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 …

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Phyllis November 16, 2006 at 3:27 pm

OF course once you have kids this all changes again anyway.

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La BellaDonna November 16, 2006 at 3:59 pm

Phyllis, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it changes. There are other factors, too, that can alter a shape; there are medications (yay prednisone, thanks SO much); there are medical conditions (PCOS affects a LOT of folks); there are Post-Surgery Incidents. However, despite the incontrovertible fact that it is possible to change from one body type to a different body type, the recommendations don’t change. Just because your thyroid decides to get all playful, and you go from a Ruler to an Apple, the guidelines for the Apple don’t change.In part, I was hoping the (very general!) guidelines would be a help to those ladies who find that Time and Circumstance have conspired and wrought great sea changes upon their figures, and who don’t quite know what to do or how to dress their new shapes as a result. One of the reasons I’d like a little blog of my own is that I could go into great boring detail for each figure, and wax all eloquent and philosophical and helpful and whatnot. Like Erin, I’m a bit of a Rome, myself (Granny Smith is just TOO depressing!). Age, medications, and a couple of unpleasant surgeries have left me with a definite belly, which gives me more merry fitting mayhem. It doesn’t keep me from being an Hourglass – I still have that 11″ to 12″ Bust-Waist-Hip difference – it just gives me Something Else to Contend With. It also doesn’t make me an Apple it makes me an Hourglass with a pad of belly fat (that area below the waistline, just below the navel, and headed south towards the pubic bone). I’m hoping that ladies will be able to step back and evaluate their overall shapes, instead of fixating on the one spot that they love to hate. It’s possible to really skew your self-image that way, and as a result, you may not be able to identify your body shape correctly. The Ruler who has the same kind of belly pad I have may think of herself as an Apple, when she’s not; she’s a Ruler with a padded belly. There’s no great crisis, of course, if she dresses as if she were an Apple, but she has more options open to her than an Apple often finds.

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blueprairie November 16, 2006 at 4:03 pm

I used to be an hourglass and am now an apple, and this is pretty good advice. (not to mention the perfect excuse to dig out my salwar-kameez pattern).

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Jilli November 16, 2006 at 4:31 pm

It doesn’t keep me from being an Hourglass – I still have that 11″ to 12″ Bust-Waist-Hip difference – it just gives me Something Else to Contend With. It also doesn’t make me an AppleYes! This! Because no matter what my weight is, my figure is an hourglass. Anything that is not fitted in the waist will make me look huge, frumpy, and uncomfortable.

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vespabelle November 16, 2006 at 4:36 pm

Can we call “the ruler” the “asparagus” instead? The hourglass should be the “butternut squash” and the upside down triangle should be the Crystal Carrington because there are no top heavy fruits! I’m a pear masquerading as a butternut squash (tiny ribcage with bodacious tatas plus hips that are larger than my waist.)The book What Not to Wear has some decent advice on what to wear depending on your shape. I’ve found most of the advice (except for coats because who wants a flattering coat that lets your tatas freeze?) to be spot on for me.

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claire November 16, 2006 at 4:54 pm

Please ignore typos, my 7 month old is sitting on my lap. This may sound silly, but how do I know what shape I am? I was skinny and could wear anything a few years ago, but since leaving the Army, getting married, and having my baby, I have no idea! I hate shopping now and have nothing that fits/looks good. I would guess that I am a pear with apple creeping in.. don’t they make pear/apple hybrids now? :) What would that be called? Do I follow pear rules or apple rules? Oh I am so confused. Help!

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Sasha November 16, 2006 at 5:14 pm

I am an hourglass-pear, I look good in clothes with a fitted top that emphasize my waist and skim over my hips. This is why I gravitate to 40s (minus the shoulder pads) and 50s fashion, it flatters me! If I wear somethign without a fitted waist I look just awful (comfort be damned!)

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LA MIGRAINEUSE November 16, 2006 at 5:38 pm

Self categorisation! Ah! My mortal enemy!I’m not sure what I am–some hourglass/ruler hybrid. I do go in and out, but not straight on. Boobs go forward, butt goes back. Hips don’t go out. Shoulders…well, that depends on how much kettlebell I’m doing.Baby got back, baby got boobies.

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Anonymous November 16, 2006 at 6:03 pm

Oh this was excellant. The only thing that could make it even better is if there were drawings of each shape. For those of us that are more visually inclined. Thanks for the advice. I printed it out for future use.

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Kathyg November 16, 2006 at 6:06 pm

Definitely an hourglass…always have been. And yes, prednisone..been there, done that, changes the hourglass to a meatball without even trying:-( It’s taken 6 years to lose that weight after 3 years on high-dose steroids. Back to the hourglass…tent dresses are anathema! “Man-tailoring” doesn’t mesh with the girly hourglass. No wonder so many of us like vintage clothing and sew from vintage patterns….many of the clothes suited the girly figures far better!

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Well Rounded Dresser November 16, 2006 at 6:52 pm

I have appreciated all of these ideas! When I was a size medium petite, I could pull off wearing some things that don’t suit an apple, but no more. After illness and prednisone alas, I am a short rotund apple. I’ve been studying dresses here and there and I believe I may make a dress soon.

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scone November 16, 2006 at 7:14 pm

Wow! Someone who knows what PCOS is– I’ll read your blog!

