Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dressing my Body Shape: It's More of a Guideline ( Warning: This is a big one)

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                               Body Shape Guidelines for Pirates

So what guidelines am I talking about?  Nothing at all to do with Pirates, but style ones of course, how to dress and what not to wear and all that confusing stuff.  A few years ago I realised that disliking how I looked in photos was contributing greatly to a very negative body image and that I needed to do something about that.  I seemed to look  so much better in the mirror than I did in a photo, so that I could leave the house feeling I looked good and then see a photo taken of me that day and cringe. Sometimes I wanted to cry.  It was that bad.  But I had to figure out what was going on.  Did I simply need to do a better job of embracing my body and loving myself?  Or were there things I was doing that interfered with looking my best?

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.

http://www.bodyshapecalculator.co.uk/trinny-and-susannahs-12-body-shapes

http://bodyshapestyle.com/2008/09/01/the-12-shapes-of-trinny-and-susannah/

 http://www.oprah.com/style/Whats-Your-Body-Shape

 http://www.calculator.net/body-type-calculator.html

http://www.sheknows.com/beauty-and-style/articles/826747/dressing-for-your-body-type

http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/2010/11/body-shapes-explained-defining-points.html


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.

32 comments:

  1. Is it a red or white? I'll be there soon ... and then we can work out my body shape ... I'm going with vegetable soup ;0)
    xx

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    1. We could have both, Jo, read and white. A body shaped like vegetable soup is quite a challenge to dress and even more difficult to keep the clothes dry. We will need bowl shaped clothing perhaps.
      Am I drinking wine already? You never know!
      xo

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  2. Shawna, this is a fabulous post. I so appreciate your honesty and I agree with you in breaking the rules, as I do that quite often. It is hard to determine a body type when there are so many contradictory views floating around. For myself, I determined what works for me by trial and error. I learned quickly that what the model wears in the magazine will not work for me. Also, a good rule of thumb is your style personality. I'm sure you've heard this term floating around and it's not to confuse you, but it truly helps when selecting clothing. When I look at your photos, I immediately think of nature, organic, earthy. Which probably explains why you lean more toward natural fabrics and items that aren't constricting. By knowing this, you'll know that if you walk into a store with neon colors and overly constructed garments and so forth...this probably isn't the store for you. And you're right by saying rarely do we fit into was absolute category.
    Great post!

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    1. I"m glad you enjoyed my post. I think honesty is one of the things I'm good at. LOL You are right in that I favour natural fibres and loose fits, but I think my style personality doesn't always play well with my body shape. That is if I care about not looking like a blob. I also find I cannot find the natural fibres as readily nor the styles and colours I want so I do a lot of making do with what I can find.
      If I were shopping in a mall and you watched me, you would see me walk in, go right to the back of the store and out again, all at the same brisk pace as I scan for colours and shapes that appeal to me. I usually don't see them.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Glenda. :-)

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  3. I'm on my way over!

    Seriously, this is a great post. I also have finally learned that I have a body shape. Mine's not slightly curvy rectangular vase lollipop (LOL!) but pretty straight up and down rectangular from the shoulders to the hips. Add that to my style personality, and I've learned to just sigh at lacy, ruffly, flowery pretty things and leave them on the rack. On the plus side, I can wear tunics, which will hide my muffin-top nicely!

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    1. It's harder if one's body type and style personality don't quite match up. Sometimes though I find I like things and can admire them on others but they are just not right for me. I think that is what you are saying too. Tunics are a marvelous wardrobe staple. I can wear them too but need them to be very close to my body and not too voluminous.
      Muffin tops are the best part of the muffin.
      Come on over, there is plenty of wine!

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  4. I'm sipping vino right now as I write! :) I'm 5' 4"--so I have to remember that certain styles just don't flatter me like they do on taller folks. I find tunics and other baggy pieces are best worn belted (on me), too. That's the nice thing about pics--I can tell best what works and what doesn't... Cheers! :) T. http://tickledpinkwoman.blogspot.com

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    1. Being taller I can definitely wear some things that overpower someone shorter, but I also find that some things, some dresses in particular, look hilarious on me like I am some sort of overgrown child.
      Hope you had a good weekend and that your week is good too!

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  5. How brave is your model! Tell her so from me would you? Enjoyed reading this, although I'm amazed at your thoroughness in research! My sister is into the colour, shape, personality thing. I'm more into whatever I like I will make it fit! I'm sure she and you look better in the long run, but I probably have more fun ;-) thanks for the award! I'm still mulling it over...

