What's my body type?
Updated: Feb 14
Why it even matters, how to actually know your body type, and the styling tips for each type.
Has anyone ever said to you, "Oh, you're totally an <insert shape> shape." Or, have you always referred to yourself as a certain shape, without question? This was me, too. My mom and sister would always tell me that I have an hourglass shape. But then I finally took my measurements one day and found out that I am, in fact, not hourglass! Not at all! I am actually quite straight... a rectangle (aka, straight or ruler). But more likely, with my broad shoulders, I am an inverted triangle.
Why it Matters
I hate labels, much less being likened to a geometric shape or fruit. So why should we even care about our body type? To me, it's not so much that the labeling is important, but in knowing what your measurements actually are, so that you can be more strategic about dressing. It's just a fancy (or weird) way of talking about how to dress your "trouble" spots. Got a booty? Chest too large? Chest too small? Don't love your tummy? All of these shapes are ways to help you get clearer about how to create balance when putting together an outfit - highlighting the parts you love and minimizing the ones you don't.
Because at the end of the day.... feeling 100% confident in your body is what matters most.
Here's a second benefit to knowing your measurements (and this one is big in our online shopping world!): We all know that no two stores are exactly the same in their sizing, so knowing your measurements will come in extra handy when you need to decide which size to order online.
So let's get to the facts once and for all, shall we? Let's not work off assumptions and instead work from your real measurements. Before you cringe, and tell me "No way am I going to take my measurements!" I'm here to tell you there's 3 great reasons why you should muster up the courage to do it:
No one else has to know your measurements (except your stylist, and tailor perhaps!)
It will make things so much easier when figuring out what to put on your body, which styles to go for and which to avoid, and
You will love the results when you can finally dress in a way that accentuates your body.
So get out your tape measure, and something to jot down your notes, because you're going to want to keep this handy.
How & What to Measure
We are going to take measurements of six areas of your body, as stated below, in inches. A soft tape measure works best for measurements, but if you don't have one handy, borrow one from your toolbox! Also, be sure as you measure that the tape stays flat across your body, no twisting!
Shoulders - Keeping your arms down, measure around the top of your arms, as high as you can go towards your shoulders without it slipping off.
Chest - Measure around the fullest part of your chest. If you are wearing a bra, make sure it has light or no padding.
Waist - Measure around the smallest part of your waist. Note, this may or may not align with your belly button.
Hip - Measure around the fullest part of your hip, including your butt.
Inseam - This is important for when you shop for jeans and pants! Place the measure on the inside of your leg, starting at your crotch, or where your inner leg mets your pelvic bone. then run the measure down your leg until your ankle bone. That's your inseam!
Rise - Ever since high-rise jeans came on the scene, retailers have been publishing their "rise" measurement. This is important to know, as it will help you find just the right fit in pants and jeans. Start at your crotch (or where your inner leg mets your pelvic bone) and run the tape measure up to your belly button, or wherever you like your jeans to land. You can also just measure your favorite pair of jeans from the crotch to the top of the jean.
OK, got them down? Now, on to the body shapes! Keep your measurements handy as we go through each body type.
The 5 Main Body Types
There are five main body types that we will cover here, along with styling tips for each:
Triangle (aka, pear)
Circle (aka, apple)
Rectangle (aka, straight, or ruler, sometimes also called athletic)
Note that before we get started, you may be one or a mix of two body shapes. Every body is unique and different. And no, there is not one perfect body type (sorry, Barbie!). Whether you are tall or petite or plus size doesn't matter. Your size doesn't matter. Your weight doesn't matter. Your age doesn't matter. These body types are representative of all types of bodies!
And above all, remember this:
It's not about what size you wear. It's about how you wear your size.
Because confidence is truly the best outfit. Rock it and own it.
Now, let's get to those 5 shapes...
An inverted triangle shape is where your shoulder and bust measurements are larger than your hip and waist measurements. Creating a visual inverted triangle. This is my body type! Some clients of mine that have this shape tell me they have trouble wearing structured blazers or tops with puff sleeves or defined shoulders as they feel like a linebacker. Or, they will tell me they have no butt or hips. (Yes, it's true! and if you have this body shape the same thought may have crossed your mind!)
You will know if you are this shape if your shoulder measurement is larger than your hips by 2 inches or more. Or your bust measurement is larger than your hips by 4 inches or more.
Celebrities with an inverted triangle shape: Angelina Jolie, Naomi Campbell, Michelle Obama, Renee Zellwegger
Styling Tips for Inverted Triangle Shapes:
The goal for inverted triangle shapes is to balance their broader top half with their smaller bottom half, by creating more volume on the bottom, and de-emphasizing the top half.
Wear items to minimize your upper body, and maximize your lower body.
