Over the last four weeks I’ve been updating the body type dressing guidelines in the context of current fashion trends. I deliberately left the hourglass till last because perfectly proportioned hourglasses are a rare breed. Most tend towards another body type, like the inverted triangle, apple, pear or rectangle. If you’re unsure of your body type, or new to the concept of body types, then you might want to read my refresher on identifying your body type before tackling this post on the hourglass shape.
Three important points before I begin:
- These are guidelines, not rules: The information here should be viewed as a helpful starting point when you’re unsure about how to create conventionally flattering and balanced proportions for your shape. Everyone has different figure flattery priorities and sometimes the most stylish outfits ignore the guidelines completely.
- The guidelines are general: My philosophy is to define a few simple body types and then be flexible when working with them. Most of us are a mixture of a few body types and don’t look exactly like one of the 5 prototypical shapes. Filter through the information and use the parts that make sense for your shape.
- There is one rule to keep in mind: Have fun with fashion.
There are many variations on the hourglass, which is why it’s important to also refer to guidelines for other body types in order to flatter the nuances of your shape. You don’t need to be well endowed and extremely curvy to be an hourglass, although a shapely bust, defined waist and curvy bottom half are the norm. Your width at the widest part of your hip and thigh area is the same as the width of your shoulders. You’re generally curvy all over, well proportioned, and wear the same size both on the top and bottom. Bust size and waist length varies.
Creating flattering proportions by defining the waist and lengthening the leg line are probably the dressing strategies that are most in your comfort zone. This makes sense because structured garments follow the natural contour of your shapely curves, thereby making you feel sleek and attractive. But you don’t need to stick to a structured outfit formula. With a little attention to fit and proportion, you can wear trendier waist surrendering tops and slouchy or baggy trousers.
Before we cover silhouettes, a few words on the foundation underneath because it affects the fit of the outer layers. First, wear the best bra. Lifting the bustline adds further structure to the midsection, and creates curves in all the right places. Second, shapewear for the hip, thigh and tummy area is an option, especially for formal occasions, but it is by no means essential.
Define the Waist and Emphasize the Vertical
Tailored clothing that defines the waist and emphasizes the verticality of your outfit is the first half of a conventional approach to flattering your well proportioned curves.
- Choose tops in soft fabrics that gently skim over your curves and accentuate your natural shape. Knits and drapey silk blends with stretch are best because they stretch over the bust without pulling, and they narrow at the midriff.
- Button-down shirts work if they are adequately tailored and have a bit of stretch. If they’re slightly snug on the bust, but fit in the torso, wear a camisole and keep the buttons unfastened over the bust. That way you eliminate pulling at the bust and add layered interest to the outfit.
- Layer a structured cardigan or jacket over a fluid top to create the tailored effect you need.
- Belt shirts and tunics at the waist to follow the natural contour of your body and create a flattering silhouette. Choose belts with stretch for comfort.
- Avoid high necklines if you’re full in the bust and/or short in the neck. Open necklines — like V-necks, scoops, boat necks, drape necks, open shirt collars and cowls — visually deemphasize the bust and lengthen the neck, thereby strengthening the vertical line of the outfit. Rule of thumb is to keep the top relatively simple, smooth and low scooped. However, there are ways of making high necklines look relatively flattering if you layer over them with V-shaped items and wear long vertical necklaces. This draws the eye up and down, breaks up the expanse of the chest, and elongates your look.
- High necklines, like crew necks, turtle necks, buttoned-up shirt collars, mandarin collars, halter necks, funnel necks and slash necks, are great on a long neck and smaller bust.
- Wrap tops and mock wraps are your friend because they create a “v” on the neckline and tailor the midriff.
- Empire cuts are hard to wear with a fuller bust because they aren’t cut long enough from shoulder to the under bust point. But occasionally you’ll find one that works and you’ll probably like the style.
- Peplum tops are great over slim-fitting bottoms.
- Fitted tops with side ruching work to camouflage extra bits on the midriff.
- Stay away from breast pockets if you’re large in the bust.
- Tops with diagonal sleeves are flattering.
- Raglan sleeves are excellent because they magically strengthen a dainty shoulder line, and soften a broader shoulder line. Make sure the neckline is the right shape for your bust size and neck length.
- Body con tops work if they don’t create muffin top.
- The length of untucked tops worn over structured bottoms should either catch you just below your hipbone (a few inches above crotch point), or past the thigh area.
- Regular length tops with curved hems are ideal because they break up the curve on the thigh creating an elongating and sliming effect.
