How to dress the hourglass body shape

by Sylvia

How to dress for the hourglass body shape

This is a refresher article on how to dress the hourglass body type with some new shoppable options for spring. In this part of dressing for your body type series we will have a look at the hourglass body type.

Characteristics of the hourglass:

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

Dress options for the hourglass body shape |

Karen Kane wrap dressTadashi embroidered dressMaggie London dress

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 Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch, Nigella Lawson, Salma Hayek and Charlotte Church. So, if you have an hourglass figure, you’re certainly in good company!

The aim of dressing for your hourglass 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.

Great outfit choices for the hourglass shape |

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 bust forwards. You will want to wear mostly V-shaped tops or tops with a deep neckline. High necklines will just make your bust area look 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.

ideas on how to dress the hourglass body |

Look 1: J.O.A. Plaid trench coat –Cece navy pencil skirt – Joie cream blouse – Nina navy heels – Rosefield round face watch

Look 2: Lewit blouse – Wayf cropped pants – Newport necklace in rose gold – Vincent Camuto heels – Brahmin Crocodile clutch

Look 3: Boss red Top – Panacea fringe pendant – Straight leg jeans – Vince Camuto boots in red – Kendra Scott necklace

Wardrobe tips:

  • 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.

Style tips for women: how to dress the hourglass body |

Look 1: Issey navy bootleg pantsEquipment leopard print shirt – Vincent Camuto black booties – Baggu black bag

Look 2: Ted Baker Pencil skirt – Trotter’s round toe pump  – Whiting and Davis metallic clutch bag  – NYDJ blouse 

Look 3: Vince Camuto Scarf – Trotters pump in black – Cece black pencil skirt – Sole Society clutch bag

What not to wear

  • Avoid too many frills 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 when choosing casual clothes as they can make  you look boxy.

Style tips for women:the hourglass body |

Look 1: Splendid pllaid top – Bernardo zip front biker jacket in cognac – Liverpool jeans – Sarto brown booties – Tophsop hobo bag

Look 2: Adrianna burgundy dress – Kendra scott necklace – Nina open toe pump – Kendra scott cuff bracelet

Here are some more expert tips from 40+Style stylist Ruth Essex

How do you dress your hourglass shape? What are your favorite pieces and brands? Let us 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 training in the 40+Style Club!

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Style tips for women: how to dress the hourglass body |


{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Silvergirl

oops no hour glass figure over here. 🙁


2 Sylvia

Luckily all our feminine shapes are gorgeous!


3 Cynthia

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


4 Sylvia

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.


5 Suzanne

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.


6 Sylvia

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!


7 Suzanne

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!


8 Sylvia

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:


9 Greetje

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.


10 Greetje

Sorry rectangle


11 Robert

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…


12 Sylvia

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


13 tracey

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


14 Sylvia

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


15 Nanne

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:)


16 Sylvia

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!


17 Dale

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


18 Sylvia

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.


19 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.


20 Sylvia

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


21 melody

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….


22 Sylvia

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!


23 Tiffany B.

Hi, Melody! I’m a similar size & have had great luck at New York & Company. They have flattering dresses that fit my large bust. GL!


24 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)


25 Sylvia

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


26 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


27 Lorraine

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.


28 Sylvia

Great additional tips Lorraine!


29 Lisa

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.


30 Sylvia

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


31 Lisa

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.


32 Annette

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


33 Hollywood

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?


34 Lorraine

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.


35 Sylvia

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.


36 whadawhat?

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.


37 Sylvia

Yes, few of us are strictly one type.


38 Yvette

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.


39 Sylvia

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.


40 Claire

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


41 Sylvia

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.


42 elle

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.


43 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!


44 Selena

Are Colummbiana jeans a good fit for hourglass shaped women


45 Sylvia

sure it will highlight your curves even more!


46 beate

thats for me!
although my bum&hips are boyish. but i really need to follow your guidelines here – and my own is – knee length or midi skirts to balance the top out and stretch the silhouette. was it instinctively or by purpose that you have mostly that skirt length in the examples?


