Reader Steph recently made a comment about one of my outfits that resonated with me. When I said that, to my eye, my outfit worked in an interesting and fashion forward way, if not in a form fitting and flattering way, Steph responded by saying:
IMO, the pear is the most feminine and womanly of all figure types. Outfits that accentuate the hips a little, especially while defining the waist as you do here, seem really lovely to me. I’m kind of sad that womanly hips get such a bum rap these days (oh lord, i completely did not do that horrendous pun on purpose!! sorry.) In the end, it’s to each his or her own. But i’m so happy to see this beautiful take on a feminine figure!”
Like Steph, I enjoy seeing outfits that accentuate the hips, especially when the waistline is defined. At the same time, my guidelines on dressing the pear shaped body type revolve around balancing the difference between the top and bottom parts of the body. This is because the dressing goal for most women is to create a symmetrical hourglass figure with a long leg line. How do I reconcile this contradiction?
In the ’80s and early ’90s, our fashion goal was to look like an inverted triangle. I was right there with the rest of them narrowing my hips and broadening my shoulders with oversized tops and shoulder pads. In the mid ’90s, I began to appreciate the beauty of the female form with its hourglass silhouette, softer shoulder lines and rounder hips and bottoms.
At this time I was also working as a fashion buyer in South Africa, where the African perception of feminine beauty was all about filling out the lower half of the body. Relatively larger hips, thighs and bottom were the characteristics of a very desirable body type, and I often bought in women’s clothing for retail stores that accentuated the pear shaped silhouette.
Larger hips, thighs and bottom often gets a “bum rap” because the so called ideal in mainstream fashion culture is to balance out proportions. So if you’re pear shaped, best you wear clothing that streamlines your lower half, or does not draw attention to it. I’ll admit that many years ago, I did not think it was desirable to accentuate the pear shape. But as I got older and wiser, my perceptions changed dramatically. Living and working within an African fashion culture, and dressing countless ladies with larger bottom halves has made me adore the pear shaped body type. It is child bearing and beautiful, so why not accentuate its curvy integrity?
So while my general guidelines suggest balancing out the proportions, this is not a rule. The guidelines are only a starting point. In many respects, balancing proportions is the low risk option, but as you get more adventurous there is definitely room to create stylish outfits that celebrate whatever shape you happen to be. It is harder to do, because mainstream fashion is assuming we want to balance proportions, but when successful it can often be the best style of all.
Style is NOT a particular figure shape, dress size, or budget. As a fashion and style professional, I would like nothing more than to operate in a fashion and style world that is accepting and complimentary of ALL body types and ages. A fashion world that encourages us to always have fun with fashion, and to thoroughly enjoy each leg of our style journey. Life is stressful enough as it is — make dressing the part of our day that constantly reaffirms our good spirits.
A special shout out to all ladies who have a larger lower half. I love your womanly curves and hope that you enjoy accentuating your hips, thighs and bottom at least half as much as the lovely African ladies in our beloved Cape Town.