Jackets and Coats
- Tailored single-breasted coats and blazers with princess seaming and necklines that create V-shapes are a slam dunk.
- Tailored jackets with a bit of stretch are ideal because they stretch over your curves, providing a better fit.
- Double-breasted coats and jackets can work, and are especially good when the two rows of buttons are positioned closer together, and the neckline folds down to create a “v” effect. Remember that buttons on coats and jackets can be repositioned to create a better fit.
- Belted trench coats and jackets are fab when the collars fold down to create a V-shape across the chest. Make sure that the belts are in the right position, which is often higher than you might expect. Belts that are worn too low often look less flattering than belts that are worn a little too high.
- The lengths depend on what you wear with the jacket. Cropped jackets look great with skirts and dresses whereas longer jackets look best with trousers.
- It’s a great idea to keep jackets un-buttoned because the vertical line that is created in front of the body is elongating and slimming. It also doesn’t matter if the jacket doesn’t close over the bust if the rest of the jacket is a great fit. Wear it open and you solved the fit problem. Obviously outerwear is a different story and has to close in order to weather the elements.
Skirts and Dresses
- You can wear most styles of skirt if they have enough structure and drop to a flattering length. Keeping skirts around the knee, sometimes a little above and sometimes a little below, is an easy rule of thumb. Wear them with a tailored tucked top and you’re done.
- Flared skirts are best when the panels are stitched down and shaped for extra hip definition. You’re after a structured fit with the flare.
- Trapeze and trumpet skirts with vertical panel detailing are great because their mermaid shape complements your curves. Stay away from the versions with horizontal cut-lines.
- You were made for tailored dresses because you fill them out to perfection. Dresses like curves and you have them – take advantage of the situation. You wear wrap dresses really well, as well as most fitted sheath dresses. Make sure the neckline of the sheath works with your bust size and neck length.
- You rock the fit-and-flare ’50s frock, and look equally fabulous in waist defining shirt dresses.
- Dresses with fitted top-knot chest detailing under the bust, and that skim over the bottom in a gentle A-line silhouette, are another option.
- Low contrast footwear with skirts and dresses does wonders to elongate the bottom half. This includes trendy ankle straps.
Streamline the Leg
The second half of a conventional approach to creating flattering outfits for the hourglass is to elongate the leg line.
- Flat-front, mid-rise, wide waistband, bootcut trousers or jeans are the obvious flattering choice. Look for a skimming fit and have the waistband altered if it gapes at the back.
- Side entry pockets are tricky with bottoms in a tailored fit, so opt for 5 pocket jeans styling, slanted pockets, or flat fronts instead.
- Trousers that pull and whisker are not uncommon because the fabric clings to the curves of your thighs. Here are nine solutions to the whiskering problem, the most important of which is to size up to fit the widest part of your bottom half.
- Wear your rises a little higher and looser if you are prone to muffin top.
- Wide legs that are tailored on the hips and the top of the thighs, and worn at the right length with pointy toe heels (hems should almost skim the surface of the ground), are very elongating.
- If the waist is only a little big, wear a belt and match the look with a partially tucked fluid top. Or faux tuck with a welted top.
- Curvy women can absolutely wear skinnies and straight leg jeans and trousers. Choose curvy fits if you are curvy, and don’t wear them overly tight. If you’re shy about showcasing the top of the thigh in tight bottoms, pair them with tunics and heels.
- Straight legs often look better on curvy hourglass shapes because the extra width on the lower leg balances out proportions. Wear them regular length or with scrunch to further elongate the leg line.
- Keep walk shorts straight from the thigh down. Clamdiggers (knee-length Summer skinnies) work if you pair them with longer tops. But feel free to sport them with regular length tops if you’re comfortable showcasing your curves.
- Follow these guidelines to create flattering and elongated proportions with ankle pants.
- You’ll lengthen the leg line of all outfits by wearing heels, and low heels count as heels.
- Pointy toe footwear is an excellent leg lengthening strategy, especially when you wear flat shoes.
Forgo Tailoring and Create Just Enough Structure
Current trends are not about defining the waist and highly structured outfits. You may have been told not to wear trendy tops and bottoms in fluid and oversized fits, but banish those thoughts. Roomy tops and bottoms actually slim down curves more effectively than wearing tight clothing. You tend to look slimmer when your clothes are a little roomier. So by all means wear less structured clothing if that tickles your fancy. It’s a question of getting the volume just right, and creating enough structure in the rest of the outfit so that you feel attractive and streamlined.
