Disclaimer – * Post Copied verbatim from Reddit.com*
- To ascertain a basic understanding of your body type:
- Measure your bust at the fullest part
- Measure your hips at the fullest part (often the groin or upper thighs)
- Measure your waist at the narrowest point
I will use a hypothetical woman with 38-inch hips to discuss how your results may affect your body shape.
Women who do not have a very defined waist, ie, neither hip nor bust measurement is more than 8 inches greater than the waist measurement, are rulers. This can also be called the banana. An example might be a woman who has 38-inch hips, a 32-inch waist, and a 37-inch bust. Her hips are nearly the same size as her bust, but her waist is not very defined. If a ruler feels she has a belly she wants to hide, she may prefer to follow guidelines for an apple.
If your waist measurement is bigger than your hips or your bust measurements, you are an apple. An example would be a woman with a 35-inch bust, 39-inch waist, and 38-inch hips.
If your hips are your widest measurement by more than two inches, you are a pear. An example would be a woman with a 35-inch bust, 25-inch waist, and 38-inch hips.
If your bust is your largest measurement by more than two inches, you are an inverted triangle or strawberry. An example would be a woman with a 41-inch bust, 32-inch waist, and 38-inch hips.
If your bust and your hips are roughly the same sizes (within two inches), and your waist is at least 8-10 inches smaller you are an hourglass. An example is a woman with a 37-inch bust, 27-inch waist, and 38-inch hips.
That advice is wrong and doesn’t work for my body type
Body type advice is very, very limited (I will discuss this more in the final section) but can be useful for three reasons:
1) Many women do not have a sense of what their bodies actually look like and are hung up on a particular part or measurement. Having a sense of your silhouette can make a big difference– you may feel like you have a belly but if your waist is tiny relative to your hips, you may look better thinking about how to play up your proportions rather than hide your belly.
2)It can help you understand why garments fit you the way they do, and why you have a particular set of fit challenges.
3) Many women who are frustrated with their body would like to look more like an elongated hourglass. Understanding how your body overlaps or differs from this type can help you improve the way you dress. However, it is important to note that this is not every woman’s goal but is a potential starting point.
Ok cool, what do I do now?
1) Search FFA and Google for recommendations for your body type. You will find a wealth of knowledge and past posts for pears, apples, reverse triangles and rulers. Actually, re-looking at this, we haven’t talked as much about rulers on FFA.
2) When reading this advice, think about whether you like it. Most advice is trying to help women create a more hourglass shape (ie pears should add volume up top, etc). These might not be your figure priorities.
3) When looking for clothes, understand that most mall manufacturers are cutting their garments for a woman who has a slight pear shape (bust 7-8 inches larger than the waist, hips about 10 inches larger than waist). This is the most common body type and manufacturers are interested in fitting as many women as possible into a given size. Many women post to FFA looking for the perfect brand that caters to their body type. Some brands may run curvier or straighter, but in general, there are very, very few brands that set out to cater to, say, the apple shaped woman. In general, you are going to have to buy clothing to fit the largest part of your body and be prepared to either get things tailored or buy things where a looser fit does not matter. However, it is worth paying attention to cuts that work for you. I’m an hourglass with a proportionately broader upper body and will always have better luck with Vero Moda (a Danish company) than Uniqlo (Japanese company). A petite Asian woman is likely to have the opposite experience.
4) If you are unsatisfied with this analysis and would like to go a bit deeper into dressing your body, please keep reading.
The first thing I would like to reinforce is that the idea of body type is very limited and just a jumping off point for understanding your silhouette. This idea has multiple components:
1) The most important thing is what aspects of your body you would personally like to play up and play down. Please read /u/Schiaparelli‘s excellent Reddit side bar for a really incredible take on proportion. Most body type advice is about looking skinnier or looking more like an hourglass. This might not be what you want. It’s good to have a mental list in your head about what components you would like to play up or down. I have wide shoulders and like them to look bigger, not smaller. This may be different for you than for your friends or your shopping buddies, so have in mind how you would like to look. Hips are a real flashpoint for a lot of women so some women may say anything that emphasizes the hips looks bad. How you feel about this depends on your own personal proportions.
