Dress by Unique Vintage
There is no such thing as the perfect shape. Society tries to push us to all conform to one way of looking, and that ideal has changed through the years. It will change again. There is a very ugly history to what we find fashionable at any given time that I will not even get into, but the point is, your body is unique and society can get fucked with telling you how you should look. Do what makes you happy.
I’m not going to tell you how to get the perfect shape or that there is any one particular look and style that is better or worse than any other. What I can tell you is how I like my silhouette to appear, which aspects of myself I like to enhance, and how I use clothes to do that.
Apples and Pears
My basic shape is petite, I’m fairly short and have slightly wider hips than chest. When it comes to finding clothes, this means my pants are typically about two sizes larger than my tshirts and blouses. I have a low and natural waist with a fairly high waist – to – hip ratio. Although my chest is smaller than my hips, my shoulders are similar in width.
Because of this difference in sizes, finding clothes that fit me well has always been very difficult, especially around my waist. Items will fit on top but be too small on the bottom, fit on the bottom and be too big on top, fit well otherwise but be just too long, fit in shoulders and hip but be too big in the waist. This is a big part of why I started dressing in vintage inspired clothes in the first place, which you can read more about here.
In short, vintage inspired clothes, especially those from the 40s and 50s fit me well because they center around the waist, and accommodates a wide array of waist sizes, small and big.
For my particular style, I like seeing a shape that is balanced between my shoulders and hips, that also lengthens me. Perhaps because I’m used to being the shortest person in the room, I like styles that make me feel taller and lengthens me. To achieve this, I have a few guidelines when it comes to my personal style, to help me pick up things I know will work. Clothes, and the shape of them, will often dictate where your eyes go and which shape you see, which makes fashion really fun to play around with!
Shoulders to Hips
In traditional terms I am what you would call a pear shape, my lower body is wider than my upper body. Because I am also rather short, this means a large amount of my body mass is centered on the lower parts of me, which draws the eye down and makes me appear even shorter.
To make my silhuette look more balanced, I try to use my shoulders to balance out my hips more than my chest can do. Because shoulders are farther up and farther away from the hips, this can also make my whole silhuette appear taller and more lengthened.
Ways to do this is first of all, be careful wearing sleeveless clothes, and instead wear clothes where the sleeves are far out on the shoulders, pointing outwards, or have some extra puff.
Below you will see a badly facetuned “with and without sleeves” photo. As you can see with the original dress, the line of the shoulders hit the same place as the hips, making it a more balanced look. Without sleeves, the dress appears larger at the bottom, and the shoulders become more promonent. Making both the shoulders and the hips appear bigger, but not in balance.
Silhuettes that I try to avoid are any type of halterneck styles where the fabric would pull the eye in towards the center, like this old one.
While I do have some sleeves items, most of what I wear will have some kind of puffy sleeve.
A defined waist can give structure and flow to a silhouette, it gives some illusion of where the center is and it can breaks up a look. This is personally something I enjoy emphasising on myself, because I like the way it can create interesting shapes. Again, it’s not something you need to do or focus on, and there are just as many fantastic garments and shapes without a waist emphasis as there are with.
Although the yellow dress below is beautiful, it is very loose in the waist for me. That combined with the low shoulders make the whole dress appear as a singular block without much shape, and can therefor appear small and boxy.
In contrast, a high collar, wide sleeves that carry on over the shoulder, and a belt to hug the waist. Elongates and creates shape. This is overall one of my favourite shape of dresses.
Remember, your waist contains a lot of important organs you need to function, so having as small of a waist as possible is not a goal. What I instead try to do is use the waist I have, emphasize that, and create shapes around it. By having a shape that goes in at the waist and back out at the hips and shoulders, with space in between, it creates an interesting shape.
Hemlines and Cirlcleskirts
Pencilskirts or circleskirts? That seems to be the eternal question in the pinup world. From a silhuette perspective, I like both equally. My hips are already the widest part of me, so as long as the garment I’m wearing nipps in at the waist I like both varieties. If you prefer to add emphasis and volume around the hips, a circle skirt is the way to go. A peplum can also be fun.
To get maximum lengthening, I prefer my skirts and dresses to hit just below the knee, to get a good fabric-to-not-fabric balance. To keep the lines of the legs clean, and lengthened, I tend to go for open or fairly open shoes if I’m wearing bare legs or nylons. You will typically only see me in closed shoes if I’m wearing tights in a similar colour. This is again because I am shorter than most people, so the chances of someone looking at me from a slightly downwards angle is big. Similarly, if I wear a petticoat and have extra volume around my knees, I tend to be extra careful to wear open shoes, and high heels if I can.
Note: By open shoe I mean an open top or a T-strap, not an open toe. I like the way they look but I can’t stand wearing them, it always feels like someone is trying to cut into my toes.
The wearing of shapewear is something I do occasionally because I think it’s fun. It should not be worn in an attempt to “fix” something you wish was different about yourself, and for some it can be triggering. Shapewear will not change the way your body looks or works without it on. Please don’t go to the gym in a waist trainer (unless specifically told to by your doctor) and don’t wear corsets if they make you feel bad about yourself.
Your waist holds your internal organs, and having it be as small as possible should not be a goal.
There are essentially two ways to wilfully change the way your overall shape appears. You can weight train and build muscles and volume in specific areas (there is no way to wilfully go up or down in volume in specific areas, you can go up or down in volume in general but not targeted). This takes time, effort, money, and energy. Being able to work out regularly has health benefits for most people, but it is also a luxury and a privilege that isn’t an option for and to everyone.
The easiest and quickest way to wilfully change the appearance of your overall shape, is with shapewear. A garment that will either pull it, smooth, or add to whatever you put on.
I am by no means an expert on shapewear, and I wear it very very seldom. I think it looks really nice and interesting, but it is not something I want to wear every day.
Sometime last year I did do an overview of all my items of shapewear, what they do and how they wear, as you can see below. With most of these pictures, the waist measurements remains nearly the same. The circumference is merely distributed differently, so that the appearance is altered. For a lot of corsets for instance, what is removed from the sides will be added to the front.
I use shapewear mostly to enhance a silhouette, or to which can be a lot of fun! I’m still fairly new though, and shapewear isn’t something I wear on the regular.
Here are two bloggers and instagrammers that wear and/or review a lot more shapewear than I do, so check them out:
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust