I’ve never been called a fashionista and that’s okay. When I worked as an R.N., I pretty much lived in scrubs and jeans, but once I left hospital work and especially when I turned 50, I had no idea what to wear! When it came to what clothing best suited me, I kind of had an idea that I had a pear-shaped body but never knew how to determine it for certain. And I had no idea what types of clothes worked best for what types of bodies.

I’ve been trying to learn about which styles work best for my body shape so I’ve been doing some research and thought I would share.

For this, we’re using fashion expert Bradley Bayou’s system of body types along with his calculations to determine which best describes your body type. For this post, we’re just going to cover his 4 major body types: hourglass, rectangle, inverted triangle and triangle but in his book The Science of Sexy, Bayou lists 48 different body types!

Start with your measurements

Use a cloth measuring tape to obtain your measurement. Wear your underwear, thin clothing such as yoga wear or fitness wear (or nothing). Do not wear a bra.

Shoulders: You may need help with this measurement. Measure from the tip of one shoulder all the way around you. The measuring tape should be high up around your shoulders so that it almost slips off.

Bust: Measure the fullest part of your bust. Don’t pull the tape so tight that it squashes. Make sure to stay horizontal.

Waist: Wrap the tape measure around your natural waist. Measure the smallest part of your natural waist, just above your belly button and below your rib cage. (If you bend to the side, the crease that forms is your natural waistline.)

Hips: Start at one hip (below the hip bone) and wrap the tape measure completely around making sure the tape is over the largest part of your butt. For most women, that measurement is just about at the crotch.

Once you have those measurements, you’ll use them to help determine your body shape. Get ready for some math!

In Bayou’s equations, he allows the shoulder measurement and the bust measurement to be used interchangeably. This takes into account those women who have especially big or small busts or especially narrow or broad shoulders. When doing this, you might find that using the equation with your shoulder measurement places you in a different body-type category than when you use your bust measurement. In this case, you would consider both body types when shopping for clothes and choose which item looks best on you.

A graphic depicting the 4 major body shapes

Let’s start with The Hourglass Shape.

With the hourglass shape, your shoulders and hips are approximately the same sizes and you have a very defined waistline.  You ave an hourglass shape if your waist is at least 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust measurement (waist ÷ shoulders and bust x 0.75)  AND your waist is at least 25% smaller than your hips (waist ÷ hips x 0.75) AND your shoulder and hip measurements are within 5% of each other.

The calculations for the measurements may seem complicated but they really aren’t.

T = the larger of the two measurements
Y = the smaller of the two measurements
Multiply T by 0.95. If Y is bigger than this result (T x 0.95), then your hips and shoulders are within 5% of each other.

For example: if your shoulders and hips measure 36 inches and your waist measures 27 inches, then you are an hourglass shape.

Sophia Vergara and Salma Hayek are good examples of an hourglass shape.

LOS ANGELES - AUG 25: Sophia Vergara at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals at Nokia Theater at LA Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA

What to wear: You want to build a horizontal line at the shoulders and hips and a vertical line to help slim your waist even more. But sometimes you want to blur the lines of your hourglass shape.

Wrap tops, and dresses, (especially mermaid style dresses) are good choices for you. Tight clothes, pencil skirts, leggings, jeans for curvier women.

This chain-print wrap dress from Chico’s is currently on sale!

If you would rather not accentuate your curves, choose sweat clothes, skater skirts, loose blouses, cowl-neck tops, and overalls.


The Rectangle Shape

This is the more boyish of shapes without too many curves. Your shoulders, bust and hips are around the same size and your waist is not well defined. This shape was often seen on the models in the 1990s (think Kate Moss) and is said to be the easiest to style. With this body type, you can actually decide for yourself which part of your body you want to accentuate and choose styles for your objective.

You have a rectangle shape if your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust AND your shoulder, bust and hip measurements are within 5% of each other.

T = the largest of the three measurements (it will usually be the shoulders)
Y = one of the other measurements
Z = the leftover measurement

Multiply T by 0.95. If Y and Z are greater than the result of T x 0.95, then your shoulder, bust and hips are within 5% of each other.

Example: Your shoulder measurement is 36 inches and your waist measurement is more than 27 inches.

Kendall Jenner and GiGi Hadid are also examples of women with this body shape.

Kendall Jenner in a black floor length gown

What to wear: Technically, any type of clothing works for you. Lucky girl!

Some thoughts; Asymmetric clothing, in the cut or the pattern, to add interest; minimalism like a straight sleeveless shift or a top with spaghetti straps.

I black and white asymmetrical top

I own this top. It looks great with a black pencil skirt.

over 40 fashion

Pants – straight jeans rather than skinny or slim jeans.

The Triangle Shape

The triangle shape, also sometimes called the pear shape (not nice!), is when your hips are wider than your shoulders.  It’s the most common body type. If your hips are more than 5% bigger than your shoulders or bust (hips ÷ shoulders or bust x 1.05), then you are a triangle shape.

Example: your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 37.75 inches or larger.

With this body shape, you would want to accentuate the thinness of your waist and work to elongate your legs. Beyonce’, Jennifer Lopez and Marilyn Monroe are examples of women who have this body shape.

Jennifer Lopez

What to wear:  You want to build a horizontal line at the level of your shoulders to even yourself out (maybe with shoulder pads or some ornamentation) and to elongate your legs by wearing heels or long dresses.

Dresses: A-Line, Poof dress

Boatneck tops, tops with horizontal stripes, and off-the-shoulder tops are good choices. *Tops should not end at the hip level. They should either be shorter or longer than the hip.

This boatneck top that ends below the hip from Covered Perfectly is a good choice for the Triangle shape.

Pants: They should really not be slim or skinny jeans. The new wider legged pants are a much better option because they balance out your hips.

Accessories: Statement necklaces, scarves, larger earrings – items that draw attention away from your hips.

The Inverted Triangle Shape

With this shape, your shoulders or bust are larger than your hip measurement.  Your shoulder or bust measurement is more than 5% bigger than your hip measurement (shoulders or bust ÷ hips x 1.05).

Example: your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 34.25 inches or smaller.

This is a very sporty type and is usually reached by training rather than by nature. Renee Zellweger and Naomi Campbell have this body shape. You will usually see these ladies tilted slightly when they are in front of the camera in order to appear to have a more narrow and feminine shoulder line and for the most part you will see them bringing attention away from their shoulders.

Renee Zelleger at the Golden Globes

What to wear: 

Tops – long-sleeved, vertical strips, tops that are loose at the waist. The length of the tops is best below the hips or at the crotch.

This top is a good choice because it is loose at the waist and sits below the hips.

Pants – the slim types are not so good. Palazzo pants are a good option if you are tall enough.

Dresses – maxi lengths are great. Racer-back tops and dresses are other options as they elongate you.

Accessories – low-slung wide belts sitting below the hips, high heels

I hope this article will make it a bit easier to determine your body type and shop for styles that flatter your body.

The top that I’m wearing in the cover photo was gifted to me by Covered Perfectly. You can find it here.


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