A common myth the media will have you believe is that the only way to look good in everything is to be skinny. This is completely untrue, for two reasons. First, you can look great in stylish clothes whatever size and shape you are. And two, nobody can look good in everything. There’s no such thing as a universal figure that goes with every type of outfit.
Just consider the evolution of fashion throughout history. The image of the so-called “perfect body” is constantly changing and is always determined by the fashion industry. Whether it’s cinching your waist until you can’t breathe, exaggerating behinds with bum rumps, or idolising the emaciated waif look – the fashion industry sets trends for whatever body shape they choose in the moment. And while you’re busy fixating on newly determined flaws, next season those flaws may well become ass-ets!
The most important thing when it comes to looking good in clothes is to dress for yourself. Don’t try to change your body for fashion trends and certainly don’t do it to try and impress anyone else – dress to impress yourself, and the rest will fall into place.
But definitely never think that just because you don’t have an “Insta” figure, you shouldn’t even try to look sexy or elegant or have a stylish closet. What you choose to wear is entirely your choice – after all, clothes are more than practicality, they’re a form of self-expression. So always be true to yourself, but in case you’re hiding in certain garments because you lack the confidence to rock something more daring, then I’m here to give you some useful tips to change your way of thinking.
Looking good in great clothes, besides confidence, is down to two things: make sure the garment fits and make sure the garment is flattering. And remember: flattering on an apple shape is not going to be flattering on an hourglass shape. It’s about finding the perfect fit and silhouette for your body, not trying to squeeze into something that’s fundamentally wrong for you.
Changing your mindset and building that self-assuredness isn’t something that can just happen overnight, so let’s start off with some baby steps that will already make a huge difference.
The entire look of an outfit can change drastically depending on the neckline. Whether it’s a dress or a top, necklines aren’t just holes to stick your head through. They frame your face, define your neck, they shape your shoulders and collarbone and help form your bust. That’s a lot of elements that can look amazing, or dreadful, based just on the neckline. Just be realistic about your proportions. Work with what you have, don’t force what you don’t.
The first thing to realise is that there are dozens of necklines – you certainly can’t be expected to learn them all, but I’ll break down a few of the major ones so you can at least start familiarising yourself with what might suit you: V-neck, asymmetric, off-shoulder, spaghetti, boat neck, jewel, scoop, square, sweetheart and crew.
The Apple Shape
An apple shape typically has the following characteristics: lean limbs (especially legs), a flat bum, narrow hips, sometimes narrow shoulders, medium to large breasts, a wide back and ribcage and a full midsection.
Necklines that work great with this figure are wide and low. A wide neckline will broaden and emphasize the shoulders, which balances out the heavy tummy, and a low line will elongate the chest while drawing the eye up and away from the belly. A wide V-neck or a low scoop are great choices to achieve this effect. Look for blouses that also create a waistline, such as wrap tops, or ones that have a darker colour scheme in the bottom half. AVOID high and narrow necklines, especially if you have a shorter neck. This will shorten your torso, emphasize your chin(s) and give you an overall bulkier look.
The Pear Shape
A pear-shaped body is one where the hips are wider than the bust and shoulders. Often there is a lovely defined waist and proportionately smaller arms, with smaller breasts and heavier thighs.
So the trick here is to emphasize the top half of the body to balance out the broader hips. Once again, we’re after wider necklines to broaden the shoulders. Long or narrow necklines will elongate the body, which can look nice, but won’t offset the hips and can, in fact, make them seem even wider by contrast. Off-shoulder, boat and square necklines work very well, as well as necklines that feature embellishments, such as a cowl, collar, scarf or bow. The wider hips create a beautiful waist effect so don’t be afraid to wear more figure-hugging tops and top-fitted dresses. AVOID narrow or deep necklines like the V-neck, scoop or strapless. (Actually, strapless can work nicely, as long as the top half has some sort of embellishment to fill out the bust area).
The Hourglass Shape
Often lauded as the most desired body shape, but even the hourglass can be as unforgiving as it is flattering. The waist tends to be narrower and more defined, but with a bigger bust and hips, with more rounded shoulders and fuller bum and thighs. (good luck buying jeans! But I’ll save that for another post).
Since this body shape is more balanced, the key here is to not throw it off balance. Maintain proportions, while emphasizing the waist. It’s best to avoid wider necklines that might broaden the shoulders, however, if you’re heavier of bosom, a wider line can actually offset the bust nicely, as long as the top is of a dark colour. The contrast will draw the eye away from the breasts and onto the decolletage. Rounded and deep rounded necklines look lovely, as well as the sweetheart. AVOID embellishments around the collar or turtlenecks, especially if you’ve got a shorter neck or fuller jowls.
The Rectangle Shape
Defined as having equal widths for the shoulders, waist and hips, the rectangle shape is typically found on long athletic types – the model look if you will. This leaner physique tends to have very few curves and no defined waist, with straighter shoulders.
Just as with the hourglass shape, this body type has a balanced top and bottom, so again – we want to emphasize the waist. Either embellish the top and bottom halves evenly or go for tops that cinch in the waistline. Additionally, with a lack of bosom, it’s good to try and embellish the bust area. Opt for round necklines with embellishments like ruffles of a collar to create some curves or narrow necklines to emphasize your slender lines. Halter Necks, crew and turtlenecks work great, coupled with accessories for the waist. AVOID high and wide necklines, as this will highlight the rectangular shape of the torso.
The Inverted Triangle Shape
This body shape is characterised by having wide, straight shoulders and a broader chest, with narrow hips and little waist definition and slender hips and thighs. As a result, this body shape has a great sporty look, but because it is top-heavy, we need to balance this out by emphasizing the lower half of the torso.
This can be trickier to achieve with a neckline since the best thing you can do is opt for garments that round out and embellish your hips and bum. However, a well-chosen neckline can soften your shoulders and de-emphasize your top half. Go for long and slim necklines, to elongate your torso such V and U-necks and scoop. If you have a small bust, asymmetric and halter tops can look great as well. AVOID wide or straight necklines, as this will further broaden your shoulders and any additional detail, like ruffles or shoulder pads.
So the next time you’re shopping, just for yourself or for a special occasion, try to filter your dress and top choices by the most flattering necklines for your shape and you’ll be amazed what great garments flatter you most!