How to Dress for (And Determine) Your Body Shape

Women’s bodies are generally grouped into five main categories.

This comprehensive list will help you figure out what works for you—and what to avoid.

1. Circle/Apple: Wider mid-section with narrower hip and chest area; thinner arms and legs. 

Fashion Goals:

  • Draw attention away from the middle of the body and toward slimmer areas
  • Focus on shoulders, chest, arms, and legs
  • Enhance the waistline

What Works: 

  • Tops: solid colors, low necklines (wrap and v-neck styles), billowy silhouettes (empire waist and A-line)
  • Skirts: flared, A-line, prints/patterns
  • Pants: prints/patterns; flared, wide-leg or boot-cut styles; back pockets (add volume)
  • Dresses: tunic, shift and wrap styles
  • Sweaters/Jackets: open cardigans, structured silhouettes, busy patterns
  • Shoes/Accessories: high heels, statement necklaces or earrings

Avoid: high necklines; halter, boat-neck, and off-the-shoulder styles; cinched, defined, or built-in waistlines; clingy fabrics; high-rise pants; belts

2. Triangle/Pear: Shoulders and torso are narrower than hips. 

Fashion Goals: 

  • Draw attention away from the lower half, and highlight upper body
  • Focus on shoulder, chest, and neck area
  • Accentuate small waistline

What Works: 

  • Tops: light colors; bright, bold colors; prints/patterns; fitted silhouettes; bustier, sweetheart, and embellished necklines; cowl- or boat-neck, scoop, square and strapless styles (help to add width); sleeves with volume
  • Pants: dark colors; flared, boot-cut, or straight styles; vertical patterns (like a thin pinstripe); draped fabrics; looser fit; slight flare or wide-leg styles; simple waistbands
  • Skirts: flared, full-circle, and A-line silhouettes; large pleats
  • Dresses: details and volume on top; nipped waistline; empire cut; low or plunging necklines; billowy sleeves
  • Sweaters/Jackets: short styles (a few inches above hipline), tailored, shoulder pads, large collars
  • Shoes/Accessories: heels, wedges, statement necklaces or earrings, scarves

Avoid: Skinny pants, tapering, curve-hugging skirts, big pockets on lower body, stiff fabrics

3. Inverted Triangle: Broad shoulders and large bust with narrower hips and only slightly defined waistline.

Fashion Goals: 

  • Draw attention to the lower half of the body
  • Narrow the upper body
  • Focus on the legs

What Works: 

  • Tops: dark colors, v-neck and wrap styles, minimal detail
  • Pants: light colors; bright, bold colors; prints/patterns; texture; volume; flare-leg for balance; tapered for volume
  • Skirts: light colors; bright, bold colors; prints/patterns; texture; volume; shorter lengths; flared or A-line styles
  • Dresses: wrap, sheath with pegged skirt, detailing on hips like pockets or ruffles
  • Sweaters/Jackets: small lapel, collarless, or single-button styles; details like patch pockets that fall below the natural waistline
  • Shoes/Accessories: knee-high boots, thicker heels or wedges, handbags that rest at the hip

Avoid: full sleeves; boatneck and halter styles; shoulder embellishment; big lapels; double-breasted styles; shoulder pads; pencil skirts; skinny jeans; tapered trousers; cropped jackets; platform shoes; scarves

4. Rectangle/Straight: Evenly proportioned with minimal width difference between hips and shoulders and an undefined waistline.

Fashion Goals: 

  • Draw attention to the shoulders and hips
  • Define the waistline
  • Create the illusion of curves for a more feminine shape

What Works: 

  • Tops: cinched or nipped waist; boat-neck, bustier, off-the-shoulder, sweetheart, and wider v-neck and scoop-neck styles; fuller sleeves; ruffles
  • Pants: flare-leg, boot-cut or high-waisted silhouettes; skinny or slim-leg denim; mid to low-rise; drawstring styles; back pockets
  • Skirts: flared, A-line, tulip, ruffled or pencil styles; print/patterns; shorter lengths; wide waistbands
  • Dresses: belted or built-in waistline, empire waist, full skirts
  • Sweaters/Jackets: belted or nipped waist, structured shoulders, tailored, flared, hip lengths
  • Shoes/Accessories: belts, statement earrings, chunky necklaces, stiletto and kitten heels, bright scarves

Avoid: shapeless waistlines, vertical details at waist, straight sheath dresses, tight dresses, bellbottom pants, very full skirts, slouchy jackets, dropped-waist styles

5. Hourglass: Equal hip and bust measurements with a clearly defined waistline.

Fashion Goals: 

  • Draw attention to body’s natural curves
  • Focus on small waistline
  • Accentuate curves

What Works: 

  • Tops: peplum, square necklines, vertical stripes
  • Pants: high-waisted; wide-legged trousers; flared, wide-leg, or boot-cut styles; darker denim washes; stretch denim
  • Skirts: pencil and A-line silhouettes; high-waisted or knee-length styles
  • Dresses: fitted; belted; strapless or off-the-shoulder; wrap styles
  • Sweaters/Jackets: fitted cardigans; single-breasted; structured shoulders; tailored; cropped; belted
  • Shoes/Accessories: high-heeled pumps and peep-toe; belts

Avoid: too much structure; stiff fabrics; high necklines; bulky details on top; detailing near hips or rear; drop-waists; heavily beaded or embellished dresses; slouchy denim; shapeless styles; flouncy silhouettes; hip belts