47 Sylvia

No I think that knee length is the best length for most hourglass women (and for many other 40+ women too…)


48 Judy

Hi Sylvia,
On the “Hourglass” page, there is a blouse that caught my eye, and I could not locate the information on purchasing it. Do you have a link available to the Plaid V-Neck Wrap style blouse shown in a dark blue or green with the obvious mustard color running through it? It is shown in an hourglass outfit with a mustard colored leather jacket, light jeans, and tan, beige boots. I often have difficulty finding designers with blouses full enough in the arms and chest that still come in at a smaller waist. Most tops that fit the chest don’t give me the shape I need at the waist, and I look as big as my broad shoulders. Thank you!


49 Sylvia

It’s available at


50 Judy

Brilliant ~ Thank you!


51 Michelle

What about jeans for the hourglass woman. I am over 40 and trying to find jeans to fit my body. 5’8 and about 178 lbs. Really struggling with how to dress for my age.


52 Sylvia

You may like to read the guidelines for the hourglass body shape.


53 Amanda

Hi Sylvia

Im an hourglass and was wondering about capri pants. Im in Australia and its so hot, too hot for jeans or long pants. Are capri’s ok. Should I get the leg hugging ones or the ones that flare a bit around the calf?


54 Sylvia

It all depends on your secondary type and your figure priorities. Capris can look good but be sure to create the right balance and proportions in your outfit so it doesn’t shorten you too much. I will release a video soon on this topic so you may want to get on the list to receive it.


55 Sylvia

By the way for capris leg hugging is usually more flattering…


56 fairy

The article holds true for the most part, but I have some differences of opinion.
“Tops that flare just below the boob area and go to below your crutch can be very flattering on trousers.”
Never. Ever. Those tops don’t have a waist, and coupled with wide shoulders and big breasts, will make you look pregnant!
Also, sometimes, ties and belts are what save a dress/top… Even if a dress is fitted, a belt over the smallest part of the waist can draw all eyes there, and make them marvel ‘how did it get so tiny?’ 🙂


57 Elena

I’m 43 and being blessed with a hourglass body… and also have dress with the OPPOSITE of my body type all my life! Luckily, is never too late and this web site has help me A LOT!
Time to make the change: I may need to take all my clothes to a tailor but I have a few key pieces in my closet that can help me start.
Whish me luck.


58 Nahla Abdulhussein

Thank you ..great article with very very useful tips


59 Patricia

This is very useful, Sylvia. As an hourglass-shaped woman, I can confirm that V-necks, longer, fitted tops and single-breasted, tailored coats look best on me, with anything bulky, chunky or with lots of material making me look really boxy. I did make the mistake of buying double-breasted coats and boxy jumpers, and they just sit in my wardrbe waiting to be donated.


60 Sherry Edwards

I seem to have a confusing shape. I’m still trying to figure it out. During good times an a hourglass but boobless and buttless. If I gain weight it goes on the waist and I become a rectangle. If I gain more weight it goes on my thighs and I become a pear. Worst if I gain more weight I become an apple. So basically I I can be the whole fruit basket. Now I am an hour glass with a tummy. This is a poor reason or excuse to always clothes shop.


61 Jennifer

Thank you so much for this!


62 kim

hi i have hour glass shape i was wondering what kind of skirts to wear and pants and is peplum tops ok thanks


63 Sylvia

Are guidelines are in the article. Yes peplums are very good for hourglass as they highlight the waist.


64 Robin H Dorantes

Tried peplum recently; although it emphasized the waist, my behind exploded and the flounce the peplum gives just overly emphasized my rear end. Not a good look if you have a prominent backside like most African-American women.


65 Julie

Great article and I’ll be moving on to the pear and rectangle to compare and verify. However, some yeas ago I did some research and learned a couple of things I’d be interested on your take:
-A true hourglass bombshell has:
— a minimum 38″ bust
— same bust and hip measurement, or Very close
-Someone with a smaller than 38″ bust and little wider hips than bust, but not pear, is a squash

My measurements for my wedding dress (I was age 35) were 36-26-38, and now, at age 50, they are something like 36-29-40. Thoughts on where this puts me?


