To understand the cuts that you can always rely on to achieve style success, it all comes down to your body shape. The female form can be emphasised in a number of different ways, dependent on height, figure and of course, fashion preference. With over 40 years of dressing powerful, stylish women, Karen Millen has learnt how to best shape wardrobes with not only timeless, but also complimentary designs that maximise their potential. Many of us are in need of inspiration on how to find the perfect dress for your body type, which is why we’ve cultivated the ultimate guide.
What Body Shape Am I?
**Pear shape** – Ultra-feminine, the traditional pear shape is formed with a slimmer upper body and is wider at the bottom.
**Hourglass** – A figure that’s envied by many, the hourglass shape represents a slimmer, well-defined waist, whilst your hips and upper body are equally proportioned.
**Apple** – More of an overall balanced form, the apple body shape is rounder, and slightly more top heavy.
**Rectangle** – Characterised with a straight silhouette, a rectangular build can enjoy the benefits of long legs, with shoulders, chest and hips mostly equal in size.
**Petite** – On average less than 5”3, a Petite body shape has smaller proportions than most.
Pear Shaped Body Type
One of the most common female body shapes is the pear. Women who have this figure generally have a wider waist – you may have to size up when purchasing trousers. As well as this, you will most likely have narrower shoulders, with your body complimented by a fuller posterior.
Best Dresses for Pear Shape
Fortunately, there’s a multitude of dress styles that best flatter a pear shape figure, and it’s all about dramatic details, luxe embellishments and strong shapes. With the top half of your body being the slenderest, draw attention to your neck and décolletage with a V or cowl neck design. Voluminous sleeves also add impact, with bell sleeves or a ruched design all present flattering dresses for pear shaped figures. For evening or summer dressing, consider an open back design to best emphasise the form – as well as being an instant outfit elevator.
For timeless dressing, Bardot sleeves enhance the shoulders and collarbones, whilst bringing a refined edge to your dress repertoire. When it comes to the skirt, an A-line is best. Not only is it universally flattering, but an A-line skirt gives the illusion of a slimmer waist and narrower hips. A pleated midi skirt also provides this benefit, effortlessly skimming the bottom half of the form and creating movement in the design.
Hourglass Body Shape
With many famous iconic figures with infamous hourglass bodies - including Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Lopez - the hourglass body is a highly coveted one. Mostly on curvier figures, those with an hourglass shape have a well-defined waist that’s noticeably thinner than your equal bust and hip measurements. As well as this, assets may include a fuller bust, hips and thighs.
Best Dresses for Hourglass Figure
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When in search of dress styles for hourglass body shapes, these are the style fundamentals to consider. A wrap dress is undoubtedly the most flattering shape for an hourglass figure. Naturally cinched at the waist due to its fastening, it can be worn in a mini, midi or maxi length, providing endless inspiration when it comes to dressing. As well as this, a fit and flare dress highlights the waist, whilst the fuller, voluminous skirt adds style impact.
Whilst someone with an hourglass figure may typically shy away from more oversized, shapeless dresses, there’s an instant fix that enhances and best showcases the hourglass figure – utilising a belt. Able to instantly reinvent outfits, a belt, or belted dress introduces a new breadth of dress opportunity in order to try something a little different.
A powerful puff sleeve accentuates an hourglass figure further, with the oversized effect complimenting the dimensions of the rest of the form, whilst the irreverent design of a puff sleeve is an instant solution to smarter dressing.
Apple Shaped Body Type
Arguably the most amenable of figures, the apple shaped body boasts generally equal proportions, with shoulders slightly broader than the hips. Whilst apple shaped figures generally are less narrow on the waist with less definition, there’s less of a curve, meaning that you can either create this by carefully styling your outfit, or instead emphasise different parts of your look.
Best Dresses for Apple Shaped Body
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When committing to the perfect outfit, it’s important to ensure that your most confident features are on display. Those with an apple shaped figure are often privileged with desirable legs, so by choosing a shorter length hemline, an instant impact is provided. This could be with an empire waist skirt, a relaxed option for spring/summer dressing in particular, the ever-practical A-line skirt, or an airy swing design.
Embody a noughties inspired agenda with a strapless dress – as an apple shape your shoulders are a feature to highlight, as well as your collarbone and just above the bust. This is highlighted further with a lower neckline, with a V-neck in particular being a style to turn to, as well as a sweetheart neckline being a perennial favourite.
When it comes to the hues of your chosen dress, finding a style in the right colour can also flatter the form. The old adage of black and darker hues being flattering reigns supreme in this case, and when it comes to investing in a timeless piece, you can guarantee that these colours will forever be in style.
Rectangle Body Shape
Reserved for the tallest and leanest of figures, a rectangular body shape is best described by being equal in the bust, waist and hips with minimal curves – the most athletic of forms. Whilst less defined than other figures, the vertical rectangular shape ensures a balance, with weight distributed equally throughout the body, meaning you’re most likely the same size in tops and trousers.
Best Dresses for Rectangle Body Shape
Styling a rectangular body shape mostly depends on the desired aesthetic. If you’re looking to create the illusion of curves, it’s best practice to cinch at the waist with a belted dress, preferably in a fit and flare design. By having a wider skirt than the top and drawing the design in at the waist, an instantly curvaceous figure is created.
The ever-practical wrap dress comes into play once again when in search of dresses for rectangle body shapes, complimenting and enhancing the balance of the figure, whilst the complimentary cut of the dress accentuates the body’s natural curves.
Decadent details and flourishes are welcomed on a rectangular shapes figure, be it a powerful puff sleeve, ruching or considered embellishments. Creating volume can mask where the body laps in shape, be it a dramatic sleeve, or statement skirt.
Asymmetric dresses are also a standout pick for those with rectangular bodies, as they create different shapes and draw attention away from unwanted areas. Be it a one-shoulder dress or a flamenco-inspired skirt, there’s plenty of options, in particular when it comes to evening and occasion dressing.
Fortunately, a rectangular body shape suits most dress styles, a loose-fitting more casual style can also effortlessly skim the form, and when it comes to finding the best dress style for an athletic body type, personal preference is perhaps the most important decision of all.
Petite Body Shape
What is a petite body shape?
Officially, petite sizing begins for those with a height of 5”3 and below, those who are shorter than the average height. Whilst particular proportions may very per person, petite women are likely shorter in the torso and legs than most, so may find arm and leg lengths of certain designs can be too long.
Best Dresses for Petites
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It may bear little surprise that, when it comes to finding the best dress shape for petites, the mini dress is the prime option to best showcase this smaller shape. Suiting the smaller height, a shorter hemline has no end of outfit variety, be it a skater dress for relaxed daytime outfitting, or a form-fitting bodycon style for an evening out.
Again, a belted dress manages to elevate the figure of those with petite figures, especially a high waisted design, which breaks up the torso and creates the aesthetic of a longer body. A style in a looser fit also can be accessorised with a belt to build this same effect.
Prints can also play a part in shaping the figure, with vertical stripes best suiting petite frames. The straight lines not only make the wearer look taller, but also create a slimming effect for an overall flattering combination.
Whilst it’s natural that some figures may suit certain types of bodies more than others, it doesn’t mean you can’t wear a particular dress or style. Empower your wardrobe with a carefully curated mix of designs that can be worn for a mix of occasions with whatever colours and prints you most desire.