Body Language

Body Language

Celebrate your shape by dressing for your body type

By Christy Wright

You don’t need a model figure to top fashion’s best-dressed lists. Whether you’re curvy, angular, bigger on the bottom or bigger on top, there are some easy rules for dressing to make the most of your natural shape.

Select the body type that best describes you for expert tips >

Hourglass Angular Triangle Petite

Inverted Triangle


With womanly curves, your shoulders and hips are approximately the same width, so they balance each other well and taper toward your waist, defining it even more. No matter an hourglass’s dress size or curviness, her proportionately smaller waist will make her appear sizes smaller than she actually is.

Famous hourglasses

  • Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes, Marilyn Monroe, Dita Von Teese

What to Shop For

  • Dresses: sheaths that hug your curves; wrap dresses; cocktail dresses with fitted tops and fuller skirts to draw attention to your waist
  • Tops: wrap tops to highlight your waist; deep necklines and V-necks to accent your chest; dress shirts, with a few top buttons undone to create a V-neck
  • Skirts: Almost any style. A-lines play up your proportions; pleated skirts flatter without adding volume; pencil skirts complement hip proportions.
  • Pants: mid-rise jeans; straight-leg pants; tailored man-style trousers
  • Jackets: fitted ones that taper at the waist and rest at the top of the hip or have a peplum flare
  • Leave on the rack: super-low-rise pants or jeans that could create love handles; empire dresses and long jackets that rest below the hips and hide your waist
  • Can’t-fail item: a wrap dress
  • Spring ’07 splurge: a fitted sheath dress to accentuate your curves
  • Overall: Look for items that skim the lines of your shape and highlight your slim waistline.
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More boyish than curvy, you have broad shoulders but lack the taper of an hourglass, so your waist isn’t defined.

Famous angulars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore

What to Shop For:

  • Dresses: belted dresses with deep, wide necklines that make shoulders seem broader; wrap dresses to create the illusion of a waist; empire-waist dresses to draw attention to your top half and add softness
  • Tops: halter tops to broaden your shoulders and make your waist look more defined; cap or puffed sleeves to softly emphasize shoulders and create the appearance of a taper; feminine, floaty tops to add softness
  • Skirts: A-line, trumpet and circle skirts add volume to mimic the look of curvy hips.
  • Pants: low-rise pants or skinny jeans to make hips appear curvy; boy-cut, low-rise trousers to highlight the shape of your hips and thighs
  • Jackets: fitted and seamed jackets for more curves lLeave on the rack: sleeveless tops that make your shoulders seem boxy
  • Can’t-fail item: a full skirt
  • Spring ’07 splurge: a great belt – cinched, corset-style or skinny – to put the focus on your waist
  • Overall: Look for details and cuts that accentuate your shoulders, create curves and draw attention to your waist.
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You have small shoulders, a thin torso, a defined waist and a curvy lower half. Your small waist can be accented to make you seem sizes smaller than you are.

Famous triangles:

Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jessica Biel

What to Shop For:

  • Dresses: empire waists to accentuate your upper half and softly hide hips; strapless dresses with waistbands; wrap dresses to highlight your waist
  • Tops: structured tops that accent your waist and rest above the hip; tops with ruched or ruffled necklines to add to your bustline
  • Skirts: A-line skirts in darker colours to draw attention away from the hips and bottom; wrap skirts to balance hips
  • Pants: straight-leg pants; boot-cut jeans that hang straight from the knees to balance out your fuller hips
  • Jackets: jackets with structured shoulders that nip in at the waist to add balance to your frame
  • Leave on the rack: skinny jeans; bold patterns and stripes; crewnecks; pleated skirts; cargo pants; tank tops
  • Can’t-fail item: dark boot-cut jeans
  • Spring ’07 splurge: an empire dress to camouflage hips
  • Overall: Balance your figure by highlighting the top half with strong shoulders, deep, wide necklines and fitted waists.
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Body shapes vary, but most petites have smaller frames and are under 5′ 4” in height. Famous petites: Eva Longoria, Kylie Minogue, Isla Fisher

What to Shop For:

  • Dresses: wrap dresses; tailored sheath dresses with empire waists to draw the eye to the upper part of your body and create an illusion of length
  • Tops: sleeveless tops; V-necks; wrap tops; three-quarter-length sleeves
  • Skirts: pleated skirts; A-line skirts; skirts with hemlines that are a bit shorter in the front
  • Pants: straight-leg jeans for the illusion of longer legs; mid-rise pants to elongate your torso
  • Jackets: tailored jackets that sit above or just at the hip without being too fitted; pinstripes
  • Leave on the rack: cropped pants and cuffed pants – both shorten the leg visually; long coats; floor-length dresses; tapered pants; prairie skirts; oversized tops
  • Can’t-fail item: mid-rise straight-leg pants
  • Spring ’07 splurge: men’s wear–inspired slim trousers
  • Overall: Opt for a monochromatic palette from head to toe or visually lengthening details such as pleats and vertical stripes. Avoid oversized items that will make you look smaller.
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You’re curvy on top with an ample bustline, wide-set shoulders, a tapered torso and small, angular hips.

Famous inverted triangles:

Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Hurley, Angelina Jolie

What to Shop For:

  • Dresses: dresses with wide shoulder straps (which minimize shoulders); corset dresses that flare out over the hips
  • Tops: scoop necks to emphasize your chest
  • Skirts: full skirts and A-lines to add volume to your lower half
  • Pants: pants with angled hip pockets or front pockets to add volume; low-rise pants with wide waistbands to accentuate hips
  • Jackets: ones with fitted waists and flared bottoms to fake fuller hips
  • Leave on the rack: halters that draw attention to wide shoulders; pencil skirts that accentuate narrow hips; leggings
  • Can’t-fail item: pants with hip pockets
  • Spring ’07 splurge: the bubble skirt lOverall: Minimize broad shoulders and, with details on pants and full skirts, create the illusion of a curvy lower half.
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