Identifying the basic shape of your body is the starting point for figure-flattering wardrobe choices.  And that isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.  Start by clearing you mind of whatever you already believe about your shape.  Many many women in my workshops feel certain they are one figure type and then learn that they are another type altogether – sometimes the exact opposite of their true type.

Next, wrap your head around the idea that your shape is just fine.  No one type is better than another.  But KNOWING your type is a lot better than not knowing.

You can see the major difference it makes when the women pictured here wear choices compatible with their body types.

Now put down the tape measure.  This isn’t atually about numbers – it’s about relative visual proportions.  Here’s how to proceed:

  • Get into garments (or just undergarments) that skim over your body so you can see the shape beneath.
  • Stand with you back against a wall, mirror or other vertical surface and make small pencil marks at the outer edges of your shoulders, waist and hips.
  • Step away and look at those markings.

First compare the shoulder and hip markings.

  • If your hip markings are visually further apart than your shoulder marks you are probably a triangle – or what we call a “lower body dominant” shape.
  • If your shoulder markings are visually further apart than your hip marks, you are probably an inverted triangle – or what we call “upper body dominant”.  This figure is often also characterized by a full and relatively high bust.

If your hips and shoulders are relatively equal, look at your waist markings.

  • If your waist is curves in significantly, you are probably an hourglass.
  • If your waist curves in very little or not at all you are probably a rectangle
  • If your waist is curved outward – is wider than your hips – you are probably an oval.


To further confirm your body type, check the rear view by standing with your back toward a full-length mirror and looking at your reflection in a smaller hand-held mirror.

First focus on your hip-to-waistline area.

  • If you see a gentle slope from your waist outward toward your full hip, you are probably one of the curvy figure types – either a triangle of an hourglass.
  • If you see a straighter shape from your waist down toward your hip, you are probably one of the straight figures – inverted triangle, rectangle or oval.

Last, focus on the shape of your rear end.

  • If you have outward curve to your seat and the fullest part is low, you are most likely a curvy shape.
  • If you have a flat seat and your fullest parts are higher and to the side – what we sometimes describe as a “high hip” – you are likely a straight shape.

These three tests should give you a clear, consistent idea of your shape.  But if you are totally confused, you can email me front and back full-body photos and I’ll reply with a quick analysis.  Then next week we’ll look at the garment silhouettes that are most flattering for each body type.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.

8 Comments

  1. Melissa Miller on June 9, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Can you be a curvy rectangle?

  2. Brenda on June 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Hi, even though I am 62, I still have a curvy hourglass figure. My hips are slightly wider than my shoulders, and my waist is noticeably smaller than my hips and shoulders.

  3. Katrina B on June 9, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    I would definitely be one of those many surprised women in your workshops! For years I’ve been convinced I was a pear or apple because of my large protruding abdomen. However, if I just look at the shoulder-waist-hip marks, I am a rectangle or even an inverted triangle, who would probably want to wear the opposite styles from a pear. But what about my big tummy, which completely distorts the area that used to be my waist?

    • Nancy Nix Rice on June 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Sounds as if you want to follow the Oval body type guidelines – which is closely related to a Rectangle, but with mnore around the midsection.

  4. Sue P. on June 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Simple and easy to do–thanks!

  5. Vanessa on June 10, 2017 at 12:31 am

    What a simple and great idea. Thanks

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