How to dress for your body type - tips and tricks to make the most of your shape

We've asked the experts how to dress for different body types to ensure you can put outfits together with confidence

models of different sizes embracing each other showing how to dress for your body type
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering how to dress for your body type? You are certainly not alone. Getting to the bottom of exactly which styles of clothing suit your body shape, as well as ensuring you feel your best in whatever you're wearing, takes some serious trial and error. But fear not, as our handy guide will make this whole process a walk in the park.

The new autumn/winter fashion trends 2023 present a chance to re-vamp your wardrobe, so there's no better time to consider how to dress for your body type to ensure that each item you own is one you feel genuinely good about putting on. However, we want to stress that fashion should be fun. Any ‘rules’ are there as a guide, only to help you navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of shopping. So, if you actually feel your best in pieces that are the polar opposite of the recommendations for your body type - don’t worry. 

From shopping for the best jeans and flattering jumpsuits to the best sweaters, there are several suggested tips and tricks for each body type that aim to make selecting pieces a much less frustrating process. It is also most likely that the pieces that flatter your body shape best will be the ones you reach for time and time again, forming a foolproof capsule wardrobe you feel great in. Keep reading to learn more about dressing for your body type, plus the best pieces to invest in now.

The key body types, explained

If you've ever wondered 'what body shape am I?', a quick online search is likely to leave you more confused about body types than you were in the first place. Alongside the usual fruity favourites, there’s talk of lesser-known shapes like a banana, spoon, and even an inverted triangle. Here, we will be looking at what stylist Susie Hasler considers the “five key body types.” They are:

  • Apple
  • Strawberry
  • Rectangle
  • Hourglass
  • Pear 

Although this doesn't encompass every body type out there, it does cover the most common body types, so should help you to find several tips and tricks that relate to you.

How to find out which body type you are

“The best way to find out what body shape you have is to use a professional personal styling service like Styled by Susie,” says Susie. "Otherwise, look in the mirror while wearing a fitted outfit, so you can clearly see your body shape as a silhouette. You’ll be able to see where you might be broader, where you might be narrower, where you may need balancing out.”

If you’re struggling to make a judgment on your silhouette alone, fashion guru Bradley Bayou has come up with a simple way to figure out your body size based on measurements for your shoulders, bust, hips, and waist. All you need is a tape measure and a calculator.

How to measure your body 

Here’s how to measure your body properly, to help you get the best possible fit for you: 

  • Shoulders: Measure from the tip of one shoulder on one side all the way round to the other. Hold the measuring tape high up to the widest point so that it almost slips off - you may need to enlist a helping hand for this one!
  • Bust: Make sure you are standing upright. Hold the tape measure taut around the fullest part of your chest - but don't squish!
  • Waist: Measure around the smallest part of your natural waist, just above your belly button.
  • Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your bum - this should be just below the hip bone.

With these measurements and an idea of your silhouette in mind, you can shop to flatter your body depending on the shape you best fit into. 

How to dress for your body type

Pear-shaped body type

You have a pear-shaped body if…

  • Your hips are at least 5% wider than your bust or shoulders
  • You have narrow shoulders and a small waist
  • You tend to gain weight easily on the bottom half 

How to dress a pear-shaped figure

“Pears should avoid anything that adds volume on their bottom half,” advises Susie. “So avoid white jeans outfits, pleated or mesh skirts, as well as V-necks because they can make the shoulders appear narrower.”

Instead, look for tops that draw attention to your top half. Think bold colours, busy prints, and detailing like ruffles. Team these with simpler pieces on your bottom half, as this will help to balance your shape. Pears tend to have smaller waists, so don't forget to highlight this and show it off. 

"I start with proportions. I use clothes to balance them. If a client is heavy around the hips I keep it simple around there and balance that with action, fun and definition elsewhere around the neck, bust and shoulders," says personal stylist Anne Hamlyn.

Key wardrobe staples for a pear-shaped figure 

  • Tailored blazer
  • Bardot neckline dresses and tops
  • Bootcut jeans
  • A-line dress

Best buys to suit a pear-shaped figure

Want more ideas? You can find our full guide to dressing for a pear-shaped body here. 

