Pondering Body Shape Flattery

Sew Well - Pondering Body Shape Flattery

Do you ever pay attention to those little shapes on the back of Vogue patterns that denote which body shapes a pattern will best flatter?  I consider myself to be of the rectangle/tube/athletic/straight/H/column/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-if-you-don’t-have-much-of-a-defined-waist shape, and I swear that little rectangle is so hard to find.  And, many of the Vogue patterns I have found that have the little rectangle in the third box down also have all of the other shapes in their respective boxes, which I have begun to realize is actually an indication that the pattern is more of the shape-less variety rather than the magical, truly-flatter-all-shapes variety.

What’s your opinion on the whole body-shape figure-flattery thing?

I’ve been thinking more about it for the past year (it was one of my 2014 resewlutions), and I have particularly tried to be more conscious of it in my sewing this year as my body has (mostly) come back into its own after giving birth.

Sew Well Mariska Skirt

My ruffle-bottom Mariska skirt was in part due to a Pinterest pin that I found awhile back similar to this one that had “printed ruffle” skirts in their list of “best skirts for a rectangle shape”.  Mine was much less pencil-y than the example – maybe a BHL Charlotte would have been a better place to start?

Sew Well - StyleArc Dotty in #MoodFabrics silk crepe de chine

Likewise with all of the loose wrap tops (Dotty blouse, Yaletown dress) I’ve been sewing this summer (example pin here).  I’m going to have to try the Dotty again without the over-zealous top stitching and with a fabric that wrinkles a bit less!

Anyway, I’ve got a long way to go before I can naturally spot something that’s ideal for my shape, but I’m hoping that by being a bit more conscious about what I know already works for me and experimenting with what I can glean from others on the inter webs, I’ll end up being able to focus my limited sewing time on garments that I’ll reach for and feel great in every day.

By the way, is there a way to search by shape when you’re looking through the Vogue Patterns site?  And, are there other pattern companies that promote the same sort of shape-flattery system (besides, of course, the indies that are targeted to one particular type, like Sewaholic)?

26 thoughts on “Pondering Body Shape Flattery

  1. Great post!
    I thought the same about Vogue patterns body shape thingy until I read, somewhere, that it indicated which body type will need less adjustments done. For example, any hourglass shape looking dress can be made for our body type (I call it Paper Towel Roll body type) but it will need more adjustments. A large flowy top needs fewer adjustments.
    Kind of makes me feel better because I hate the shapeless rectangles they prescribe for me. I just know that I need to put in a little more work.
    I could be way off on this …

  2. For me, it’s all about trial and error. When I err, I throw the look away and when I find a silhouette I like, I continue to wear it. To me, what’s more interesting is not finding the silhouette that flatters, but how our notion of what we think flatters us changes over time (as we age).

    1. So true! For what it’s worth, I would not be caught dead in so many of the things I wore in college that I thought looked awesome then!

  3. I’m a rectangle, too, and I’ve come to an awareness about that: I just wear whatever the hell feels good on my body. If you gotta worry about how others perceive you, you’re hanging out with the wrong people.

  4. I’m a rectangle myself, albeit a slightly pear-shaped, broad-shouldered short-legged one. I think what’s interesting about figure flattery as I’ve seen it is that attempts to balance the bust and hips and create a waist – something close to the perceived female ideal figure. I (perhaps conveniently?) don’t mind more shapeless silhouettes, and I think part of the fun is sewing the garments that allow you to create the shapes you like. Please do share where your exploration leads you!

  5. I wish I knew of a “shape flattery sort system” for patterns! I mostly go by the technical drawings and seam lines for me. I even got all crazy last summer and read a few books on fashion and figures and fit from the library. They were helpful. I have the hourglass, with it’s own challenges. Best of luck of finding the patterns that appeal to your sense of self!

    MaLora Ann


    1. Yay someone else who understands that an hourglass is a challenge. If I had a frock for the number of times “oooo, you’re so lucky with your hourglass figure” has been said to me, I would have a damn fine wardrobe!

  6. Man, I definitely don’t feel like I know how to dress for my shape (I’m a rectangle, too). But one thing I personally like is to wear skinnier pants or jeans. Otherwise I feel like I don’t have any curves at all!

  7. I am definitely a rectangle (or cylinder) too. I am sometimes puzzled by Vogue’s suggestions (or lack of) for rectangles. I do have to admit that sheaths without a waist seam or shifts wear better on me. I also like straighter skirts, as well as slightly empire waists. Imogene at InsideOut Style has very helpful, realistic advice for the ‘H’ shape, as she calls it.

  8. I know a lot of people hate the idea of dressing to “flatter” your body type, but that was honestly one of my breakthroughs in my early 20s. Once I stopped buying and wearing certain clothing combos-even though they were stylish or cute- I pretty much loved what I saw in the mirror.

  9. Funny, you should mention this. I just did a post on body type and finding your own type. I’m a pear but I was a rectangle. It’s great when you finally find out what you are, clothes look so much better. I’m in the process of making my own core wardrobe so finding your shape is key.

  10. I find the same thing — I’m a rectangle bordering on a reverse triangle — and always wondered if those shapes held true — I’ve never tested the theory!

  11. I’ve seen those wee shapes on the back of my Vogue patterns but I’m not sure I totally agree with them. I’m a rectangle with a slight rub off of pear. But I’ve been paying more attention to my body shape and luckily I’ve been in the right direction mostly but just need to keep refining. Good post.

  12. I didn’t even know that those body shape things existed! Totally going to be looking for them from now on. I don’t know much about the whole dress-for-your-shape thing, I just know I need to define my waist with belts or half-sweaters or a high waist seam with a full skirt, stuff like that. For the record, I think the garments you’ve been sewing look really flattering on you. 🙂

  13. Ugh – I hate the whole ‘body shape’ spectrum! So limiting!! And I can’t really ever decide what body shape I am!! Technically, my hips are my largest measurement, but they don’t LOOK it, I have a defined waist, but it’s definitely not eensy teensy. I have curves, but I’m not curvy. I’m just me!! Haha! So I ignore those little body flattery guides on Vogue patterns. I’ve realized I can make myself look like any body shape I choose through clothing. Somedays I want to look like a pear (holy booty batman!) somedays I want to draw attention to my bust and shoulders. Somedays I want to create a nipped in waist, and somedays (most days) I just want to cloak it all under a shapeless mass. Figure flattery is subjective.

  14. I am a rectangle but not a skinny rectangle. I use those body shapes as an indicator whether I will need to make alterations at the waistline and/or high hips and hips as oppose to the simple bodice body length adjustments. Many times the dress patterns have both a slim skirt and a full skirt flattering many body types.

  15. Great post! I totally agree with what Sallie said, it’s all so subjective. I do like to think about what my favorite features are and find ways to flatter them. The assumption being, if we’ve done a good job accentuating the positives we don’t have to worry about eliminating the “negative.”

  16. Hey Amy – take a look at – Angie has suggestions for all body silhouettes. More useful than the pattern recommendations IMHO – and then you can just look for patterns that are more inline with her suggestions. Worth a try anyway!

    1. I agree with Maris, and I’d also recommend for advice on figure flattery. I like Sally’s approach because she talks in detail about the visual effects that specific garment types produce, so you can decide for yourself if that effect is good for your body shape.

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