Over the years, “How do I dress for my body shape?”, or some version thereof, has been the question I’ve been asked most frequently. While dressing for your shape makes style simpler, getting started can be super confusing. I’ve put together some simple guidelines for each shape to help make dressing your shape easier. Before we get started, keep these things in mind.
1. I focus on the 4 basic body types. In my experience, every shape is a variation of these four, or a combination of these four. The more body shapes there are to “learn”, the harder it is to identify your unique shape.
2. Start with your dominant body shape, then look for a secondary, and borrow from those guidelines as needed. If you don’t know where to start, look for the one you identify with the most, and start there.
3. Every body, even those who share the same shape, is different. You may be slightly Apple shaped, or an extreme hourglass. The more extreme your shape is within the category, the more the guidelines will help you.
4. Take the advice that works for you, and leave the rest. Body shape advice should make style easier and more fun, not put you into a rule-following prison where you’re afraid of trying something new. Like Pablo Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. Once you know why things work better than others, you can manipulate the guidelines to get the results you want.
5. Learn what body types are, and are not. Check out our podcast episode Body Type Basics to learn more.
Still not sure what your body type is? Take our Quiz.
The Pear shape is characterized by shoulders and bust that are smaller than the hips and a defined, often high, waist. Usually this shape has proportionally slim shoulders and arms, and a long neck. Pears almost always wear at least one size bigger on the bottom than they do on top. The Pear shape is also called the “triangle” or “A -shape”.
There are fewer variations in this shape than others–all Pears have smaller upper bodies, and proportionally larger lower bodies. The variations come in where Pears carry extra weight. Some Pears just have their fullness at the top, in the hips and bottom and upper thighs (“saddlebags”), while some have fullness through the hips and bottom, as well as thighs and calves. The guidelines for both types remain the same.
The biggest challenges for Pears are finding bottoms that fit well, and styles that balance out your body.
The goal for Pears is bring the eye up and highlight the upper body and defined waist, while de-emphasizing the lower body.
Tops & Jackets for Pears:
High, closed necklines, like crewnecks, mock necks, turtlenecks and boat necks are great choices, because they make your shoulders look broader and your bust appear fuller. Open necklines like scoops and v’s can often make your top look smaller, so watch out for those.
Embellishment on top is great for you. Details like gathered or puff sleeves, ruffles, bold prints and horizontal stripes will all draw the eye up and balance your body. Look for tops with bust pockets will also add volume to your upper body.
One trick to fit your smaller upper body is to try petite tops, even if you’re not petite. If you can’t quite get the right fit in Misses sizing–one is too small, the size up is too big–try the petite in the larger size. Petites are often cut better for smaller shoulders and higher waists.
Knit tops that are drapey, but not oversized are a good choice for you, as are blouses with banded bottoms or wrap waists.
Dolman style tops can add volume to your upper body, and are a great way to camouflage a tummy.
In cooler weather, chunky knit sweaters look amazing on you.
While most Pears like to wear long tops to hide their hips, shorter tops that hit right at the hip bones are often a better choice, especially if the fabric is substantial.
Avoid tops that hit right at the widest part of your hips by looking for hems that end at the hip bones, or at the upper thigh
The best jackets and coats for Pears add volume to the upper area, and end either end above the hips, or below them. Look for cropped jackets or long blazers. Look for big lapels, belts and double breasted styles, while avoiding boxy jackets, and anything that hits right at the hips.
Dresses for Pear Body Shape:
Dresses can be tricky for Pears, since your top and bottom are different sizes. If dresses feel too hard, go for separates instead.
As with any body shape, the waist of your dress needs to hit the waist of your body. Because your body has a defined waist, your dress should, too. If your waist is high, look for empire waistlines, otherwise, wrap dresses often work well, as do a-line styles.
Maxi dresses with an empire waistline are an easy summer choice for high-waisted Pears.
Avoid straight styles like shifts that will hide your waist, or sheaths that will pull at the hips, and sag in the middle. Instead look for dresses that fit at the top, define the waist, and add fullness at the bottom.
Bottoms for Pear Body Shapes:
Look for pants labeled “curvy fit” to solve the gap-in-the-back problem, or have your pants tailored.
Mid to high-rise pants and jeans are best, and while your tops should have lots of details, keep your bottoms basic.
Skinny bottoms accentuate the lower half, so you’ll probably feel more comfortable in straight, bootcut, wide leg or flare styles. If you do go for slim bottoms, a top that hits at the upper thigh is your best pick.
While structured bottoms will always be more traditionally flattering, drapey pants can be a great choice as they skim over your lower half. Pair relaxed pants with a shorter, structured top.
Darker bottoms will de-emphasize your bottom, but don’t think that means you’re stuck with basic black. Navy, burgundy, chocolate, and charcoal are great alternatives–as are plum, dark green, and deep rust.
Look for pants with diagonal front pockets, or no pockets at all, as side entry pockets tend to pull and pucker. Also, approach cargo pockets with caution, as they add bulk wherever they’re placed.
To lengthen and streamline your legs, keep your footwear and hosiery low contrast, and avoid ankle straps on shoes. Match your shoes to your hemline (pants) and to your skin (dresses/skirts/shorts).
While Pears often struggle with dresses, skirts are a great choice. They should fit at the waist, and have fullness at the bottom. Tulip skirts, a-line, and paneled styles work well, as do pleats, as long as they start at the right spot. Check out our podcast episode about pleats for more details.
The best skirt and dress length for your shape is right below the knee or longer.
Styling Tips for Pears
Start with a great bra. Pears often think they can skip professional bra fittings, as they tend to be smaller busted, but having a bra that gives shape and support is key to balancing out your figure. The right bra can help you fill out your shirts and avoid saggy tops and necklines. Learn about finding great bras on this podcast episode.
Don’t be afraid of bold accessories. Short chunky necklaces are great for you, as are oversized stud earrings that draw attention up. Scarves can help add volume on top as well.
To camouflage a tummy while maintaining your curves, look for drapey and/or patterned tops, layered under a jacket that hits at the waist.
Become besties with a tailor. There’s only so much stretch can do. For things like button front shirts, you may have to size up and have a tailor take in the sides a little bit. Some extreme hourglasses may find they still have a gap in the waist, even when buying curvy styles. And then, there are things like skirts, that rarely come in curvy styles. These are things a tailor can do easily and will make your wardrobe look like it was custom made for your body.
Audrey Hepburn said, “Happy girls are the prettiest”, and she’s right, so wear what you love. Some women only want to wear things that are traditionally “best” for their body shapes, while other women don’t follow the rules at all. Both approaches are right, as long as the end result is that you feel great. Don’t get so tied to the rules that you forget to have fun with your wardrobe!
Start with your dominant body shape, then look for a secondary, and borrow from those guidelines as needed. If you don’t know where to start, look for the one you identify with the most, and start there.Every body, even those who share the same shape, is different. You may be slightly apple shaped, or an extreme hourglass. The more extreme your shape is within the category, the more the guidelines will help you.