Understanding how to dress your body shape is critical to making positive clothing purchases that will feel amazing on and get worn year after year. When I think about my style, it has a lot to do with how I feel about my body, even if it’s not always conscious.
I believe many of my shopping disasters (after 40) were because I didn’t appreciate how to dress to feel my best in my new body shape post children. Understanding my changing silhouette and some tricks to enhance it was a huge turning point for me.
No matter what your body shape, I recommend the following:
1 Dress For You
Our body shapes are varied and unique and many of us don’t fit into typical body types (or resemble a piece of fruit :). Focus on dressing for you and to feel great rather than dressing to suit an ideal.
2 Create Your Own Guidelines
Dressing for your body shape, is about choosing clothes that accentuate, balance and conceal where YOU want them to, to make you feel great. Body shape guidelines are just that – guidelines, not rules. They are merely suggestions of the kinds of cuts, shapes and styles to try.
Creating your signature style is all about experimentation and will only work if you feel free to explore styles and silhouettes you love. You can then develop your own guidelines, really know what works for you and craft your own unique look. Boot cut jeans might balance out my bust, but I love skinnies and will continue to wear them. I make the guidelines work for me, not the other way around.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Remember, you’re on a journey to find YOUR personal style, not to fit into other people’s ideas of what you should look like. And that is liberating! Understanding how to dress your body shape will help you to shop smarter, buy less and feel great – all the time.
So, first and foremost, wear clothes that you love! Then understand how you feel about your body, embrace your looks and create harmony between your personality, your body shape and your clothes. So, let’s do it. Here are my three steps to understand (and love) your body shape (& know what makes you feel your best). You can download the Body Workbook below as a little project to come up with your very own Feel Good Guidelines.
If your’re feeling stumped, you can also take a look at my completed Body Workbook and use this as inspiration to complete your own.
DREAM IT + PLAN IT + DO IT
STEP 1 I DREAM IT
Let’s start by thinking about what we want to achieve!
1.1 APPRECIATE YOUR BODY
Your body may not be perfect, but it is a beautiful miracle of ingenious complexity, something we should all stand in awe of and at the very least appreciate. Above all, your body allows you to run, dance, breathe, embrace, laugh and dream.
Our imperfections are beautiful too and are what makes us all unique. These so called ‘imperfections’ – our freckles, our laugh lines, the gap between our teeth, our generous hips or belly that’s not flat anymore – are hallmarks of some of the most famous and admired people of our time. It is their confidence that makes celebrities like J-lo, Marilyn Munroe, Beyonce or Madonna beautiful – so work on building yours (and I too, will work on mine).
Embrace & Love YOUR BODY. It’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever own.
The fact is – you are beautiful and unique just as you are. But if you have inner confidence and acceptance of yourself, you can truly relax and be the most authentic you.
Acknowledge how you feel about your body for now and take a moment to consider it’s wonder. If you’re not too complimentary, you can work on that, but this is about developing a clear picture that will allow you to dress to feel your confident best. Understanding your feelings (even if they have no justification) will help you get there.
1.2 GROW YOUR CONFIDENCE
Many women struggle with poor body image and a lack of confidence, but this often has little to do with their appearance. So much of self-confidence is about your inner dialogue.
Why else would so many older women feel happier with their appearance now than they did in their youth? Since my teenage years, I’ve gone up a dress size (or two) and have gained all the usual trademarks of ageing gracefully – grey hairs, fine lines, the odd scar and lumps and bumps to name a few. But I have also grown to accept myself as I am.
I am definitely more comfortable now, in my imperfect mature form than I was as my thinner, more youthful self. As women mature, they often come to realise that their looks, their body shape or size don’t define their self-worth, confidence or beauty.
True beauty is an attitude, an air of grace a gentle smile and a loving thought. Beauty is kindness in how we approach others, and essentially, how we love and respect ourselves.
I’ve come to realise that self-confidence and true beauty come from within and I hope you can too. Looking good on the outside helps, but it doesn’t stop those persistent feelings of self-doubt if you feel insecure deep down. In other words, true beauty is how you feel about yourself, not just what you see in the mirror.
A lack of confidence will hold you back in so many areas of life – from pursuing your goals and dreams, to relationships, and even your career. It will hold you back from feeling good about yourself and your style. And confidence is all about your attitude. The good news – it’s never too late to develop self-confidence.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Practice being kind to yourself.
