How To Dress Your Body Type When You’re Plus Size

 I get tons of questions about how to dress plus size. Which most women really mean to ask is how to dress for your plus size body type. Dressing for your shape takes patience and a lot of trying on clothes. Most people think they are limited when it comes to dressing their body type but that’s simply just not true.

For me, identifying and understanding your shape is about knowing what works for the largest and smallest parts of your body. Think of shape identification as a guideline to your best looks. The most common shapes in women are apple, pear, hourglass, and a rectangle.

 
 
There are other shapes and fruits that can be used to describe various  body types but lets just stick with the most common. Depending on your height and weight I believe you can be a blend of two shapes. This is why trying on clothes when shopping is important.

Most apple shaped women have large chests but there are some apple shaped women with small breasts and high waists which can blend in with the pear shape.

How To Dress For Your Body Type Plus Size Style

To help make shopping a little more fun and less strenuous I’ve created a mini shop your shape post. I’ve listed characteristics of each of the most common shapes, your style goal, and what to buy. Since I’m a visual learner I added some notable celebs with the common body shapes.

*Key Point to Know: Once again, let me say that you can be a blend of two shapes so it’s not always set in stone that your are 100% an apple shape or a pear shape but the goal is to get you to see what works for your body based on the shape characteristics. Got it?!

How To Dress An Apple Shape Body Type

The most common characteristics of an apple shape are slim legs, large chest, and you carry most of your weight in your tummy and top half of your body.

Note: Some apple shapes are also referred to as diamond or oval shapes.

Rebel Wilson dresses her apple shape very well with fitted dresses that show off her legs and decolletage. 

Style Goal- For most apple shapes creating or defining a waist is key since you carry most of your weight in your mid section and upper body. Most apple shapes have broad shoulders. Show off your legs in a pencil skirt or a stylish fit and flare dress, or in a pair of mid rise skinny jeans.

What to Buy– Deep v-necks,  skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans, wrap dresses, strapless dresses, jackets that are hip length, ruching details, printed bottoms, A-line cuts.

Since apple shapes have slim legs shorts work well for your body type. You also want to look for structured and tailored pieces.

Shop these pieces for apple shapes

Dress, Moto Jacket, Jeans, Top

How To Dress A Pear Shape Body Type

The common characteristic of a pear shape is wide hips, thick thighs and legs, small defined waist, and narrow shoulders. Pear shapes are considered to be the most common on women today. Note: Some pear shapes can also look like they’re bordering hourglass.

Plus size model Fluvia Lacerda shows off her pear shape with a body con dress that has intricate details on the smallest part of her body and a slim and sleek fit on the lower half of her body, which is her fullest part. In addition, the details on the top help to balance out her lower half.

Style Goal– If you’re a pear your focus is going to be on balancing out your upper body with your lower half. Often pear shapes have a hard time finding bottoms that fit their ample hips and small waist so a tailor should be on your speed dial.

 What to Buy– Printed & detailed  tops, Flat front pants, highwaisted pants, long jackets and blazers, skinny leg and bootcut jeans, belts will aid you in showcasing your small waist. Fit and flare dresses are also a great option.
 

Items L-R: Dress, Jumpsuit, Skirt

Celebrity’s with your shape-Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Michelle Obama, Tyra Banks


How To Dress An Hourglass Shape Body Type

This is probably the most coveted shaped of them all due to a well balanced proportionate body. However, I think all shapes can definitely shine. Common characteristics of an hourglass are large chest, defined waist, and round full bottom. 

Ashley Graham always plays up her hourglass shape. In this Michael Kors dress she rocks a belt to further cinch her waist. The strapless top of the dress plays up her full breast and the fitted knee length bottom of the dress shows off her curvy hips.

Style Goal-  Hourglass shapes much like the apple tend to have a large chest. Your goal is to find clothes that  fit and flatter your curves. Hourglass shapes also tend to look great in classic cuts and styles.

What to Buy– Hourglass figures look great in body con dresses, structured tops, and high waisted pants and jeans. You definitely want to look for clothing with a little stretch.

Your best styles are classic silhouettes like a sheath dress, pencil skirts, and peplum. Clothes should be more structured and on the tailored side but offer a little give.

Items L-R: Dress, Skirt, Jumpsuit

Celebrity’s with your shape-Christina Hendricks, Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johanson

How To Dress A Rectangle Shape Body Type

The main characteristics of a rectangle shape are an undefined waist, same size bust and hips. Women with rectangular shapes can look a little boxy and boyish.

Celebrity’s with your shape: QueenLatifah

Style Goal-To find clothes that create a curvier shape.

 What to Buy-Since the rectangle shape is proportionate you can go for bold prints, ruffled tops, asymmetrical cuts like tulip skirts, tiered styles, heavy knits, peplum, and wide leg pants/jeans
Items: Dress, Jeans, Jumpsuit

Hopefully we helped you get a better understanding of your shape and how to dress it. Remember, these are just suggestions, you can wear whatever you like and mix and match styles from each body type.