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Floridaprincess November 17, 2006 at 1:24 am

La belladonna great info today. My dh has gained a bunch of weight from Prednisone & is a very unhappy apple. I went on meds a few years ago a gained weight too. I turned into an apple for awhile. My waist went up to a 31 was I ever upset not to mention I had a whole wardrobe I could not wear. I refused to buy new clothes. Well I finaly broke down and bought new jeans I had no choice. Well I had my dr change my meds & I lost 11 pounds. I still weight more then I want but my waist is a 29 so Im bit happier then I was. I know if you are busty you should not wear double breasted jackets. I love them tho. I will wear what I dam well please anymore. Im not getting any younger!!! Years ago I used to try & follow all the rules. I dont care anymore. I wear now what makes me happy.Years ago I think I was a ruler. I was built like Audrey Hepburn. Later in life I had surgery I heard this changes your metabolism. Mine was very fast my whole life even after having one child I went back to 105 lbs. With in one year of surgery I started putting on weight. I dont know what shape Iam. I think Im a heinz 57. I have little shoulders 34-36 ta-tas depends. I have a 29 inch waist with 42 inch hips. am I a pear or an hour glass??? My arms are really thin. I do know that Im small boned. I dont if this figures in, in any way.Ita: love your post you make me laugh:+) I need shoulder pads I have none. Some of my cute summer dresses fall right off my shoulders. I did good in the 80′s.La Belladonna or Erin what shape do you think Iam??? years ago I was a pear. I dont know now!!

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Floridaprincess November 17, 2006 at 1:27 am

Sorry for all the grammer errors in the last post.

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Anonymous November 17, 2006 at 2:51 am

La BellaDonna,Thank-you for such a great explanation.I wish I had recognised in my twenties that I was really an hourglass and not really fat. I went from more pear shaped as a teenager to being an hourglass when the pill made me put on 10kg in a month. Most on my boobs and thighs. I then kept adding weight steadly over the next couple of years. I just thought I was fat and would wear men’s style shirts and jeans and as a result always looked bad, self perpetuating my poor self image. As I finally approched my thirties I recognised that if I wore somthing shaped at the waist I looked much slimmer and felt much better. I have since come to recognise my body shape for what it is and now make my own clothes to suit.Thankfully I love the fifties styles and even though I haven’t made any vintage patterns yet (we all know the pain of finding a pattern for the fuller bust).

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Phyllis November 17, 2006 at 4:54 am

Oh yes I should say I agree – my comment was in the spirit of rueful humor!

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. November 17, 2006 at 7:39 am

Soooo….what IS stopping you from getting your own blog, la belladonna?Once you get over the hurdle of chosing a name for the thing, it is as easy as cobbling together an email, functionality wise. Get thee to Google, choose “more”, chose “even more”, chose Blogger.Please???? Love your writing, you can do this!

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. November 17, 2006 at 8:26 am

I’m an hour glass too..no wonder I’m always disappointed when I make a sheath dress. I’m carrying this article with me when I go shopping for clothes and patterns in the future. And no wonder my Hat buddies said I was ’50 style in their mind’s eye.

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La BellaDonna November 17, 2006 at 9:12 am

