What's YOUR Body Type? And How Do You Know?

BlogHer Original Post

I know you liked watching Tim Gunn's guide to style as much as I did. 
The thing that I was most envious of, besides the participants getting
designer dresses, of course, was the body scan.  I wonder if you
wouldn't be willing to write a bit about HOW we determine our body
type.  It seems like most articles and shows just say that if you are
pear shape, wear this, apple then wear that, short torso/long, long
legs, short, etc.  But I'm not sure what I am and it seems based on the
reactions of most of Tim Gunn's participants, they didn't know their
shape either.

-- Pamela

Does this sound familiar?  I think Pamela is on to something here -- how many of us really know what "type" our body is?  Or how many of us THINK we know but still can't figure out why clothes don't fit properly?

I thought so.

The basic fruit designations are a helpful shorthand for body type -- apples carry their weight through their midsections, while pears carry theirs through their hips and thighs.  But what if you're relatively slim but still bigger on the bottom than on the top -- are you still a pear?  And what if you've just had a baby and are carrying around a little extra love in the middle -- are you really an apple?  And what's with that whole short waisted/long waisted thing?

And what the hell am I supposed to wear???

Right.  Let's talk about strategies for sorting out body type.  You'll need a full length mirror, a tape measure, and perhaps a stiff drink.  Because honestly, assessing your shape can be hard.

For me at least.

Strip down to your skivvies and check yourself out in the mirror.  What's the slimmest part of you?  What's the widest?  Are your top and bottom half proportional?  Sometimes you can see this in the mirror -- your hips are clearly wider than your shoulders, for example -- but if you're still not sure get out the tape measure.  Measure your shoulders (wrap the tape measure around you just above the top of your bra), your natural waist (the narrowest part of your waistline, not the spot where your jeans or underwear hit), and the widest part of your hips (see why you do this in your underwear? and why you need the drink???).  

Write the measurements down.  You heard me -- you can eat or burn the paper when you're done, but you need to see the numbers right now.  What's the largest number?  The smallest?  Those are the largest and smallest parts of you.  When you get dressed, the goal is to make it appear that all those parts are proportional -- that your hips are the same size as your shoulders, and that your waist is smaller than both.

Let's talk some more about your waist.  How do you know if you have a high or low waist?  It doesn't really matter; what matters is that you can identify where your natural waist is, rather than settling for pants and skirts that hit any old place.  If your waist is the smallest part of you, play that up -- it will make you look curvy, no matter what your shape.  If your waist is the same size as your hips and shoulders, look for ways to create a waist and give your body some definition.

While you are staring at yourself in the mirror, check out your boobs.  Yes, really!  Is your bra working for you?  Are your breasts sitting where they should be?  When you are wearing a properly fitted bra, your nipples should be even with the midpoint on your upper arm, halfway beetween your shoulder and your elbow.

I am chock full of useful information like that.

If your breasts are hanging somewhere near your natural waist, then you need a new bra;if they are squooshing out over the top of your cups, then you need a larger bra.  If you can store your car keys in your bra, you need a smaller bra.  Not that I am familiar with that scenario.  At all.

Once you have a good sense of your shape -- not some apples/pears/mangosmumbo jumbo, but a real sense of how your body is shaped -- you can start to think about strategies for highlighting the highlights and camoflaging the lowlights.

HerRoom's Tomima Edmark has lingerie tips for apples and pears and Style Observer's Jean Voute Pratt tells you what to wear if you're an apple, while the writers at StyleMatters, Judie Schwartz and Evelinda Urman, assert that Michelle Obama doesn't know how to dress her pear shaped figure.  I disagree, primarily because I think they are relying on a too-narrow definition of what works for women with wider hips.  But we'll talk more about that next week, after you all have a chance to admire and measure yourselves. And possibly have a cocktail -- to celebrate, of course.

Susan Wagner writes about chic suburban living at Friday Playdate and practical style at The Working Closet.  She is wider on the bottom than she is on the top, if that makes sense.

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