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    1. Fun? clothing is supposed to be fun? Hah-just kidding. I was having lots of fun and then I saw photos of a blobby women and she was wearing my face. I was not impressed.
      Have a great week!

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  6. seeing you little photo i know we have the same figure! i always struggle to keep my waist ;-)
    i call this valkyrie shape - and i have hubby forbidden to photograph me from a side angle!
    sew your shawls and scarfs in flowy little tops - with bust darts! i can give you a pattern making chart.....
    xxxx

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    1. I used to have a waist. It went away and my boobs grew. I figure it's a hormonal thing. I don't mind my body from the side it's actually my face/head that I hate from that angle. LOL

      My scarves are all mostly oblong and narrow and very sheet. I am not sure how easy it would be to sew with them. I am definitely thinking of doing something though. I am not going to give up on scarves completely. I like them in cooler weather when I am more bundled up anyhow but I am getting the idea that I look slimmer if my neck, decolletage, collar bones etc are showing. I used to rely on the scarves for colour and pattern but now I am busy dying all my white blouses.

      With regards to patterns/sewing I am seriously considering finding a pattern for godet style skirt and making a few in different colours of cotton jersey, only I know jersey is not the easiest to sew due to the stretch.
      xo

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  7. Magnificent post! I've always been confused by the whole "face shape" and "body shape" discussions. And being always skinny never helped the slightest. People always say "man, skinny people look great in every clothing, because they're skinny". Yeah right!
    It's difficult to love your body, doesn't matter if it's skinny, hourglass, fluffy or whatever. When you have so many celebrities and models that look like they've been sent from the Heavens, you always feel like shit :D I felt like shit most of my life, until I got tired of feeling like shit and started feeling like a normal person.. Sure my hair will never be as silky and healthy as those girls, my boobs will never be huge, but whatever.
    I think that people look different in different clothes depending not just on the body shape, but the color of the skin, the height, the hair, the pose even. So taking all this in consideration I don't believe there is a strict way to look good, you can always experiment on your own and find whatever looks best for you. We're all individuals with individual tastes. Skinny people are told to dress with tight sexe jeans, but I feel more pretty and comfortable in baggy ones.

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    1. We all see our flaws and magnify them. When I see your list I think no way, you have a lovely figure, look great in your clothes and your hair looks gorgeous and glossy to me! To me you look like the celebs and models in the magazines. Though they are so heavily photoshopped and I dont' think you are. ;-) They don't have glossy hair, you know. They have fried hair and use extensions and photoshop to make it look better.

      It makes sense to me that you feel comfortable in baggy jeans and they do look good on you. The extra bulk of them doesn't make you look bulky, the baggy things have a nice drape on your body and you still look slender underneath them. And you totally do have boobs. If you had any bigger one's you'd tip over.
      xo

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  8. I read all the way through, so I'm coming over, OK?
    Wow, you have taken a lot of trouble over this! I clicked the first link, even though it's the heinous Tranny and Snoozanna, and immediately lost the will to live... I am variously hourglass, vase and pear. But of course I am really none of the above, I am a woman with a penchant for clothing, who like to play and be creative, and I refuse to be reduced to a body type with rules attached. Anyway, in their list of what I am supposed to "take a look at", those awful posh bullies don't seem to mention vintage maxi dresses, so what do they know?!
    You look lovely in both outfits, long and lean, and above all, comfortable with your choices. And if you want to wear a scarf, wear a scarf! xxx

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    1. I would be thrilled if you came over! Yes, T and S are rather annoying. I don't watch them but am aware of who they are and what they do. Nobody, not even those two, could look at you in your vintage clothes and tell you that you are doing it wrong. You look fantastic. Besides, Trinny is Skinny and I"m sure you could take her in a fight. I'll take Susannah because I think I am built like her but taller so I could probably win that too.
      xo

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  9. Kudos to you for doing the research and coming out the other end feeling better for it.

    My body has changed quite a bit in the last few years so it is a constant struggle knowing how to dress it.

    I will always favour something that shows the waist of woman with a larger chest. But that is also my style personality.

    I think you did a great job in choosing the outfits here. You look comfortable and hip.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne. Do I look 'island'? LOL Surely it's in my blood.

