Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hourglass, pear, apple, rectangle, inverted triangle – what body type tells you and what not

This post is going to be more of sartorial philosophy than about detailed recommendations. If you need instructions how to determine your body type you can find it here.

I want to share my thought about what body type means for us and how knowing it or trying to determine it can be not only beneficial, but sometimes also harmful.

First of all it’s a way to identify yourself. When you are saying: I am hourglass (or pear, or whatever), it’s not just a label, there are some associations which almost everybody has, because they are translated by media, incorporated in the culture, you can have it even if you don’t know any body type classification! Several examples of myths which are attached body types: hourglass is considered to be perfect, but a little bit outdated, but when on extreme she must be a porn star, pear is the most feminine of them all, all models are slim rectangles, etc.

Then, second, when you know your body type you can easily found a ton of advise how to dress.  You have detailed descriptions what necklines are the best, what width should be your pants, where top hem should end etc etc… (inverted triangles shouldn’t wear tops which are embellished on shoulders, hourglass should avoid dropped waist, pear shouldn’t wear skinny jeans…)

But I think that there is a trap. When you happily (or not so happily) identified your body type there is always a danger to think about yourself as a body type instead of the real person. Being hourglass does not define who I am, it even does not define how I look. It just gives some idea about that. But it tells nothing about my facial features, my charisma, not even about my legs and arms, my neck, my posture, about the way I move. It doesn’t tell a thing about my personality and how I prefer to express it. It tells nothing about what I love about myself, what I would like to accentuate and what I would be happy to downplay. And all this is very important to choose clothes wisely.

Another trap is that body type stereotypes and associations are loaded. And some of them are loaded negatively. Apples could be seen as shapeless, inverted triangles as not feminine etc. So many women don’t want to be shapeless, or not feminine  and to archive that they deny reality, they find well defined waist with 3″ difference between  waist and hips, long legs with body to legs proportion 5 : 3 and so on. Then they start to dress the body they want instead of the body they have and hate mirrors.

Or it can be not just right for your personality. Hourglass should be all feminine and ladylike, they say? But what if you one of that girls who like hiking, baseball, beer and work in a fire department? I would bet that you would feel uncomfortable like hell in all that pencil skirts and heels suggested for your body type. Triangles are sporty and even masculine? What if it’s not what you are? And you are indeed delicate, kind, soft, hate everything that makes you sweat and strongly prefer cashmere to neoprene?

So, what’s the solution?

Identify goals: what you want to archive with your clothes (find a husband, get some extra points for your carrier, express your personality)

Identify what you have, what your physical characteristics are and what expression they create (broad shoulders translate strength, tan is about being active, tiny soft hands about being delicate an so on, so on, it might have nothing in common with how things really are and the same features mean different things to different people, but there are some constants here and associations are always almost unavoidable).

Identify how your proportions are different from the standard proportions artists have for ‘how to draw a proportional person’*. And ask yourself a question: “do I want to correct them?”.

Identify how you want to appear (I want to look put together and reliable|creative and energetic and intelligent for my carrier e. g.). And what you want to correct or emphasize for this look. But be realistic: you can’t appear delicate if you are 6 foot tall, naturally muscular and have broad shoulders. You can’t rock tomboy if you have very large difference between waist and hips and/or large breasts or large overall . If you try you just make a fool of yourself.  So self acceptance and common sense are important here.

How it works: let’s say you have inverted triangle body type and your shoulders are wider than your hips. Overall expression: strong, often athletic. if you want to look strong and intelligent – perfect! your shoulders say “physical strength”, so you don’t want to hide them, you want to highlight them! But if you want to look or feel feminine then you want to downplay and balance them.

Or. I feel that tomboy is the most close to my heart, but in reality I look like impersonation of Mother Earth. OK, let’s be realistic: what can be expressed? You can express funny and active in any body type, age and size. And downplay gender. So: no to very form hugging and accents on breasts, waist and hips, yes to bright colors, flat soles, funny prints on T-shirts, short hair, visually slimming clothes. But also no to very boyish clothes and accessories and too strait lines, acceptance of the fact that this is a body of a grown up woman. Note that this is mostly NOT about body type.

And now comes very important part: you need to understand optical illusions (I have some posts about Prints and optical illusions, but subject is much wider than that, I know some good sources in Russian explaining how lines created by clothes and textures are changing the perceived shape, but not in English, sorry, that I can’t provide good links here, may be I will write some posts later, but meanwhile you can google optical illusions and apply to clothes illusions which are about lines, angles and perceived size).

Most of advise about dressing body types is based on using optical illusions and trying  to create an illusion of more slim, tall and proportional body which is somewhere in between rectangle and hourglass more close to the last**. So if you know optical illusions you can create not that standard ideal body, but you can to a certain point control the impression your body creates and make it more close to what you want, and not to what is considered beautiful by mass media right now.

But overall shape of your body is only a part of the impression you create, colors have at least the same importance. And personal style is more important than lines and color combined.


* Those are considered to be universal harmony and AFAIK can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci drawings

**If it’s what you want then you can save a lot of time using Google to get instructions how to get closer, but you will be missing a lot of fun.