Dressing Your Shape or Build

Tips on how to dress your shape or build from your Indianapolis Personal Stylist.


There are five figure types. Most women clearly fall into one of these.

Three figure types have a defined waist and considered curvy. They are the following:

  • Proportionate Shape
  • Bigger on the Bottom
  • Bigger in the Middle

Don’t have a defined waist:

  • Bigger on the Top
  • No Curves or Rectangular shape

Proportional Shape

Also known as the Hourglass, this shape is the most desirable one for most women. Shoulders and hip measurements are about the same, and the waist is significantly smaller. (Shoulder and hip are within ½ inch of each other, with waist 9-10 inches smaller—think Marilyn Monroe!) Hourglass figures gain weights all over the body.

Goal is to emphasize the hourglass figure.

Proportionate Figure Has…

  • Hourglass figure
  • Sometimes protruding derriere
  • Both hips and bust are proportionate in size
  • Waist curves inward from rib cage to hips
  • Well defined waistline even with weight gain
  • Slim or average legs with curvy thighs

Bigger on the Top Shape

In this shape, shoulders are broader than the hips—shoulders are more than 5 percent larger than the hips. This lady gains weight above the hip bones and in the belly area as well as the back and neck.

The goal with this shape is to balance wide shoulders and bust with smaller hips.

Bigger on the top figure…

  • Shoulders and bust are broad compared to waist and hips
  • Medium to full bust or rib cage
  • Narrow waist and hips
  • Hips taper only slight from the waist
  • Slim or muscular arms and legs
  • Often professional or trained athlete

Bigger in the Middle

This person has a pronounced belly. Measurements will reveal this person’s largest area is the midsection. The shoulders and hips will be at least 5 percent smaller than the belly. This person will have a round appearance. The Bigger in the Middle shape gain weight in the belly area as well as in the upper legs and thighs.

The goal is to create a waist on this shape.

This shape has…

  • Upper body appears larger than the the lower body
  • Often has a generous bustline
  • Hips measure the same or smaller than the bust and are square in form
  • Full waist and tummy sometimes measure larger than bust or hips
  • Thighs and lower hip are noticeably thinner than upper hip and waist
  • Shapely slender legs
  • Often short torso and flat derriere

Bigger on the Bottom

In this shape, the hips are wider than the shoulders. Measurements show that the hips are at least 5 percent larger than the shoulders. The person is generally short-waist and has a very narrow arms and shoulders. All weight gain is below the belly button.

Goal for this figure is to balance full hips and thighs with narrow bust and shoulders.

This shape has…

  • Shoulders and bust are proportionately small than the hips
  • Small bust (sometimes two sizes smaller than on top)
  • Shapely waist
  • Generous lower hips and full thighs; fullest at the lower hip and thigh area
  • Lower hips are larger than the bust
  • Average to larger thighs and legs
  • Often short waist

No Curves Shape (rectangular)

In this shape, the shoulders, bust and hips are all about the same. There is not a defined waist. The shoulder, bust and hips are within 5 percent of each other. The waist is 25 percent smaller than the shoulder or the bust. This shape gains weight primarily in the trunk area—the ribcage to the hip bone as well as the neck, chin and upper back area.

Goal for this shape is to create curves and to “fill out” clothing.

This shape has…

  • Straight to moderate curves
  • Square hips and waist
  • Upper and lower torso that are equally proportionate
  • Average bust and large rib cage
  • Undefined waist that is only slightly tapered from rib cage to waist and waist to hips
  • Arms and legs are slim in proportion to the rest of the body
  • Face or neck is full in proportion to the rest of the body
  • Flat derriere and slender legs

Men’s Builds: Endomorph

The endomorph’s body is nearly as globular as it humanly possible. He has a round head, a large, round abdomen; rather short arms and legs with heavy upper arms and thighs but slender wrists and ankles as well as shorter limbs. Under normal conditions, the endomorph individual has a great deal of body weight, but he is not simply a large person. If the endomorph is starved, he remains an endomorph, only thinner. (Example: Jack Black)

Endomorph Tips:

  • Jeans with a slight flare or wider leg will create balance.
  • Do not wear skinny jeans.
  • Shoulder pads also create a balanced body …add stuff on top.
  • Wear shorter jackets with a strong shoulder.
  • Avoid pleated pants! They create too much bulk.
  • Watch tight polos that show weight.
  • Make sure clothing is not too baggy nor too tight.

Men’s Builds: Ectomorph

Has a thin face with a high forehead and receding chin, narrow chest and abdomen, rather long, thin arms and legs, little body fat and little muscle. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily; if he becomes fat, he is still considered an ectomorph, only overweight. Gain weight in the arms. (Example: Jude Law)

Wardrobe Tips:

  • Use structured clothing, especially on top.
  • Avoid loose, draping garments or thin fabrics.
  • No flared pants—straight and slim legs are better.
  • Layering is a great option for this build.
  • Light colors on top create a strong looking chest/top half – Longer jackets and coats help create balanced proportions – Good brands: T-shirt, Alexander Wang thin T-shirts.

Men’s Builds: Mesomorph

This is the athletic build…The mesomorph has a square, massive head; broad, muscular chest and shoulders; heavily muscled arms and legs; and minimal body fat. Often has a large butt and smaller waist. He tends to develop muscle easily. His muscular development can usually be distinguished from that of one who has developed his muscles through body building. (Example: Mark Wahlberg)

Wardrobe Tips: 

  • Goal is to highlight the body, not to hide it—don’t wear baggy clothing.
  • Avoid too tight pants and jeans for this build.
  • Straight cut, not skinny, are better. Size up to fit butt, if needed, and tailor down the waist.
  • Close fitting tops are better, especially thinner knits since this build fills them out.
  • Thin draping fabric works well to highlight muscle tone.
  • Wear jackets that finish at the hips. Show the body.
  • Best T-shirt is a the V-shape.