Why would you spend hours making a certain pair of trousers/skirt/dress, only to end up not 100% satisfied with the result? Perhaps your body shape or height call for a different dress length or waist size. Or maybe your figure actually looks better in a pencil skirt instead of an A-line. You can avoid an awful lot of disappointment by knowing which little alterations can be made to suit your body shape, and by knowing what combines best with your home-sewn piece.
These are murky waters for most of us, which is why we want to provide you with a few signposts in the form of tips & tricks. They're guaranteed to make your next sewing project a party! And...settling on the right styling will become a whole lot easier too! ;-)
Body shapes... ¿Qué?
To determine a body shape, we look at the ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ proportions.
When we say ‘horizontal proportions’, we’re talking about your body shape (pear, neat hourglass, inverted triangle, full hourglass, wide rectangle, apple or slim rectangle). Depending on your shape, we'll see which parts of your body need highlighting and, conversely, which ones could do with some camouflage.
The ‘vertical proportions’ concern the length of your upper and lower body and their proportion to one another. Do you have a short upper body and long legs or is the opposite true? Your upper body is long and your legs are short. These vertical proportions play a key role in choosing the right lengths for your models.
Full hourglasses are characterised by rounded shoulders, sturdy hips, a slender waist, and a short upper body. They’re often fairly busty and have serious curves. It's important to balance out the hips and shoulders andaccentuate the waist. One way to do it, for example, is to tighten the waist a little with a thin cord or belt. Where skirts are involved, a pencil skirt is one of the very best options for this shape. Keep in mind: hard, stiff fabrics are a no go. What you need is a fabric with a fluid drape.
Wide rectangles tend not to have much by way of a waist. Your shoulders and hips are more or less the same width. Given the lack of waistline, the trick is create one or to completely disguise its absence. This shape can't go wrong by combining a top that stops just below the hips with a pair of skinny jeans. It’s the perfect way to ‘lengthen’ the upper body. Knee length dresses are another good choice for the wide rectangle – they put the emphasis on your gorgeous legs. If you're wearing a pair of bootcut trousers or a flared skirt, make sure the shoulder area is a little wider and straighter. That will create the illusion of a waist. Where necklines are concerned, the V-neck is your friend. Wide rectangles should definitely consider stiffer fabrics and straight, graphic prints.
Are your shoulders and hips perfectly aligned and do you have a slender waist? If so, you’re a neat hourglass. You body is naturally well proportioned, so select garments that follow your natural curves. In addition to accentuating your natural curves, be sure to emphasise your waist by tucking it into a top, dress or kimono or wearing a pair of wide-legged or bootcut trousers with a fitted waist. As a neat hourglass, your best option is to go for fabrics with a fluid drape that hug your natural curves. ‘Less is more’ – that goes for accessories too.
The slim rectangle has a slender, straight, and somewhat ‘boyish’ figure. Their shoulders and hips are equally wide, and they tend to lack both a defined waist and curves. Tops with voluminous sleeves, layers, and details in the bust and shoulder areas help create more shape. Ruffles around the lower body will also provide for additional volume, making your silhouette more interesting.
Experiment with mixing different prints: flowers + horizontal stripes, for example. Play with bold colour combinations – that will create definition in your build and will also give more shape to your body. Slim rectangles can easily wear most trouser types, including skinny, flared and straight fit trousers. A-line skirts also look fantastic on you. When it comes time to select a fabric, go for something that provides enough structure for your body, something with a mix of colours and prints.
For those of us who are inverted triangles, our shoulders are broader than our hips. Balance out your V-shaped silhouette by accentuating your lower body rather than your upper body. Inverted triangles often have a more ‘athletic’ build with narrow hips, which is why ‘softening’ the shoulders is important. When selecting a pair of trousers or a skirt, bright or light colours and patterns are a great way to give your lower body more oomph. By taking this tack you put the focus on the lower body, which helps camouflage the shoulders. When deciding on the length of top pieces, for example tops or jackets, hip length is your best bet. For the upper body, the inverted triangle should go for fabrics with a fluid drape, but opt for a stiffer fabric for skirts or trousers.
The apple has a belly, which also happens to be the danger zone for this body shape. Apples also lack a well-defined waist. However, apples do have delicate ankles and lovely calves. For that reason, it’s a good idea to direct the focus towards your face and slender ankles. You can emphasise the latter with skirts and dresses that have, for example, a slit and by selecting the most flattering length. To draw attention to the face, be sure to rely on eye-catching accessories, a pair of dazzling earrings or a fetching scarf for example.
For your figure you want to create as many longitudinal lines as possible to create the illusion of length, while concealing width wherever possible. Draw the gaze away from your stomach area by relocating the hem – away from the danger zone – to a place closer to your hips or knees. The most flattering garments in your case are slightly more flared or form-fitting trousers/skirts and slightly tailored/straight dresses that drape subtly over the stomach area. As far as fabric choice is concerned, fabrics with a fluid drape that have the right balance between prints and colours will be the most flattering on your figure.
The pear's upper body is tapered and becomes wider from the hips down. That’s why you should be sure to accentuate your upper body and use our tips to make your lower body look more slender. Use bright colours to accentuate your upper body, wearing subdued clothing as much as possible once past the hips. (For trousers/skirts a darker shade is your best option. Try to avoid prints.) Create longitudinal lines along the lower body to split up the ‘heavier’ zone.
Another way to help your upper body stand out more is to add enough details around the bust and shoulders. For example, try breast pockets cut at different angles. Wearing a wide V-neck, bishop or capped sleeves, details at the shoulders, such as a ribbon or buttons, shoulder pads, or broad, eye-catching collars will create the illusion of width at the shoulders. Tops should usually be worn tucked into your trousers/skirt. You can create horizontal lines on the upper body by wearing a boat neck top or one with horizontal stripes.
Wide-leg trousers that counterbalance the hips look fantastic on the pear. Tip: wearing corduroy trousers will make your legs look longer and more slender thanks to their long straight wales. Side slits also help create visual length. Are you more of a curvy pear? Go for fabric with a fluid drape. If you have less curves, stiffer fabrics are the most flattering.