Understanding female body shapes
I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body…
So goes the lyrics from the hit single “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. It doesn’t require Ed Sheeran to tell us that the shape of your body (for both men and women) determines how attractive you look. However, we are all born with our bodies and we should never feel sorry for a God-given gift.
The only thing in our control is how well we groom and what you choose to wear based on your body shape or body type.
This article will help you understand the different female body shapes and how you can dress based on your body shape.
Why do we have different female body shapes?
Researchers have found that human beings have had diverse body types millions of years ago! Scientists compared the fossils found in Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Georgia and found that there were significant differences in the size and shapes of the early human beings.
In general, the female body structure is characterised by the narrow waist, wide bust and hips. However, there are several female body shapes due to a variety of reasons and the primary reason for the differences in body shapes is estrogen.
Estrogen is a hormone produced by both men and women. However, women have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies when they attain a reproductive age. Estrogen promotes the growth of breasts and hips and this once again is different for every woman.
Estrogen also causes body fat to be distributed in buttocks, thighs and hips while leaving out the waist. This distribution of fat ends up being different even among women and that’s why every woman has a different body shape.
The hormone profile of the woman dictates her eventual body shape. Also, as a woman grows older, the estrogen levels may come down and she may end up losing some of her “feminine” body characteristics (example: reduction in the size of breasts after menopause).
Hormonal changes also happen during pregnancy and after pregnancy resulting in some serious headaches for women who suddenly find their favourite clothes not fitting them properly anymore!
There are secondary reasons for differences in female body shapes as well. These include genetics and your lifestyle choices such as food habits or how much you exercise.
When you wear clothes that don’t match your body shape…
A study in Britain found that 9 in 10 women did not know their body shape. That’s not all. Many women believed that they had an hourglass figure while in reality, a majority had a rectangular body shape.
The study also found that a majority of women who have hourglass body shape in the 18 to 30 year age group lost the shape as they age and that most women spend a lot of money altering brand new clothing to fit their body shape!
Because of the inherent lack of interest or awareness in learning about the true body shape, women end up making a lot of mistakes in choosing the clothes and accessories. Here are some common mistakes women make when they end up wearing clothes that do not correspond to their body shape.
In the first picture on the left (see above), the saree seems to smother the woman completely. She might have as well spread the saree on the ground and rolled on it! The goal of the saree is to accentuate your curves and cover your body at the right places and in this case, it only succeeds in covering up the woman.
The problem with the saree that Sonia Gandhi is wearing is that it reinforces the lack of curves in her body. While it is true that Sonia Gandhi is not trying to make a fashion statement here, the saree makes her look like a barrel!
Look at the picture marked 3 in the above image. The lady is wearing a loose-fitting denim jacket. The problem with the choice of clothes here is that the denim jacket makes her already pencil-thin figure appear like a scarecrow.
In picture 4 in the image above, the baggy trousers completely hide the lower part of the body. The sad thing here is that the model probably has beautiful, long legs and we have only our imagination to wonder what she might actually look like.
Finally, picture marked 5 in the above image is a classic case of wrong styling of the salwar for the body type. The empire hemline and the palazzo pants which works for bustier women is wasted on a model who will probably look gorgeous in a traditional salwar.
When you go shopping with complete disregard for female body shapes, you are asking for trouble. Read on to find out how you can create a wardrobe that works for your body shape and type.
Types of female body shapes and how to dress based on your body shape
Female body shapes have different types of classifications. The apparel industry has a system of female body type classification while health professionals classify female body shapes based on fruits to drive home potential health issues, and academicians have their own approaches to classifying body types of women.
We cut through this clutter to give you in-depth information on the primary body shape categories for women along with valuable tips to dress elegantly according to different female body shapes.
Women with a rectangular body shape have no definition at the waistline devoid of curves. Shoulders and hip are about the same width and the body is proportional.
How can you find out if you have rectangle body shape? Your shoulder, bust and hip measurements are within 5% of each other and your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust.
Celebrities with rectangle body shape – Ann Hathaway, Trisha Krishnan, Anoushka Sharma.
Western clothes for rectangular body shape
You can pull off a men’s T-shirt or even men’s trousers without a fuss considering the fact that you don’t have to contend with a feminine hip or a large bust! When you wear western clothes, you can use belts to define your body and wear layered clothing such as a separate top or crop tops along with skirts.
Sarees & Lehengas for rectangular body shape
When you wear saree, choose stiff materials like starched cotton sarees that can be used to add definitions where needed. You should definitely avoid fabric material that is lightweight and clings to your body. The same style guideline works for lehengas as well. Choose lehengas that have a full flare from the waist and cropped up style blouse.
Salwars & Kurtis for rectangular body shape
Shop for Kurtis and Tunics with longer flares such as the Anarkali style cut which has flares that start from the waist. For salwar kameez choose the sweetheart neck style and off shoulder styles. Go for Patiala style Salwars that give greater volume to the lower part of your body.
Check out this video for valuable tips on how to dress for a rectangular body shape.