Apple-shaped body type

You have an apple-shaped body if…

  • Your hip, shoulder and waist measurements are all roughly equal (within 5%)
  • Your hips are the widest part of your body
  • You carry most of your weight on the upper part of your body

How to dress an apple-shaped figure

With apples, keep the focus away from the tummy by drawing the eye upwards towards the shoulders or down towards the legs,” says Susie. “We would advise them to wear scoop or V-necks and to wear anything on their bottom half that's going to accentuate their legs. That could be lighter-coloured or patterned pants, skinny jeans, ripped jeans, or anything that draws the eye down away from the tummy.”

Longline tops, open collars, and even drop-style earrings will all help to create the illusion of a longer torso. And, crucially, resist the urge to size up. Swathes of heavy, excess fabric will only make you look larger than you are. The best dresses to hide a tummy feature fluid fabrics and waist-whittling wrap fits. 

Key wardrobe staples for an apple shaped figure

  • V-neck top
  • Empire line dress
  • Skinny jeans
  • Waterfall cardigan 

Best buys to suit an apple shaped figure

Want more ideas? You can find our full guide to dressing for an apple shaped body here.

Hourglass-shaped body type

You have an hourglass-shaped body if…

  • Your waist measurement is no more than 75% of your hip and bust or shoulder measurements
  • Your hip and bust or shoulder measurements are roughly equal (within 5%)
  • Your top and bottom half are fairly equally proportioned, with clear waist definition

How to dress an hourglass-shaped figure

"An hourglass should avoid anything that's too shapeless,” explains Susie. “Instead draw the eye to the waist. If that’s not possible, keep the rest of the silhouette quite fitted - so focus on the legs for example. The key is not to drown the hourglass in too much fabric or anything too oversized. This body shape looks amazing in anything that shows off their balanced silhouette, so that could be a shirt dress, a jumpsuit, or it could simply be a pair of jeans with a T-shirt tucked in.”

Seek out pieces with lycra content that hug your curves to really make the most of your feminine shape. And if you’re struggling to find the perfect fit, buy garments that fit your bust and hips, and have them tailored to your waist - trust us, it will be worth it. 

Key wardrobe staples for an hourglass shaped figure

  • Cropped jacket
  • Wide leg jumpsuit 
  • Wrap dress
  • Cigarette leg pants

Best buys to suit an hourglass-shaped figure

Want more ideas? You can find our full guide to dressing for an hourglass body shape here.

Rectangle-shaped body type

You have a rectangle-shaped body if…

  • Your hip, bust and shoulder measurements are roughly equal (within 5%)
  • Your waist measurement is 75-95% of your shoulder or bust measurement
  • You have an athletic frame, with a small bust and slender legs 

How to dress a rectangle-shaped figure

Lucky for you, rectangles can pull off nearly everything. “We would generally advise them to wear clothing with detail,” says Susie. “It doesn't have to be a print or a pattern - it could be stripes or textures such as a cable knit jumper - or it could be an oversized collar or even just going to town with accessories. It could even be something as simple as buttons on the shoulders or a pocket on the bust of a T-shirt.”

As always, opt for pieces that make you feel good, and don't be afriad to experiment with bright and bold hues like Barbiecore pink. “The one thing I would stay away from for a rectangle would be any type of lower neckline, particularly a V-neck because it won't add a very good shape to the bust or the shoulders.”

Key wardrobe staples for a rectangle-shaped figure

  • Straight leg jeans
  • Ruffled blouse
  • Bias cut skirt 
  • Fit-and-flare dress

Best buys to suit a rectangle-shaped figure

Want more ideas? You can find our full guide to dressing for a rectangle body shape here.

Strawberry-shaped body type

You have a strawberry-shaped body if…

  • You’re broader on the top half
  • Your bottom is relatively flat
  • You have narrow hips and slender legs 

How to dress a strawberry-shaped figure

To balance out your frame, steer clear of anything too fussy or voluminous on the top half. Horizontal stripes and roll-necks are best to avoid too. Choose bust-boosting V or scoop necks instead, which will make your shoulders look narrower.

”Strawberry shapes look great in lighter colours or patterns and anything that shows off those slender legs,” adds Susie. If you prefer plain black pants or jeans to something jazzier, a pair of eye-catching shoes, like the best designer heels, will have the same effect. Or, for a more toned-down work-appropriate look, the best Quiet Luxury shoes will do nicely.

Key wardrobe staples for a strawberry-shaped figure

  • Wide leg pants
  • Scoop neck top
  • White jeans
  • V-neck dress

Best buys to suit a strawberry-shaped figure

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.

With contributions from