      My body has changed too which is probably why I was so confused. I used to have a teeny tiny waist and small boobs. I find that if a garment is fitted and shows my waist that way, by being tailored properly and skimming over it then it looks good. It doesn't look good if I just put a waist belt on something. That had me quite confused for awhile as it seems contradictory but now I just go with it as one of the guidelines that works for my body.
      xo

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  10. I'll be right over!! It's so hard to figure this all out. I know what looks good on me, but I don't know that I could put it into words. I know how to pick clothes out for other people, but again, writing it down seems daunting. I think you have done a good job with your casual looks. And also, comfort is a huge factor, so sometimes the rules all go out the window for me when I need to be comfortable!!

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    1. Oh good, we'll eat and drink and talk clothes and body shapes and when we are done we will know everything there is to know!
      xo

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  11. I can't say its something I follow - mind you I don't know what the experts would suggest for a midget with lopsided hips and one leg significantly shorter than the other aside from callipers, a back brace and a built up shoe! I say wear whatever you love and feel great in and you're virtually guaranteed to look amazing. xxx

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    1. What you do definitely works for you so that's all you need to know. My problem was being attracted to a style that wasn't the most flattering on my body shape and I needed to learn some strategies to adapt it. I need to honour my style personality and the fact that I don't want to look like a blog of nice fabric. :-)
      xo

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  12. Awesome post! I often refer to myself as a Weeble body type ;-P
    Seriously, I appreciate your findings and am now curious enough to investigate these links myself.

    Alicia
    spashionista.com

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    1. My approach is usually that I like to know the rules so I can manipulate them. Some will help me to look better according to my own eye and some will get ignored or sometimes broken. Imogen Lamport is probably the best source for helpful tips. :-)

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  13. Thanks for taking the time to put this post together Shawna. I don't feel I have ever had an innate good sense of style so it's really helpful for me to think about shapes and rules - I love to break rules but first I need to know about the rules which I have made a conscious decision to break!

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    1. I'm like that too. I like to know the rules and then decide which ones to break. :-) I think you always look great in the pictures you post on your blog. So you must be doing something right, innately or not!
      xo

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  14. There is something changed in your eyes on these photos - THAT is a sign that you like what you see when you look at your photos or mirror, and that's all that's important... :) I enjoyed learning about the pirates body shape too. :)

    There are so many approaches to life... the one with a ruler and a set of rules is the least appealing to me, I rather make a hundred mistakes and figure out who I am inside and out, on my own, and have fun dressing on the way... But that's me. I read some articles about body shapes and came to the same conclusion as you did - there is confusion about it even among the "experts". No wonder! It's not so easy to place real people into boxes of categories. But they still try. :) I think that such rules might help in the beginning, help our analytical mind anyway, but our own judgement or rather feeling about ourselves is the best indicator, in the end. :)

    And your body is beautiful, I've always told you so. Curvy and balanced. So many ways to have fun dressing it! Have a good fun, Shawna! :)

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    1. I know what you mean about that sense of knowing you got it right but I think I am much better at it than I was a few years ago. I have to dress my personality first but I want to make my shape look it's best too. I want to know how to do that so I can then forget about it.
      I went to one body shape calculator and put in my measurements and the results came back saying "sorry we don't recognise this body type." That made me laugh!
      I like to know all the details of something. If I get intrigues about a subject I will research it heavily because I like to know. That doesn't mean I will follow it blindly but it's a bit like learning first how to drive a car and then choosing where you want do go in your car.
      I am indeed having fun, and there are so many fun ladies with blogs to inspire me.
      xo

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    2. You are right about researching and the way you learn, of course. I am sorry! :) I actually too enjoy researching A LOT. It really is fun!

      How funny it is about "not recognizing your body shape"!!! :)))

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    3. Oh I didn't mean to make you feel you needed to apologise! Now I apologise too. LOL I can get a bit over-explainy. That is not a legitimate English word but sticking to the regular language is dull, don't you think?
      xo

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  15. Lovely! a glass of white, yes please! I'd much prefer that to my cup of tea I'm drinking at the moment - I think if you feel great and empowered then that's excellent! you look great! I do think Trinny and Susannah would chase me down the street for my appalling disregard of any rules! I prefer big and flouncy, I could bounce them of my skirt! I think I wear most things I shouldn't, but my favourite silhouette of mine is always a full skirt and a very fitted cardigan x x x

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    1. Okay, pouring the glass of white for you my dear! I think you always look delightful in the clothes you choose. They make your eyes sparkle because they make you happy. Trinny and Susannah won't get far chasing you because they will trip in their stilettos carefully chosen to make their legs look better.
      xo

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