Fluid and Oversized Tops & Jackets
- Wear oversized welted and/or high-low tops and knitwear with slim-fit straight legs and pencil skirts. Keep the necklines lower if the bust is full. Scrunch the sleeves and add tailored footwear for structure.
- Untucked billowing blouses are best in soft fabrics so that the silhouette collapses back onto the body for structure. Match with slim-fit bottoms and scrunch the sleeves as desired.
- Wear moto jackets and double-breasted jackets open instead of closed. The oversized fit that is created by leaving these styles open creates a more modern look. The vertical line down the centre front of the body slims your silhouette.
- Voluminous tunic tops and dresses that are structured in the shoulders, straight through the sides and a little tapered on the hem can work. Wear them shorter in length and add heels. A word of warning though: voluminous silhouettes look wide from the side even when they are cut well. So you have to be at peace with that.
- Masculine blazers that are fitted on the shoulder, but cut straight in the waist, work well when the stances are low, the sleeves tailored, and the length below crotch point. The longer length camouflages the hip area. The lower stance creates a dramatic V-shape which balances out the width of the hips. The tailored sleeves and fitted shoulder add structure. If you’re very short waisted, opt for a slightly higher stance in the jacket. Wear this style over slim-fit boyfriend jeans, straight legs, relaxed skinnies, slouchies, pencil skirts, or silky track pants.
- Ponchos and capes are fab over slim-fit bottoms or bootcuts with tailored footwear.
- Dolman-sleeved tops are great when the hems are welted and the sleeves are slim for structure. Boat necks, cowl necks and V-necks work particularly well in this style.
- Voluminous drop shoulder tops work when the necklines are high, and the length is either on the hipbone, or longer than the widest part of the hip. The high-low hemline and slight tapering in at the hem is excellent for extra structure. Wear the shorter top with roomy bottoms and the longer top with slim-fit bottoms.
- Fluid tops that are welted for structure are great faux tucked with a belt over bootcuts, wide legs and slouchies.
- Wear roomy button-down shirts and blouses partially tucked over structured bottoms, silky track pants or boyfriend jeans. Scrunch the sleeves for structure.
- Avant-garde styles with lots of voluminous drape, and/or asymmetrical lines, are best when they are structured in the shoulder and longer than the widest part of the hip. Wear them with slim-fit bottoms, or bootcuts, and a heel.
- Oversized cropped jackets with round shoulders are great at hip bone length when worn with straight legs and heels.
Baggy & Slouchy Bottoms
- Wear boyfriend jeans. The room around the thighs and hips is comfortable and visually slimming. Wear a slimmer fit if you can’t get your head around a regular baggy fit. Add a belt to prevent them from falling down, and match with a fitted or fluid top (tucked or partially tucked). Keep the hems unrolled, or roll them, and match with tailored booties, a dainty heel, sandals or pointy toe flats.
- Opt for relaxed skinnies that are cut roomier all over. Or try sizing down in boyfriend jeans that are tapered at the hem to create a similar silhouette. Sizing up in straight legs is another option, but will require a belt or waist adjustment.
- Wear both boyfriend jeans and relaxed skinnies lower on the hip. That will help rectify the gap on the waist.
- Track pant styles in silky wovens or casual knits, with elasticated waistband and tapered hems, work well when the rise is not too high. The roomy fit around the hips is flattering, while the elasticated waistband fits your defined waist. Match with fluid or oversized tops with high-low hemlines, and/or welted tops. Or short A-line tunics for an arty look. Wear tailored footwear and/or add a tailored jacket for extra structure.
- Baggy harem pants, with or without a dropped crotch point work because they define the waist while giving the thigh and hip ample room. Structure is created with the tapered hem widths. You can create additional structure by pairing the look with a tailored jacket.
- Slouchy trousers that are baggy in the thigh area with a slightly dropped crotch point, tapered hems and leg scrunch, are very flattering. Wear them lower on the hip with a tucked or partially tucked top.
- Trousers with pleats on the waist can be surprisingly flattering because the volume of the pleats creates a roomier fit around the thigh and hip area. The fabric glides over curves instead of clinging to them.
- Follow these steps to create a flattering effect with white jeans and trousers.
One more general dressing tip. Wear a column of colour under a topper to create a long lean line that is extra slimming
Please share your own tips on how to flatter the hourglass shaped body type in the comments section. If there are additional questions on how to wear particular looks and trends, please feel free to ask below.