How to dress the hourglass shape

by Sylvia

How to dress for the hourglass body shape

This is a refresher article on how to dress the hourglass body type. In this part of dressing for your body type series we will have a look at the hourglaas body type. Characteristics of the hourglass:

  • Well defined (narrow) waist
  • Hip and bust tend to be almost the same and quite big

The hourglass is seen by many as the ideal body shape, although it may also present some challenges if you have a significant bust. You may also have gathered some weight around the abdomen area in which case you will have some characteristics of the apple body type as well. Some celebrities with this body shape include Nigella Lawson, Salma Hayek and Charlotte Church.

The aim of dressing for your body type

You will want to accentuate your very feminine body so fitted clothes (at the right places) are key. Another objective may be to elongate your legs. shapesforhourglass

How to dress the hourglass body type

Upper body

  • A good bra is essential for this body type. Make sure you get a good supportive bra that will thrust your bustforwards. You will want to wear mostly V-shaped tops or tops with a deep neckline. High necklines will just make your bust area too bulky
  • Look for dresses that fit your boobs and elongate your waist. They should fit very snugly around that area.
  • If you have some weight around the addomen then make sure your buy your dress in supportive fabric.
  • T-shirts look nicest when they fit your waist, have a V-neck and have some accents on the shoulders.
  • Get a coat that highlights your waist and featuress a V-neck.
  • Wear single-breasted jackets that are tailored. They will often look best when left open to create a nice vertical line, which elongates
  • Choose shirts that accentuate your boobs and that don’t have buttons all the way to the top.
  • Tops that flare just below the boob area and go to below your crutch can be very flattering on trousers.
  • Little fitted jackets that tuck in your boobs will look great on you.
  • Use light scarves in winter to cover your open V-neck.
  • Wear darker colors on top to make your boobs appear smaller.

Lower body

  • Pencil skirts that fit well are ideal for the hourglass as they accentuate your wonderful curves.
  • Other skirts can work too but will usually look better when they end around the knee.
  • Opt for flat front boot cut trousers, preferably with stretch for a snug fit.
  • Choose shoes that accentuate your curves, like shoes with rounded toes, peep toes or bows.

What not to wear

  • Avoid too many thrills on your clothes as they will add extra bulk to places where you don’t need it.
  • Avoid excess fabric for the same reason.
  • Often it’s best to avoid obvious waistbands or belts. Let your clothes accentuate your small waist.
  • Flat lace-up shoes.
  • Be careful with casual clothes. They make  you look boxy.

If you would like to add to these guidelines, then please let me know. Below are some of the featured products and other options that you can buy online right now. If you see something fabulous that should be added to this list, let me know!

P.S.: Please note that the guidelines above are for general guidance only. Everyone is different and you certainly don’t have to stick to the above guidelines to dress well. If you want to find out about your own unique body type, figure priorities and how to create the perfect silhouette you will love our unique online style course!

Related posts:


oops no hour glass figure over here. :(


Luckily all our feminine shapes are gorgeous!


Perhaps I am an hourglass, since many of these rules definitely apply to me. I’ve never really known how to categorize my shape.


All the main categories are listed on my how to dresss category page: so you may want to have a look. Please bear in mind though that these are broad categories and we usually have a combination of these types.


I thought I was an “Hourglass” because I am the same size top and bottom. I am not really curvy though. I do have a small waist but I am small all over. Now I am not sure what my shape is. I follow a lot of these guidlines as they tend to make short girls look longer – the V-necks and fitted shirts that don’t button all the way up. I have those in every color. And I have to make sure all of my clothes are fitted or I am lost in them – like I have been sneaking into my big sister’s closet. I am a Petite Petite – that I know for sure. I wear size 0P or 2P and a size 4.5 or 5 shoe. The outfits you show look like the things I wear but I am comfused. I am not an apple or a pear or a rectangle. I am not an inverted triangle. What works best for me is keeping everything balanced – not wearing tops or skirts that hit in the wrong spot – and I know it when I see it. This is making me think.


