Recently, I’ve been delving deep into all things style related here on Distant Francophile. These pieces have been inspired by the emails I receive each and every day from readers keen share their style triumphs and challenges. Naturally – me being me – I’ve tried to include a touch of French flavour to the posts wherever I can. Good examples of this have included Four Reasons It Can Be Hard To Update Your Wardrobe and Style Made Easy – The Parisian Palette.
But when browsing my back catalogue a short while ago I realised that I’ve made a rather large omission. I’ve never really taken an in-depth look at either body shape or fit in anything I’ve shared.
Well, it’s about time I addressed that issue. Why? Because understanding your body and dressing it in clothes that fit your unique shape are fundamental in building a wardrobe you love and developing style confidence.
So How Do I Determine My Body Shape?
There are really only five general body shapes, although they operate in the world under a variety of titles, which can add a touch of confusion to the matter. Too often women guess their body shape and sometimes they assume they have the same shape as their mother, sister or best friend (which explains why clothes swapping doesn’t always work).
But there is really only one way to know for sure – you need to break out the tape measure. Get a handle on the key measurements that will help you ascertain your body shape – your shoulders, bust, waist and hips. With the facts in hand, you’ll be much better placed to research the clothing choices that will have you looking great.
Hourglass Or X Body Shape – Hips and shoulders both have similar measurements. Waist measurement is much smaller and therefore the waist is very defined.
Triangle Or Pear Body Shape – Shoulders and bust line are narrower than the hips and bottom.
Inverted Triangle Or V Body Shape – Shoulders are wider than hips and bottom.
Rectangle Or Column Body Shape – All key measurements – shoulders, bust, waist and hips – are relatively similar.
Round Or Apple Body Shape – Shoulders and hips are similar measurements. Little or no waist distinction.
It’s worth remembering that your body shape doesn’t change as your weight fluctuates. Whether you are currently slender or a little more full figured, your underlying structure will remain constant.
What To Do With Your New Found Body Shape Knowledge
Once you’ve determined your body shape, your next step is to create a balanced look. What do I mean by ‘balanced’? When it comes to body shapes, the hourglass is considered the most balanced. And the ideally, those of us with alternative shapes would be trying to use their clothes to create a look that is more hourglass like.
For example, if you have a triangle shape, you should be looking for clothes that minimise the hips and accentuate the shoulders. Women with an inverted triangle shape would be aiming to do the exact opposite. And if you are rectangularly shaped, you might like to consider clothes that help create waist definition. (Ladies blessed with an hourglass shape will most likely be pretty pleased with what I’ve just shared because they can just get on with enhancing, rather than balancing, their physique.)
When it comes to researching clothes that help you to balance your shape, Pinterest is an excellent resource. Countless images are available – there is an almost endless supply of inspiration. And you’re virtually guaranteed to find ideas that align to your personal tastes. I’ve been busy pinning options for all body shapes lately – you can check out my suggestions out here.
But If You Want To Look Your Best, You Need To Consider Fit As Well As Shape
While dressing to suit your body shape goes a long way towards creating a flattering look, it is important to keep an eye on how your clothes fit. Items that gape so badly that you are always tugging at them do nothing for your sartorial confidence. The same can be said for pieces that are uncomfortably tight. And let’s not even mention the problems you might have when sleeve or leg lengths overshoot the mark.
Rather, let’s just say it like it is – nailing the right fit is of critical importance. Fit is (yet) another area where, personally, I take inspiration from French women. You rarely see a woman anywhere in France wearing anything too tight or too sloppy. And their love of exquisite tailoring can be seen in everything from their favourite trench coat to the pencil skirt they will be wearing next Tuesday.
My Top Three Tips For Ensuring A Great Fit
- Try things on. Yes, yes, I know it is simply the last thing you feel like doing. But consider the time you spend in the fitting room as an investment in your confidence as well as your wardrobe. And it can save you time and money in the long run – and who doesn’t want to maximise those two commodities?
- Back your own judgement. Sales assistants and well meaning shopping companions all have their own motivations when they tell you something looks good! And take the time to really think about how the clothes feel on your body. I promise you will avoid wearing anything that isn’t completely comfortable – so don’t bring it home in the first place. You might also like to read French Inspired Tips For Creating A Wardrobe You Love before you go shopping.
