Over the years a lot of catchy, confusing, and even downright insulting names (fruits?!) have been used, by women themselves, to describe common woman’s body types.

The most objective choice is probably shapes, but who can remember which is a triangle vs. an inverted triangle?

I’ll describe each body type with a couple of phrases, and note the shape as well, for you traditionalists.

Today’s Body: Smaller Top, Bigger Bottom (a.k.a. the Triangle)

As women we’ve often been taught to cover up or camouflage the parts of our bodies that we don’t like. But I think it’s more important to use clothing and accessories to bring your body in balance. Read on for real life examples focusing on today’s body shape:

Smaller Top, Bigger Bottom

If your upper body is small compared to your lower body, there are three basic ways to bring the top and bottom in balance with one another:

A. Add volume on top

B. Draw attention to the top

C. Minimize the bottom

A. Add Volume On Top

To balance out healthy hips and thighs, add volume to the neck and shoulder area.

  1. Bring back the shoulder pads. Stop thinking about the TV show Dynasty and learn to love shoulder pads again.
  2. Puff and cap sleeves add wanted volume to the shoulder area. But beware of a sleeve that’s full at the cuff. This will add unwanted volume to an already full lower body.
  3. The pussy bow isn’t going anywhere. If you haven’t already, give it a try.
  4. Thicker, crisp fabrics stand away from the body, adding bulk.

B. Draw Attention to the Top

Use tops, jackets and accessories like earrings, scarves and necklaces to draw the attention away from your derriere and up towards your face, so that people are listening to all of the brilliant things you’re saying.

  1. Bright colors attract attention and reflect light, creating the illusion of more surface area.
  2. Busy patterns attract more attention than solid colors. The bigger the pattern, the larger the object appears.
  3. Shiny surfaces: glazed, lacquered, metallic, gemstones, glitter. If it’s shiny, it catches the eye and looks bigger than it is.
  4. Snazzy shoulder seams: epaulets, stripes or other decorative trim along the shoulder seam draws the eye out horizontally, broadening the shoulder area.

C. Minimize the Bottom

  1. Dark, solid colors absorb light and draw the eye inward, making the area look smaller. If you love printed pants, keep the pattern small and simple.
  2. Slim. I said slim, not tight. It might feel counter intuitive to let pants hug your curves, but baggy pants and full skirts just make you look wider. Stiff fabrics also stand away from the body and add unwanted bulk. Fitted pencil skirts (in Dutch: kokerrok) with a high waist are very flattering.
  3. Flare. Bell bottoms also work well here, but no need to go so extreme. A pant that hugs the hips and legs, then flares out again at the hem helps to balance the hips. An A-line skirt is also flattering when it ends at or just below the knee.
  4. Full length pants. Please, no cropped or capri pants. We need to lengthen the leg, not shorten it visually. If you do wear a pant that comes to the ankle or just above it, make sure it’s fitted.
  5. Thicker stretch fabrics are ideal for fitted pants to flatter a fuller bottom half. Skirt fabrics should be lightweight and drapey, making it obvious that you have a waist, and skimming your curves.

A Word About Dresses

The best dresses to bring your body in balance are the wrap dress (LINK) and the empire waist (keep reading for Bonus Trick 2). The empire has a raised waistline, and the bottom half can be semi-fitted or A-line.

Bonus Trick 1: Back Gap

Fuller bottoms and thighs are often paired with smaller waists, resulting in pants that gap at the back because the waist is too big. Instead of just adding a belt, which can actually give the illusion of an even bigger bottom, let your tailor take in the waist. This is an easy fix and you will look and feel better as a result.

Bonus Trick 2: The Belt

Belts have fallen out of fashion, but don’t underestimate the power of a properly placed belt to bring your upper and lower body in proportion with one another. With a dress you can easily adjust the placement of a belt by asking your tailor to add thread belt loops to the side seams.

Belt placement and width are key. Start with a thinner belt and see how it looks placed halfway between your shoulders and the widest point of your hips. If in doubt, move it slightly higher. Wider belts are OK if you’re wearing a large-scale print. The taller you are, the wider the belt you can wear.

Bonus Trick 2: Color Breaks

The eye is attracted to differences in colors and patterns, so dress accordingly:

DON’T place a color break at your widest point if you don’t want to accentuate it. In this case, don’t wear a top that ends at hip level with a contrasting color pant.

DO use color breaks to draw attention to your best features. For instance, highlight your small waist by ending your printed top here, paired with a solid color

DO use color columns to create the illusion of length. Wearing a top and bottom in the same color or print makes you look taller.


Please try out one or more of these tips and let me know in Comments how it went, and ask me any questions you have.

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