66 Sylvia

Hi Julie, You can try the calculator on this page However, it’s more useful to just think of the body parts you want to highlight and downplay and focus on that. You’ll hardly ever just fit into one category.


67 kathleen kerrigan

Hi Sylvia, this is a great advice for hourglass ladies. I am an hourglass I sometimes wear clothes for a more boyish figure just because I might like the colour ‘not a good idea’ When I wear the right clothes for my shape I look and feel great and will always reach for them again and again


68 Sylvia

Thanks for your kind feedback. Yes clothes that suit you will just make you shine 🙂


69 Genece Hamby

I’m an hourglass with high hips (I call them shelves). I’m only 5′ so it’s like triple the challenge. 🙂 I pretty much stick to fitted sheath dresses, pencil skirts, pants that go straight from my hips or a baby boot — all the things that make me appear taller. less shelf-like hips, and smaller chest. LOL! Love the wine dress with scalloped edge neckline and hem! May have to get it!!!!


70 Dia

These clothes are gorgeous but not everyone works in a formal office workplace and some of these are just a bit too dressy. (It is not good form to dress better than the boss!)

Is there anyway that an article can be provided for those that are required to wear denim to work so that it does make us look like we gained twenty pounds overnight and still look polished and professional?


71 Sylvia

Hi Dia, I wrote this article a while ago on how to dress casual for work. I had a teacher in mind but this could also work for the casual office. Will definitely write more on this topic in future.


72 Trisha

I have been an hourglass all my life, even when very slim, I am now, since the menopause, a UK size 12(US 8) which is not as slim as I would like! I am also quite tall at 5ft 9 inches, so have always been noticeable; this was a problem to me when very young and shy, I hated people staring at me and covered up the body as much as possible, with excess fabric and clothes that didn’t suit me. From my thirties onwards I was working in an office, then an famous art gallery and museum, so the little suit with knee length pencil skirt and fitted jacket worked a treat to flatter as I gained confidence as a woman, although to be honest, it was always more classic in style than I am naturally, I am not very traditional by nature. Now retired and living in a rural community (apart from shopping trips to local large town etc) I need to wear mostly casual, weather proofed clothing. This is a problem for me, as I just end up feeling scruffy rather than stylish, even though I am naturally rather laid back. The puffer jacket feels scruffy to me, the trench is too classic and no hood, I live in jeans or black stretch slim fit trousers and walking boots are the norm, trendy ankle boots when I visit town, but to be honest, I am so bored with clothing and feel I have lost any sense of style I had.


73 Stephanie

I believe I’m a plus-sized hourglass because even though my breasts are average size, both my hips and shoulders are wide, I think my shoulders might be a little wider too haha


74 Pamela Hand

I am a very curvy hourglass. However, I am long-waisted. I like sweaters. But I think I should probably stick to long cardigans in dark color. Not sure. I think I need to give away my two thick crew neck boucle and hand-knit sweaters. I think I might need to check into trying wider belts sometimes. Am I right? I am 5′ 2″ and planning to lose some weight. I am warm spring coloring, something I want to incorporate as well.


75 Sylvia

Very hard to judge as everyone’s body shape is so unique. But I encourage to give different belts a try. We are are able to give specific help in the 40+ style club 🙂


76 Robin H Dorantes

Hour glass [with a bit of a pooch} ~ I viewed myself in silhouette to make sure. Just turned 65 in June too. Having to adjust to a little extra weight especially around the tummy & hips, but I’m hopeful. I like wearing booties and cowgirl boots instead of the painful high heels.


77 Ava Rodgers

Do you sell petite clothing? Thank you!


78 Sylvia

I don’t sell any clothing myself. I just link to great pieces I discover online or wear myself. My recommendations for petites are at


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