Women come in all shapes and sizes. Each one has their own challenges when it comes to what to finding what to wear. The good news is whatever type of body you have, there are some tips to look for to help your particular body type look its best.
Some standard classifications
- Misses: 00-18, often running 2-14 and varies greatly with each manufacturer
- Petite: generally 5’4″ and under
- Plus: on average, size 14w-24w and over
- Tall: generally 5’9″ and over
Not too long ago US standard clothing sizes were based off data from the 1940-1950s which created a universal sizing standard across the clothing industry. Around the 1980’s, clothing companies started veering towards sizing that would be more appealing to consumers and started adopting the US catalog sizes which are nearly 6 sizes larger. A size 12 in the 40s would be today’s 6. This change of course has left North America’s sizing for apparel a lot of room for inconsistency.
source: Wikipedia US_standard_clothing_size#Conversion_from_catalog_sizes
Helpful things to remember for sizes
Petites: Petites have three important measurements to know for their pant sizing; inseam, waist and length. Petites sizes are often assumed to just be shorter legs when in fact it’s the whole package of other measurements that need to be accounted for. For example, thinner belts and smaller accessories work well for petites.
Talls: A person who is 5’9″ won’t always mean they are going to wear a tall size. Someone may get their height by being longer waisted and feel better in a tall’s shirt and have shorter legs and still fit most misses pants. It’s important to note the inseam and when possible check the inseam for the product you are interested in. I’m 5’9″ and fluctuate between tall’s and misses on a regular basis. Nothing is worse than floods when they are not capris!
Plus: Plus sizes will want to make sure they are buying clothes that fit the shape rather than try to hide it. Too often people wear baggy clothes which gives the illusion of larger. Plus sizes your measurements and size accordingly.
Balancing it all out
Bottom heavy (pear):
- dark on the bottom is more slimming, a lighter top will draw the eye upwards
- create a long line by using a uniform color for the top and bottom
- make sure fitted jackets end above your widest part
- invest in a flattering pair of low waisted jeans with a little stretch. Avoid too much glam on the pockets. Keep the cut to straight leg without pleats.
- wear clothes that are cut to fit your shape vs. fabrics that drape or cling to it
- draw the eye to your top with accessories, an attractive neckline or other embellishments
- look for empire waisted dresses to help draw a longer looking line
- swimsuits with a normal to high cut leg, a skirted bottom. Stick to darks on the bottom, light on top to help fool the eye.
- stripes down the sides of athletic shorts and pants give a flattering illusion of length
- thin strapped or strapless tops work great at drawing attention away from larger bottoms
General rule: Draw the eye to the top half. Two great ways to do this are to draw the eye upwards with brighter/lighter colors on top, darker on the bottom. Another great way is to create a sense of length with a monochromatic uniform color throughout the outfit.
Top heavy (apple):
- pick clothes that tastefully show off your cleavage
- go for a top that fits correctly (not too tight, not too baggy), it should drape without clinging
- draw attention away from the middle by wearing accessories like necklaces and scarves
- wear just above the knee length skirts that balance out your top not taper at the knee
- tank tops that drape can work well to bring attention to your arms and shoulders
- blouses that wrap can be very attractive
General rule: Look for clothes that bring the eye to your good features (bust, arms and legs). Use fashion, colors, embellishments to bring the eye where you want it.
Create the classic wardrobe you can use year after year The following pieces and colors are common for the different seasons and should not ever go out of style. The beauty of having these pieces is they always look stylish and they can be the base for you to work around when adding trend pieces to your wardrobe. It is very important to find the right classic piece for your body type, not all white shirts are created equal but they are essential.
A quick note about trends. Colors and styles come and go, year to year. The benefits of having classic pieces in your wardrobe is you can have these as your base and still enjoy picking out the very favorite trend pieces, without having to reinvent your wardrobe every season.
The following pieces should each meet the following criteria (fit you extremely well, be high quality (no pilling/frayed seams), be your best colors (no wearing wine if you look best in dark blues). It’s an investment, but one that will last you season after season. Fall/Winter Pieces
- white long-sleeve button shirt
- nicely tailored jacket
- cashmere sweater
- woven dress pants
- nicely crafted tote
- tall leather boots (approx 1 1/2″ heel)
- set of pearl earrings (and necklace if you wear necklaces)
- solid knee length dinner dress that best fits your body type
- midnight blue
Get trendy with accessories and supplemental pieces to your wardrobe. If a bright green is the trendy color for the season introduce it with a fabulous blouse that’s patterned with it. Just be prepared that next year’s Fall season, the blouse will potentially appear dated.
