How to determine your body shape and proportions

Working with clients, I have found that many of them have no ideas how their body looks. Classifications such as ruler, pear, banana and apple can get confusing, not to mention proportions. It is extremely important to know your body in order to dress it well. 

Industry standards brainwashing us with long legged, photoshopped models have nothing to do with the sizes or lifestyles of real women. Unfortunately, many us unconsciously dress that non-existent body instead of focusing on the real us.

Using myself as an example, I will demonstrate how I determine the body shape and proportions of my clients. Forget for a moment everything you thought you knew about your body shape.

Lets get started!

Take a picture of yourself in your underwear (or completely naked) from the front, side and back. To do this properly, place the camera at mid body height. If you don’t have a tripod, try using a chair, a table, some stacked boxes or whatever you have available. Ensure that the lens is level and not leaning upwards or downwards as this may distort the picture, making parts of your body look longer or shorter.

Stand as you usually do and try to focus your lighting in front of you and not on the side as I had. Smartphone screens are too small to make a good evaluation so use your computer to look at your picture.

Unlike mirrors, cameras show less mercy and while you may be unpleasantly surprised, do not delete the picture right away. When it comes to your own body, it is better to face the real situation and work on it than to live in blissful ignorance. You may find some problems with your posture so this is a good time to address those issues before they become major problems. (I didn’t know that my left shoulder is higher than the right one :s)

To determine you body proportions make the following measurements:
  • From the top of your head to the point where your legs bend ( A on the picture)
  • From the leg bend to the floor (B). To double check you can mark these points on a wall and measure with a measure tape or a string.
    If approximately equal B, you have a balanced body. If A longer than B you have longer torso and shorter legs and vise versa.
  • From your shoulder line to the narrowest part of your torso (C)
  • From  the narrowest part of your torso to the crotch (D)If C=D you have a balanced waist. Your waist is short if C is shorter than D, and long if C is longer than D.
  • To understand the relationship between your shoulders and hips, draw a straight line downward from the end point of your shoulder. This will show you if your shoulders are wider, more narrow or the same width as your hips. As an alternate method, you can hang a string from the end of the shoulder and see where it falls. If the string doesn’t touch your hips, it means that your shoulders are wider than your hips. I think you will figure it out.

how to determine body proportions

When done you will have an understanding of your body proportions. Recommendations on how to dress different proportions you can find here.

The next step is body evaluation.

Keep in mind that when you are looking at your picture, you are to remain objective and unbiased in your estimations. It is as if you have forgotten everything you have ever heard or thought about your body and are looking at this woman for the first time.

determine body shape

I will show how I do that beginning from the top of my body.

  1. My head a bit smaller in relation to my body
  2. I have a triangle face with a narrow chin and a prominent nose.
  3. Quite long neck
  4. Shoulders are slightly wider than hips
  5. Average breast
  6. Little waist definition
  7. Not flat belly
  8. Neat hips and buttocks
  9. Neat arms
  10. Balanced legs
  11. Slim ankles
  12. Narrow feet in average size

After you have done this, identify what you love about your body and face and what you prefer to disguise. For example, my head is on the small side and lends itself to more voluminous hairstyles. However, this is not an easy thing to achieve as my hair is fine and wearing it too long makes its look sparse. To combat this effect, I prefer to wear my hair above my shoulder line.

The shape of my chin and length of my neck are similar to Lisa Kudrow’s, and I take careful consideration when choosing which necklines to wear. V-neck tops tend to further elongate my neck so I break up the space by accessorizing with a necklace or a scarf. I feel better having this area covered and can wear turtle necks to achieve this effect.

dress long neck

My shoulders are a bit wider than my hips so wearing tops that broaden my shoulder and diminish my hips makes the difference quite noticeable. Depending on the impression I am trying to make, I’ll use a variety of strategies to create the appropriate shape. For example, in a business meeting where competency is more important than femininity, I would enhance the shoulders and not the hips.

My waist looks better in clothes with some rigidity and totally disappears in tight t-shirts. My belly feels better in high-waisted skirts and trousers as opposed to hanging over low-waisted jeans so guess which one I choose. If I wear a form fitting dress, I’ll wear high-waisted, shaping panties to promote smoother lines.

I feel good about showing my legs. They are proportionally balanced to my body yet due to optical illusions and imperfections in the eye, they can look shorter so I use the tricks to prolong them.

Do the same analysis on your own body. Instead of focusing on what you may have had in the past or want to have in the future, accept and work with what you have now. Enhance parts you love and disguise parts you prefer not to showcase. Before you put something on, think about the impression you want to make and the effect you want to achieve. Refer to recommendations given to different body shapes to achieve your goals and present well to your audience, keeping in mind that a date, job interview or meeting with parents or friends each require different clothing choices.

Remember, there are no exact rules that dictate what you wear. You decide yourself depending on your own body, lifestyle, personality and preferences. The rules that are written in body shape descriptions are just guidelines. You may be an Inverted Triangle and contrary to all prescriptions, love your shoulders and want to show them off such as Cameron Dias. Or be proud of your ample hips as JLo and Kim Kardashian.

body shape body shapes

Hopefully by the time you are done with this analysis, I will have written a post about optical illusions and how to use them when choosing clothes.

If my explanation was unclear please ask your questions in comments below or contact me via Contacts form.

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