2. Inverted Triangle or V-shaped body
The heaviest part of the body is on top and the shoulders are wider than hips. Weight gain in people with inverted triangle body shape typically happens in upper body and stomach.
How can you find out if you are an inverted triangle? Your shoulders measure over 5% more than your hips. It’s as simple as that!
Celebrities with inverted triangle body shape – Mylie Cyrus, Naomi Campbell, Kareena Kapoor.
Western clothes for inverted triangle body shape
You are made for wearing straight cut jeans or trousers to show off your slim legs. For western wear, consider wearing halter tops or tops with frills that look feminine. Strapless or sleeveless dress or even palazzos is perfect for inverted triangle body shapes as they accentuate the lower part of your body.
Sarees and Lehengas for inverted triangle body shape
When wearing sarees, pick simple blouses. Avoid puff sleeves or heavy embroidery on the shoulders as these designs will unnecessarily broaden your broad shoulders. When wearing lehengas, avoid cholis that has too much design on the shoulders or with deep necklines. Consider using Cholis in dark colours. Drape your dupatta in such a way that the attention is not on your shoulders.
According to fashion expert, Malini Ramani, “Make Lehenga the hero and tone down the choli.”
Salwars and Kurtis for inverted triangle body shape
Definitely, include Patiala style Salwars or even the Afghan-style salwar in your wardrobe as they help you draw attention to your legs. A-line Kurtis can work great for women with a V-shaped body as the flare from waist down helps draw attention to the lower part of your body. Pair them with Dhoti style pants. Of course, the Anarkali Kurti will work like magic for this body shape.
Check out these videos for valuable tips on how to dress if you have an inverted triangle body shape.
The hourglass is figure is what every woman (and arguably men) want and if you have one, you hit the genetic jackpot! A woman with an hourglass figure is equally broad on top and hips with a thick waist which is over 10 inches smaller than the chest and hips.
How can you find out if you have an hourglass figure? Your shoulders and hiplines are almost of the same measurement or within 5% of each other. Your waist is at least 25% smaller than your shoulder, bust and hip measurements.
Celebrities with inverted triangle body shape – Malaika Arora, Katrina Kaif.
Choose light clothing that flows over your body so you can flaunt your curves. This is true for sarees, lehengas and even western wear.
Western clothes for hourglass body shape
For western wear, choose tops one size higher (or at least that’s not too snug) to highlight your curves. Skinny jeans with waist belt and high-waisted skirts will help you flaunt your hourglass figure.
Sarees and Lehengas for hourglass body shape
You should definitely avoid stiff fabric or starched cotton sarees if you really want to flaunt your curves. Consider the fish cut saree draping style that is designed to accentuate your curves and help you showcase your mermaid body figure.
For blouses, choose scoop necks and V necklines that lengthen the upper part of the body. Blouses with long sleeves can help draw focus on your wrists and add further elegance. Adding body jewellery (Kamar band) will make you look sexy. This goes for sarees as well as lehengas.
Salwars and Kurtis for hourglass body shape
Anarkali style Kurtis will work wonders to add focus to your figure. Traditional Chudidar Salwars will also work for women with an hourglass figure. Long straight Kurtis that go down up to the knees or even your calf will look good for hourglass body type. You can pair them full sleeves to look stunning.
Check out this video for valuable tips on how to dress if you have an hourglass figure.
So what is a top hourglass and bottom hourglass figures?
There are two variations of the hourglass figure. If you have an hourglass figure and your bust is larger than your hips, you have the top hourglass figure and if your hips are slightly larger than your bust, you have the bottom hourglass figure. Dressing tips for hourglass body types as seen above will work well even if you have a bottom or the top hourglass body type.
What is the perfect body shape for females?
In a research paper published by Devendra Singh, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, evidence was presented that female body shapes with a waist to hip ratio of 0.7 were considered to be attractive. The paper presented waist to hip ratio measurements of Playboy models and Miss America pageant winners to prove this theory.
However, there is a problem with these studies and how they are interpreted.
In our quest to please others or attract men, women end up spending a time trying to conform to a specific body shape.
Professor Renee Engeln, who studies objectification theories says that “researchers generally use the term objectification to capture the psychological experience of having one’s body treated like or turned into an object for others to evaluate. This type of objectification tends to increase body shame, which is linked to depression and eating disordered behaviours.“
The real answer is every body shape is attractive and you are as attractive as you believe you are. With proper grooming and the right choice of clothes, your body shape need not control your own perception of your attractiveness to others.
4. Triangle or Spoon or Pear
Woman with shoulders narrower than the hips have the triangle or pear body shape. In general, women who have a pear-shaped body have a have a heavy bottom with weight mainly in buttocks, low hips and thighs. Their bust size ranges from small to medium.
How can you find out if you have a triangle or pear-shaped body? Your hip measurement is over 5% more than that of your bust or shoulders.
Celebrities with pear or triangle body shape – Beyonce Knowles, Shakira, Anushka Shetty.
Western clothes for pear-shaped body
If you are wearing a western style dress, jackets which are cinched at the waist and finish in the middle of your bottom will help you show off your slim waist and make your bottom appear smaller. Boat neck tops and square necklines will work very well for pear-shaped bodies. Strapless dresses can help you show off your arms and maintain the proportion of your body.
