Remember when our brilliant co-founder Hillary Kerr revealed 23 things she wished she’d known at age 23? Nestled among her nuggets of truth was one point that particularly stood out to us: Not every trend is for every body, and that’s okay. Her sentiment endorses the value of dressing for your particular shape and promises you’ll be more comfortable and confident if you embrace your silhouette, rather than work against it.
So how do we put Kerr’s smart life lesson into practice? The first step is to ask, What body shape am I? Rather than compare your body to pictures of celebrities or fruit today, we’re using Oprah’s fashion expert Bradley Bayou’s foolproof technique. Bayou’s system uses math—it is a little intensive, but we’ll walk you through it—to double-check that you’ve found your real shape.
We’re limiting today’s article to the four major body types for simplicity’s sake, but for a more in-depth look at all the shapes and sizes Bayou covers, check out his book, The Science of Sexy, wherein he gives tips on how to dress 48 different types of bodies. Also, keep in mind that no matter your size, you can have any of the below four body shapes; it’s more about how your weight (whatever it may be) is distributed.
With that said, get out your tape measure and scroll down to find your real body shape.
Shoulders: Have someone help you measure from the tip of one shoulder all the way around you. The measuring tape should be high up around your shoulders so it almost slips off.
Bust: Pull the measuring tape taut across the fullest part of your bust and around your back. Don’t pull the tape so taut that your breasts start to squish!
Waist: Measure the smallest part of your natural waist, just above the belly button.
Hips: Start at one hip (below the hip bone) and wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your butt.
Now that you have your measurements, you’ll use those numbers to determine your body shape!
You’ll notice the equations below allow you to use your bust or shoulder measurements interchangeably. Doing this accounts for those who have especially big or small busts or especially narrow or broad shoulders. You may find that doing the equation with your shoulders versus your bust places you in two different body-type categories. This means your body type may actually span more than one category; for example, you may find you’re more of an A-line when using your bust measurement and more of an hourglass when using your shoulder measurement. If this is the case for you, you should consider both body types when shopping and, ultimately, make purchases by seeing what looks best on you.
Scroll down to see which shape description matches your body, and then use Bayou’s equation to verify you’ve found your true shape.
Confirm by checking the numbers! You are an inverted triangle if your shoulder or bust measurement is more than 5% bigger than your hip measurement (shoulders or bust ÷ hips ≥ 1.05).
For example, you are an inverted triangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 34.25 inches or smaller.
What looks amazing on you: Fitted jackets with a nipped-in waist and a flared bottom.
Why: The defined waist and flare over your hips create the illusion of lower-body curves and will help balance out your broad shoulders.
Confirm by checking the numbers! You are a rectangle if your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust (waist ÷ shoulders or bust ≥ .75) and your shoulder, bust, and hip measurements are within 5% of each other.
Find this out by looking at your shoulder, bust, and hip measurements. Call the largest of the three measurements t (usually it will be your shoulders) and the other two measurements y and z. Multiply t by 0.95. If y and z are greater than the result of t x 0.95, then your shoulders, bust, and hips are within 5% of each other.
For example, you are a rectangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your waist is 27 inches or more.
What looks amazing on you: Skirts or dresses with volume-increasing details like ruffles, bows, or embellishments.
Why: They fill out your slight hips and balance your upper body.
Confirm by checking the numbers! You are a triangle (also known as pear) if your hips are more than 5% bigger than your shoulders or bust (hips ÷ shoulders or bust ≥ 1.05).
For example, you are a triangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 37.75 inches or larger.
What looks amazing on you: Fit-and-flare dresses.
Why: They will show off how little you are on top and are roomier from the waist down for your curvier bottom half.
Confirm by checking the numbers! You are an hourglass if your waist is at least 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust (waist ÷ shoulders or bust ≤ 0.75), your waist is at least 25% smaller than your hips (waist ÷ hips ≤ 0.75), and your shoulder and hip measurements are within 5% of each other.
Find this out by looking at your hips and shoulder measurements. Call the larger of the two measurements t and the smaller of the two measurements y. Multiply t by 0.95. If y is greater than the result of t x 0.95, then your hips and shoulders are within 5% of each other.
For example, you are an hourglass if your shoulders and hips measure 36 inches and your waist is 27 inches or smaller.
What looks amazing on you: Wrap tops and dresses.
Why: They accentuate your waist and enhance your hourglass figure.