Hi Suzanne, It sounds like you may be more of a rectangle. Rectangles can still have waists but they are not as defined as the hourglass. In some books you will only get defined as an hourglass if you are really curved and have a considerable bust. In any case the difference between your bust width / hip width and waist needs to be significant to be classified as hourglass. Also you may be a combination of several types. Few women are clearly defined by just one. They are just general categories and can be used as guidelines for dressing. Since you are petite you will probably dress more for your vertical shape. If you are a combination of rectangle / hourglass then you have many options and it sounds that you already have a good idea what suits your petite frame and height!


I just read your post on vertical body shape and that makes much more sense to me. :)
I do think I have to make sure my proportions are balanced vertically to look my best. Tomorrow I am going to measure the sections that you talk about to see if I am even or if I have long or short legs. This is all great information!


Ok good luck with that. Another good thing to know for you may be if your are long or short waisted, but I have not written about that yet…. You may want to have a look at this simple way of measuring body proportions as well:


Could you start with short waisted Sylvia? LOL
Although I am regtangle or inverted triangle, there are still pieces from the hourglass type which I would wear. In order to create that waist.


Sorry rectangle


I would love to have an hourglass shape! But don’t! Those are great guidelines to go by. Some of those definately applies to me..
As you indicated everyone is different and you don’t half to stick to those general guidelines. Shopping for a new outfit can get overwhelming! In my opinion having the right style,and a well fitted bra is important with any outfit…


Yes, a good bra is definitely a requirement for every outfit and to develop your own unique style!


Love. Love that blue dress in the first photo on the far right. I can feel a new obsession coming on.


That is my favorite too. I think that would look amazing on you!


I’m an hourglass with pear tendencies, i.e. I tend to carry extra weight around my hips and thighs. I find it a bit difficult to dress for my body type, because I don’t care much for some of the styles that are supposed to be “right” for me. Like pencil skirts, for instance, they’re just not my style. I do wear dress trousers on occasions, but I’m a jeans girl at heart and really prefer jeans. As for dresses, I prefer empire waistline or shift dress styles. One of the styles I feel most comfortable in, are long, slightly fitted tunic-style tops, skinny ponte pants or jeans and knee-high boots. I think that it balances my slightly short torso and shows off the narrowest part of my legs:)


These guidelines are very general and everyone needs to find their own style. As you know I also like tunics so I’m sure you will look great in them!


Thank you for this hour glass article, Sylvia. Just love the ideas.
Do you have a listing of where to get these gorgeous clothes?


Thanks Dale. Sorry I did not keep a record of the clothes. The garments were all found at so you should be able to find them there.

Phyllis Edson

I spend a lot of dressing time figuring out how to DE-emphasize my bust. I have enough I don’t need to draw attention to it. I buy shirts bigger which then makes my waist look bigger. Or, with clingier or tighter shirts I wear jackets and blazers. But I do look better in tailored, structured clothes.


Hi Phyllis, Have a look at this article: how to highlight or downplay your bust ( which you may find interesting as well.


ugh this is driving me crrrrazy! iv been told that i have an hourglass shape, but i am 5 2″ and i weigh 130 pounds. i have DD 36 bra size, and wear 6 in jeans. but because im so short, my waist pretty much doesnt exist! i mean it does, but i cant find ANY dresses that fit me! ANYWHERE!! AT ALL!! driving me absolutly crazy….


Hi Melody, Yes finding the perfect dress for your body type can be tough. Don’t give up though! Do you have a good tailor? They can be really helpful. Perhaps you can find something that comes close and then the tailor can correct so your dress fits perfectly. Good luck!

fashmr paul

I am fast starting to think this is possibly the best website on the internet. I absolutely love it, and the advice you give. I have a lot of back issue reading to do ( hurrah )
Ps I’m a slight V-shape apple :0)


Thanks for the nice compliment! Enjoy reading all the articles (>500 so it will take some time….:))

Ana from Mrs. American Made

Great article, Sylvia. I am an hourglass and I definitely adhere to many of these rules, opting to fit my body many times over what might be trendy. And a note for Melody – you are about my same size, and my tailor is a great ally.
: ) Ana


There is no denying I am an hourglass. Some people think that curvy means overweight but I have tried to explain it’s about proportions…
Everything you say is right and I know I look better in fitted clothes (although I do like a few feminine frills and flounces). I have struggled in previous summers as baggier, looser clothes are not for me but I now realise I should buy fitted summer clothes.
You don’t mention fabrics – avoid tweed, chunky knits and thick mohair – or patterns, which really help break up expanses of bosom. Scarves are useful for that as well. Statement necklaces distract from the bust. Illusion dresses are great too.


