Top-to-toe body shape tips
From the best tops to wear if you have narrow shoulders to the most flattering skirts for wide hips, Melissa asked body shape expert and image stylist Cristina Holm for her solutions to everyday dressing dilemmas
Did you know that, according to a recent report, women spend on average four months of their working life choosing what to wear? No, neither did I but it doesn’t surprise me. Before I had my colours done (I’m a Spring) and discovered my style personality (Natural Ingenue) and body shape (hourglass), I’d be that person in front of the mirror each morning – trying things on and taking them off again, wondering why that loose-fitting top wasn’t doing me any favours or why that black jumper made me look sallow and washed-out. Now I know which pieces flatter me best I don’t have to spend more than a few minutes a day deciding what to wear. It’s so liberating.
As you know, I’m passionate about helping our customers reach this point too, so I was keen to invite Cristina Holm down to Kettlewell HQ to share her pearls of wisdom about dressing for your body shape. A professional image stylist for the past 27 years with a background in fashion retail, textiles and business, Danish-born Cristina dresses women of all shapes and sizes and is also a make-up artist, bra fitter and made-to-measure tailor. She also happens to be the only image stylist in the world to offer a 3D body scanning service from her Berkshire studio, measuring her clients’ shape to within 2mm to help her understand their form and clothing measurements from 'chin to shin'.
I know from my own experience that it’s all very confusing when you try to work out what shape you are. If you search on the internet you come across all sorts of contradictory information. I had assumed I was a pear because I’m small busted with larger hips but it turns out that I’m an hourglass because my shoulders are in line with my hips. I asked Cristina what makes her methods different to anyone else’s. She says "I have developed my 3D scanner using scientific principles and based on years of experience dressing bodies. It’s important to look at your body as a whole rather than in sections and the goal is to achieve an overall balance. The bust is just a feature whilst the shoulders, waist and hips form the structure. We want to create symmetry with our clothes".
What I love about Cristina is her passion for clothes and helping women dress well. “If I could I would live in a dressing room,” she told me over a cup of coffee. “I’m petite and pear-shaped myself so I know from personal experience how tricky finding the right clothes can be.
“I’ve lost count of the number of women who’ve told me they have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear. If you’re trying on a blouse but you don’t like it and you don’t know why, it’s probably because you’re looking at a style that doesn’t work with your proportions. It doesn’t help that when women look in the mirror they don’t see themselves, they see someone who is 10 per cent bigger.
“What I do is I help my clients correct that imbalance – even if it’s a simple thing like swapping out a crew neck for a V neck if you have a big bust or suggesting high-rise jeans to create a lengthening illusion if they have short legs. Small adjustments can make a big difference.”
Cristina’s top-to-toe styling tips
Mock turtlenecks, roll-necks, crew and small V-necks are your friends if you have a long neck. If you’ve got a short neck, open up the neckline with a deep V, scoop or cowl neck.
Avoid styles that have detail, such as ruffles or cowl necks, and sleeves that end in line with your bust, such as bell sleeves. Plain scoops, squares and V-necks are flattering.
Accentuate small busts with cowl drapes, crossover and twist tops, sweetheart necklines and crew necks.
Choose styles with ruching across the middle that disguise a tummy. If you are an apple shape, clothes which are too loose are only going to make you look bigger, so opt instead for body-skimming fit-and-flare shapes.
Slopey shoulders? Wear set-in sleeves rather than drop shoulders, batwings or raglan sleeves. Gathers around the shoulders and a little puff, or set-in cap sleeve are flattering. Broad shoulders? Choose raglan and sleeveless and drop sleeves.
Pencil skirts are a no-go for wide-hipped ladies as they are too fitted around the hips. Instead, choose soft A-line styles that skim rather than hug (long jersey maxi skirts and jersey trousers are ideal as they glide over the hips). Straight legged trousers and jeans are ideal, but avoid skinny jeans and leggings, and any trousers or jeans with pockets.
Narrow hips, meanwhile, require clothes that are more fitted. To create the illusion of width, choose trousers with pockets and skirts with pleats, as well as tapered legs and leggings.
If you have a flat bottom, wear pockets on the cheeks to create a curvier shape. Prominent bottoms are better with no pockets.
What’s your vertical balance?
Do you have long legs and a short torso or vice versa, or are you perfectly balanced? The easiest way to find out is to bend over to your side, wrap a tape measure around the place where you bend – that’s your natural waist! Bend your elbow and touch your hand to your shoulder – if the point of your elbow is below the tape measure it means that your waist is high and therefore have long legs and short torso and vice versa. If the tape measure is at the same level as your elbow then you are balanced.
If you have a long torso wear high-waisted and standard waisted jeans and trousers – never low.
Short torsos should wear low-cut and hipsters never high-waisted.
If you'd like to discover your body shape and which Kettlewell styles will suit you, why not try our Body Shape Quiz?
You can find Cristina's website at My Shape Stylist