Tips: Invest in quality. These items will easily become favorites and can last year after year. The last thing you want is to have to worry about pilling fabrics, seams that split, buttons falling off. Make sure you’re getting cuts of clothes that fit you best. Give thought to how these pieces will work together (color, style). They should essentially all work together as a mix and match wardrobe you can use together or introduce new pieces to.
How to measure
Get a measuring tape, some pencil and a paper to take notes. Unclothed or with your undergarments on, take a snug measurement of your bust, waist, hips.
- Waist: measure your narrowest part of your waist
- Bust: measure your largest part of your bust
- Hips: measure your widest part of your hips (i.e. butt)
These are very generalized measurements for average clothing and can most always be used to find clothing online with a good fit.
Determining your bra size is as easy as x, y, z.
- X: Wrap the tape measure snugly around the rib cage just under the bust. Be sure it is positioned correctly and even with the ground. Note the measurement while breathing normally. Measurements less than or equal to 33 add 5 inches. Measurements greater than 33 add 3 inches. Take the result up to the nearest even number. This result is x.
- Y: Measure the bust around the fullest part. This result is y.
- Z: Subtract x from y (y – x = z). z is the result used to determine your cup size (see chart below).
- AA – 0″-1/2″
- A – 1/2″-1″
- B – 2″
- C – 3″
- D – 4″
- DD/E – 5″
Check the sizing for the bra you’re interested in and use the two results gotten for a near exact match.
Finding the perfect bra. Besides fit, you’ll want to consider how the bra is going to look under your clothing. It sounds simple, but just looking around you can see fashion faux pas all around. Things to consider are seams and lace showing through, too dark a bra showing under light clothing, bra strap falling off the shoulder and slipping out your shirt down your arm, bra straps showing because they don’t fit under your tops. If you fear the headlight syndrome, you’ll want to consider getting a padded or t-shirt type bra to avoid any uncontrolled attention.
Fitting the right underwear. My theory is buy a dozen when you find a pair that fits. Issues generally come up when they fit too tight and seams show through clothing or they fit too loose and ride up or are worn too high with low waisted pants.
Amazing undergarment secrets. A great alternative to consider is the thong which has an amazing number of styles. For dresses and skirts you can also get a super smooth look by wearing form shaping garments. There are a lot of stylish undergarments that help achieve the look you’re after: bigger bust, tighter butt, smaller thighs, narrower waist. These products can achieve amazing results and should definitely be considered to achieve the look you want.
How to find your size
You’ll first want to know your measurements, then check with the manufacturers site to see how they are sizing their clothes. Note: many stores have additional sizing info for the actual item you are shopping for. Find the item in the store and look for sizing info on that item’s page. If there isn’t any, you can then check the store’s sizing information. There is often also specific care information for the item you’re looking at that you will want to consider as well.
Remember to not assume that one size in the same brand fits the same. Quite often the measurements will change from line to line. A good example of this is a jean in brand name x’s line may come in slim, relaxed, wide, straight leg all fitting very different in the same size.
- Brand: manufacturers label or name for the garment
- Size: garments measurements (s,m,l,xl,0,2,4,etc), when you see 10t (t is tall), 10p (p is petite)
- Line: a series or particular style of garment used under a single manufacturers brand
- Polyblend: a fabric with some form of polyester in it
- Manufacturer: maker of the garment
Tips for everyone regardless of body type
- Find a designer you like, especially a particular cut that you know works for you. Many designers make that perfect size 6 across their brand or style.
- Take a look around you, see what others are wearing, look for similar body types and consider what’s working for them (or not).
- Consider the fabrics and whether they are going to shrink and what kind of care you are prepared to give them. If you are going to wash everything in warm and toss it into the dryer, you might want to consider buying on the larger size. Cotton can shrink 1/4 to 3/4″. A poly blend will help prevent shrinkage.
- Take into account where you’re purchasing the products from. For example, if you wear a size 10 shoe but don’t just assume the XL flip flop found in the shops in Mexico is going to fit (same goes for all !).
- Pick colors that are most flattering to you and your skin tone.
- Buy some jeans with some stretch.
- Avoid pants that taper at the ankle. This is a huge fashion faux pas for every body type.
Great news! Regardless of your fit there are a lot of quality retailers specializing in it these days. If you’re having a hard time finding a certain style in your size, you can always consider getting a seamstress or a tailor to help you get that perfect fit.