The first step is to understand and feel comfortable with your body shape and coloring.
If we’re to believe what we see on television or read in fashion magazines, “normal” women appear to be a size 8-10 (US 6-8), 180 centimeters (5’9″) tall, have a perky 12B bust and are aged 18.
Hmmmmm. In reality, it’s more like this.
In Australia, the average woman is actually size 16 (US14), about 165 cms (5’4″) tall and weighs 74kg, wears a 14D bra and is 37.
The average American woman wears a size 14 (UK16) dress, is 5’5″ (166 cms) tall, weighs 142 lbs (75kg) and is 44 years old.
In the UK the average woman wears a size 14 (US12) is 5’3″ (162 cms) tall, weighs 147 pounds (66 kg) and is 38.
Research by beauty company Dove shows today’s models weigh an average of 23 per cent less than the average woman. Twenty years ago, that difference was 8 per cent.
Sydney University Lecturer, Dr Jenny O’Dea, an expert in women’s body attitudes, studied the Dove research results and in conjunction with her own research stated: “Women all around the world are faced with pressure to conform to extremely narrowly defined ideals of beauty. The ideal in Western countries is an unachievable level of idealized perfection that includes a dangerously low body weight; an unnaturally young age of perceived beauty (for example often pre adolescent, pre pubescent); unblemished skin (no lines, freckles, spots, moles or acne marks); and often, racist in that it defines beauty very narrowly – the slim, white woman with blonde hair.”
So the most important lesson for all of is – embrace your looks and body because you are normal! Real women are beautiful. Real women are not underweight or underage. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful, just the way she is.
BODY SHAPE BASICS
So, what about your body shape?
It’s important to understand your basic body shape so you know what type of clothes are going to suit you best. There are six classic horizontal body shapes and three vertical shapes. You may not fit exactly into one of the shapes, you may be a hybrid of two or perhaps three. In that case it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about each of the shapes so you start to get an idea of the negative and positive aspects.
The Triangle (or Pear) Shape is the most common shape for women. You and millions of others lament, “My hips are too big. My butt sticks out too far. These jeans don’t fit in the waist!” If this sounds familiar, you are a triangle. You also may be a triangle if you feel insecure about the size of your bust. In other words your hips may not be overly large but your bust is smaller in proportion.
You need to balance your hips by widening your shoulders.
Tops with horizontal stripes or jackets with small shoulder pads can give more visual width to the top half of your body and bring the lower body half into balance.
There’s also several rules you need to follow for top and jacket lengths, and skirt and pant styles.
Inverted Triangles are just that – an upside down triangle who is wider through the shoulders and sometimes the bust and narrower at the waistline and hips. Often, women with this body shape are naturally athletic. Many inverted triangles who are short have a large bust line, while others are slim and tall and just have wide shoulders.
The narrow hips and waistline with a full bust or wide shoulders is the key to identifying individuals with this shape. Inverted triangles need to avoid shoulder pads or any other items that add to shoulder width – such as epaulets or ruffles that jut out from a sleeve at shoulder level.
As a rule, this body shape is shown off to best advantage with crisp tailored styles in fabrics with a tighter weave. A dark single breasted jacket with wide light colored pants will balance the inverted triangle shape.
Choosing pants and skirts in the right color, fabric and style will have a big impact on your overall look. There’s also certain types of top styles and dress styles you need to avoid so your shoulders don’t look even wider.
Typical Oval shaped bodies have a large bust area, a large waist measurement with a relatively smaller hip measurement. So the challenge is making the oval shape look a little longer and leaner. Oval shapes are often shorter in stature but can still have a very shapely leg and arm. This body shape can look quite awesome however as one of their key fashion styles is to show off a fabulous cleavage.
For starters you need to concentrate on vertical lines and avoid tucked in tops.
V necked tops look best, along with soft flowing plain or small prints to show off curves. Wearing monochromatic (single color) outfits will create a longer and slimmer line.
Ladies with this shape are flattered by tops and skirts with uneven hemlines, as demonstrated by the lovely flowing two piece ensemble on the right.
Three quarter sleeves are the best choice and even then, they can also be uneven and draped.
A Diamond’s body weight is concentrated in the mid-section and generally is accompanied by hips that are average to wide and thighs that carry a little extra weight. Most Diamonds have average to narrow shoulder width and often have legs and arms that are slimmer than the rest of the body. The major concern of ladies with a Diamond shape is how to disguise the tummy area.Women often are confronted with this shape after pregnancy. Some bounce back into their pre-pregnancy jeans and some are left with a little extra tummy to love. For others the Diamond shape comes as a natural “jewel of aging” when metabolism slows and there is a genetic tendency to store extra weight in the mid-section.
It’s best to avoid anything overly fitted, patterned, contrasting or tailored through the waist.
Dresses with empire waistlines will make the waist appear higher and elongate short legs.
The long line jacket drapes softly and draws attention to the upper area of the body whilst hiding the mid section.
The Hourglass figure is usually every woman’s dream, but depending on the proportions, can be difficult to dress.
You have an Hourglass shape if your bust and hip measurements are similar and your waist is about 10 inches (25 cm) smaller. Your bust, hips, thighs and buttocks tend to be full and rounded and you may also have a slightly rounded tummy area. In a word you are curvaceous. An hourglass lady can look wonderful or tarty depending on her clothes style. She needs to avoid clingy/too tight tops and anything with straight darts. She should resist hiding her curves under baggy clothing, which will only add pounds to her appearance.
Without establishing the waistline, hourglass figures are in danger of looking overweight. Yet, over fitting of the waist looks cheap because it emphasizes bust and hips.
Princess seams – seams that originate in the middle of the shoulder or at the arm hole seam and run through the bust point to the hem line – allow hourglass figures to accommodate their bust, waist and hip contours.
A wide necked fitted blouse provides the hourglass figure with definition around the torso.
If you have an athletic figure and not much waist definition, then you have a Rectangle shape. The rectangular body has little or no waistline definition, is often short waisted and is sometimes referred to as a ruler shape. Rectangles can be tall or short. Some are very slender and petite. Others may be a maturing hourglass figure whose added waistline inches are now close to that of the bust and hips.
The key to dressing the rectangle shape is to provide the illusion of a defined waistline which make you look more curvy.
Choose empire styles, shirtwaist and wrap styles, if the belt is of the same material and is not wide and contrasting.
Add a camisole under the wrap style if it is too low. Avoid stiff fabrics. A wrap style dress provides the rectangular body shape with waist and hip definition.
Of course there’s more to it than these basic horizontal shapes!
There’s also the vertical dimensions – such as long torso with short legs, short torso with long legs; as well as arm shapes and leg shapes to consider.
When you know how, you can create illusions which completely change your look. It’s amazing what can be achieved with clothing, color, texture and accessory variations…