Apple, pear, banana, mango… there are so many terms to describe women’s body shapes it’s easy to think you’re reading a recipe for a fruit salad. But don’t let all these bizarre terms confuse you, because knowing your body shape is integral to dressing your best.
One of the biggest faux pas is dressing for a body shape different than yours. No matter how gorgeous an outfit is, if it doesn’t do your body justice it will fall flat, because the right clothes should celebrate the best version of yourself–body included. We all know women come in all shapes and sizes, and these shapes and sizes can also change over time. In particular, it is very common for your body to change through menopause, with women typically putting on weight around the stomach which, understandably, can be difficult to come to terms with. But it’s important to remember that this change is very common, and your body is still just as beautiful—and try to see it as an opportunity to wear new styles that previously wouldn’t have worked on you.
One of the most common difficulties women experience is finding the perfect dress. The right dress can have an instant transformative effect on mood and confidence, but trying to find one that suits your shape can be a demoralizing experience. So here are my top tips on how to understand your body and find the right dress for you:
If you have an average to larger bust, lack a defined waist, and tend to gain weight around the stomach, then you are apple-shaped. As mentioned, it’s an extremely common shape, yet sadly a lot of women feel ashamed of it due to our fixation on narrow waists. But apple-shaped women typically have other amazing ‘assets’ such as fabulous legs or a great cleavage. So the key is to divert attention away from your waist and onto these gorgeous areas, which will balance you out and keep you from looking top-heavy.
First, look for dresses that are slim and fall straight, such as tunic or shift dresses, but that are not completely shapeless, so that they don’t hang directly down from your bust and make you look like a tent! But don’t choose one that is too tight either–it should skim over your middle to flatter your curves without clinging to them.
Ruched fabric that sweeps diagonally across the middle can be particularly flattering as it lengthens you while hiding any lumps and bumps. And opt for dresses that stop at the knee to show off your fabulous legs or have a scoop or v-neck to show a tasteful hint of cleavage.
Finally, invest in a great-fitting, boosting bra as this will create space between your middle and bust.
If your hips are wider than your shoulders and waistline, with a defined waist and petite upper half, this makes you pear-shaped. To balance out your shape, the trick is to draw attention up to give the illusion of a broader top, and to accentuate your waist to give you an hourglass figure.
A-line and fit and flare dresses are ideal as they skim over your hips rather than cling. Also look for dresses that have strong shoulders or eye-catching details such as embellishment or a pattern around the top to draw the eye up.
Women who are short and have overall small proportions but with curves are petite. If this is you, you’ll want to accentuate your slight figure while also lengthening your body.
Most dress shapes will suit you, but look for ones that either stop above the knee or at mid-calf or are full length. Anything that stops around the lower calf will make you look shorter. Also, while prints can look great, steer clear of any big graphic designs which might overwhelm you.
Those with a rectangular, athletic-like figure are long. While the majority of styles will suit you, you may want to create the illusion of being curvier, which can be achieved by defining your waist.
Look for a dress with a defined waistband such as a belt or ruching, while A-line or slim fitted cuts are particularly good. You may also want to play up your bust, so go for a strapless dress or a plunging neckline.
You can also draw attention to your defined arms and strong shoulders with a halter neck or off the shoulder dress.
If you have a well-defined, narrow waist, and your hips and bust are roughly the same width, you are hourglass. You’ll want to accentuate your figure, especially your waist. But you may also have a large bust, so you’ll need to find pieces that fit well on the top, rather than squash you in, and flatter.
Again, look for dresses with a defined waistband, while a V-shaped or scoop neckline will show off your bust. Slim fitted body-con dresses will really show off your curves, and keep a belt to hand as this will further accentuate your waist.
And a word of caution: The Wrap Dress
Hailed as a universally flattering dress, the wrap dress is an easy go-to option for most women. But be careful: not every wrap dress will suit you because they are cut differently. If you have weight around the middle, make sure to choose one that ties just below the bust rather than directly across the waist. And still remember the tips above to make sure you pick the perfect one.