- Tell yourself every day that you are enough – in your clothes, in your body and in your life.
1.3 UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GREAT
Now that we’re all working on our inner self-confidence, we can acknowledge that it’s easier to feel confident when you are looking good – when you’re wearing clothes that express your style, suit your personality and body shape. That’s why I feel that it’s important to dress to highlight the features you love (and downplay any elements you’re not so fond of). Who doesn’t want to feel their best?
Appreciating the basics of body shape will help you understand why you are drawn to some clothes and not others. It doesn’t matter how many people have admired my generous chest or ‘assets’ – I’m never going to feel comfortable in anything too revealing and at the same time I don’t feel great in something that doesn’t outline my silhouette.
While shapeless can be floaty and care-free on someone else, loose clothing simply engulfs me and feels sack-like. In contrast, if I wear a tight t-shirt, I feel like it accentuates my stomach (not what I want). Now I understand this, I purchase loose t-shirts and knot or tuck them. The knot draws the fabric in at the right spot to give me shape, whilst the gathered fabric downplays my stomach.
My confidence is being myself, and not giving a damn about what anyone says.
It doesn’t matter how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. You are strong and beautiful. You are enough! So, let’s put all judgement aside and get to it.
Complete the three questions under section 1 of the body workbook to appreciate your body, work on your self confidence and start thinking about clothes that make you feel great.
STEP 2 I PLAN IT
Now let’s take a look at body shape guidelines. Let’s get real!
2.1 EXAMINE YOUR SILHOUETTE & PROPORTIONS
When it comes to body shape and the fit of your clothes, it’s useful to think in terms of the ABC’s. What do you want to accentuate? Is there anything you would like to balance? Are there any areas you want to conceal?
Silhouette or Horizontal Proportions
Look in the mirror when dressed in simple undergarments. A black slip dress or black leggings and a singlet are great for this as it enables you to focus on your silhouette without critiquing every little bump. Your body shape is your outline front on. It is determined by the difference between your shoulders (not bust), waist and hips.
Have a careful look at your silhouette. You might like to take a photo and print it out, so that you can look more objectively.
Determine if your shoulders and hips align or if one is wider than the other. Then look at your waist. Do you have an obvious waist or is your shape straighter? There are no right or wrongs here. Understanding your shape is a starting point to begin experimenting with silhouettes and styles that might make you feel your best.
This is the length of your torso, compared to your overall height. Are your hips roughly half of your height or do you have a longer torso or longer legs?
Your horizontal and vertical proportions give an indication of how to balance your body. They tell you where to put detail or draw focus, and where to keep plain if you don’t want to draw attention to that area (conceal).
Now let’s go back to the ABC’s.
2.2 DRESS TO CELEBRATE YOUR BODY SHAPE
We want to dress to celebrate your body shape. Click on the link below to see a list of Visual Tips & Tricks to help celebrate your body and accentuate, balance or conceal to make you feel your best. Experiment and tick off the tricks that resonate and feel good on you. Remember, self-confidence is your best outfit – rock it and own it!
Complete section 2 of your Body Workbook to uncover your proportions and the visual tips and tricks that work for you.
STEP 3: DO IT – DRESS YOUR BODY SHAPE
Now that you understand some of the principals to dress your body shape, you can use the tips and tricks you ticked off above to put together your Feel Good Guidelines. It’s time to experiment. Try on different cuts, styles and silhouettes before putting together your own feel good guidelines in section 3 of the downloadable workbook.
And there you have it! Armed with this knowledge, you should have a clear idea of what clothing feels good on your body. This will allow you to shop wisely, to dress with confidence and to own who you are.
This article is the final piece of the puzzle – part 3 in the Ultimate Personal Style Guide series. If you’d like to put together your own style guide so you can …
Ultimately, I believe it is the women with self-confidence, an easy smile and an interest in others that will be the most beautiful in the room, every time.
I’d love to hear your feedback and how you found the process of developing your own Feel Good Guidelines. Don’t be shy! Your Tea With A Tigress girlfriends are a warm and friendly bunch, and sharing your story may help someone else.
PS: If you want to build confidence in everything you do, love yourself, and achieve your biggest goals, you could try reading ‘You Are A Badass’. This humorous bestseller is a self-help book that contains a guide on how to create a life you love. It’s filled with inspiring stories and advice on how to incorporate the guide in your life.