Show off your legs
Wear patterns and color on bottom half to draw attention there
Flares and wide leg pants will help create volume on the bottom half
Avoid strong, structured shoulders like boxy blazers, padded shoulders, off the shoulder tops or puff sleeves as that will further accentuate your broad top half
Triangle (aka, Pear shape)
The Triangle shape (aka, Pear) is where your hip measurement is larger than your bust measurement, thus creating a visual triangle. If you have this shape, you may hear yourself saying that you struggle to dress your bigger hips, thighs or booty!
You will know you are a triangle if your hip measurement is bigger than your shoulder measurement by 2 inches or more, or bigger than your bust measurement by 4 inches or more.
Celebrities with a triangle shape: Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Rihanna
Styling Tips for Triangle Body Shapes:
The goal for triangle shapes is to create balance by emphasizing their upper body, creating a defined waist, and minimizing their bottom half.
Emphasize your upper body and shoulders, think structured shoulders, blazers, puff sleeves, off the shoulder tops.
Create a defined waist (belts, structured blazers, v-necks, and ruching at the waist are great ways to do this)
Boatneck or portrait necklines can emphasize shoulders and broaden them
De-emphasize your lower body and hips with darker colors or streamlined shapes (think: long lean lines of a flare or bootcut, A-line skirts)
Circle (aka, Apple)
Circle (aka, apple) shapes are where your bust and waist are the largest measurements. You will know if you are a circle shape if your waist is larger than bust, waist, or hips by 2 or more inches. Women with this shape often tell me they struggle with their midsection, large chest or arms, and that they want to highlight their legs!
Celebrities with a circle shape: Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, Catherine Zeta Jones, Oprah, Drew Barrymore
Styling Tips for Circle Body Types:
For circle shapes, the goal is to balance your body by creating the illusion of a defined waistline. It helps to create structure at your shoulder, as well as at your hips to create this illusion. Also, show off those legs!
Wear waist defining tops, like wrap tops, or peplums
Lengthen your torso - V-necklines do wonders for this, also blazers
Monochromatic looks can make you appear longer and leaner
Wear longer jackets, avoid cropped lengths that hit right at waist
Wear jewelry to draw attention upward, like a necklace
Try interesting necklines, like scoop, v-neck, portrait to draw attention upward
Avoid large or noisy patterns on top - save that for the bottom half
If you wear flowy tops, make sure lower half is streamlined and sleek so you don't lose your shape
Wear skirts that are a-line or full, above knee
Wear high-waisted pants/jeans
The hourglass shape is if you have similar measurements in your shoulders, waist and hips, but your waist is clearly smaller. You will know you are an hourglass if your waist is 8 inches or more less than your other measurements. Also, your shoulder and hip measurements will be very close - within an inch or two. Women with this body type often tell me they have a curvy body!
Celebrities with an hourglass shape: Christina Hendricks, Sophia Vergara, Priyanka Chopra, Scarlett Johansson, Salma Hayek, Kate Winslet
Styling Tips for Hourglass Shapes:
The goal for hourglass shapes is to define your waist, without over-emphasizing your top or bottom half.
Emphasize waist with belts, structured blazers, wrap tops, peplums or wrap dresses
Ruching at the waist in dresses will further emphasize your waist
Can wear skinny or tapered pants
Also bootcut, flare jeans work well to further enhance the hourglass shape
A-line or full dresses further enhance your shape, but you can also wear body-con styles easily
Structured blazers or puff sleeve tops will highlight your top half
Form fitting dresses that show off your curves work well
Rectangle (Also known as Straight or Ruler)
Rectangle shapes (aka, straight, athletic, or ruler) are where your shoulder, bust, waist and hip measurements are all about the same (within 1-3 inches). Clients with this shape will tell me they have no curves, no butt, small chest, no hips or an athletic build. They want to create curves!
Celebrities with the Rectangle body type: Hillary Swank, Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Middleton,
Styling Tips for Rectangle Shapes:
The goal for rectangle shapes is to create curves, since these bodies typically don't have them. So you will want to define your waist, and create curves on your top and bottom.
Wear belts, blazers, peplum tops or wrap tops to define your waist
Add structure at your shoulders, like with a blazer, puff sleeve or padded shoulder to create a visual difference between shoulders and waist
Show off your slender arms and legs
Wear high waist pants, this will create an illusion of a defined waist
Wear pants with flare, bootcut or wide leg to create more volume on bottom half
Ruching at the waist in dresses or shirts will create definition
Tell me in the comments: What is your body type? Do you have additional questions I can help you with?
Get confident dressing your body type.
Want expert help finding styles that flatter your body type and make you feel 100% confident? Let's chat! Set up a free 30-minute style consult with me (I work virtually) where I can learn about your style challenges and talk about how I can help. Book a time on my calendar right here!
Hi, I'm so glad you're here! I'm an Expert Stylist and Personal Brand Coach, and owner of Style Decoded. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help professional women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brand online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and client service is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style.
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