Great additional tips Lorraine!


I am definitely an hourglass and I always find it so interesting that people think it’s the “perfect” shape because finding things that look good can be a challenge.

I have only one button down blouse — a casual one that has some elastic in the sides — because most either look like they are pulling in the front or they are so big in the waist that they add pounds. Similar problems with lower body. If it fits my hips, the waist gaps. If the waist looks good I need to suck in to zip it (never a good idea). And you’re absolutely right, belts seldom look good.

A lot of things that objectively look good on me are also on the sexy side and not appropriate for my conservatively dressed profession.


Yes, you are very right Lisa. Hourglass women need to embrace their bombshell body, which I imagine can be a challenge at work.


Yesterday afternoon was my shopping trip for the season. I’m on a no-more-clothes budget and only had cash for a very few things. I’m glad I read this article before I went. I purchased a couple of tops that were more form fitting than I would normally wear (because I can’t be “too sexy” for work) which with the other cold weather layers end up looking flattering while still wearable for work. Thank you.


I am an hourglass with a slight A-line and these dresses are exactly what I wear and love.
Fantastic selection, Sylvia!

Annette | Lady of Style


I find wrap-dresses very forgiving. Hugs in all the right places. If only I could wear one all the time. :)

A question: If I wear a knee-high boot with a skinny jean/yoga pant, should I just keep the bottoms dark? This seems to work best for me because a boot cut is just not that trendy right now – any suggestion?


I am an hourglass and have several wrap dresses but am still looking for the perfect one. As for bottoms, I am keeping the bottoms dark – either dark slim jeans with ankle boots or ‘treggings’ (trouser/leggings) tucked into long boots. I have boot cut jeans but they don’t feel right at the moment.


Boot cuts are never completely out of style so if they look good on you, I would still wear them.
It’s not necessary to keep your bottoms dark. I would keep your boots and pants in almost the same color though, which always creates a nicer silhouette in my opinion.


I think I’m a combo hourglass/rectangle with a dash of pear, not sure? 38C bust 30 waist and 41 hips. When I gain weight it is in my boobs and thighs.


Yes, few of us are strictly one type.


I think I am an hourglass 40d 31 41. my problem is finding jeans and sometimes dresses that don’t fit in my butt area. I usually need to have them taken in at the waist to have them fit properly (expensive), I didn’t think I could wear dresses with peplums either. Are there certain designers that have garments to accommodate my shape that you know of or do I keep getting everything altered. Is there anything other clothing that I should avoid wearing.


I’m not aware of any brands creating items specifically for hourglasses. It will help to buy pants and skirts that have a bit of stretch in them. I mentioned a few things to avoid in the article above, but in the end every hourglass body is different so try on lots of things and work out what suits you best or what should be on your “NO” list.


I dont know what shape i am!!! My bust and hips are around the same size but my shoulders are narrower. I also tend to gather weight on my hips and thighs but my waist is about 8 inches smaller


Hi Claire did you try the little test referenced in this article ?
Please remember though that we are all different. These are all general categories that provide general guidelines.


An hourglass is a balanced shape. Shoulders and hips will be the same width and waistline will be 9 to 10 inches smaller than the hips. Generally an houglass is buxom and has a shapely derriere.

April Farley

This guide has helped me so very much! Thank you ! I never knew what to do with these curves especially the girls and how to make them appear smaller. I have always had a love for bows glad to read bows on my shoes is a good thing!


Are Colummbiana jeans a good fit for hourglass shaped women


sure it will highlight your curves even more!

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