Google ‘how to work out my body shape?’ and you’ll come back with oh, a not insignificant 1,060,000,000 results.
Clearly everyone from Oprah to Carol Baskin has a view on how to determine your body shape. After all, there are millions of fashionistas who would give their right Louboutin to discover the holy grail of effortless dressing and forever after style. And for a decent amount of time understanding body shape was considered to be the holy grail.
Now just to catch everyone up. Body shape refers to the five (some say 6, 7 or 29 –would you like a side of confusion with that?) core body types that are applied to women’s (and men’s) forms in an attempt to navigate the overwhelming choice of styles and cuts and achieve our most flattering silhouette.
The core female body types are hourglass, triangle, rectangle, inverted triangle and apple. That being said, a variety of inanimate objects ranging from rulers to columns to goblets, with or without handles, have also been used to describe our vast variety of shapes.
Working out your body shape usually involves measuring your waist, hips, chest, rise and shoulders, sometimes applying a complicated mathematical formula to determine ratios and proportions and occasionally magical incantations are thrown in for good measure.
Despite the good intention of any body shape analysis the overabundance of ‘how to’ guides lead to confusion, exasperation and a nasty condition I call ‘figuring out your figure fatigue’.
As an analytical lawyer-type in the noughties (before a styling career was even a twinkle in my eye) I was fixated on diagnosing my body shape. As I understood it, gaining this knowledge would position me to know precisely what my wardrobe needed and miraculously put an end to my endless hunt for the elusive piece that would magically fix my style.
Spoiler alert. Yes, I was once like you.
And no, body shape wasn’t the miracle cure.
After the birth of my third child, when my body shape had undoubtedly changed along with my sense of who I was in the world, I found my style oscillating between a Supré handkerchief pimped up as a dress and a gloriously matronly Dianna Ferrari item from last century (literally). And I put it all down to an acrimonious misunderstanding with my body shape.
I decided to use a stylist to mediate the situation.
Interestingly, and despite my obsessive need to know whether I was a soup spoon or a fish fork, my stylist nonchalantly identified my body shape and swiftly moved on. Strongly inverted triangle for the record.
My eternal quest for body shape knowledge was over. And I was no further along the road to a Camelot style ending.
It dawned on me that while gaining an understanding of my proportions, shape, frame and size was important it was not the holy grail of style. It would not lead to forever happiness, eternal youth or infinite abundance.
More was required to defeat my dressing demons.
Fast forward to 2020, when I’m treating a client’s overwhelmed or underwhelmed wardrobe, I focus on so much more than body shape.
I adopt a holistic approach that takes into account:
- the story behind your style (Style Intention – the why of your style)
- the defining features of your style (Style Identity – the who and the what of your style); and
- the action needed to achieve it (Style Implementation – the how of your style).
Your Style Identity is the unique combination of your:
- body shape, proportion, features, frame, size and fit
- colour-complexion fit
- style preference and filter
- lifestyle-wardrobe fit
- style skill set (which anyone can learn; it’s not necessarily innate).
It includes body shape, but it doesn’t end with it.
Getting better acquainted with the who and what of your style sets you up to filter the fashion noise and sheer volume of choice that we are confronted with every time we shop for clothes, and even sometimes in our own wardrobes.
It anchors you to the message you send to the world, and yourself, every day.
It combines specific know-how, inspiration and the confidence to fully engage with your visual expression of self. It also makes your decisions about what to buy and what to wear, significantly easier and hopefully even incredibly enjoyable.
I think we might be getting closer to discovering that holy grail.
If you’d like to take the first steps to creating a wardrobe that works for you, not against you, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of my newly developed Style Identity Starter Checklist. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m Nicole, and I’m a personal stylist obsessed with helping women in business and corporate roles to experience effortless, stylish dressing, allowing them to stand out for all the right reasons. I bring strategy, solutions and expertise to my clients. I fully understand the challenges women face when trying to achieve a wardrobe that actually works and I take the pain out of shopping for clothes and deciding what to wear. I transform something that feels fraught and complex into a streamlined solution expertly tailored to you.
Image: Fi Mims Photography