- Make friends with a great tailor. Today’s mass manufactured, ready-to-wear clothing market means that clothes are created to fit the ‘many’ rather than the individual. A tweak or two here and there from a tailor who knows what they are doing can mean the difference between you looking good and you looking sensational.
Are fit and body shape important considerations for you? Or are you more relaxed about your clothing purchases? Either way, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
9 thoughts on “We’re Going There. Body Shape And The Perfect Fit.”
My French friends won’t even consider styles that aren’t flattering on them, no matter how popular. And considering the number or tailor shops in a small city like Carcassonne, they do take their clothes for adjustments.
It can be discouraging to find clothes that tick all the boxes: stylish, right size, right color, good fit, right price. That’s why it’s smart to buy quality rather than quantity, and to curate a wardrobe of only what works for you and that you love. That means less shopping, or more-selective shopping, so when pieces don’t tick all the boxes you don’t feel as if you’ve failed but instead that you have succeeded in keeping up your standards.
Hi Catherine! I’m not at all surprised by either the commitment to fit of your French friends, or by the number of tailors in your part of the world. I’m always conscious of tailoring while I’m in France – it is always spot on. Like you I’m a fan of fewer, quality pieces that fit, that I love and that I feel I can wear forever – although I must admit, it took me a long time (and rather a lot of money) to come to that conclusion.
You are so right about the difference a good tailor can make! Not only can the tailor make something that cost $20 on sale fit (and look) like it cost ten times as much, but he or she can make a consignment shop find look custom-made or rescue that once-perfect jacket, slacks or skirt after a weight loss, and all for less than the cost of replacing it and buying new matching slacks. It also pays to talk with your tailor before your next trip to your local consignment shop about which alterations are simple and inexpensive, which are difficult and costly, and which are frankly impossible, all of which will help you make smarter purchases and avoid expensive mistakes.
Thanks Cynthia – there is some excellent advice in your comment. I really like the idea of understanding what your tailor can and can’t do and at what price before you commit to a purchase!
Those general body shapes leave out one crucial measurement: bust to waist. A dress may fit well at bust and hips but still be too long in the body, in a way that is virtually impossible to adjust in most styles. So the short-waisted among us have to resort to separates, and maybe hunt them down in matching fabrics if we want to seem as though we are wearing a dress.
It’s a very good point you make Clare – those body shapes are extremely general, and I didn’t go into all the intricacies that one could go into. Overall, I think dresses can be tricky. Their length, your height and as you rightly point out, whether or not you are short or long waisted all make a very big difference to the final look.
I love this post and certainly benefit from it. I am just under 5 feet and having the perfectly fitted and flattering clothing to my body shape is every thing. It is fortunate these days for people with fashion obsessions. We have accessible resources around (shopping in Atlanta is a very pleasant ) and at your fingertips (internet shopping).
I hope you and your family (including your cute puppy) are doing wonderfully. I have thought about your blog and about posting my comments to let you know that I enjoyed reading about your recent travel in France. I am so glad you had an amazing time. I am very sorry I never got to write my comments. Life is really busy here in Atlanta, we continue living in a rat race (I am not sure how busy and tiring life is called a rat race).
However, I have a few perks getting to browse through your columns and have enjoyed them immensely. Please know how refreshing and happy it is to be at your “Distant Francophile”.
I came across this article “How to Survive the Next Four Years Like a French Woman (recently published in “The NEW YORKER”, February 22, 2017)” and immediately thought about you.
“Just what is their secret? French women seem to do everything with an effortless je ne sais quoi—whether it’s eating, dressing, dating, or resisting fascism. Our resident Parisienne shares her tips for elegantly surviving the next two hundred or so weeks”
I am sure you know immediately how so. How do the French women do it (surviving with styles)?
Here is the link if you are interested. It is one very short article.
Love love love your blogs. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Nat in Atlanta
It’s lovely to hear from you Nat – thanks for getting touch. I’m so glad that you are still enjoying Distant Francophile – you’ve been reading for such a long time now. Thank you for sharing the piece from The New Yorker – I’d missed it. It’s a fun take on the usual ‘How to be like a French woman’ pieces – although I do get that it carries a serious undertone. I hope that you get a little break from the ‘rat race’ soon – do make sure that you take care of you!! Warmest, Janelle.