Personal style is just that: personal. And no one person or rule can really tell you what suits you. If you’re lucky, you just get a feeling and can run with it. But we all have those moments of uncertainty and a guiding factor towards a reliable clothing choice can lie in the question we sometimes find ourselves pondering, “What body shape am I?”
Forget size—this isn’t about that and never should be. Instead, there is a nifty little way to understand your body shape, and it’s thanks to our brilliant co-founder Hillary Kerr, who let us know that we can find which pieces show off our figures best by simply understanding our body shapes a little better, and dressing accordingly (be safe in the knowledge this still leaves you with so many options). Instead of panicking and buying in on every fashion trend, try dressing to show off your figure with the help of our body shape calculator. Trust us—it’ll ensure you’re comfortable and confident in the clothes you choose to wear every day.
So how do we use it? Rather than comparing yourself to pictures of celebrities or fruit shapes (which can leave you feeling unsure if you’ve arrived at the right conclusion), we’re using Oprah’s fashion expert Bradley Bayou’s foolproof technique. Bayou’s system uses maths—it is a little intense, but we’ll walk you through it—to double-check that you’ve found your real figure.
We’re limiting this article to four common types for simplicity’s sake, but for a more in-depth look at every shape and size, check out Bayou’s The Science of Sexy, where he gives tips on how to dress 48 different figures. Also, keep in mind that no matter what your size is, you can have any of the below four outlines; it’s more about how your weight (whatever it may be) is distributed.
With that said, get out your tape measure and scroll down for the brilliant body shape calculator to discover what body shape you are once and for all.
Shoulders: Have someone help you measure from the tip of one shoulder all the way around you. The measuring tape should be high up around your shoulders so it almost slips off.
Bust: Pull the measuring tape taut across the fullest part of your bust and around your back. Don’t pull the tape so taut that your breasts start to get squashed.
Waist: Measure the smallest part of your natural waist, just above the belly button.
Hips: Start at one hip (below the hip bone) and wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your butt.
Now that you have your measurements, you’ll use those numbers to calculate your body shape. You’ll notice the equations below allow you to use your bust or shoulder measurements interchangeably. Doing this accounts for those who have especially big or small busts or especially narrow or broad shoulders.
You may find that doing the equation with your shoulders versus your bust places you in two different body type categories. This means your body type may actually encompass more than one category. For example, you may find you’re more of a pear shape when using your bust measurement and more of an hourglass when using your shoulder measurement. If this is the case, you should consider both body types when shopping and ultimately make purchases by seeing what feels best on you. And remember—these are just indicators, not hard-and-fast concepts to live by. You will find, after experimenting and developing your style over the years, that there are exceptions to the rules and that many varied and wonderful items will look fabulous on you.
Scroll down to see which shape description matches your body the best, and then use Bayou’s equations to validate that you’ve found your true shape.
Confirm by checking the numbers. You are an inverted triangle if your shoulder or bust measurement is more than 5% bigger than your hip measurement (shoulders or bust divided by hip measurement). For example, you are an inverted triangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 34.25 inches or smaller.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley styles a grey blazer with leather leggings.
Halle Berry wears a blazer dress with court shoes.
Cate Blanchett wears a snake-print jacket with green leather trousers.
The item that always looks great: Fitted jackets with a nipped-in waist and flared bottom. Why: The defined waist and flare over your hips create the illusion of lower-body curves and help balance out your shoulders.
The belt on this blazer adds even more definition.
Confirm by checking the numbers. You are a rectangle if your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust (waist measurement divided by shoulders or bust) and your shoulder, bust and hip measurements are within 5% of each other. Find this out by looking at your shoulder, bust and hip measurements. Call the largest of the three measurements t (it will usually be your shoulders) and the other two measurements y and z. Multiply t by 0.95. If y and z are greater than the result of t times 0.95, then your shoulder, bust and hips are within 5% of each other.
For example, you are a rectangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your waist is 27 inches or more.
Kate Hudson wears a yellow off-the-shoulder top with a printed midi pencil skirt.
Mindy Kaling wears a full-skirted green shirt dress.
Catherine, Princess of Wales, wears a tweed fitted jacket and matching skirt.
The item that always looks great: Skirts with volume-increasing details like ruffles, gathers, bows, pleats, pockets or embellishments. Why: They fill out your hips and balance your upper body.
Skirts with busy prints will also have the same effect on the eye.
Confirm by checking the numbers. You are a triangle (also known as a pear shape) if your hips are more than 5% bigger than your shoulders or bust (hip measurement divided by shoulders or bust).
For example, you are a triangle if your shoulders are 36 inches and your hips are 37.75 inches or larger.
Sienna Miller wears a white mini dress with a gathered waist.
Lupita Nyong’o wears a clashing print dress.
Jennifer Lopez wears an off-the-shoulder in blush pink with a fitted bodice.
The item that always looks great: Fit-and-flare dresses. Why: They show off how little you are on top and are roomier from the waist down for your curvier bottom half so the silhouette always fits perfectly.
Reformation specialise in this very silhouette.
Confirm by checking the numbers. You are an hourglass if your waist is at least 25% smaller than your shoulder or bust (waist measurement divided by shoulders and bust) and your waist is at least 25% smaller than your hips (waist measurement divided by hips) and your shoulder and hip measurements are within 5% of each other.
Find this out by looking at your hips and shoulder measurements. Call the larger of the two measurements t and the smaller one y. Multiply t by 0.95. If y is greater than the result of t multiplied by 0.95, then your hips and shoulders are within 5% of each other.
For example, you are an hourglass if your shoulders and hips measure 36 inches and your waist is 27 inches or smaller.
Priyanka Chopra wears a strapless black cocktail dress.
Ashley Graham wears a yellow knitted jumper and skirt set.
Tracee Ellis Ross wears a ruffled gown with a tie waist.
The item that always looks great: Anything fitted around the waist and bosoms. Why: They accentuate your waist and enhance your hourglass figure.
Shirred tops and dresses are an hourglass’s best friend, as they’re contour your curves.
This piece was published at an earlier date on Who What Wear U.S. and has since been updated.