Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Measure Up

How many articles of clothing do you keep trying to wear, thinking “this time I will like it”? You take it off as soon as you get home, either push it to the back of your closet or throw it in the charity pile. So many women shop without  knowing what will truly work for their figure and end up frustrated and discouraged with themselves.

Determining your 3 basic measurements and your body shape are the first steps in learning how to dress to feel your best. Every woman has positive features she would like to accentuate as well as a few she would rather not draw attention to.

Knowing your measurements helps you avoid even trying on clothing that will not work for you. Shop with a purse size measuring tape. Measure the garment’s 3 basic measurements prior to the trip to the dressing room. You may want to take a few measurements of your favorite pieces at home like the length of a well-loved skirt or the inseam of your best ‘go to’ pants.

Examining your shape allows you the to gain a better understanding of what these positive and not so favorite areas are, helping you to dress in the most flattering way for your figure. Measure your body with little or close fitting clothing on – you may have someone help you or do this looking in the mirror in profile. Write these 3 measurements down:

tape measurements
Bust: Stand up straight and wrap the measuring tape around your back and across the fullest part of your breasts, keeping the tape parallel to the ground. Pull the measuring tape as taut as you can without changing the shape of your breasts. Don’t squish.
Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your middle, at the smallest part of your natural waist. Wrap it flat around your back, close to you but not pulling tight, again keeping tape parallel to the ground, and meet just above your belly button.

Hips: Hold the measuring tape below your hipbone, at the fullest part of your hip. Then keeping it parallel to the ground, wrap it around the largest part of your butt (no cheating!), and bring it back to the meeting point.

Now that you've measured yourself, use those numbers to help determine your silhouette shape. These ideas have been around for awhile but can get kind of confusing. Here are the concepts pared down to 4 basic shapes and a formula of sorts that can help most women identify their silhouette. Using the 3 basic measurements above calculate the difference between your bust, waist, and hips. Use the guide below to determine your basic shape.

             B 43”, W 36”, H 42”      B 36”, W 34”, H 38”     B 34”, W 26”, H 42”       B 38”, W 27”, H 38

OK, now some basic guidelines to trick the eye:

It is all about proportion and balance - The two keys to visual harmony.

Use fullness, color and contrast in areas that you want to appear increased.
examples: If you are ‘pear’ shaped, balance a larger hip by adding a gather at the top cap of the sleeve, wear a lace embellished collar, use a horizontal stripe across the top of a T-shirt, wear a wide boat neck. ‘Ruler’ type?, try an A-line skirt that adds shape at the hip and hem or a surplice wrap that creates a little gather as it ties at the waist. A V-neckline is good on almost everyone. As is a wrap style.
Avoid fullness (puffs, gathers, pleats, etc.), style lines, and contrasting colors in areas you want to diminish.
examples: If you are ‘apple’ shaped, accentuate your legs (probably one of your best assets) by wearing slim pencil skirts, pants that are slim legged. Avoid a gathered waist skirt or one that is pleated from the waist. Keep the silhouette of your tops clean-lined and avoid ‘baby doll’ or yokes with falling gathers over the bust. 
‘Hourglass’ figures have a natural balance between bust and hips but over accentuation of the waist by cinching too tightly can create too much contrast. Also, avoid wearing clothing that is too tight. (all shapes)This will actually make you look heavier. A little ‘ease’ is flattering.
Lastly, a couple of suggestions:
  1. The best investment you can make to your wardrobe is a full-length mirror. Get one, use one, and look at the back of yourself as well before you leave the house.
  2. If you are tugging at something, it isn’t working for you.
  3. Remember, you’re worth dressing with style just the way you are. Don’t wait for that day in the future when you lose weight, get the tummy tuck, or whatever it is you think you need.
 Enjoy your next Shopping Trip !


  1. love this post!! such useful information on how to know what your body type is! and how to shop for it. now if only i fit into one of those body types... maybe the upside-down pear? or the avocado? we'll work on it!

    lucky i have such a superstar resource here to help me out!!!


    1. Thanks Anna! Actually you are probably a version of apple in that you are larger on top than hip. Sometimes this is referred to as inverted triangle. Whatever you call it, you are beautiful! You can use the same tips for creating balance by accentuating your lower and keeping a good fit on top. xo - Janet

  2. I've always been confused about how to handle "saddlebags" for the hip measurement. My hips are narrower, but my upper thighs are fuller, and there's not a smooth progression between the two. Do you go down that low to capture the "fullest part"? Or do you stay up higher to capture the butt? Thanks! --Jessica

  3. Thanks for the question, Jessica! Yes, I'd suggest measuring the fullest part of the hip even if its a little lower. Its not a 'true hip measurement' but doesn't' matter as long as you know what's what. Remember to measure from your waist down to your hip and then that fullest part so you can use that info. to measure clothing. A-line skirts, trousers and skirts with a little pleat, should work well for you. Slimmer skirts can work but need a little fullness like the pleats or a few gathers to create a comfortable drape at the hip before tapering.