28 Comments

  1. Naturally Nae
    September 27, 2012 / 5:24 pm

    Great post! I’m really still learning what clothes look best for my body type. I feel as though I’m a combination of Apple and Hourglass. Because I’m tall, almost six feet and carry most of my weight from the hip up but I do cut in at the waist giving me the hour glass shape. I really appreciate this post, it helps A LOT!

  2. Anonymous
    September 27, 2012 / 5:20 pm

    Where’s that purple skater dress from in the apple section?

    • January 9, 2016 / 11:12 am

      looks like Torrid.com

  3. Reina T.
    September 27, 2012 / 9:30 pm

    Great Post! Where can I find the structured blazer in the hourglass post?!

  4. PGRDresses
    September 28, 2012 / 9:22 am

    Great article. One of the better ones I have seen on the topic of styling for plus size women. Thanks!

  5. Krystal Midega
    May 3, 2013 / 8:22 am

    very good article there! very informative!

  6. Koli
    July 12, 2013 / 6:49 pm

    Great guide! I also learned a lot from the book the Science of Sexy, VERY helpful in delving into more detail with the topic you started. Thanks!

  7. October 12, 2016 / 10:24 am

    Is there a guide for women who are Bo – legged, knock-kneed, straight-legged or tremendously big-footed? Or is “how to dress” by upper body shape only?

  8. December 31, 2016 / 2:32 am

    No…according to you…I am an apple…big boobs, great legs but your model has my boobs w/way off legs…I get the “define a waist ” thing but tell me how to accentuate what I have….how can I get that from your model who doesn’t exemplify what you are describing

    • alissa
      Author
      December 31, 2016 / 11:43 am

      Hi Anna,
      Your comment sounds very aggressive. NOt sure why. Actually, the model we chose as an apple shape very much falls in that category. If you can see by the photo, her outfit is styled in a way that gives her more of a shapely figure. I didn’t make up the requirements for the apple shape. The details I listed for an apple shape are FACTS. If you don’t agree with the person I chose to exemplify the apple shape, BY ALL MEANS, please google and find another site that you feel helps you more.

      • May 17, 2017 / 7:21 pm

        GREAT response! And great article. I have a bit of a different issue. My shape has always been pretty symmetrical (hourglass, I suppose) even when I gained weight. But then I hit middle age and developed a big belly that is hard to hide and even harder to get rid of. Many of the styles used to wear look terrible on n me now. Any suggestions?

      • September 24, 2017 / 8:11 pm

        Do you know of a good store that sells apple shape dresses ?

  9. January 13, 2017 / 9:25 am

    Hi, great article. I still find myself with issues figuring out what would look good on me. I’m like a mix of apple and rectangle; small bust, big waist and hips the same size as waist and bust (44, 46, 45) with most weight in front of my waist (makes me look pregnant). Everything I find that would fit my waist is WAY TOO BIG at the bust section. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. February 20, 2017 / 2:15 am

    I’m a plus size pear shaped woman and I do a lot of videos on plus size fashion on my YouTube channel. I find this article very helpful and I give it a big thumbs up. If anyone is interested in my channel, my channel name is FashionMeCurvy.

  11. March 28, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    Thanks so much for the information I am an apple shape and everything you said to wear is what I love on me already, thanks for confirming

  12. June 3, 2018 / 1:12 am

    Thank you this was VERY helpful.

  13. September 20, 2018 / 3:37 pm

    I am confused on what shape I am. My chest and hips are the about the same but I have some belly and my waist is slightly smaller.

  14. October 24, 2018 / 10:09 pm

    I was very impressed to see that there are classy and elegant outfits for all plus size women. I thank you for posting this article.

  15. November 10, 2018 / 12:56 am

    Nice post for super moms have great and plus size figure. I am really impressed with the styles and looks you explained in this post. Actually every lady need these types of tips and I am also. I will really apply your tips on myself. Thanks Again

  16. December 20, 2018 / 3:32 pm

    I needed this post. I thought I was apple but I think I am rectangle.

  17. December 23, 2018 / 10:08 pm

    This guideline is very helpful! I appreciate how you breakdown each type and show what may flatter the body types in clothing options.

    • alissa
      Author
      December 26, 2018 / 4:47 pm

      thank you

  18. September 4, 2019 / 9:58 am

    I did not know the fact that the most common shapes in women are apple, pear, hourglass, and a rectangle. My aunt says that it’ s hard for her to find clothes for her since she wears plus sizes. I will share this article with her so she can have a better idea of what type of clothes will fit better on her.

  19. MJ
    January 8, 2020 / 3:00 pm

    Help! My bust is 38DD, I have slender legs nice calves, thicker in the middle. What do I wear!

    • alissa
      Author
      January 8, 2020 / 6:26 pm

      Hi! Thank you for your comment I listed the body types above that relate to your body description. It sounds like you fall in the apple shape body type.

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