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How to Pick the Right Clothes for Your Body Type

A woman holding a dress to her body and looking at herself in a mirror.
Nejron Photo/Shutterstock

You know the look you’re trying to achieve—but when you try things on, nothing looks quite right. What if there was a way to simplify the process?

There is—it’s all about picking the right clothes for your body type. When you have certain features you want to highlight, you can wear clothes that offer a shortcut to that look.

Not sure how it works? We can help. Read on to learn how to pick the perfect clothes for you.

Discover Your Body Type

You can easily find online guides that force your body type into simplified shapes, like a pear or a rectangle. But there’s too much variety in body types for those guides to be of much use.

Instead of trying to figure out your geometry, simply decide which features you’d like to accentuate. If you have strong, broad shoulders, you might want to wear clothes that show them off. If you love the curve of your hips, you can choose outfits that draw the eye there.

As you try on different clothes and see how they draw attention to different features, you might discover new things you love about your body.

If you highlight your favorite features, it helps you feel more confident at any event. So, let’s delve into which types of clothing show off each feature the best.

Shoulders

If you want to showcase your shoulders, pick clothes that free them. Bare shoulders are a great way to get a look that’s sensual, yet demure. Look for off-shoulder or one-shoulder silhouettes, or try tops with “cold shoulder” cutouts.

You can also wear tops or dresses with delicate, barely-there straps to get the same effect. If you want to keep your shoulders as the focal point, avoid super-low necklines.

Draw even more attention with a swipe of shimmering highlighter across your shoulders and collarbones. Long, dangling earrings or sleek, large hoops can also draw the eye to your shoulders. Pull your hair back, so they take center stage!

Arms

A woman trying on a dress in front of a mirror in a boutique.
Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

Baring your arms is a great way to show them off. However, sometimes, it’s too cold, or the occasion doesn’t call for sleeveless tops.

In those cases, look for a top with super-fitted sleeves that show off every contour of your arms. A slightly long sleeve that extends just past the wrist gives you an elegant look. Avoid sleeves that are too short, as they can make your whole outfit look sloppy.

You can also find tops with cutouts along the arms that allow hints of skin to peek through. These are great for transitional seasons when it’s not yet warm enough for short sleeves.

Chest

If you want all eyes on your bust, a plunging neckline never gets old. Add a long necklace or body chain that trails down the center of your chest to heighten the effect.

Don’t want to bare it all? Look for a top with sheer panels or cutouts in the chest area to tone it down. You can also try a chic button-down. Undo more buttons when you feel more daring, and consider letting a pretty bra peek out.

Waist

If you love your waist area, don’t hesitate to pick up some bold crop tops to show it off. You can even add some sparkle with a delicate belly chain around your middle.

You can also show off your midriff when it’s covered. Just look for waist-cinching clothes, such as corset tops or belted dresses. For some drama, try a maxi dress with a snug waist.

You can also use chic belts to cinch any clothing that is a little too loose around your waist. Try a belted blazer for a bold, modern look.

Back

Backless or plunging-back bodysuits and tops make you stand out in a crowd—even from behind.

Wear a one-piece swimsuit with a low back as a bodysuit. Or, find a top with an open back that ties together for added interest.

Want an even more striking look? The effect gets stronger if the rest of your body is covered up. Consider an open-back top with long sleeves, like a sweater.

Butt

A pair of curve-hugging jeans is a classic way to show off your butt. Pick a pair that fits perfectly—you don’t want bagginess or excess fabric. Look for small, high pockets if you want a more rounded look.

While you might be tempted to opt for pocket decorations, we recommend a sleek, simple pair of jeans that let your curves speak for themselves. Don’t feel limited to just blue, either—white or colored jeans can heighten the effect.

Hips

A young woman wearing a form-fitting black outfit.
Dmitry_Tsvetkov/Shutterstock

Your hips don’t lie, and you want everyone to know it.

A pair of high-waisted pants is a great way to show off your hips. They cling to your curves and, because they reach your waist, outline your hips. You can also wear a tucked-in, fitted shirt that doesn’t distract from your hips (a bodysuit also works well).

Bodycon dresses and pencil skirts also achieve this effect. If you opt for a skirt or dress, just make sure it’s close to knee-length, or below—otherwise, your legs take center stage.

Want a more fashion-forward look that accentuates your hips? Try trendy bike shorts (bonus points if you get a pair in a daring print or vegan leather). They aren’t just for working out anymore, so pair them with anything from sneakers to stilettos.

Legs

Bare legs always draw the eye, but they aren’t your only option to show off your legs.

Opt for a pair of pants with a vertical stripe pattern to make the full length of your legs stand out. Or, try a pair of shredded jeans that let your skin show through.

And don’t forget about the power of calves and ankles! Cropped pants are super trendy, and you can also cuff a pair of long pants to get the same effect.

After you highlight your favorite features, try out some clothes that draw attention to the parts you usually ignore. You might surprise yourself and find new ways to love your body.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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