Jill first. Sadly, Jill, I have made multiple trips to Blogger. I’ve had some, er, difficulties. My name? What, my real name? The name I want to sign? The name of my blog? I obviously need to spend an undistracted afternoon, with a phone handy, setting it up. It’s not happening until after Thanksgiving, that’s for sure. I’ve burned through several blog names I wanted to use that way! [Note to self: no kidding, keep the password written down this time, while you're at it.]Claire, it is perfectly possible to be a hybrid; it’s one reason why I do need to go into more detail than I did above.Bone structure dictates body type. Weight distribution and posture affect the degree to which you are identifiable as that type.So. Below, the structures:Hourglass. An Hourglass has SHOULDERS as broad as her hips. This is what has confused a lot of busty Pears; they see their 38″ busts, and their 38″ hips, and they wonder why their clothes don’t look quite right. The busty Pear has narrow shoulders. A CLASSIC Hourglass has a bust and hips which are the same size, and a waist which is 10 or more inches smaller than her bust and hips. When the fashion industry is casting models, it uses an 8-inch Bust-Waist-Hip difference, but the Classic Hourglass has 10 inches or more. Now, here’s the rub: it’s possible to have a 38″ bust, a 28″ waist, and 38″ hips, plus the equal shoulders, AND still not be terribly busty. A 36B bra is 38″, and is not terribly busty; a 34D bra is 38″, and is also bustier. A 32DDD has my sympathy. She is 38″, and her back hurts. So it’s possible to be an Hourglass with more sand in the bottom than the top.One of the confusing aspects is it is possible for four women to stand next to each other. Each has hips which are, say, 38 inches.Woman A has her weight distributed evenly; she isn’t very hippy, she doesn’t have a big booty.Woman B is quite narrow through the hips, but she has a nice round rear. Sometimes she has an amazingly round rear.Woman C has no backside at all; if it were any flatter, she couldn’t sit down. But she has hips like Sophia Loren’s, and they curve in a graceful parabola.Woman D is different still. Her backside’s fairly small. However, she carries a lot of weight in her abdomen, which affects her upper hip measurement, and a lot of weight at the tops of her thighs…. But they all measure 38 inches at the hip.That doesn’t begin to cover all the possibilities, either. It doesn’t really address whether our ladies have high hips, average hips, or low hips (and this is something also determined by bone structure). It’s no wonder it’s confusing.Now, our Pear. The Pear has hips which are wider than her shoulders. This is what makes a Pear. Period. The Pear also has hips which are bigger than her bust. That can be a little misleading, though. If you’re a Pear with a 34D bra, and your hips are 40 inches, you have a little more leeway in your dressing than the woman with a 38A bra would have.The Upside-Down Triangle. The Upside-Down Triangle has shoulders which are broader than her hips. The Upside-Down Triangle has a bust measurement which is larger than her hips. Again, there’s a matter of leeway: the woman with a 36″ bust who wears a 34B bra, and has 33-inch hips, will make different clothing choices from the woman who wears a 32D bra. She may or may not have a small waist; it could be 25 inches, like one of our posters, or it could be 30 inches. It could be 33 inches. She is still an Upside-Down Triangle.The Ruler. The Ruler’s Shoulders are the same width as her hips. The Ruler has a waist difference between her hips and her bust of six inches or less. The Ruler has a balanced figure, but without much indentation at the waist. The Apple. The Apple, to her fury and dismay, has a waist which is larger than her bust OR her hips. That is the signifying feature of the Apple. This weight can be distributed in several ways: 1) through the entire midsection – the midriff AND the abdomen; 2) through the midriff [that area just below the ribs, but above the navel]; or 3) through the abdomen – that area from just at the waist, above the navel, downward. Of course, if the weight is primarily in either the midriff or the abdomen, it doesn’t generally appear there only! There’s usually a certain amount of tapering going on. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating and hard to dress. The Apple needs to also check her bust and hip measurements, and consider her shoulders; if her shoulders and her bust measurement are smaller than her hips, she will be dressing as if she were a Pear. If her bust measurement and shoulders are than her hips, she started as an Upside-Down Triangle; she can opt for a straightish silhouette, or for a Pear shape (because she still goes OUT at the waistline, remember?). If her shoulders, bust and hips are even, she was a Ruler or an Hourglass. It mostly doesn’t matter, in this instance; the middle is STILL the widest part, and our Apple dresses as if she were a Pear.Claire, your problem isn’t quite as difficult as all that – because the suggestions for the Apple are to dress as if she was a Pear. So, you would dress as if you were a Pear. Now, I know a lot of advice books will tell you not to fall into the “trap” of wearing maternity clothes if you’re not, or no longer, pregnant. Well, since maternity clothes are the only clothes that are cut for a sizeable middle, or that go out from the waist to the hips, I think that’s nonsensical to eliminate the only category of clothing that’s actually shaped to fit! Better a pretty, well-tailored maternity dress, regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant, than your husband’s old sweats.Ita, you are indeed an hourglass/ruler hybrid! What is your bust/waist/hip difference? That will help identify you, but basically, you really ARE … hourglass/ruler hybrid. You don’t have the restrictions a lot of women have about looking “hippy,” but if you have an apple or onion booty, I bet it’s really hard to get a straight skirt to fit right. Remember to hem your skirts, including storebought ones, so they’re the same length all around! A lot of black ladies are blessed with very round, sometimes very large backsides, and they would look much better in their storebought clothes if they shorten the fronts of their skirts/dresses to match where their backsides have hiked up the back hems. Kathy, Yeah. No kidding. But sometimes prednisone is the only choice. :(Florida Princess, I’m so sorry. I tend to think of it as the “Crab Apple” for myself. The only thing that ever helped when I was on the prednisone was hours and hours of exercise, which have, of course, wrought their own damage. Like you, I wear my (fitted!) double-breasted jacket. And yes, surgery can change your metabolism, and it can leave you with strange places where you gain weight, too. You are a classic Pear; you have a very nice 12-inch difference between your waist and hips, which gives you a graceful curve, and because you have a bust which is 34″/36″ and your hips are 42″ (Bust Smaller Than Hips), this tells you: Pear.Anonymous, I’m sorry it took you so long to find out. It’s true; baggy and unfitted are the worst ways to dress both the Hourglass and the Pear – it totally obliterates them.Dear ladies, I hope this helps clarify my first post, and is of some use to you all in that eternal struggle to find something that flatters!

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nora November 17, 2006 at 10:37 am

“Woman C has no backside at all; if it were any flatter, she couldn’t sit down.”La Belladonna, you are hilarious! I also loved the bit about the hourglass with a little more sand in the bottom. My sympathies to all who have struggled with the changes wrought by illness and medications: I’ve been on prednisone myself, when I was a tween (I went on them a ruler, turned into a puffy ruler, and emerged from this chrysalis a self-concious hourglass, who still gets very “puffy” everywhere–including the dreaded jawline–when I gain weight.) I’m about a 36B/C (depending on time of month), with 39″ hips and a 29-30″ waist; I don’t have the tiny waist an hourglass should have, but I think it’s partly due to the shape of my ribcage (it doesn’t taper much). But my shoulders and hips are the same width. All I know is that I CANNOT dress like a ruler. Oddly, though I’m a perfect 30s/40s pattern size 18, in modern patterns my top half is a size smaller than my bottom half.I watched “The Notorious Bettie Page” last night, which (though kind of a sad movie) really celebrates the beauty of an hourglass figure: there are some great dresses in that one, fitted midriffs galore. And in the last scene she dons a man-tailored coat to go preaching, and suddenly she looks like an apple! Very interesting transformation. Sam Saboura’s “Real Style” book has a pretty nice section about variations on body type, with a nice emphasis on the positive (e.g. that apples almost always have gorgeous busts and legs), and how to work that. But he doesn’t talk too much about vintage, which is where your blog would be so great, La Bella!One last note: I really recommend to anyone that can and that has issues with their “padding” to take a dance class such as belly dancing or samba or african dance. There’s nothing like shaking what you’ve got, in a roomful of similarly “flawed” females, to make you feel better about it. I’ve taken belly dancing, and am currently taking samba after a long dance hiatus, and there’s something about it that gets past my rational mind and irrational self-loathing and just feels great, just the way a great dress should make you feel.

