Choose Clothes That Highlight Your Body Shape

Style Tips

Cover image for blog post with title and photo of Susan Padron

Tell me if you’ve been here: Standing in the Target dressing room, a pile of shirts on the floor, none of which seemed to do anything other than make you feel like a linebacker. *Sigh*  You give up on the shopping trip leaving instead with a cute accessory as a consolation prize. Just me? 😉 

With so many options in-store and online, finding the right pieces that highlight what you want to show off can be overwhelming. The key to mastering this lies in understanding how to choose clothes that complement your best features and balance your natural shape. 

Whether you have a fuller top, a fuller bottom, a defined waist, or a straight body shape, knowing what to look for (and what you want to accentuate)  can transform the way you dress and feel.  Let’s get into it. 

1. Focus On Emphasizing The Features You Want To

Forget the traditional body shape descriptors and focus on what truly matters: highlighting and balancing your unique features to create a look that is authentically you.

This is about about showcasing what you love most about your body:

  • Highlighting Your Legs: If you want to show off your legs, choose skirts and dresses with slits, or opt for fitted pants and shorts that draw attention downward.
  • Accentuating Your Arms: Sleeveless tops, halter necks, and cold-shoulder styles can emphasize toned arms.
  • Showing Off Your Back: Backless dresses or tops with interesting back details can highlight a beautiful back and add an element of surprise to your look.
  • Flaunting Your Shoulders: Off-the-shoulder tops and dresses are perfect for showcasing your shoulders and collarbone.

Take a moment to jot it down – mentally or even better as note on your phone- at least two things you’d like to show off. 

2. Consider Your Body’s Natural Shape 

Next, you will want to consider the natural shape of your body. I always use your waist as a guide. In general, folks are either fuller on top, fuller on bottom, have a defined waist, or a straight body shape. Your natural waist is below your rib cage and above your belly button. Knowing this, determine which shape you may lean towards. 

PS No body shape is good or bad. That’s why I avoid the traditional labels of body shapes for all the weight they carry. Your shape is exactly as it should be. 

3. Tips for Balancing Your Body Shape with What You Want to Feature 

Knowing what you want to show off is step one. Step two is identifying your overall shape. Then step 3 is putting both of those together when you go shopping to find exactly what makes you feel best. 

Below I break down the common shapes and different styles of clothing that best accentuate that shape, while also noting what it shows off. 

Highlighting a Fuller Top

If you have a fuller or larger upper body and want to balance your proportions:

  • Opt for V-Necks and Scoop Necks: These necklines create an elongating effect, drawing the eye downward and balancing a fuller top. They also show off your cleavage if you put that down as a feature you love about yourself! 
  • Structured Shoulders: Choose tops with structured shoulders to define your frame without adding bulk. I am not talking massive shoulder pads (but who doesn’t love a Madonna moment). Instead consider where the seam falls on your shoulder, a structured shirt will not have a drop shoulder but fit right alongside your armpit crease. Structured shoulders can highlight your collarbones and neck area, especially if they are a button-down. 
  • You might want to avoid  high necklines and heavy fabrics with lots of layers: High necklines and thick fabrics can make your upper body appear fuller. Instead, go for lighter materials that drape well and don’t overwhelm your shape. 

Balancing a Fuller Bottom

If your lower body is fuller from your natural waist down,  aim to balance your look with the following tips:

  • A-line skirts and dresses: These silhouettes flare out from the waist, skimming over the hips and thighs, creating a balanced look. They often come in at the waist so will highlight that portion of your body very well- especially if you tuck in a shirt. 
  • Wide-leg pants and straight-leg jeans:  Same idea as the above, these styles move out from the natural waist and provide room without clinging, creating a streamlined look and comfort. If you want to show off your ankles or shoes you can choose a cropped wide leg pant and play with those proportions. 
  • Play with attention-grabbing tops: It can be SO fun to wear tops with eye-catching details like ruffles or patterns. You get to play with layers of fabric here and show off your shoulders and/or arms depending on the cut. 

Accentuating a Defined Waist

If you have a naturally defined waist, highlighting it can create a stunning silhouette:

  • Belt It: Adding a belt to dresses, trousers, or tops can cinch your waist and accentuate your natural shape.
  • Fit-and-Flare Dresses: These dresses are fitted at the waist and flare out, highlighting the waist while balancing the rest of your body.
  • High-Waisted Bottoms: High-waisted skirts, pants, and shorts emphasize your waist and elongate your legs. 
  • Wrap Dresses and Tops: The wrap style draws attention to the waist and creates a beautiful, balanced silhouette.

Highlighting the  Straight Body Type

For those with a straighter body type you can choose items to create curves or play up specific areas as you would like. 

  • Peplum Tops and Dresses: The flared detail at the waist of peplum styles adds volume and creates the illusion of a curvier shape- if that’s not your jam- reach for a structured top to lean into the straight body type even more. 
  • Detailed Bottoms: Opt for pants or skirts with details like pockets, pleats, or patterns to add volume to your lower half if you’d there to be more. Think about these details as drawing the eye, to whatever area you’d like to showcase. 
  • Bodycon Dresses: These fitted dresses hug your figure and can create the appearance of more curves or less curves, especially when combined with strategic seaming or paneling. 

4. You don’t need to ‘minimize’ your body shape with color 

Personal pet peeve of mine- the age-old tip of ‘wear dark colors to minimize the part of your body you don’t want to highlight’.  Ew. 

Not only does this approach focus on the parts you don’t want to feature, but as a certified color analyst, slapping black on won’t make you shine or even ‘minimize’ an area. Instead, focus on the shape and structure of the clothes as it relates to your own shape and desires. Choose colors within your palette that will help you feel like you’re glowing, not shrinking. We really don’t do that here. 

If you’re unsure what your colors are, you can book a color analysis session with me here.

Understanding How to Dress Your Body Shape as You See Fit is a Journey 

Understanding how to dress for your shape and what you love about your body  is a journey of self-expression and empowerment. By applying the principles discussed in above, you’re not only enhancing your outward appearance but also embracing your unique style with confidence. Here’s to celebrating your body and making every outfit a reflection of your inner strength and beauty.

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