What fashions work for women with curves?

Women's figures rarely fit into one mold, but smart women learn to highlight their best body parts and minimize any problem areas.
Women's figures rarely fit into one mold, but smart women learn to highlight their best body parts and minimize any problem areas.
Reggie Casagrande/Getty Images

In the fashion world, women's bodies must be slim -- almost straight up and down, in fact. In the real world, however, more women have bodies with curves. Sometimes their bodies curve quite a bit more in one area than they do in another.

Too often, real women with curves feel that fashionable clothes weren't made with their bodies in mind. What looks good on those willowy models might look ridiculous on them -- if it fits at all.

But the curvy woman need not despair. Learning what fashions work with her particular set of serves can help a woman choose clothes that are fashionable and flattering. Before she can make these choices, however, she must figure out what type of figure she has.

Keep in mind that a woman rarely fits exactly into one mold. A woman with an ample chest, for example, may also be short or tall, overweight or underweight. But figuring out her most distinctive body characteristic and how to accommodate it can help her know what clothing styles will work best for her.

Here are the four most common types of women with curves:

  • Hourglass. This is the classic figure-8 shape with a shapely chest balanced with shapely hips and thighs. Her waist is usually small and well-defined.
  • Funnel. This woman is curvier on top than below the waist. She usually has a chest that is noticeably larger around than her hips are. She tapers from her bosom to her slim hips and slender thighs
  • Pear. This is the most common body type for women. The widest part of a pear'-shaped woman's body is her hips. She often -- but not always -- has a short waist and long legs that aren't skinny. You might think of a pear as having an A-frame shape.
  • Apple. An apple-shaped woman is fuller around her middle. Her curves are amplest around her belly. She may also have large breasts. Often, she has thin legs and a flat rear.

Whatever your body type, the basic goal of choosing fashions should be to play up your best features and draw attention away from any problem areas. Don't hide your curves; dress in a way to make them look more in proportion with the rest of your body.

Read on for tips for each body type.

Dressing the Hourglass Figure

If you have an hourglass figure, you're the image of femininity, as portrayed in Renaissance art and in World War II pinup pictures. Make the most of your well-balanced curves and show them off in a tasteful way without drawing too much attention to them. You also should play up your slender, well-defined waist. You'll want to choose clothes that make your body look a little longer and that don't make you look dumpy.

Women with hourglass body types should:

  • Wear belts. Belted dresses and other outfits with belts can help draw attention to your lovely waist. Bright colors draw the eye, so you can make good use of distinctive, noticeable belts. Similarly, try wearing dresses with clearly defined, fitted waistlines.
  • Wear wrap dresses. They'll make the most of your slender waist.
  • Choose tops with open necks, V-necks and other low necklines to give length to your throat and upper body and draw attention to your face.
  • Try strapless dresses if your shoulders and upper arms aren't too large. Make sure the dress has a nice waistline.
  • If you wear separates, make them the same color. That will lengthen your look.
  • Remember that black and other dark colors are slimming.
  • Try A-line skirts to flatter your hips.
  • Consider shoes with heels. They can add length to your legs and make your hips look less full.

On the other hand, fashion "don'ts" for women with hourglass figures include:

  • High-necked tops or turtlenecks
  • Separates of distinctly different colors, or mix colors and prints. You might end up looking as though you've been cut in half at that narrow waist.
  • Short skirts. They make your hips look rounder.
  • Loose, baggy pants. They make your legs look big all the way down. Try ones with a bit of flare at the bottom of the legs instead.
  • Jackets that end at the widest part of your bottom. Go for waist-length tops or longer ones that hang below your hips.
  • Double-breasted jackets. They'll make your chest look too big.
  • High-waisted dresses or tops. They camouflage your slender waist and hide the best part of your body.

Dressing the Funnel-Shaped Lady

If you're a funnel-shaped woman, your curves are mostly at your chest. You're blessed with slim hips, legs and thighs that make other women envious. Dress to draw attention to your legs and make yourself look a little longer. Use the shape and color of your clothes to make your larger upper body look more in balance with your slimmer lower half.

Funnel-shaped ladies should:

  • Try open-neck and V-neck tops.
  • Match those tops with long necklaces that help elongate your neck.
  • Look for clothes with lines and patterns that add vertical interest above your waist.
  • Wear short skirts to show off your long legs.
  • Wear shoes with a little heel to further emphasize your legs.
  • Remember that darker colors make you look smaller, and lighter colors make you look
  • larger. Darker tops and lighter skirts or pants may work well for you.
  • Wearing clothes of all one color is another good strategy. That can make you look taller and slimmer.
  • Wear skirts that flare to balance your wider top. Flared-leg pants can achieve the same effect.
  • Wear longish jackets and tops to help lengthen your entire look.

