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The Clothes That Look Best on You, Based on Your Body Shape

It's not about height and weight... it's all about shape. Figure out how to best flatter your body type and accentuate your assets with this foolproof fashion guide.

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Hourglass body

What it is: As the name implies, an hourglass shape describes a woman whose proportions equate to a wide bust, a narrow waist, and a wide hip—similar to that of an hourglass (duh). Most weight is distributed to the bust and hips.

Style secrets: If this describes you, your ultimate goal is to highlight your curves. Embrace them in body-hugging silhouettes and form-fitting wraps that hit your angles in all the right places. The best way to rock those structured, more tailored elements is through wrap dresses, peplum blouses, pencil skirts, high-waisted pants, and boat neck styles. As for outwear, jackets that show off your midsection are key (think belted trench coats, fitted blazers, and cropped bomber jackets). Cinched waistlines are also your best friend; everything from basic tees to workwear dresses should be customized to flatter your narrow waist.

Avoid looser, baggier clothing that falls flat, such as baby doll dresses and drapey cardigans; these can work against your shape by drowning out your body.

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Apple-shaped figure

What it is: An apple-shaped body is noted for a wide torso, broad shoulders, and a full waist. The waistline isn’t well-defined, and most weight is distributed through your bust and midsection. These gals also tend to have skinnier arms, legs, and hips.

Style secrets: Your ultimate goal is to minimize your midsection by highlighting your arms, legs, and shoulders. You have full freedom to play around with relaxed silhouettes, flowy tunics, shift dresses, boyfriend tops, and V-necklines. Strapless or sleeveless tops will show off your toned arms. If the weather calls for covering up, opt for a more fitted sleeve to help balance your fuller midsection. Ponchos and swing coats are great outerwear choices.

Avoid high-waisted pants that accentuate your midsection; low-waisted, straight-leg options are better for hiding any stomach bulge and highlighting those legs.

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Pear-shaped body

What it is: Pear figures have hips that are larger than the bust with a defined waist and slim arms and shoulders. You also tend to gain weight in the hips and legs as opposed to your upper half.

Style secrets: Your ultimate goal is to elongate your figure by adding volume to your upper torso and de-emphasizing the waist. Your styling should balance the body by drawing the eye upwards. A great way to do this is by highlighting the neckline, in which case, accessories like statement necklaces and dangle earrings are your most powerful weapons. As for the top itself, reach for cowl necklines, plunging scoop tops, and bell-sleeves. Search for outerwear and dresses that dabble in A-lines and princess cuts (bonus points if it hits mid-thigh). Balance these statements out on the bottom with darker hues.

Steer clear of flamboyant patterns, flashy embellishments, and added pockets. Looking at you, cargo pants, eccentric pockets, and wacky embroidery!

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Banana/rectangle figure

What it is: Also called an athletic build, banana shapes don’t hold many curves, and your assets are approximately the same proportions throughout. Since your waist, hip, and shoulder widths are similar, you’ll need to use your style to create some curves of your own.

Style secrets: Your ultimate goal is to highlight your waist so that the hips and bust appear larger in comparison. Slightly cropped jackets, high-waisted circle skirts, cutout dresses, and tapered pants all make your waist look trimmer. Experiment with bandage and ruffle dresses that help make your bust look larger. Patterns, including stripes and designs, can give the entire body a more proportionate look. If you want to be even more strategic, use inward-pointing lines to whittle the waist and create a curvy illusion.

Don’t wear boxy cuts or baggy clothing, because they can give you a boyish look; you want to emphasize the feminine aspects of your narrow rectangle body shape. And don’t be afraid to don multiple layers; layering adds more dimension to an otherwise mundane form. Here’s exactly how to layer clothes so you can stay warm and stylish.

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Inverted triangle

What it is: Literally think of an upside-down triangle layered over a person, and that would be the best way to describe the inverted triangle shape. The shoulders are your broadest part, and the rest of your features appear slimmer going down your body. Although you have an ample bust and wide back, the hips and bottom may tend to lean more on the flat side.

Style secrets: Your ultimate goal is to balance your bust with your hips. Do this with narrow V-necks, wrap-style tops, wide belts, and tailored jackets. A-line silhouettes, baby doll dresses, and boot-cut pants are best suited for your streamlined figure. As a general rule of thumb, sport darker colors on the top and lighter colors on the bottom.

Avoid boat necks, big straps, halter tops, and statement shawls that can make you appear broader on top. Puff sleeves and shoulder pads are also probably not your best bet. And while you shouldn’t be afraid of playing around with skirt shapes, don’t go too short with length; otherwise, you’ll further a top-heavy ensemble. As far as pants go, this is how to find the best jeans for your body type.

Hana Hong
Hana Hong is a journalist/storyteller who writes for Reader's Digest, InStyle, CollegeFashionista, Her Campus, and The Fashion Network, among other publications. She hails from the midwest, where she graduated from the University of Illinois with a BA in News-Editorial Journalism, but has a passion for the East Coast.