make your shoulder line appear wider.
  • You lean towards a pear shape if you have a slightly fuller bottom or extra weight around your hips.
  • You lean towards an apple shape if you carry extra weight around your waist.
  • You lean towards a rectangle shape if your waist is undefined.
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II. Styling the Hourglass

Styling the Hourglass Body Shape

The hourglass body shape is balanced naturally with a defined waist.

The key to dressing this body shape is to follow its natural silhouette by proportionally dressing the top and bottom of the body while accentuating the waist.

You need to ensure that you don't unbalance the body frame by making it either top- or bottom-heavy.

Follow the natural silhouette

This means maintaining the body's naturally balanced proportions without drawing attention to only the lower or upper body.

  • Invest in a good bra
  • Choose clothing that shows off your curvy silhouette
  • Opt for simple, clean garments, which don't clutter up the silhouette
  • Avoid drawing attention to the hips and shoulders in order to maintain the natural balance of your body's silhouette
  • Steer clear of straight cuts and boxy styles, that hide the waist
  • Avoid shapeless and loose clothing as well as eye-catching embellishments

Define the waist

Wearing anything that draws attention to the waist helps bring out the body's balanced proportions.

  • Accentuate the waist with belts or nipped garments
  • Wear darker colours around your waist area - such as a dark belt
  • Steer clear of straight cuts and boxy styles, that hide the waist
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III. Tops


Necklines must not unbalance the natural silhouette of the hourglass body by either visually widening the shoulder line or adding unnecessary volume to it (e.g., through embellishments).

Slightly rounded styles are great - such as oval, deep oval, rounded or jewel necklines. Because they are not extremely wide or narrow, they don't draw any attention to them. Lower and wider necklines - such as scoop or sweetheart necklines, will show off your bust.

If you don't want to show off your bust, avoid wide necklines, like the ones mentioned before, square and boat necks, as well as high necklines and turtlenecks, as they will add volume to that area. Instead, opt for slimming necklines (like a V-neckline).

A selection of flattering neckline styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Necklines - the concept wardrobe


Just like necklines, sleeves must not unbalance the natural silhouette of the hourglass body by either visually widening the shoulder or hip line or adding unnecessary volume to either.

The best type of sleeve is a fitted one. Set-in sleeves work great as they follow the body’s natural curve. If you opt for light shoulder-enhancing sleeves (such as cap sleeves), make sure to balance the extra volume out on your bottoms.

Avoid embellishments, as well as loose and wide sleeves that would draw attention to the upper body.

Hourglass Body Shape Sleeves Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering sleeve styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Sleeves - the concept wardrobe

Shirts, T-Shirts & Other Tops

Look for shirts that will accentuate your waist and maintain the balanced look of the hourglass shape, i.e. tops should be fitted.

They should nip in at the waist without adding bulk to your chest (unless you have a smaller bust). Belted tops and wrap tops are great to accentuate the waist.

If you want to de-emphasise your curvy hips, choose tops that extend right to your hipbone.

This will help skim over the curves and make you look thinner.

Avoid big ruffles, bows or any other embellishments that would add a lot of volume to your upper body (unless you add some volume to your hips to balance it out). And steer clear of extra bulk on the waist, which would hide your waist’s natural slimness.

Hourglass Body Shape Shirts Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering shirt & top styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Shirts - the concept wardrobe


Like with anything else, it’s all about that waist for the hourglass body. This shape is already very proportionate, so the goal is to maintain that proportionality and not lose it in excessive fabric.

lightweight, form-fitting sweater is the best option, especially since it highlights your curves. Belts are also great to further highlight the waist.

Lightweight fabrics and fine knits will complement your shape by highlighting your silhouette.

Avoid chunky, heavy knits and loose sweaters that hide the natural hourglass shape.

Hourglass Body Shape Knitwear Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe


Jackets should follow the natural body line and draw in toward the waist.

Form-fitting and belted jackets are great. Single-breasted jackets are best since they don’t add extra bulk as double-breasted jackets do.

Short jackets that stop just above your hips accentuate your curves. If you are petite, stick to shorter jackets that end at your hips.

Avoid straight and boxy styles as these do not show your waist and so make you appear heavier. And steer clear of heavy detailing and embellishments that let you appear top-heavy.

Hourglass Body Shape Jackets Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering jacket styles:


Like jackets, coats should be form-fitted and tailored to follow the hourglass body's natural silhouette.

Styles that achieve this are trench coats, long coachmen coats, and also A-line coats.