Fashion "don'ts" for the Funnel body type includes:

  • Wide belts
  • Double-breasted jackets
  • Baggy tops that will further enlarge your top half
  • Big collars with large lapels
  • Clingy tops
  • Low-rise jeans
  • Bright colors and bold prints
  • Horizontal prints

Dressing the Pear-Shaped Lady

Lightly colored tops matched with dark pants flatter pear-shaped women.
Lightly colored tops matched with dark pants flatter pear-shaped women.
Dan Hallman/Getty Images

If you're a pear, you're in good company: It's the most common shape for women [source: Martin].

To put it bluntly, if you're pear-shaped, you're bottom heavy. The widest part of you is below your waist, around your hips.

You should choose styles and colors that will obscure your bottom half and draw more attention up top. You also want to make your figure look longer. Pear-shaped women have quite the fashion challenge: How do you show off your curves while dressing to keep them in proportion with the rest of your body?

Hopefully, this list will help. Pear-shaped women should:

  • Highlight your upper half by wearing tops with bold colors, prints, glitter and other noticeable details.
  • Accentuate your upper half by accessorizing with jewelry, scarves and other eye-catchers.
  • Wear lighter colors on top and dark colors below the waist.
  • Wear long jackets and tops that fall well below your hips.
  • Wear tunic tops and dresses.
  • Wear belts at the waist, not around the hips. Try belts that match your pants or skirt.
  • Stick to tailored clothes below the waist. Flat-front pants and A-line skirts will work.
  • Wear heels to make your legs look longer.

Don'ts for the pear body type include:

  • Pleated skirts. They make your bottom look bigger.
  • Pants with pockets, especially side pockets or large pockets
  • Baggy or wide-leg pants
  • Prints -- especially horizontal prints -- below the waist

If you'd like tips for the apple-shaped woman, read the next page.

Dressing the Apple-Shaped Lady

If you have an apple-shaped figure, you're fuller and curvier around the middle. You may also have an ample chest. You have thin legs and likely a flat rear.

Emphasize your bust and legs, so that you draw attention away from your middle. Camouflage your belly area as much as possible.

Women with apple-shaped figures should:

  • Limit patterned fabrics to skirts and pants.
  • Wear short skirts that make the most of your slim legs.
  • Draw attention to a full bust by wearing V-neck tops.
  • Wear A-line skirts to help your bottom look more in proportion with your top.
  • Wear pants with back pockets to make your rear look less flat.
  • Wear tops and dresses with dropped waists that hit below your true waist (and below your belly).
  • Wear single-breasted jackets -- and leave them unbuttoned.
  • Wear solid-colored clothes. Monochromatic outfits can help make you look longer and slimmer.

Don'ts for the apple body shape include:

  • Horizontal prints
  • Tight pants
  • Pants with pleated fronts
  • Jackets or tops that end at the waist.

Whatever your body type, you should celebrate your curves. Don't try to hide them -- just learn how to make the most of what you have. Nobody's shape is perfect, but smart women learn how to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.

Read on for lots more information on women's fashion.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Alfano, Jennifer. "The New Secrets of Style." Instyle & Time Inc. Home Entertainment. New York, 2009.
  • Cottoninc.com. "On the Plus Side: Women with Curves Count on Greater Apparel Offerings Today." (March 28, 2010)http://www.cottoninc.com/lsmarticles/?articleID=479
  • De Cossio, Natalie. "Pear shaped women -- a guide to looking good." Women Republic. (March 28, 2010)http://www.womenrepublic.co.uk/fashion/pear_shapes/
  • Fine Jewelry Designs.com. "Flattering Styles for Women with Curves." (March 28, 2010)http://finejewelrydesigns.com/fashion-accessory.html
  • Glassman, Adam. "Adam's Fashion Tips for Curvy Women." Oprah.com. (March 28, 2010)http://www.oprah.com/style/Adams-Fashion-Tips-for-Curvy-Women
  • Martin, Jill and Pierre A. Lehu, with Dana Ravich. "Fashion for Dummies." Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2010.
  • Raes, Bridgette. "Style: Dressing the Body You Have to Create the Body You Want." Penguin: New York, 2008.
  • StyleChicago. "Fashion Fit Guide for Women." (March 31, 2010)http://www.stylechicago.com/Category.asp?ID=9508
  • The Chic Fashionista.com. "Pear Body Shape."http://www.thechicfashionista.com/pear-body-shape.html