That said, try to focus more on your overall silhouette than “the area over my knee looks chunky and I hate it.” More people will see the forest, not the trees. There should be some balance between “I’m an hourglass so I follow hourglass rules that work for all hourglasses” and “It’s really important for me to hide my bony elbows, wide ribcage, and love handles while making my calves look more proportionate. What style of dress will do that?”
2) There are many other body type systems and guides, many of which take more measurements into account and are more thorough. A personal favourite is Imogen Lamport’s system, which you can read about here. If you are into this stuff, you can google around for a system that works best for you– the one above is just the most common and straightforward as a starting point.
3) A lot of us don’t find our body shape that important or helpful when dressing. You can read more about that in this discussion. On the other hand, many of us have found understanding our measurements helpful in order to appreciate our bodies more.
4) Other measurements and proportions that may be helpful in understanding your body (this is just a preliminary look):
-Height: if you are very tall, you may look more like a ruler despite having hourglass proportions, for instance. If you are very short, you will look a lot curvier than someone ten inches taller than you given the same measurements. (Sir Mixalot demonstrates an excellent understanding of this concept when stating his preference for curvier women: “36-24-36? Ha ha, only if she’s 5’3”.)
-Leg length to torso length
–short waisted versus long waisted: this intersects with torso length but is a bit different.
-Hip shelf versus slope: do your hips start right under your waist or do you have a sloping curve out to your hips?
-Shoulder width: if you are a pear with broad shoulders, you may feel/look more like an hourglass. If you are an hourglass with broad shoulders, you may look more like an inverted triangle.
-Underbust: how narrow is your torso, aside from your waist? Do you have a broad ribcage?
-butt versus hips: does your hip measurement come more from butt volume or from hip width? If you have a round/athletic butt, your hip measurement may be large but look relatively narrow from the front.
-weight: skinnier women may appear to be rulers whereas heavier women may appear to be apples. Skinny women may also assume they are rulers because they don’t see themselves as “curvy” whereas heavier women may think midsection weight makes them an apple.
-Generally, side/side measurements versus back/front measurements. The way we tell people to measure their proportions is with a tape measure, getting a 360 degree measurement. An alternate way of assessing body shape is tracing your shape in a mirror or on graph paper. This results in a side-side, front view body type rather than a 360 degree one. Either approach is ultimately limited. If you have a straight up and down torso with a large bust and a round butt, you may not feel like an hourglass or look like one in the mirror (torso does not slope out or in for waist) but you will measure like one. If you have a broad ribcage and hips with a defined waist (common among large framed people who are at their lowest weight) but a flat chest and butt, you could have a very sloped, curvy torso from the front but measure like a ruler.
The better you understand some of these alternate variables, the better you may understand how your body looks. It can also help in understanding why clothing does or doesn’t fit you. I have a small waist but a proportionately large ribcage and was frustrated with poor dress fit throughout my teens until I finally understood it was my underbust and not my waist that caused this issue. While this doesn’t necessarily help me find magic dresses for large ribcaged women, it helps me feel less frustrated with my body.
Measurements can be a source of anxiety but they are also a source of power. In our body image conscious society, many women have frustrations with their body shaped on their experiences. If you went through puberty early, you may always feel like your curves are extreme because they developed early. Looking at your actual measurements may serve as a counterpoint to these sentiments. I often see two women post on FFA with very similar measurements, and one feels she has the perfect body she wants to flaunt whereas another feels like everything is wrong. One’s own feelings about one’s body are a really important factor when getting dressed, but understanding your measurements and how they shape garment fit can be a helpful reality check.
I hope people find this a useful starting point in thinking about body shape. I think it can be one useful analytic tool in thinking about how to dress oneself but should never be seen as more than a tool in your arsenal. You may choose to reject it entirely, or determine that a different factor is most important to you when selecting your silhouette.