The least subjective way to find your body shape(s) is to measure yourself. Plus, by doing this you will always have your measurements ready if you are ever confused about the sizing of online retailers.
You will need a cloth tape measure and wear as little clothing as possible to avoid incorrect measurements. Make sure you stand straight with arms to the side. The tape must be snug against the body, but not too tight so that it compresses the body - making the measurement inaccurate.
Let’s measure the following four areas of your body:
Shoulders - measure around the highest point of your shoulders.
Bust - measure around the chest over the fullest part of the breasts.
Waist - measure around the smallest point of your waist.
Hips - measure around the hip over the largest part of the buttocks.
Determine your body shape(s)
To find out what they are, we can use three methods:
(1) Determine your body shape using your bust, waist, and hip measurements.
(2) Determine your body shape using your shoulder, waist, and hip measurements.
(3) Look in the mirror and determine which parts of your body are out of balance with the rest of the body.
The 5 basic body shapes
Below you will find the characteristics of the five basic body shapes commonly used in the fashion industry.
If you have looked at body shapes before, you might have come across guides that contain more than these five shapes. That is because the five basic body shapes can be broken down into sub-categories, and as mentioned earlier, you probably won't fit into just one of the five categories.
But since we are not really concerned with a definitive categorisation but with determining which parts of your body require visual balancing, you can determine your primary body shape as the one you resonate with the most.
Each of these basic body shapes has a prominent characteristic, and they have been chosen for a reason:
- The rectangle looks more or less like a column, i.e. the body is straight with little to no definition.
- The pear has a bigger lower body compared to the upper body.
- The hourglass has a wider upper and lower body with a narrow waist in the middle.
- The inverted triangle has a bigger upper body compared to the lower body.
- The apple is wider in the middle and upper body with a smaller lower body.
Rectangle Body Shape
Bust/Shoulders and hips will be almost the same - within 5% of each other - and your waist will be less than 25% smaller than your bust.
Pear Body Shape
Your hips will be the largest of the three, while the waist will be the smallest. Your hips will be at least 5% bigger than your bust/shoulders.
Inverted Triangle Body Shape
Your hips will be the smallest of the three measurements. Your bust/shoulder measurements are more than 5% bigger than your hip measurement.
Hourglass Body Shape
Your bust and hips will be almost the same (within 5% of each other) and your waist will be at least 25% smaller than both your bust/shoulders and hips.
Apple Body Shape
Your bust/shoulders and waist will be larger than your hips. Your waist will be the same or wider than your bust. Your hips will be the smallest - up to 5% smaller than bust/shoulders.
If your shoulders and bust are of similar width, your body shape category will be the same under both methods (1) and (2). But if there is a significant difference, you might end up with different results. That's perfectly fine!
For method (3), stand in front of the mirror and look at your figure. Which features do you like the most and want to accentuate, which ones would you like to conceal more? Looking at your body holistically will give you another opportunity to determine which body shapes you lean towards.
How to dress the body shapes
Below you will find detailed guides on how to dress each of the five body shapes. When looking through the guides, think back to the characteristic of each body shape.
Say you have wide hips and wide shoulders, but your bust is quite small. In this case, you would either fall into the pear or hourglass category, depending on which method you use.
But the feature that you would probably be most concerned with is your small bust rather than your hips or shoulders (since they seem to be balanced). The body shape that is characterised by a small bust is the pear, so you could find tips on how to add volume in that category.