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Lucelu November 17, 2006 at 12:03 pm

I guess I would be a ruler/apple. Hi bust 38, full bust 42, empire waist 34, waist 36, see navel and below bellyfat-around the widest area there is 44-4 in below navel, then hip 42. My shoulders are broad, shoulder pads make me look footbally.I have no butt to speak of, breasts out front- c cup but generally don’t need to do an FBA. RTW sizes 14 for bottoms, large for blouse although the shoulder is generally too large and the sleeve too long. Pants too baggy at crotch. I am deeper than wider and most people are amazed at my weight–can’t believe I weigh as much as I do (185 lb).Legs very muscular and thighs (sigh) thunderous but not fatty (most fat is right at inside top). Even when I am at training weight/size 8/9 RTW the thighs rub which has kept me from dresses and skirts–oh the chafing!I have the muffin top without the hipster pants–high hip without foundation hip. When I work out and lose weight, first the thighs slim, the high hip goes down, the fluff at the back flank goes down, the abdomen does as well but much slower. I am 5’4″ and have short legs (27in inseam)–same as the top thigh circumference. In my younger days I fit perfect in medium size and that is still my mind’s eye body image so I am generally shocked when I see current pictures of myself.I know to wear skirts right above my knee, to simulate having legs, and push up bras to simulate a torso and waist. If the empire waist is too high (not fitted with a noticeable band below breasts) I look very pregnant–people feel comfortable asking me my due date. Not sure that waspy waist dresses are the right thing for me, but boxy short jackets are death–they even make my face look heavier. I could use some suggestions as I find good reasons why absolutely anything will not look right on me.

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Claire November 17, 2006 at 12:31 pm

La BellaDonna- I am so sorry to bother you again, but I guess I am slow and still not understanding everything. My shoulders are wider than my hips, my bust is smaller than my hips, and there is a ten inch difference between my waist and hips. I have a moderately well endowed behind. My legs and arms are not skinny, per say, but my weight is definitely centered around my middle, mostly padding my hips with a little belly padding from my navel to the hip. Bust 38, waist 30, hip 40. I measured my shoulders around, and that measurement was 43.5. I just checked online to see what my proper bra size should be (I haven’t bought a new bra since I stopped nursing, and I need to), and it says 38B. Im about 57, and 176 lbs. I thought I was a pear because my hips were bigger than my bust, but since my shoulders are bigger than my hips, now Im lost again. Im sorry to bombard you with so much information, I just figured that the more you knew, the more you could help. I am totally confused and want to start dressing myself well!!!!! Thank you for all your help!

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La BellaDonna November 17, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Oh, kill me now – my nice long answer just got eaten, I will have to recreate it. Claire, the shoulder measurement is side-to-side and not around! The short way to determine it is just by looking in a full-lenghth mirror and seeing what sticks out further to the side, your shoulders or your hips. I will post in more detail later tonight, but I think you are definitely a Pear!Lucelu, by my reckoning, you should be wear a 38D bra – are you? You will be my illustration for How to Measure for a Bra. It is possible that you are very close to being an Upside-Down Triangle, or Hourglass, rather than a Ruler – how broad are your shoulders? You sound as if you have a very athletic figure. I’m seeing a bust/waist/hip difference of 8 inches – not the 10 inches of the Classic Hourglass, but sure as shooting the Fashion Industry Hourglass, especially since you’re bosomy. You sound like an Hourglass with a bit of a belly – welcome to the club, and pick your apple! I will answer your post in more detail later also, but you have some leeway here – you can wear certain of the 30′s styles and look sleek, and you can push the 1950′s hourglass shape, depending on what you choose to wear.

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Claire November 17, 2006 at 1:48 pm

La BellaDonna- Well, my shoulders actually are wider than my hips, when looking straight on. Sorry I’m stupid and don’t know how to measure myself. :) You have been INCREDIBLY helpful, thank you soooooo much!!!! I will have to start experimenting with different articles of clothing, based on your advice, so I can get out of my “uniform” of jeans and a big t-shirt. I’m sorry that I have been such a bother. Thanks again!

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Gidget Bananas November 17, 2006 at 2:10 pm

One way, alas, not terribly convenient and sometimes rather disheartening, of determining what looks good on is to go to a well-stocked department store, grab a selection of dresses in every variety, and just try them on. I recommend wearing good foundation garments and the shoes most likely to be worn for the occassion if you embark upon that project. Underwear, especially bras, can make a lot of difference to fit. The sales assistants may have a fit as you plow through their stock, but the chances are that you’ll buy more in the future if you can find a style and a maker that works for you.

