Dressing For Your Body Type—Forget Apples, Pears, and Squares (Oh, My!)

When it comes to dresses, all ladies already know this universal truth: No two women wear the same dress equally. One woman’s pleasure could be another woman’s poison… and no, I’m not suggesting that choosing a dress is a matter of life or death, but we do love fashion that is to die for.

So, before you fall in love with a dress for its bright jewel-toned hues or its delicate lace trim, mix a little practicality in with your romanticism. In this post, I’ll break down the dependable rules for dressing for your body type.

First things first: you’re not an “apple,” a “pear,” or a “square.” All bodies are different and we can’t all be labeled one of two fruits or a geometric shape (“squares” seemed to get the short end of the creativity stick here, right?). My language for discussing body type? Um… simply body proportions! That way, we eliminate all debate on what an “apple” could be.

There is no imperfect figure. But there are plenty of imperfect dresses that just won’t do you—or your body—justice. As true romantics, it’s time to play matchmaker and match the perfect dresses for the perfect body types.

1. You are straight-lined:

The lines defining this body shape are rather straight and angular—the line from your shoulder to your hip is a straight one. Usually this silhouette is quite slim with a smaller bust. Most women make the mistake of thinking: I don’t have much of a waist, so I have to wear tighter clothing to create one! Then they choose tighter dresses to define the waist or thick belts to create something that isn’t there. 

Instead: opt for looser fitting dresses with sash belts or drawstring dresses to give the illusion of a more curvy shape. The silhouette and cut of the dress should be rather straight and geometrical—to mirror your body’s natural shape. The best dress options are those made with an empire cut or drop waist, which help you to re-define your waistline.

Dresses that are made of structured, stiffer, heavier fabrics that keep their shape best serve you—nobly, m’lady. Avoid stretchy materials—which tend to be skin-tight—like the plague.

Dresses with a well-defined peplum would also look great, creating the illusion of curves so that your waist can be a departure from the looser proportions of the dress.

Layering is also a very good option. Throw a cardigan or a light coat over a dress to elongate a silhouette and to draw away attention from the waist line.

2. You’re rocking pronounced hips and narrow shoulders:

Silhouettes with fuller hips usually have narrower shoulders and a smaller bust. Many people think wearing tighter dresses on bottom will slim the hips, but this has an opposite effect. If anything, this draws attention to the hips, but we want to draw attention away from the hips and towards the upper part of the figure. Avoid short mini skirts and dresses tight at the hips—dresses that are loose on bottom will have a more slimming effect on the hips. Wearing dresses that are more fitted on top actually creates curves there that you didn’t have before!

Also, any type of decor around the neckline is recommended: prints, sequins, ruffles, ribbons, Peter Pan collars, etc. If the dress does not have any decor in the upper part, a statement necklace or scarf can save the day.

Look for the right neckline to add dimension to your upper body: scoop necks and boat necks visually widen your shoulders and balance out your figure. Choosing dresses that cover the shoulders helps to broaden them as well—especially if the fabric is looser in that area.

As for the cut, choose A-line dresses or those with a tulip-skirt, which are not higher than the knee line. Dresses that are cinched the waist can also look very attractive.

3. You’re all curves:

The lines defining this silhouette are soft and curvy. The waist is very defined.

When choosing the perfect dress, your pronounced waist is the star of the show, so wear dresses that put it right in the limelight. Dresses with a fitted silhouette such as wrap dresses or bodycon, which are made from stretch fabrics, are the best option. Even if a dress was originally designed without a belt, you can easily add a matching belt to accentuate your waist even more.

4. You have a fuller waist with slim thighs

This silhouettes features a fuller waist, broader shoulders, a fuller bust, and rather slim arms and legs. The waistline is not defined.

Choose a dress that will draw attention away from the waistline to the bust and legs, which usually are an asset for this type of figure. Consider A-line and empire cut dresses. Wrap-dresses with lighter weight fabrics and flared skirt can also look great. Dresses with a continuous pattern or print are also a very good option, as they magically balance the uneven proportions.

Avoid bodycon and very fitted dresses made from stretch fabrics, as these won’t do your waist any favors. Instead opt for structured, stiff, heavy materials that keep their shape. They will define the silhouette and seamlessly (pun-intended!) conceal the weight around the waist. Also consider wearing a cardigan or a long light jacket over a dress to create a vertical line, which will elongate the silhouette and torso.

You wear the dress—don’t let it wear you!

Your body is perfect. You know it. We know it. So don’t make the mistake of choosing a dress that’ll make you feel otherwise. That’s the dress’ failure—not yours.


Happy dressing!


P.S. Even approaching “body types” in a way that addresses actual proportions instead of fruit, it’s sometimes tough to put this theoretical knowledge into practice. And some women don’t fit exactly into one category. That‘s why I offer my clients a free initial consultation where we discuss your style and figure correction goals, expectations, desired changes and determine the best path forward. Don’t hesitate to email me ([email protected]) to learn more

Personal Stylist and Imagemaker