Style it up… whatever your shape

The last Friends of Henpicked gathering was a truly stylish one, with our resident image consultant Sara Marsden-Shreeve sharing her tips on dressing for our different body shapes.

Stylish woman in white hatBut Sara’s first piece of advice had nothing to do with shape or size. She stressed the importance of feeling positive about the way we look.

How many of us receive a compliment graciously? Not too many. So we learned first and foremost to focus on the things we like and forget about the bits we don’t.

Unrealistic images in the media was the next thing she touched upon. Of course we all know that models are photoshopped and airbrushed, but it can still be difficult to separate these images from reality.

Sara urged us to remember these are real women – albeit with very good genes – who probably suffer from the same insecurities as the rest of us.

What’s your body shape?

Next, we looked at the three basic body types: straight, semi straight and shaped. Most of us fall into one of these categories – there isn’t a ‘right’ one or a ‘wrong’ one, so it’s not about aspiring to be something different. Just about recognising and celebrating what we are.

Image showing whether you're shaped, semi-shaped or straightYou’re shaped if you:

  • Have a defined waist and tapered lower hip bone
  • Notice weight on your hips and thighs

You’re semi-straight if you:

  • Have a balanced waist and hip bone
  • Notice weight spreads evenly across your stomach and thighs

You’re straight if you:

  • Have a minimal waist and flat, high hip bone
  • Notice weight on your upper hip area

So after much prodding and assessing ourselves, we all decided which body shape we were. Then Sara moved on to explaining how, with clever use of colour, fabrics and patterns, we can highlight the good bits and hide anything we’re less confident about.

Style tips if you’re shaped

  • Stick to styles that emphasise your waist. Think fitted jackets, flared or A-line skirts, fit n flare dresses, curved hemlines on tops and jackets, and  belted garments.

  • Avoid anything which bulks or billows at your waist – this is the area you’re trying to emphasise.
  • Go for full or straight-cut trousers.
  • Soft, smooth fabrics will drape and move to show off your curves. Good ones to try are fine wool, jersey, soft cotton, silk, tencel and modal.

Style tips if you’re semi straight

  • Wear styles with a slight waist emphasis – anything semi fitted, straight or gentle A-line skirts, straight, belted coats and dresses and darted waists.

  • Avoid styles which are overly boxy or fitted.
  • The most flattering trousers will be tapered, straight cut or flat fronted.
  • Opt for smooth fabrics with a slight structure. Think lightweight wool, fine tweed, linen, twill, cotton, poplin, wool crepe or heavyweight jersey.

Style tips if you’re straight

  • Draw eyes to your lower hips and thighs with straight, unbelted jackets and coats and straight-cut skirts and dresses.
  • Avoid anything which emphasises your waist, and any styles with fullness or bulk around your hips and thighs.
  • Stick to slim-cut, tapering trousers with a flat or pleated front.
  • Try firm, structured fabrics  that create sharp, crisp line – gabardine, fine linen, taffeta, cotton and leather.

Sara went on to explain how using the right types of patterns and colours can really make a difference to the way your clothes look.

  • Use vertical lines to lengthen and streamline and horizontal lines to shorten and widen.
  • Clever use of prints can break up areas and camouflage bits you want to hide.
  • Try bright colours to add emphasis and focus and darker colours to disguise and cover.

A word about shoes…

We all love our shoes, but when to go high and when to stick to low? And what’s the best way to wear an ankle strap? Sara told us:

  • Ankle straps and spike heels look best on slim legs and ankles.
  • Lower, thicker, angled straps look better on wider ankles.
  • Heels don’t have to be high to be chic. Curvier calves and ankles look better with a thicker heel to balance everything out.

And finally, Sara left us with some ideas to make sure we all start shopping with confidence. Her top tips are:

  1. Forget the label. Just make sure your clothes fit rather than worrying about a specific dress size.
  2. Make sure anything you buy goes with at least two other items in your wardrobe.
  3. Think scale. So if you’re taller or fuller figured, you can go larger in patterns, accessories and embellishments.
  4. Make your face the focus of every outfit.
  5. Underwear is your secret armour, so make sure you’re wearing the correct bra, and don’t be afraid of big pants!
  6. Use focal points to either emphasise or distract.
  7. It doesn’t always have to be black!
  8. Clothes don’t have to be expensive to look good.
  9. Be you and be true.

Armed with all these new ideas, we left ready to try some different styles, colours and patterns.

Bring on the shopping!

Find out more… 

Kay Garrett

About Kay Garrett

I’m Henpicked's editor, which means I'm lucky enough to spend my time reading the fabulous articles our authors send in. I'm a massive James Bond fan, an Agatha Christie geek and love films and books in general. Most of my spare time is spent with my husband and our two lively and very lovely daughters.

  • Nicely written and brilliantly put together, thoroughly enjoyed the evening too. Thank you #wise women. x

  • Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom Sara – we all really enjoyed the evening!