Body Shape Guidelines for Pirates
Pouring over the internet and looking at celebrities, style blogs, websites by professional stylists, comparing paparazzi photos of celebrities with the re-touched photos I learned a little something about what happens when we are photographed. I learned three things. One is that I probably always will look a little better in the mirror (and in real life) than I do in photos because the camera really does add pounds. Mainly it does this by putting everything into a two dimensional perspective, by the photograph being taken at less than flattering angles or lighting that creates highlights and shadows where you don't want them. Of course the famous people being professionally photographed don't have to worry about any of those things. I am taller than average and thus frequently the photographs taken of me are by someone shorter who is essentially taking the shot at an upwards angle. If you wish to gain ten pounds, take photos of yourself from that angle. It's very effective.
The second thing I learned is that my body is pretty normal and the images we see in media are highly altered. This sounds like a no-brainer at this point and we all know this but I had not realised how extremely they are altered. Learning this helped me stop comparing myself to them. A photo of me is never going to look like a photo of Nicole Kidman or Julia Roberts unless it's a paparazzi shot. Armed with this knowledge I am now able to view images of models, celebrities and fashion magazines without it messing with my self esteem in the slightest.
These images are found all over the internet from many sources and are probably not new to you.
The third thing I learned, and this is where the guidelines come into play, is that while I understood colours and knew what worked best for me, I was not doing a good job with shapes. I was wearing things that made me look dumpy and if this mattered to me I would have to change that. For the most part it did matter. So I set out to figure out what types of clothes would flatter my body best and how to reconcile that with my personal taste. Sometimes a compromise has to be made in that regard. I am attracted to flowing shapeless things and although that supposedly works on a rectangle body shape it doesn't work on one with a substantial bust. The effect I get is to make my whole torso look both shapeless and the same size as my chest and that is the biggest part of me.
Knowing what needs to be done and actually accomplishing it are two different things. I set out to figure out my body shape because other than the colours I choose to wear, this is the area in which I have the most control and the greatest ability to look my best. But figuring out what my body shape is was not as easy as it sounds. Most people don't fit really neatly into one of the identified shapes, and it also depends on which expert you consult as to how many shapes there are. Trinny and Susannah give us twelve, and while I find their guide is perhaps the most comprehensive, in the end it didn't get me any further. Most shape guides use either a fruit metaphor or something geometric. A shadow figure is used to show us what each of these shapes looks like, and then there is often an offering of celebrities who have this shape.
I don't feel so inadequate at not being able to figure out my own shape now that I realise the so called experts cannot even agree on what shape to label various celebrities. I have seen Kate Winslet identified as an hourglass, a pear and even an oval, for example, and she isn't the only one for whom there isn't agreement. It gets more amusing when you read forums where people are arguing over whether Jessica Alba is an hourglass, a rectangle or a spoon. It's a good reminder to take all this with a very large pinch of salt. A spoon of salt even! Some body shape calculators where you plug in your measurements tell me I am a rectangle and some tell me I am an hourglass and some tell me I am an inverted triangle. This is all with putting in the same measurements! I do not have a boyish or a straight up and down shape, but my waist is not as small as for an hourglass. It easily disappears in all but very fitted clothes.
Stylists and other 'experts' cannot seem to agree on the rules for dressing the different shapes and as I decided to investigate the dressing of a rectangular body I found many contradictions. I have read that I should never draw attention to my waist, or rather the waist I don't have, and I have also read that I should make an effort to fake one by using belts. In real life I've found the waist belt sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I am a bit bustier than the average rectangle apparently so a shift dress does not work on me at all, since it gets pushed out by my chest and makes me look quite blocky, but a shift dress is often recommended for a rectangle whereas the sheath is apparently a big no no. I look much better in a sheath. I have read the advice to wear long lean jackets, and to avoid them but use short boxy ones instead. I don't think either looks good on me actually. Amusingly, or at least to me, I have read both that I should carry rectangular shaped bags and that I should not.
Below is our brave model, demonstrating her body shape and making note of what could almost be an hour glass shape, but for the waist that has thickened with age, dammit. In profile the top heaviness shows up, with larger bust, thicker neck, not much bum there for twerking. The model is not comfortable sharing her profile image so I did not press her. How do we dress this shape so that it doesn't just look thick and lumpy? What do we call this shape so we can reference that when figuring out what to wear? Even though we aren't fond of rules, are there any guidelines that would help? Should I invest in a bustle? These were the things I set out to find.
These are some of the sources I investigated.
Was all this a waste of time? In the end, I have to conclude that it wasn't. It did help because it taught me why certain styles work and some don't and I can pick and choose from the guidelines that seem to work for me. That's good because I don't like rigid rules anyhow and I still want the freedom to break a rule now and then. What it amounts to is having the knowledge I need to make my own personal set of rules, or guideline as I would prefer to call it. So, having decided that I am a slightly curvy rectangular vase lollipop and feeling quite pleased with the contrariness of that, I feel confident that I know what styles will be most flattering, which will be okay and which will make me cringe when I see myself in a photo. I still don't always get it perfectly right, but my main goal is to not look like a big blog and I am much better at achieving that now.
Doing my best to follow the guidelines in these pictures, showing examples of my more casual styles, I have mixed feelings at discovering I look better with an uncluttered neckline. That means no scarves. Perhaps it's time to sew them all into a lovely curtain for my bedroom.
If you actually read all of this or if you read it all and are still awake, I really owe you a glass of wine or two and a really nice dinner. Do drop in. I'm uncorking the wine right now.