Sarees and Lehengas for pear-shaped body
Consider wearing sarees with elegant border and embroidery work as they help take the focus away from the hips. Wear the saree with seedha pallu style as the pallu will mask your hips and make your body look more proportional. Blouses with boat neck and long sleeves that accentuate the shoulders will work great for this body type. Consider wearing Cholis with heavy embroidery, ruffles and puff style shoulders to draw attention to the top of your body.
Salwar and Kurtis for pear-shaped body shape
Parallel Salwars that come with straight edges along the legs help mask the broad lower half of your body. Pair them with floor-length Kurtis for a balanced look. Wearing jeans with long Kurtis is also a good option for pear-shaped bodies. The Pakistani Kurti which are long and straight will add balance and proportion to your body.
Check out this video for valuable tips on how to dress if you have a pear-shaped figure.
5. Diamond or Oval or Apple
You have a diamond or oval body shape if your top and bottom are narrow with weight concentrated in the chest and belly areas. Most women with oval body shape also have thin legs.
How to find out if you have an apple-shaped body? Apple-shaped bodies have a relatively bigger torso with narrow hips and no defined waist. They are blessed with thin legs.
Celebrities with Apple or Oval body shape – Angelina Jolie, Parineeti Chopra.
Western clothes for Apple-shaped body
Wear clothes with V necks that help you look taller and compensate for the bulkier torso with a minimal waistline. Tops with empire hemlines work great for apple-shaped female body shapes. Structured jackets help take the attention to the top part of your body while hiding the large midsection and creates a sense of proportion.
Sarees and Lehengas for apple-shaped body
When wearing sarees, use an ulta style pallu to help you add some definition to your shoulders. Wear longer blouses or jacket style blouses that can be used to cover problem areas on the upper part of your body and drape your saree higher than usual. Silk, georgette sarees work very well for this body type, especially when worn with contrasting blouses with long sleeves.
Salwar and Kurtis for apple-shaped body
Definitely, wear the dupatta when you wear salwar kameez as they add some definition to the top part of your body. That’s not all, wear scarfs or dupattas on one side of the body so that it cuts the body vertically. Wear leggings or skinny pants to add elegance to your skinny legs and cover up the rest of the body with cotton dresses that do not hug your body. For Kurtis and blouses, show off the collarbones and neck when choosing a neck style. Both Anarkali and A-line Kurtis will work well with apple-shaped bodies.
Check out this video for valuable tips on how to dress for oval female body shapes.
Step by step guide to choosing the right clothes for your body shape
To wrap it all up, we have summarised all the key points from this article into simple steps that you can follow to pick the right dress based on your body type.
Step 1: Take measurements needed to find out your body shape
a. Make sure you wear a dress that fits you well and you feel confident wearing it.
b. Make sure you leave a gap of one finger or half an inch between the body and the tape when you are ready to take down the measurements.
c. When you measure the bust and hip, measure the circumference of the fullest part of your bust or hips.
d. Waist measurement is taken at the thinnest part of your waist.
e. The shoulder measurements are always taken on the backside. There is no need to leave a space between the tape and the body as this is not a measure of the circumference. While shoulder measurement may not be needed to calculate the body shape, it will help you pick clothes that really fit you.
Step 2: Now figure out your body shape
Use an online female body shapes calculator to find out your body shape.
Here is one example.
Go to Shopyourshape.com and punch in the measurements.
Sometimes, you may be presented with choices to pick from to best describe your body.
Once you make a selection, your body shape is presented to you.
Step 3: Use our cheat sheet to choose the right clothes
Follow our simple guide to select the right type of dress for different female body shapes.
Step 4: Choose the right accessories to go with your sarees
While it is important to choose the right clothes based on your body shape, all the efforts you put in to choose your clothes will go down the drain if you ignore the accessories.
Read our in-depth article on how to choose the right accessory based on your body type (petite, short, tall and plus sized), skin colour (wheatish, fair, dark), and shape of your face (round, oval, long).
Read the smart woman’s guide to choosing accessories for sarees.
Body shaper for women – When dresses don’t cooperate!
Even after carefully choosing your wardrobe based on your body shape, if you need some additional help to “look better” and carry your figure with greater confidence, there are a range of body shapers for women also known as shapewear.
Shapewear is made of synthetic fabrics that help you gently contour your body and even out the shape thus hiding unwanted bulges that may ruin your look. You find shapewear for thighs, bust, rear, stomach and overall bodysuits.
Before you buy a body shaper, just remember to keep in mind the following tips:
1. Make sure you choose the shapewear that suitable for your body. Choosing smaller sized shapewear to get some extra “sculpting” and firmness will only make you feel miserable.
2. If you are going to spend a lot of time in the hot sun, you may end up sweating a lot if you have a body shaper underneath your dress.
3. If you have chronic conditions such as acid reflux or bladder infection, wearing shapewear regularly can aggravate your issues.
4. Choose a shapewear that matches your skin colour to the extent possible.