One of the best things you can do to look good after 40, or at any age for that matter, is to dress for your vertical body type. The first step in that process is to know and understand your body proportions.

In previous articles we discussed the different body shapes or horizontal body types. Another important factor in understanding your shape is your vertical body type.

Why is it important to determine your vertical body type?

Ever wondered why a certain outfit just doesn’t work? It’s likely because the proportions are all wrong. Not enough attention has been paid to silhouette and the golden ratio or the rule of thirds.

The golden ratio appears naturally in many parts of life, like in nature, on your face and in many structures. It’s used by artists, photographers and designers to create pleasing images and designs. One of the most famous examples is the Eiffel Tower which you can divide in 2 thirds and 1 third.

It works equally well for styling yourself. Just like in nature, using the golden ratio, or as I will call it The Rule of Thirds, creates a nice silhouette and a pleasing image.

However, to fully take advantage of this rule, you need to know the actual vertical proportions of your body.

What is your vertical body type?

Vertical body type - front look -

Have a look at the image on the right. The body is divided into four sections:

  • The top of the head to the nipple line (with bra on).
  • The nipple line to the hipline (fullest part of the bottom).
  • The hipline to the centre of the kneecap.
  • The kneecap to the floor.

Almost everyone has different proportions and women can be placed in one of three main categories:

The balanced body

Find out your vertical body type - balanced -

You have this vertical body type when:

  • Your upper body length is almost the same as your lower body length
  • You height from your hipline to the ground is equal to half your full height
  • Your waist is equal to your bent elbow
  •  The short segments (bust-to-hip and hip-to-knee) are similar in length as are the long segments (head-to-bust and knee-to-floor).

Many women with this vertical body shape are also petite  (<160cm (5’3”)) . As women grow older this body type can pose a problem as many women will gain weight around the waist, which may lead to a feeling of being short waisted.

How to dress the belanced vertical body shape?

Your dressing aims is to elongate the short segments (bust to hip and hip to knee) to create more of a golden ratio.

  • Wear tops that are medium to long to create more of a 2/3 – 1/3 proportion rather than 1/2 – 1/2
  • Do not tuck your tops
  • Get pants and skirts either without waistband or only a narrow waistband
  • Better to use tops and bottoms in one color and to avoid contrasting colors at the waistline
  • Wear dresses that flow through the waist, create a 2/3 proportion with your dress
  • Avoid wide belts
  • Avoid empire waist dresses

Long legs short torso

How to determine vertical body type - long legs, short torso -

Most often seen with tall women although there are always the exceptions. You have this body type when:

  • Your legs tend to be very long as compared to the torso length
  • The height from ground to hip is higher than half your full height
  • You appear high waisted, higher than your bent elbow
  • Weigh gain tends to be aorund the midriff

How to dress for the longs legs / short torso vertical body type?

Your dressing aim is to visually lengthen your short torso to create more balance.

  • You can leave your blouses tucked out to elongate the waist
  • Long jackets, top and over blouses
  • Accessories that draw the eyes down
  • Skirts and pants without waistbands
  • Wear low waisted skirts and pants
  • Narrow non-contrasting belts
  • Low to medium heels.

Short leg / long torso

vertical body type - long torso -

These women are usually short to average in height, you have this body type when:

The upper body tends to be longer that the lower body
Often has a low, heavy bottom
Weight tends to form on the thighs and bottom

How to dress the sthort leg / long torso vertical body type?

The dressing aim for this body type is to lengthen the legs and shorten the torso.

  • Wear short to medium-long tops and jackets
  • If your horizontal body type permits tuck in your tops
  • Accessorieze for focus on the upper side op the body
  • Sraight skirt enlongate more than a-lines or flared skirts
  • Wear medium to wide belts
  • Classic wide pants will look great on you
  • Keep socks, shoes and bottoms all in the same color
  • Wear heals
  • Avoid cropped pants
  • Avoid tight tapered skirts and pants
  • Avoid skirts and trousers with a dropped waistband

Here is an example of the difference dressing correctly can make

The latter (long torso / short legs) is my own vertical body type and dressing correctly can make a real difference.

I don’t always get it right, as in terms of comfort, I prefer to wear belts and skirts low waisted. Since I have reasonable height and provided I wear high heals, I get away with it (barely), but it’s definitely something i need to do less of.

See what a big difference it makes if I emphasize my upper half and apply all ‘rules’ to elongate my legs.

The silhouette at the left is far too boxy and not so flattering at all. The skirt on the left does not fit me properly in the waist.

I try to compensate with my thick belt, but it isn’t short enough. The skirt is too short and boxy for my body type and I should not wear this skirt without heels.

In the picture on the right, I actually appear to have long legs…

Knowing your vertical body type - Dressing for longer legs -

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!

Read these article to learn about your unique body type:

How about you. Do you know your vertical body type? Do you take it into account when you are dressing yourself?

If you like to kickstart your style right now, you may like to download our free guide and mini course which will get your style on track in no time!


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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