How to determine body shape

by Sylvia

How to determine your body shape

Although I laid out some basic guidelines on how to dress after 40, I feel that it’s even more important that you dress for your body shape. I feel that you can ignore some of the guidelines mentioned there, so long as you know your strengths and dress according to your body type. This is the first in a series of articles on how to dress for your body shape. First of all we need to determine what your body shape  is.

So let’s have a look at 5 basic female body shapes.

There are several ways to define your body shape. The most basic way to do it is to determine if you are either a

You can  split these main categories in sub categories to further customize your body shape, but let’s keep it simple for now.

Check this video or continue reading below.

How do you find out which one you are?

Characteristics of the hourglass:

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

Charateristics of the inverted rectangle are:

  • Shoulders are wider than the hip
  • Bust tends to be proportionally large
  • Hips are small

Characteristics of the rectangle are:

  • No defined waist
  • The hips tend to have a similar width as the shoulders
  • You do not have a lot of curves
  • Your bust tends to be small or average

Characteristics of the pear:

  • The hips are wider than the shoulder
  • Fat tends to accumulated on the hips and buttocks

Characteristics of the apple

  • No defined waist
  • Weight tends to form on the stomach
  • Average bust size

Determining your body shape with measurements

If you know the measurements of your bust, waist and hips you can also use this online calculator which will give you a general idea. Please note that we are all diferrent and the 5 mentioned shapes above are just the 5 basic shapes. For example when I changed my bust size with just 1 cm, I got different results. But we are all leaning towards one of these basic shapes and only few of us will be exactly one of these.

In my case I’m lingering between a pear and a rectangle. My hips are wider than my bust and my waist is not so defined. But if I add 1 cm to my bust in the calculator above, I’m defined as a rectangle, because my bust and hip size are quite similar. All this may well change in the future as many women over 40 get a completely different body shape once they go through (peri)menopause, so in that case the style of clothes you chose may have to change as well.

I hope that you got a clearer idea what body type you are? If you like to kickstart your style right now, you may like to join the Find Your Style challenge. This will get you on the right style track in no time!

For more information on how to dress for your particular body type you can also read my articles:


1 Tracy (The Wardrobe Wanderer)

It looks as though I’m closest to the rectangle, although after losing a lot of weight recently, I have a bit more of a waist. Fun stuff – thank you for sharing!

2 Sylvia

Most people are a combination of 2 different types. Some ‘systems’ even identify 12 body types. I intend to write more about body types, so stay tuned!

3 celeste

Hi Sylvia! I have an hourglass body type but I am quite short (1,56 – 53 kgs). What is your advice when it comes to how short women should dress?

4 Sylvia

Hi Celeste. I actually wrote a whole article about this: How to dress when you are short or petite

5 celeste

Just read it! Thanks Sylvia! I

6 Angela

I have a weird body type. Can you help me out 47-43-50. Obviously plus size and would seem to be banana or rectangle. However I have a small ribcage that gives me a shape like hourglass when you look front on.. But tiny shoulders. A hot mess…lol. What do you think I am?!!

7 Sylvia

Your measurements suggest a rectangle shape, but as you mention every body is different. However, never refer to yourself as weird or a hot mess. Every body is unique and beautiful! Perhaps experiment with the guidelines of rectangle and hourglass and see what looks best. Also, you can check out some guidelines on how to dress for narrow shoulders

8 Rita

I just tried the online calculator and the results said “Sorry, your body is not in the 4 shapes we calculate”. I’ve always known I was a bit odd! LOL!

9 Sylvia

How strange! Most of us lean towards one of these categories. It’s never completely correct though as we all have different shapes. Did you try it more than once and got the same result?

10 Courtney Stewart

I’m a pear. Good thing I like pears! My legs aren’t heavy but I definitely do tend to gain weight in my butt and thighs and I have narrow shoulders. I probably need to read up on what not to wear for my body type as I have some asymetrical dresses that never look quite right on me.

11 D

Meh I’m still really confused can you please help me?
Well my bust is 40 inches
Waist 31 inches
Hips 42 inches

12 Sylvia

You are most likely an hourglass, but have a read through the descriptions and see what best describes you. You may have a combination of 2 types as all bodies are different of course..

13 Laura

why does the apple have her hands behind her back and look ugly ?????? i know its the dreaded shape but thanks for making every apple fell ugly

14 Sylvia

I did not create the drawing and am not sure why she is drawn a different way. I do not agree that she looks ugly though. Every body is beautiful!

15 Antionette Blake

As I age, I am becoming more and more apple shaped!

16 Stacey

A concise and easy to follow guide … thanks for this!

17 Sylvia

You are very welcome Stacey. Hope you enjoy the rest of the site too!

18 Yvonne Ndukwe

please i would like to know what body shape i fall in 32-26-36

19 Sylvia

From these measurements it looks like your most dominant shape is pear

20 Precious

please where do i fall in with a statistics of 32-26-34

21 Sylvia

According to the calculator that I have mentioned above in the article you would be an apple.

22 Jennie

hi, I just wanted to comment on the image of the body types, I find it a tad insulting that the apple shape is illustrated in a over weight state while the other body-types are in a more leaner state. I understand that it helps to understand the difference between the body types but you could at least have made all of them extreme or over weight. Some people have the apple shape without being over weight and a lot of people with the other body-types are over weight as well! I mean on the illustration the apple-body have even bigger thighs than the triangle-body! And that usually never is the case. Now the apple-body have rather skinny arms and legs because the weight tend to get to the midsection. But if you look at the illustration the calves, arms, neck are bigger and even the knees! the apple-girl even has a different, more laid back and ashamed pose. I mean that is just not right! It gives the impression that all the other body-types are different ways of a seductive body to love and be confident about but the apple is kind of the sad, less-beautiful and unattractive type.

Now I don’t know if you simply borrowed the illustration I simply wanted to express my opinion in the matter and hope to get a respond of your thoughts in return!

23 Sylvia

Hi Jennie. The illustration is from the My Private Stylist programme. I have another illustration in my book that I have created myself and will look at replacing the image with that one soon as I do understand your concerns.

24 Marsha

I agree with Jennie, I am 49 and every part of my body is as small if not smaller than a lot of teenagers today except for my belly getting bigger and sticking out. I am 5’1 and weigh 120 so I am not over weight just big belly so what would I be?

25 Sylvia

It really depends on the other measurements of your body. Just use the calculator mentioned above. You may well be an apple as they are certainly not always overweight. You may also find my article on how to hide your belly interesting

26 karen wilson

Hi. I am 37 years old 5 foot tall and i have an inverted shape with a large belly. What tops are best. My bust size is 40 H and my bottoms are size 12/14. What tops are best for me that reduce my bust and hide my belly?

27 Sylvia
28 Rebecca

Hi, my body shape didn’t show Up also. I tried multiple times. My measurements are 96, 72, 95 cm.

29 Sylvia

You are most likely an hourglass Rebecca.

30 Emily Clark

Hi, my body shape is rectangular, what should I wear to make my waist look slender than rest of my body.

31 Sylvia

Best tips for rectangle can be found at: What could work well if you want to emphasize the waist is to choose skirts in an aline shape and fitted tops on top. All my best tips for the rectangle body type can be found at:

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