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Lucelu November 17, 2006 at 3:56 pm

LaBellaDonna, my shoulders “appear” the same or slightly wider. I have a round or barrel like ribcage. I have been wearing a 38C bra (perhaps I have wrong sized myself?) I walked out of Victoria’s Secret somewhat frustrated as most of their bras are padded (I don’t need to pad) but I have never really considered myself large-busted (isn’t that funny?). I joke that I am a 38 Long.My apple will be a Gala,Thank you so much for replying, I am so thrilled.

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Jilli November 17, 2006 at 4:03 pm

An Hourglass has SHOULDERS as broad as her hips. Waitaminnit … that means I’m actually a Pear! A Pear who can masquerade as an Hourglass, but still. Hmmm.

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Anonymous November 17, 2006 at 4:43 pm

Thank you BellaDonna for exploding the myth that A-lines suit every shape. I’m an upside down triangle, with a little bit of Apple (but keep working on getting rid of that) and there is no way an A-line looks good on me!

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Anonymous November 17, 2006 at 4:43 pm

Thank you BellaDonna for exploding the myth that A-lines suit every shape. I’m an upside down triangle, with a little bit of Apple (but keep working on getting rid of that) and there is no way an A-line looks good on me!

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Well Rounded Dresser November 17, 2006 at 5:17 pm

Women are so fabulous.

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Robinson November 17, 2006 at 6:17 pm

Hallelujah! With La Belladonna’s encouragement here I got a new bra tonight and I feel like Jane Mansfield! After reading through everything here tonight I’m pretty sure I’m a thick waisted hourglass – maybe. I definitely DON’T have that 10 inch difference, but hips and shoulders are the same I think. I’m off to double check.

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A Woman of Letters November 17, 2006 at 7:38 pm

The categories remind me of a book that came out in the late 1980′s (I think) that broke the body types into H-O-A-X. H would correspond to the ruler, O the apple, A the pear (inverted triangle), and X the hourglass.I am somewhere in between an hourglass (X) and an apple (O). (If memory serves, the lady who wrote the book said that X’s needed to have a bottom at least as big as her bust, or else she would be an O. However, O’s didn’t have definite waists. I have a definite waist, but my bottom is smaller than my top.) I wear both items that accentuate my waist, and tunics and slim pants (not leggings — I didn’t like them the first time around when I was a preteen, and I still don’t!). Boleros and empire waists are things I generally avoid.I do have trouble finding skirts and pants that actually come up to my waist — it seems that most companies expect women to wear their clothes on their hips or at least below the belly button. Not a look I particularly like!

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Ananke November 17, 2006 at 7:39 pm

Another way to check your shape is to take a picture (nude) from the back. I did this to prepare for a tattoo, only to break my fondly assumed hourglass status – my hips are nearly twice as wide as my shoulders. I just happen to have a set of J-cup breasts out the front. I am mostly definitively not an hourglass. Since then I have had a much better time fitting clothing to my shape.

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Anonymous November 17, 2006 at 9:10 pm

I must admit that one of the other factors which can interfer with your body shape image is size of thighs. I have always had large thighs, my leg weight is always carried lower on the leg so the hip measurement is not my widest part (hip and shoulder are about even). My widest section is a line about level with my croth line. I think this is what used to get me so confused. With trousers and straight skirts, by the time they fit around the tops of the thighs the hips are roomy and the waist was really baggy. I got very used to pulling in waist bands with belts then wearing a big shirt out over the top to cover it (not really a good look at all).

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hjm November 17, 2006 at 11:04 pm

This is a great post! I have lots to think about.hjm

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Kelly November 18, 2006 at 4:06 am

Ok now I am starting to feel like a freak of nature… I am just under 5’4 with a much longer upper body. Bust is 34, underbust is 31 just barely, so I am about a 32c depending on the day. my waist is 28 and my hips are 41. I am really long waisted and my shoulders look about the same as my hips if looking straight on. I carry a lot of junk in the trunk. So that is where I get that hip measurement plus a bit of a pouchy belly. From the side I look like a carmel apple with a bit of a sway back. I have always thought I was a pear…but with my shoulders being wide I am just not sure now. It is almost impossible to go into a store and buy a dress off the rack. To get the bottom to fit I am swimming in the top half and exposing things I shouldn’t be exposing. :) . I just gave up on trying to find pants that fit too. To get them to fit in the hips/thighs they are always way too big in the waist. I have much better luck with skirts and tops. So I can buy the top a different size then the bottom. For the most part, I know what I can and can not wear… But I am just having one of those weeks where I have a whole closet full of stuff but can’t find anything to wear. :)

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hjm November 18, 2006 at 10:33 am

Kelly this sounds so much like me I think you just posted my thoughts! hjm

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Floridaprincess November 19, 2006 at 12:07 am

Oh, La belladonna thankyou I thought I was a Barlett:+)spherical at the base narrow at the stem. We would never kill you!!! You have so much information we all need your help:+)Nora: I have been thinking about taking a dance class then I forget. Thankyou for reminding me. I need to do this!!! Im sorry about your Prednisone experience. I know how hard it is I have watched my husband, he has been so down over this:+(I hope Im allowed to wear A-line dresses. I have one Im so not giving it up.Lecelu: I have extra butt would you like it??? I would be so glad to get rid of it!!!A woman of letters: I will have to look for this book you mentioned its sounds like a great book.Im having trouble too finding skirts & jeans to come up to my waist. I do want this stuff on my hips. I do not find this look appealing & dont want to wear it either. I wish it would freaken go out of style!!!Kelly: You & I are almost the same measurements on the bottom half. I have junk in the trunk too. I have more padding on the tummy then I want.When Im PMSing I feel like I have nothing to wear!!! I have learned years ago do not go shopping or try on clothes when PMSing. The lights are brutal on you in the dressing room too. There was a time or to I just about cried in there & refused to come out. My boyfriend was waiting out the side of the dressing room he wanted to see the dress on me.

