In this episode, I share an important Linda story that asks the question “Is Body Type Advice Outdated?”. My answer shares what I think are good uses of body type rules, and which ones you should ignore. Also, we talk about body types as fruits. Is that idea dated, too? Hear what I think!
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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 31 Office Hours Is Body Type Advice Outdated?
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Welcome back to Office Hours–the weekly show of the Everyday Style School podcast, where we answer one question, submitted by you, to help make style easier, and getting dressed more fun.
Today’s question was asked by a client I had a few weeks ago, and I thought it was really interesting, so with her permission, we’re going to talk about it today.
At the start of our session, Linda was saying that she felt really frumpy and like she was looking older than she really was. I could tell, even on video, that the clothes she was wearing, weren’t doing her any favors, so like I usually do, I said let’s take a look at your body. We discovered she was a rectangle/apple hybrid, which gave me direction on how to help.
At this point, she asked me “But isn’t body type advice outdated?” She told me that she’s a part of a community that is all about body acceptance, and one of their big themes is “your body is not a fruit, and you don’t have to dress it that way”.
Now, I can admit my own bias, and considering my one on one styling business was called Apple & Pear wardrobe and was based on dressing some fruit-based body types, my immediate thought was “no, of course not–body type advice is where it’s at!”
But then I remembered that I changed my business in large part because I was so tired of participating in this little style jail of rules that women would put themselves in based on their body types, and I was like “uh, well…kind of, maybe?”
After a little thought and consideration, here’s my answer on this topic: No, body type advice is not outdated, but the reasons women follow the rules, and the degree to which they follow them, kind of is. Let me explain.
When I was working with this particular Linda, she was wearing a short, chunky, high neck sweater that she had sized up in, attempting to get a little more length–which, by the way, is never a successful strategy. Her pants were too big–because the brand she bought was a curvier cut, meaning she had to size up to fit her waist, and then there was a ton of extra fabric in her hips, rear, thighs, and legs. All of this extra fabric WAS making her look frumpy, and yes, extra fabric makes you look older too. But here’s the thing, and I see this with so many clients–she was trying to fix silhouette issues with size, which again, never a successful strategy.
Linda wanted nothing to do with body type rules, but she hated the end result. Now, if her only thought to shopping was buying what she loved, and she liked the way she looked, great! More power to her. But that’s not what was happening, so I used some of my outdated body shape advice to fix it.
The first thing I had her do, was put on her favorite jeans–the ones she felt best in. She did, and then we looked at why they worked–turns out, they were a very straight cut from the waist through the hip, which brings me to my #1 best use of body shape advice, which is to find the right fit. So many women struggle with gapping waistbands or pants that pull across the hips or jackets that don’t close properly–and when they don’t fit, they buy a bigger size. But the size is not the problem, the shape of the garment is–so buying a different size will never ever fix the issue. Ever. You can’t fix a silhouette issue with size. All you end up with is a wardrobe that’s now the wrong shape AND the wrong size.
Then I asked Linda about her favorite body parts– it turns out she loved her arms. The oversized sweater she was wearing added bulk to her upper body and obscured her arms entirely. Which brings me to my second good use of body type rules, and that is– Dress to celebrate the parts you love. So often, we approach body shape dressing from a place of “I Can’t wear this because I’m a fill-in-the-blank” when really, we should be looking at it from “what are my favorite parts, and what should I wear to highlight them”. And absolutely you can figure that out without knowing your shape, but when you understand the whole picture and how all aspects of your body work together, its easier to end up with a complete outfit that makes you feel good. I had her put on a top with more fitted arms, and she felt better instantly. And as much as we’d like to say “it doesn’t matter what I wear” every woman I know feels better when her favorite parts are highlighted. You can call that dated if you want, but from where I’m sitting, it still applies.
My third reason for using body type advice, which frankly, should be thought of last, is to cleverly dress the parts you don’t love. I believe that body acceptance and wanting to feel your best can and do go hand in hand. I don’t believe that women should have to dress to hide body parts–if they don’t want to. If you’ve got a thicker midsection, you should go ahead and wear cropped items if you want to, and you like them. Its nobody’s business but your own. Unless you’re wearing a cropped top just because you need to prove that you can, and you walk around self-conscious and miserable all day. If that’s the case, trade your crop top for a longer sweater and move on with your life, feeling good. Life is too short to wear clothes that make you feel bad, just because you feel the need to buck societal norms.
When you come from a place of dressing your body type so that you can 1- make shopping easier to find the right fits 2-highlight the parts of your body you like best, and third and finally, cleverly dress the parts you don’t love, it’s a very different outlook than just using your body shape to create a long list of things you can’t wear. In that respect, body type advice IS outdated and should be ignored. If your first thought about every garment is “can my body shape wear this” or worse “I can’t wear that because of my body type”. You might want to step back and see if you’ve fallen into the body type trap. If you have, break out and try it anyway–you never know!
Before we end this episode, I want to talk briefly about labeling bodies as fruits. Do I think that’s outdated? yeah, kind of–but I continue to use that terminology because it’s a common language that pretty much everyone understands. I’ve got a few books on body shapes, and in them, they describe bodies as vases, perfume bottles, sunglasses, lipstick tubes, cocktail rings, and goblets. There’s a website with 10 body shapes that are labeled things like courageous, invincible and fearless. While those may sound better than fruits, try googling how to dress the perfume bottle shape or the invincible body type. You’re not going to find much, which in the end is frustrating. Try to look at the basic 4 body type classifications as a starting point for information and as tools that help you feel good about yourself, not a judgment of good or bad, or a box you can’t stray from. Take the nuggets of wisdom that work for you, and discard the rest.
I’d like to thank Linda for letting me share her question and story with you. I hope it inspires you to take a look at how you approach body type info.
If you’re listening, and have a question you’d like me to cover in Office Hours, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for today–see you next week!