Another excerpt from Real Style: Style Secrets for Real Women with Real Bodies, a book I co-wrote with stylist extraordinaire Sam Saboura.
How many times have you shopped for hours, only to end up frustrated and discouraged? You think that nothing out there is made for your body. Nothing looks good no matter what the cut or shape. In fact, nothing fits properly at all. Before you know it, a bad shopping day turns into a bad self-esteem day.
You start believing that your hips are too big or your boobs are too small or your butt is too wide or your legs are too short. Your arms are too flabby or your shoulders are too sloped or your belly is too round or your waist is too long. You’re convinced you’ll have to go naked for the rest of your life—or at least go on a diet or go to the gym, because something isn’t right.
Wrong! You’re just not shopping for the right body.
Until you identify your body type, you have no way of knowing what styles are best. To get on track, you have to figure out exactly what kind of body you have. When you do, you’ll have a clear picture of what to wear for the way you’re built and what to avoid at all costs. More important, you’ll stop wasting money on clothes that still have the tags on and are too old to return. Reality check: these are not ”inspiration pieces.” They are just mistakes.
Before we go any further, I want to stress one important thing: no one—I repeat, no one—is one stock body type. Every person is completely unique and made up of a combination of many different types. So don’t worry if you can’t find your exact figure in the following list. Just select the basic shape that seems closest to yours, and use it as a general guide.
I also want you to keep in mind that your body is what it is. Sure, you can lose a few pounds or build some muscle or step up your aerobic exercise, but you can never transform the lush curves of an Oprah into the lean-limbed grace of an Audrey Hepburn. And you don’t have to. When you realize this, shopping will be fun and enjoyable—the way it’s supposed to be.
You have a rounded figure with a fuller bust and midsection, heavier arms, and shapely lower legs. You wonder why you never see your body type addressed in the fashion magazines. After all, the average American woman wears a size 14 or 16—depending on which survey you read—while women in the media are usually no bigger than an 8. Now you can be as dazzling as the slinky girls, because plus-size fashion has evolved beyond the big-and-baggy look.
You have wide shoulders and a large bust, with narrow hips and killer legs. Your pear-shaped friends envy you for your slender bottom half, but they don’t know the other half of it. You, too, struggle with balance—it’s just upside-down—because you carry most of your weight on the upper half of your body.
You are tall and slender—the Nicole Kidman of your neighborhood. Your breasts are small, your waist and hips are narrow, and you legs and arms are long and lean. But what only you realize is that your willowy stature makes it difficult to find clothes that fit properly. If a size is small enough for your slim frame, odds are it will be too short in the legs and arms. On particularly bad shopping days, you have to sneak into the men’s department just to find pants that are long enough.
You have a curvy figure, with a full bust, small waist, and full bottom. Some people accuse you of dressing too sexy when you’re not even trying. You make a magnificent Marilyn Monroe at Halloween, and you have the most sought-after body in history. Embrace those curves! Women spend tens of thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery trying to get a body like yours.
Do you feel boxy instead of foxy? Feel boyish no matter what you wear? Do you get more compliments when you’re in your boyfriend’s or husband’s clothes than when you’re wearing your favorite dress? You’re a rectangle, with shoulders, waist, and hips that are all about the same width.
Your figure is smaller on the top and wider on the bottom. Your shoulders are narrow, your breasts are small to average, your waist is slender, and your hips, thighs, and bottom are full. Your goal is to visually alter the proportional differences between your upper and lower body to create a sense of a balance.
You’re actually in a class by yourself. You can have any of the body types addressed above, but the one characteristic that sets you apart is your short stature. You might have a stocky, athletic body or be a petite version of the willow. No matter how you’re built, one thing is certain: if you gain five pounds, it looks like ten.