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wendylady November 19, 2006 at 2:39 am

La belladonna,Thank-you very much for clarifying things in an amusing way…As for getting your own blog, have you tried Live Journal ? It is exceptionally easy to start up, although I’ve not tried Blogger, it may be just as easy !! I’m not sure what you needed a phone for, but anyway…My own shape was always an Hourglass, but these days, it’s an Hourglass with extra sand tendencies, sadly !!Would you object if I posted a slightly shortened, edited version of this summary of all the body-shapes on my own website in the near future ? You will get full credit, of course, and it would help a lot of my regular LJ readers, who almost all appear to have difficulties with their choice of clothing now that they are slightly older than they used to be !! It’s all about getting your musings to a wider audience…This wonderful website would also get a credit, Erin, because I think you deserve a wider audience too !!Please let me know !!All these points from all the replies you have had, just serve to illustrate why the clothing industry shouldn’t ever standardise sizing patterns…because we aren’t and won’t ever be, standard sizes…Imagine if all you could get for a size 14 was the Hourglass shape clothes…what would all those Apples and Pears do ???

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La BellaDonna November 19, 2006 at 6:48 am

Woman of Letters, many years ago I came across the same information, and the problem with the H-O-A-X is, that while it’s really cute, there IS another letter which was left off so that the acronym would work, and it is the letter that YOU, personally, need. It’s not really H-O-A-X; it should be H-A-V-O-X. You are the “V”, or our Upside-Down Triangle. And she’s not the only author who has a blind spot; I was disgusted when I was going through a “body types should wear” section of a very prominent sewing authority’s book, and she left out the hourglass shape entirely!! Kelly, are you British? British instructions for Measuring for a Bra are different than American ones; if you’re an American, and you’re describing your measurements accurately, you are NOT a 32C if your Bust is 34, Underbust is 31 just barely. Is that underbust measure with or without the additional numbers factored in?How to Measure for a Bra:1. Measure your underbust (around the ribcage, right under the breasts, tape measure level).2. If the measurement is an even number, add 4 inches to get your Bra (band) size.3. If the measurement is an odd number, add 5 inches to get your Bra (band) size.Woman A measures 29″ around her underbust; she adds 5″ inches to get her Bra (band) size; she wears a size 34 bra.Woman B measures 30″ around her underbust; she adds 4″ inches to get her Bra (band) size; she ALSO wears a size 34 bra.To get the Cup Size, measure around the fullest part of the breasts, keeping the tape level (the Full Bust Measurement). This is the hardest part to do, and it’s better done by somebody else. If you have to do it yourself, do it at least three times to make sure. And yes, do it WITHOUT wearing a bra! If you’re wearing a bra, especially the wrong size, it will affect the results you wind up with!To determine the cup size, Subtract the Bra (band) measurement from the Full Bust Measurement.Woman A measures 38″ around her Full Bust Measurement. So she subtracts: 38 – 34 = 4. She knows that each inch is a cup size. So, 1 inch = A cup, 2 inches = B cup, 3 inches = C cup, 4 inches = D cup, 5 inches is DD OR E, 6 inches is DDD OR F, 7 inches is G, and so on. Woman A has 4 inches, so Woman A wears a 34D bra.What do you know? Woman B is 38 inches also! She does the same math, and she’s a 34D also! Even though her ribcage measurement is different. It’s also why we try on different styles of bras, and not every style, even from the same manufacturer, may fit properly. And since water retention and one’s period can cause the breasts to expand by a couple of inches, you may need more than one size bra to fit properly.I have to do some double-checking, because for larger ladies, once the underbust passes 40 inches, the formula, as I recall, goes to add 2 or 3 inches, depending on whether the number for the underbust is odd or even. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS WIND UP WITH AN EVEN NUMBER WHEN YOU ARE DOING BRA BAND MATH.Cup Size Special Note: If your Bra (Band) Size is the same as your Full Bust Measure, you wear an AA cup. If your Bra (Band Size) measure is smaller than your Full Bust Measure, you go DOWN incrementally the same way. One way to double-check your Band Size is by taking your High Bust, or Upper Chest Measure – the tape goes around your back, under your arms (as high up as possible, though – it’s right under your arms), and around your chest, that part of your body before your breasts begin. The woman with an underbust measure of 29″ or 30″, whose Bra (band) size turns out to be 34, will very often find out that her High Bust, or Chest, Measure is also 34. It’s handy, but it’s not infallible. If Kelly is an American, and she has measured properly, and her underbust measure really is 31 inches (not her Bra (Band) Size), then we know to add 5 inches to get her Bra (Band) Size. This actually comes out to a 36 Bra. If Kelly’s Full Bust Measurement is really 34 inches, then we have 34 – 36 = -2; Kelly would be around a 36AA or a 36AAA. However, if Kelly is British, or buying British bras, she does just measure her underbust to get her Bra (Band) size (31 inches = size 32 or 30, depending on manufacturer) and subtract that from her Full Bust Measurement (34) to get her cup size (3 or 4, depending on manufacturer), so she is indeed either a 32C or a 30D. But it depends vitally on whether she’s shopping American or British bras!How to Tell if Your Bra Fits: 1. Do you hook your bra in front, and pull it around to the back? Yes? Then your bra band is too loose. Most of the support from a bra comes from the band, NOT the straps. The band needs to be snug. 2. However, it shouldn’t be so snug that it leaves you with “cleavage” above