To keep the silhouette uncluttered, keep coats simple without too many details or embellishments, which could make you end up looking unbalanced. If you opt for a coat with embellishments around your bust, make sure you add the same amount of volume around your hips.

Puff sleeves or epaulettes to emphasise your shoulders are great.

Avoid boxy and straight coat styles - such as empire line and drop waistcoats, as they hide your natural waistline(unless they can be belted in).

Hourglass Body Shape Coats Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering coat styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Coats - the concept wardrobe

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IV. Bottoms


Trousers for the hourglass body shape should be in balance with the rest of the body and outfit. Always coordinate trousers with the top you're wearing.

Wide-legged and loose-fitting trousers that go straight down to the floor are best. Slightly tapered, boot-cut or flare-out trousers are also good.

Trousers should be mid-waisted; low-waisted styles would widen the hips.

Avoid pleats, darts and embellishments or pockets around the hips. Keep your trousers on the slimmer side, not too baggy or extremely wide.

Hourglass Body Shape Trousers Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering trouser styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Trousers - the concept wardrobe


Just like trousers, jeans should be balanced with the upper part of your outfit.

Generally, simple and clean styles such as classic bootcut or straight leg are best for the hourglass-shaped body. Wide-legged, loose-fitting, and slightly tapered jeans styles also work well.

Jeans should be mid- or high rise to elongate the legs. Wide waist bands are great.

Avoid low-rise jeans as they tend to make the hips look wider and the legs shorter.

Hourglass Body Shape - Jeans Do's & Don'ts

A selection of flattering jeans styles:


The right skirt for the hourglass body shape accentuates the waist without adding too much bulk at the bottom.

One skirt that achieves that is the pencil skirt since it clings to the body and comes in at the waist. Flip, bias, and A-line skirts (shaped around the hips and in structured fabric) that are adjustable at the waist also work well.

Voluminous skirts - such as a full circle or tulip skirt, are also great because they make the waist look even smaller. Make sure your skirt is high-waisted to highlight the small waist.

The best hemline is knee-length or longer. These skirts will hug the hips and hang off them naturally.

Avoid boxy and straight skirt styles as well as stiff fabrics. Keep away from skirts with big voluminous pockets, ruffles, darts or other embellishments around the hips unless you balance them with details around the chest. Finally, stay away from low-waisted skirts since these would add bulk to the lower body.

Hourglass Body Shape Skirts Do's and Don'ts - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering skirt styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Skirts - the concept wardrobe


Dresses for the hourglass body shape should draw the focus to the waist without adding extra volume to the bust.

Nipped and belted dresses are excellent. Wrap dresses are great too, as they create a nice silhouette, accentuate the waist and tailor the midriff without making it look boxy.

Opt for voluminous skirts on dresses such as a full circle or tulip skirt as they make the waist appear even smaller. But make sure they are in a simple style. The hemline should be no shorter than knee length.

If you want to appear more curvaceous, add volume both to bust and hip through ruffles, embellishments or pockets. If you want to downplay your curves, look for a dress in dark colours or vertical stripes.

Avoid dresses with straight lines or boxy cuts since they cover your curves and make you appear heavy. And steer clear of embellishments or pockets in either the hip or shoulder area.

Hourglass Body Shape Dresses Do's and Dont's - the concept wardrobe

A selection of flattering dress styles:


Shorts for the hourglass body shape must not unbalance the naturally balanced figure. To make the waist appear smaller, opt for high-waisted shorts with contoured waistbands.

Make sure to tuck your top into the shorts for even more definition around the waist.

Avoid shorts that are cut straight up, darts and stiff fabrics. And stay away from low-waisted shorts and heavy detailing that would unbalance your figure.

A selection of flattering shorts styles:

Hourglass Body Shape Shorts - the concept wardrobe

Jumpsuits & Playsuits

Jumpsuits for the hourglass body shape should highlight the natural balance of the hourglass silhouette.

Belted and form-fitting jumpsuits and playsuits are the best to accentuate the natural body line. Small pleats around the waist can give you a nipped-in look. The leg should not be too tapered (flared styles are better).

simple style is mandatory since undue ruching and embellishments would unbalance the body.

Avoid too many details and embellishments at the hips or the shoulders that would draw attention to those areas.

Hourglass Body Shape - Jumpsuits Do's & Don'ts
Hourglass Body Shape - Playsuits Do's & Don'ts

A selection of flattering jump- and playsuits:


Not an Hourglass?

Check out the other body shapes:

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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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