How do you know what style of evening wear will actually suit your body shape? Buying on eBay is pretty much like gambling if you don't know the basic rules that will easily demystify the body shape puzzle.
In a recent TV series of Trinny & Susannah Undress The Nation, the British style gurus identified 12 different woman's body shapes. For most people that is just too confusing, so for a basic simplification here are 5 basic body shapes and the style of evening or cocktail dress that most flatters the shape. Whether you are size 8 or size 18, it is the proportions of Bust : Waist : Hips that dictate what shape you are. These proportions are the 'standard' used by fashion houses world wide. Dress sizes increase or decrease with a difference of 5cm (or 2 inches) up or down on any 'standard' measurement. Of course there is no set rule and labels differ wildly with their interpretation as to what is 'size 12' (for instance) but the basic proportions remain similar and evening wear abides by these 'standards' more than casual wear.
Remember, NOBODY IS PERFECT! but looking good is not just for those with the 'perfect' figure.
My shapes are based on the letters of the alphabet and it is pretty obvious why. I call them...
the XIOYA Set.
X or HOURGLASS
BUST = : WAIST = : HIPS =
Take your BUST measurement. For an X or HOURGLASS figure your WAIST should be about 19cm less. Your HIPS should be about 6cm more.
ie: Size 12 = B 92cm : W 73cm : H 98cm // Size 14 = B 97cm : W 78cm : H 103cm // Size 16 = B 102cm : W 83cm : H 108cm / etc
Lucky lucky X shape! You girls with the perfect HOURGLASS figure. It doesn't matter if you are slim or carry some extra weight, your proportions are still spot on. The fact is, you can wear just about anything and look a million dollars. But some styles suit less pleasingly than others and... well, hide your light under the proverbial bushel.
Steer clear of loose mau-mau styles, A-line dresses or heavy fabrics that hide your figure. Jersey knits are sensational for the X shape as they hug the curves perfectly. A figure hugging princess or sheath style suits an X shape beautifully, especially for ladies carrying a little extra weight. The key here is, the more... let's call it 'padding', the heavier the fabric and firmer the stretch should be.
Any skirt style is fine, but a straight clingy skirt is super sexy on the X shape. Simple uncluttered fabrics (forget busy multi-coloured prints) and classic understated jewellery add to the appeal of the X shape.
I or TWIG
BUST = : WAIST + : HIPS =
Take your BUST measurement. For an I or TWIG figure your WAIST should be about 14cm less. Your HIPS should be about 6cm more. Your WAIST is one dress size more than your BUST and HIPS.
ie: Size 12 = B 92cm : W 78cm : H 98cm // Size 14 = B 97cm : W 83cm : H 103cm // Size 16 = B 102cm : W 88cm : H 108cm / etc
Most of us start puberty as a I shape, that androgynous skinny TWIG. Some women keep it and are still waiting for breasts and hips to show up. Even if you have put on weight and feel more like a BRICK than a TWIG, the proportions are the same and you are still an I shape. The I shape is defined by a WAIST one dress size larger than the BUST or HIPS. When buying skirts or pants you are dictated by the WAIST size and dresses often hang without shape.
The best dress style for the I shape is one that forms a cross or diagonal line through the torso. Steer away from dresses that hang straight through such as princess or sheath styles as they will just look like a sack on you. Empire style is OK, but even better is a deep crossover V neckline that carries on through the waist or with a hip feature or an asymmetric style with diagonals and angles to foil that boxy look. A dropped waist is also fabulous NEVER choose ruching around the tummy area; it will make you look positively tubby. Colours and vibrant prints are great. Play up the bust with a low neckline and sparkly jewellery.
O or BALL
BUST = : WAIST ++ : HIPS =
Take your BUST measurement. For an O or BALL figure your WAIST should be about 9cm less. Your HIPS should be about 6cm more. Your WAIST is two dress sizes more than your BUST and HIPS.
ie: Size 12 = B 92cm : W 83cm : H 98cm // Size 14 = B 97cm : W 88cm : H 103cm // Size 16 = B 102cm : W 93cm : H 108cm / etc
The O shape or BALL will be familiar with the humiliation of being asked, 'when is the baby due?' She is often cursed with short legs to go with the round tummy. The O shape is defined by a WAIST measurement proportionally larger than the BUST and HIPS - often two dress sizes more. If she buys a dress in her BUST size it is usually straining at the seams around the middle.
An O shape should definitely steer clear of princess and sheath styles. An empire style is also a trap for the O shape. It accents the bust and then flows easily past the waist and hips, but can leave you looking just a bit pregnant. Make sure the fabric is heavy enough not to cling to the tummy. If you a little on the short side a better option is the dropped waist or 20's flapper style.
Draped fabrics and layers are great. Make sure any accents on the dress are high on the bust or low on the skirt. Absolutely no ruching anywhere! Dresses with vertical features are ideal for the O shape and an open long-line duster jacket or hip length overlay will break up the round shape. A dressy evening suit with an elasticised waist hidden under a hip length jacket is another option, especially good for the shorter O shape. Again, make sure the accents are on the bust, shoulders and neckline.