and below the band in the back! This is admittedly a problem for the ladies who are carrying extra flesh; sometimes it’s difficult to get the band snug enough, and NOT have it leave rolls above and below in the back. If you start out with rolls in the back (this is NOT a moral judgment, just a body analysis!), you need to figure out if your bra is causing any of it, because sometimes it is the body, not the bra. And for those of us who swim, or lift weights, manufacturers have NOT caught up with the changes it makes in a woman’s build. Your nice new traps can wreak havoc with bra fitting sometimes. The band should lie snug, and in front, the center of the band SHOULD lie flat against your chest. If it doesn’t, there are 3 probabilities: a) the band is TOO LOOSE – tighten it up, or try a smaller bra (band) size. Remember to go UP a cup size if you go DOWN a band size! So if you’re trying on a 34C, and the cups look OK, but the band is too big, try a 32D; b) the cup is TOO SMALL – if the cup is too small, your breasts will push the band away from your chest wall. If your cup runneth over, try the same band size, with larger cups – try the 34D instead; your ribcage is egg-shaped, rather than oval – this means you are broad through the front of the ribcage, but narrow through the back. Go to fashion-incubator.com and google “egg-shaped.” This mostly means trying on a lot of bras. Bras are cut for an oval body; an oval body means the breasts point forward. With an egg-shaped body, the breasts actually tend to point somewhat away from each other. Posture can affect this, as well; if you carry your shoulders back and compressed, it will tend to make your breasts point both outward and away from each other. I have an egg-shaped ribcage AND that kind of posture, and bra-buying SUCKS.3. Your CUPS fit properly if: a) there is no gapping. Do you see space around both cups? Do the cups wrinkle a bit? Your cups are TOO BIG; try a smaller CUP size. Does only one cup wrinkle? Then you are lopsided, like most of us; get one (or two) inserts, and pad out the smaller size, instead of cutting up the larger breast with a too-tight cup. B) On the other hand, do you look as if you’ve been squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste? Do you have four breasts – two in the cup, two above? Is there a slice running across one or both breasts? Then your cups runneth over. Try a bigger size. The best way to check if you think the cups are just a little too small is to put on a very snug, lightweight knit top – it will mercilessly show any weird bulges. Try a bigger cup, or a different style. Sometimes the cups that are supposed to shape you only malform you; the Wonder Bra only ever sliced across my breasts, it didn’t move a darned thing. 4. If you have naturally pointy breasts, you cannot wear a molded, one-piece T-shirt style of cup. Not without padding, you can’t; there’s nothing filling the cup where your nipples meet the cup, and the cup will collapse, to fill up the area, and that will make the cup wrinkle. You need a different kind of cup; the kind of cup with seams will fit you better.5. If you are large-breasted, the best kind of cup, like the expensive European bras, will have three pieces in the cup: one horizontal seam, across the cup, and one vertical seam, dividing the two bottom pieces. Frederick’s of Hollywood, oddly enough, has beautiful bras, made like this, sized to fit both slender women with large breasts, and heavy women with large breasts.6. Underwires are great, and give extra support. The wire should fit flat against your chest. Your entire breast should sit within the curve of the wire; the wire should not lie on the breast. If it lies on the breast, try a larger cup size. If it’s so far back that it’s digging into your armpit, try a SMALLER cup size.7. Do your straps stay up? Have you ever, in fact, adjusted them since first trying on the bra? If there are indentations on your shoulders, your straps are probably too short. You may also need a wider strap, because of full breasts. However, if you’re yanking them really tightly because you have narrow shoulders and they keep falling down, and the MEN who design bras are oblivious, and design shoulder straps as if they were croquet hoops, and make them in a nice neat arch, having nothing to do with a WOMAN’S BODY, then you need to a) try a different manufacturer, or a racer-back style; b) get one of those gadgets that hook the straps together in the back; or c) the most effective thing: unpick the back of the strap only, and move the back of each strap as close as possible to the hook-and-eye opening in the band, and stitch it back down. You will then probably have to let the straps out a bit to lengthen them, since they now has to stretch a further distance, but the stupid things will not fall down.The same style in a different colorway may not fit you; this is a common problem in manufacturing. The same style in a different fabrication – lace, instead of satin – may not fit you; again, a common manufacturing problem. Try going up or down a size in that color or fabrication.I have a 31″ underbust, and a 41″ Full Bust, and I wear a 36D bra. Yes, I wear a D, not a DD; that’s partly because I have that egg-shaped ribcage that I mentioned earlier. I also work out with weights, and on a rowing machine, and I am not easy to fit. I wear a Victoria’s Secret Shaping Demi Underwire, in their Body style; I cannot wear any other style from that line, not even the full coverage; I can wear their new Invisible Lace Bra, but I wear it in a 38D. I have a well-cut La Mystere bra in a 36D that cost me, no lie, $72; I got two bras from Frederick’s of Hollywood that were cut just as well, in a 36D. They fit perfectly, and I paid $28 each for them.And that’s not even throwing a long-line bra or a Merry Widow into the mix.Every bra you wear will affect how your clothes fit. When you are making a dress for yourself, wear the same style of bra each time, or you will wonder what’s wrong with your sewing skills, and why something that you so painstakingly fitted yesterday doesn’t fit today.

