Dressing for the Five Basic Body Types
Dressing for your body type is important year round. But during the summer months, when hemlines get shorter, jackets come off and more skin is exposed, it’s imperative to take a look at your closet and make sure it is helping your image, not hurting it.
Style expert and founder of Michael Bruce Image Consulting, Bruce Pflaumer, breaks down the five different body types—for both men and women—and how to dress them for any summer soiree.
Defining characteristics: Rectangle shape, flat chest, little to no curves, skinny frame, usually long legs with short torso.
Season Must-Have: The white dress is essential this summer. Whether your style is a retro fit and flare, vintage-feeling eyelet, structured sheath or sassy shift dress, the key to wearing a white dress is to add a statement piece of jewelry to add color, depth and interest.
Key to Dressing This Body Type: Create definition by thinking about “going up and in,” meaning garments should be worn close to the body. Avoid baggy or loose-fitting clothes.
Tips for Women: Always look for “slim fit” shirts, pants and jackets to add structure. Incorporate horizontal stripes, pops of color and texture. Look for athletic-inspired clothing, which is trending for the summer. Ankle pants with pointy flats are also a great option.
Tips for Men: Men should also look for “slim fit” garments to give them structure. Subtle plaids and patterns work well for this body type, layered with a structured jacket.
2. soft oval
Defining characteristics: Oval shape, rounded upper body and lower body
Season Must-Have: Every woman and almost any body type can wear a denim jacket. Choose from a medium washed distressed jacket or a darker dressy denim jacket. Both are important, but if you have to choose, go with the medium washed distressed denim. It's better for daytime.
Key to Dressing This Body Type: Create interest, balance and structure. Stay away from untucked shirts and pants that are too long. Both of these add volume. Also avoid big patterns.
Tips for Women: Garments that ruche, gather and drape around the waist are great for a woman with this body type; these elements draw the eye down and add interest. Add different lengths, such as a shorter jacket and longer top. Avoid low-cut shirts, such as V-necks. Micro-pleated skirts also work well.
Tips for Men: Men with this body type should look for stretchy cotton materials that move but still retain some structure for a casual option. The biggest challenge for these men is fitting the chest and stomach, so address that first when putting together a look, especially a suit.
3. hourglass & athletic
Defining characteristics: Hourglass body types have big bust and hip areas, with smaller waists. Athletic men are characterized with broad shoulders, a small waist, a large rear end and thighs.
Key to Dressing This Body Type: For the most part, these body types can wear almost anything, but they should stay away from extremes (too tight or too lose).
Tips for Women: For this body type, light colors on the top make the hips appear broader; stick with dark colors that keep everything in proportion. These women should also pay special attention to skirt lengths; both too short and too long, again, will distort proportions. Mid to high heels work well.
Tips for Men: While shirts and jackets that are too tight do not flatter this body type, a properly fitted shirt is key to dressing these men. The best option is to buy a shirt or jacket that fits the shoulders, and have a tailor take in the sides. A trick to buying pants is to get slim fit pants one size larger.
Defining characteristics: Barrel-like upper body (broad shoulders and midsection), skinny legs
Season Must-Have The blazer is an all-important piece for summer, whether it's linen, textured cotton or a dress satin finish. Wear it with denim or colored chino pants, finished off with a dress shirt, patterned buttoned shirt, or keep things crisp and simple with a white shirt. Blazers can be worn with or without a tie. If you feel a little incomplete, wear a pocket square. This adds a little interest and hint of sophistication to your overall look.
Key to Dressing This Body Type: Wear garments that draw the eye down, accentuating the lower half. Blazers are tough for this body type; it’s a good idea to invest in getting one made. It’s important that every piece of clothing worn is working to create balance.
Tips for Women: Because legs are often a great asset for this body type, these women can wear short skirts with high heels, skinny pants or boot-cut jeans. Short jackets paired with long shirts are a great option to help create balance as well as wrap dresses. Avoid crew, boat and V-neck shirts.
Tips for Men: These men should steer clear of relaxed fit jeans, which give added fullness to the overall look. Opt for a more flattering boot-cut jean. Also avoid untucked shirts, as they add bulk rather than slim. Stick with tonal pairings (i.e. dark denim with a black top or khakis with white).
5. pear shape
Defining characteristics: Narrow shoulders, full legs and rear end
Season Must-Have: Metallic is the new neutral. Wear something shiny with white, khaki or shades of grey. Try wearing a rich gold, stylish silver or sophisticated rose instead of black.
Key to Dressing This Body Type: Like many other body types, the key to dressing this body type is to create balance. Dressing in tonal pairings (i.e. dark denim with a black top or khakis with white) with a pop of color is a great way to achieve this.
Tips for Women: A-line skirts are great for this body type and pair well with heels. Long cardigans and shirts (anything that fits below the waist) also help to elongate the torso and create balance and length. Vertical stripes also usually work on this body type.
Tips for Men: There are not too many men with this body type, but there are some. These men should focus on creating structure for the shoulders. Tailored jackets are a great way to do so.
Bruce’s Pflaumer’s Fashion Pet Peeves
Wearing Spandex clothing outside of the gym or house, especially when women wear black bottoms like they are dress pants; it’s not good. I don't care how comfortable they are.
Get rid of the “Northwest colors.” These include washed out colors like sage green, dusty mauve and drab washed out blue. I don't think those colors look good on anyone.
Men who wear khaki pants for dress occasions. Khaki is a work and casual fabric, and light colored bottoms are for casual, not dress, events. Along that same line, you shouldn't wear khaki at night either.
Guys, no more cargo shorts. It’s time to embrace the flat front short, regular or slim. A basic khaki is good, but try a chambray or something bright. For the more adventurous, wear a floral or microprint.