Are you a Ruler or an Apple?

by Erin on November 16, 2006

Okay, because I didn't want anyone to miss La BellaDonna's great comment yesterday, here it is on the main page:

… The other body shapes can use illusion to achieve other proportions when they are in vogue. Consider:

The Ruler:
1) Can wear garments that suit her shape, when a 20's figure, "boyish" figure, or "waif" figure is in vogue (and the 70's, too, for that matter);
2) Can wear garments that emphasize her upper half, when a 30's Upside-Down Triangle is in vogue, and can extend it into the 40's;
3) Can emphasize her lower half, when the Pear-shape is in vogue (and really, it is sometimes – the A-line is one of those shapes);
4) Can wear garments that are loose on top, and flare at the bottom, and cinch her waist to achieve an Hourglass shape.

The Upside-Down Triangle
1) Can emphasize her natural shape, when the 30's and 40's clothing is in vogue – and the 80's, now that those are coming back; she can even wear the bellbottoms of the 70's successfully;
2) If she chooses judiciously, she can wear clothes that de-emphasize her bust when 20's styles are in vogue, approximating the Ruler;
3) She can easily balance her narrow lower half to create the illusion of the Hourglass shape.
It is very difficult for the Upside-Down Triangle to achieve a Pear, or A-Line, Shape. No A-Line dresses for you! And you may find that, without a good petticoat, an A-line skirt collapses at your hips. If you wear a good petticoat and an A-line skirt, it is one of the ways you will create an Hourglass shape for yourself – but you are not creating a Pear.

The Pear
1) With some work, depending on how extreme her figure is, the Pear can simulate the Ruler, to the extent that she can wear clothes from the 20’s if she is very, very careful in her choice of 20’s patterns (looking for 20’s patterns that have gores or pleats inserted in the skirt, rather than being straight up-and-down-);
2) She can, of course, dress for her own Pear shape – the A-line dress, anything described as “trapeze”-shaped, the balloon skirt – all these are silhouettes that deliberately create a Pear shape. (All of these ladies, BTW, have other historical periods available to them – this is just an overview of the 20th Century shapes/timelines). Anything that has a very small, fitted top and a full skirt is, by definition, a Pear shape. Many, many 50’s patterns, and a goodly number of early 60’s patterns, are shaped for the pear.
3) She can create the illusion of an Hourglass shape, by putting emphasis on the upper half, creating the illusion of more mass and broader shoulders. Again, 50’s patterns are very good for the Pear.
It is very difficult for the Pear to create an Upside-Down Triangle Shape. This means that if you love the clothes of the 30’s and 40’s, you will need to be very careful in your choice of pattern, because the silhouette is diametrically opposed to yours. The good news is that it’s not entirely impossible; look at the pattern measurements as they are listed on patterns from those periods. The Bust is usually six inches bigger than the Waist; the Hips are usually nine inches bigger than the Waist. And what is that shape? Why, a Pear, of course! It does mean looking for 30’s or 40’s patterns that put the emphasis on the upper body, but that actually have pattern features that leave room for the lower body, with gores, etc. Beware the skirt with pleats all around, if you are trying to de-emphasize the lower half of the body!

The Hourglass
This gets very tough. Anything that obliterates the waist of the Hourglass turns her into a cylinder.
It is very difficult for the Hourglass to create a Ruler Shape. Mostly, you will manage to create an overall look of Largeness without Shapeliness. The New Look of the 1950’s is a godsend to the Hourglass. Some of the clothes of the 80’s are also wearable, because the jackets that flare over the hips give us some place to put those hips. Some of the outfits from the 40’s can be flattering also – the Hourglass needs to look for a shaped waist, and she should look for gored, rather than straight, skirts in 40’s patterns; this is a style feature that will help her keep the look “40’s.” If she tries to wear a straight skirt, her full hips will pop the silhouette over into “1950’s wiggle skirt.” It is very difficult for the Hourglass to create a Pear Shape. The A-Line tent dress is an abomination on the Hourglass; it will not work. The reason it will not work is because the A-Line is supposed to start out narrow, then flare; since the bust of the Hourglass is as wide as her hips, it means that the top of the dress is now at the widest, rather than the narrowest, part of her body (the A-Line tent skims the waist, so the waist measurement doesn’t count here). It will look miserable. Period. The Hourglass, when she wears a jacket, must wear a fitted jacket; she will otherwise look the same width all the way down, and it will be the width of her widest part. There are a lot advice books that tell the hourglass, or the bosomy female, or the wide-hipped female, to avoid double-breasted jackets. I have three, and they look fierce on me. They look good because they are tailored to go in at the waist. The Hourglass looks good in a fitted bolero-length jacket (despite what some “experts” have said about bolero jackets not being appropriate because they “emphasize the bust”). A fitted bolero jacket will show off the trim waist of the Hourglass, and help de-emphasize the hips a bit. Many, many coats will look like hell on the Hourglass, who will stare at her reflection while trying them on and wonder where the Hindenburg came from. All the “steamer” style, all the “reefer” style, all the “man-tailored” overcoats will make her look like a great big block. Any coats that hug the top of the figure and flare out to the hem in an A-line will make her look like a great big block.

The Apple
The Apple is a body shape that is not that easy to categorize, curiously. It is a shape that results from having enough excess padding accumulated around the middle so that the original body shape has been distorted. This is not a value judgment; this is an explanation, assessment, and analysis of the physical build. Part of dressing an Apple is seeing what the optimum shape of the body will be; as I said in an earlier post, seeking out quality maternity wear is a good option for the Apple, because it is the only time that the Apple shape is considered the “norm.” It is possible, depending on the individual Apple, to create an illusion of a Pear shape; it is possible to define a high “waist” below the bosom, and then flare out. It is possible, even, to create a straighter line through judicious cuts and layered garments. Diagonal lines help to break up the mass, and can even create the illusion of a waist (think wrap dress). The worst silhouette for the Apple is the T-Shirt and Leggings – which is, fairly often, the choice that many Apples make. The tight lower garments emphasize the narrowness of the lower body, and the baggy upper garment emphasizes the bulk of upper body. This is why the Apple is better off not trying to create the silhouette of the Upside-Down Triangle – even if it was her original body shape. In point of fact, it is often the Upside-Down Triangle who may become something of an Apple as she gains weight; the Upside-Down Triangle is the body type least likely to accumulate weight on her lower body, which pretty much leaves the upper part of the body and the middle of the body (i.e., the waist) as the area where weight accumulates, and – voila! The Apple is the result. When the Ruler puts weight on, if she puts weight on all over, she remains a Ruler; she’s just a larger version. The Ruler is, in fact, more likely to put weight on evenly, or to put it on at her waist, than she is likely to accumulate it all in her bust, or all in her hips. If the Ruler puts the weight on at her middle, she dresses “as if” she were a Pear – fitted where she is narrow (upper body), and flaring out. The Apple has more trial-and-error going for her than the others; she needs to experiment with the shapes from the 20’s, and the A-Line shapes that have been suggested for the Pear. The Salwar Kameez, in fact, is a good direction for the Apple to explore, as is the Empire Line suggested to Well-Rounded Dresser in my comment on November 9, 2006. It is very, very important for the Apple to have her clothes fit her well through the shoulders and upper body.

Thanks so much to La BellaDonna for writing this all out! I think I'm an hourglass with Golden Delicious tendencies …

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