Y or WINEGLASS
BUST + : WAIST = : HIPS =
Take your BUST measurement. For an Y or WINEGLASS figure your WAIST should be about 24cm less. Your HIPS should be about 1cm more. Your BUST is one (or more) dress sizes more than your WAIST and HIPS.
ie: Size 12 = B 92cm : W 68cm : H 93cm // Size 14 = B 97cm : W 73cm : H 98cm // Size 16 = B 102cm : W 73cm : H 103cm / etc
The Y shape or WINEGLASS figure is defined by a generous BUST one (or more) dress sizes larger than the WAIST and HIPS. When it comes to evening wear, the Y shape is the most admired and sexy shape of all. The classic movie-star 36/24/36 figure was a WINEGLASS. A Y shape woman always has trouble finding suits that fit; either the jacket is too tight or the skirt is too loose. In evening wear a two piece bustier and skirt is ideal, as long as the bustier is adjustable with a lace-up back. Buy it in your skirt size.
If you want to look sexy and catch the eye of everyone in the room, go for a plunging neckline and don't forget the double-sided 'Hollywood' dress tape. But for others who just want to look nice, a more demure neckline will be more suitable. Choose a wide V neckline and tiny sleeves with an A-line skirt to make the most of your curves. Empire style can look good on a Y shape, especially if the skirt fabric is light and floaty. If you want to play down your bust, opt for a princess style. To balance out your Y shape figure, add accents around the waist or hips and a front thigh high split is awesome to make the most of your legs.
A or PEAR
BUST = : WAIST = : HIPS +
Take your BUST measurement. For an A or PEAR figure your WAIST should be about 19cm less. Your HIPS should be about 11cm more. Your HIPS are one (or more) dress sizes more than your BUST and WAIST.
ie: Size 12 = B 92cm : W 73cm : H 103cm // Size 14 = B 97cm : W 78cm : H 108cm // Size 16 = B 102cm : W 83cm : H 113cm / etc
The A shape, also known as the PEAR is defined by HIPS one dress size or more larger than the BUST and WAIST. When buying skirts and pants that fit over your generous hips ot thighs you are often plagued by much too much excess fabric at the waistband. Sometimes the extra is on the bottom and you have slim legs, and sometimes the bottom is fine and the thighs are heavy. The problems encountered by both A shapes are slightly different, but when choosing evening wear, they are essentially the same.
The style that is absolutely ideal for the A shape is the empire style. This style features a high waisted bodice and a skirt that flows freely in an A-line past waist and hips. Make sure the skirt is wide or A-line to allow the fabric to move freely; avoid clingy fabrics that mold to the legs. It is also best to avoid a too-tight bodice as that just accentuates the A shape. Go for off-the-shoulder styles, cap sleeves and sweetheart or deep round necklines. Avoid gathered waistlines; they will make you look like a toilet-roll dolly. Place your accents at the shoulders and bust to balance your shape.
COLOUR & FABRIC
Everyone knows that black is slimming. It's true; dark colours trick the eye. If you have body parts that need slimming, go for two colours; dark on the bits you want to reduce and bright and sparkly on the bits you want to appear larger. Shiny fabrics such as satin will always add the illusion of being bigger. Matt fabrics such as crepe don't reflect light and will therefore appear smaller. For an A shape (for instance) look for a gown with a satin bodice and a plain crepe skirt; there are many out there, often with an overskirt of chiffon for added glamour.
Vertical lines are slimming. Horizontal lines add width. Whether the 'lines' are in the fabric print, texture, garment style or as added embellishments such as sequins or embroidery, use that rule to your advantage when choosing clothing to highlight or diminish your 'bits'. If you have big hips (for instance) never go for horizontal lines on a skirt. On the other hand, horizontal lines or accents on the jacket will balance your figure. A straight row of sequins or ribbon will give the illusion of width whereas a deep V neckline gives the illusion of height. Vertical accents such as skirt splits will add height to a short figure and make a tall figure go on forever. Any diagonal line will break up a square or blocky figure and an asymmetric hem is perfect for making legs appear longer.
Back in the 80's every woman had her 'colours done'. We were catagorised as Summer, Autumn, Winter or Spring. That fad has fallen away somewhat, but the truth is still there. Some colours suit us and some do not. If you love a colour, wear it. But listen closely to the comments. If someone says, 'you look fabulous,' the compliment is to you and the colour suits you. If they say, 'that dress looks fabulous,' the compliment is to the dress and the colour is not perfect for you. Enjoy it anyway. If they say 'you don't look well,' I'd go home and change my clothes.
Whatever your size and body shape, you can look great if the style, cut and colour of the garment suits you. No matter how you diet and exercise, you should never attempt to change yourself to suit a dress that just doesn't suit your body shape. Be proud of who you are. Every body's beautiful in their own way.
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Happy shopping - check out my eBay store for great quality evening wear.