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La BellaDonna November 19, 2006 at 7:28 am

Thank heaven, I was afraid that post would get eaten. More:Woman of Letters, as I said, you are our Upside-Down Triangle. The way you are dressing, emphasizing your narrow lower half, will exaggerate that effect. There is nothing wrong with that! Every body type has its period of being in style, and you can scroll some of my earlier posts on fashions made for the Upside-Down Triangle. If there are times when you would prefer to look more hourglass-y, there are other choices you can make, too.A Physiological Aside: Why is it, when every body type, essentially, has its fashion moment, do many fashion “experts” place so much emphasis on “correcting” to “balance” a figure to look like an hourglass? I don’t know if most of them can articulate beyond the reason that the hourglass is considered “the most desirable” (currently). Turns out that there really is a sound biological reason; it is apparently a male biological imperative to respond to a waist/hip ratio of .7 or greater (meaning, .6, etc.), because the greater the waist-hip difference, the more fertile the female is likely to be. It’s hardwired into the species for survival. Even Audrey Hepburn, sylphlike Audrey Hepburn, so different from her contemporary, Marilyn Monroe? NOT. Audrey Hepburn came in at 30 1/2-20-30 1/2; Marilyn at 36-24-36 (depending, of course – she did vary a bit). Both of them, though, were hourglasses.Fortunately for the non-hourglasses, nowadays fashion, for good or ill, does play a role in affecting male preferences. It is one reason, though, why pears and hourglasses should take extra care to make sure their clothes fit smoothly and well through the waist and upper hip.Florida Princess, I don’t want to upset you, but … maybe you SHOULD go shopping when you’re PMSing (by yourself). You deserve to have things that look pretty on you then – especially then! and if you don’t shop when you’re that size, how will you have anything to fit you when you ARE that size? If you’re PMSing one week out of the month, that’s 12 weeks out of the year, or three months – that’s almost an entire season! Go find PMS clothes that will make you feel better! I think we definitely established that you are a Pear, so you can wear your A-line dresses and enjoy looking pretty in them.Anonymous who is belting her baggy shirts and pants, you have the low hips that I skimmed past earlier; Lucelu has high hips. (Lucelu, if you have the same egg-shaped rib cage/upper torso I have, it would explain why you might be wearing a 36C and not overflowing it.) Gored skirts, circle skirts, half-cirle skirts, will look good on you. SOME A-line skirts (not dresses! not unless you are small-busted) will look good on you, but they will have to be a wide enough A to not bind where you’re the widest. You need to be emphasizing that waist and upper hip, or your whole torso will look as wide as your thighs. The bulky, belted, baggy look isn’t doing much for you. Some fashion advisors would tell you to balance with more bulk at the top of your body; the caveat is that you need to keep your waistline uncluttered. You can make that shape look very, very sexy; over-sized jeans with that “paper bag” belted effect aren’t doing the most for you.One trouser shape that women with a large waist-hip difference can look for is the trouser with a yoke. The yoke is shaped to fit the waist and the upper hip; the leg part is basically just stuck on at the bottom. This appears sometimes in ethnic clothing, and there are some versions out in more Western trousers, sometimes. The only other option generally is to buy trousers that don’t GO all the way up to the waist, so that the trousers don’t have so much difference to contend with; a trouser that hits two or three inches lower than 28″, may suddenly have a 33″ to 41″ difference instead, etc. (That would be pretty much all Pears, and a lot of Hourglasses – Kelly, Florida Princess, some of our Anonymouses,Robinson, if you have more than a six-inch b/w/hip difference, you are more Hourglass than not. You may not be a Classic Hourglass, but it will be easy for you to dress “as if” you were.Wendylady, it’s up to Erin. I don’t object to being quoted, but I’m not happy about being edited. I’m less concerned about my deathless prose being cut than having some piece of information that I consider necessary being inadvertently left out. If Erin permits it, and you either want to quote in full, or do a link, I have no problem with that.

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wendylady November 19, 2006 at 9:32 am

Belladonna,OK, that’s fine with me !! To quote in full is no problem at all…probably better anyway !!I don’t mind just a link to this article if Erin has any objections…we’ll leave it up to her then !!Thank you for replying so promptly too…Wendy

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Erin November 19, 2006 at 9:38 am

Link away! Have fun!

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A Woman of Letters November 19, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Thank you, La Bella Donna, for your comments! I do have a question about bras — I usually have a gap between the fabric in the top of the cup of my bra and my body. Does that mean I’m wearing the wrong size or style? I have trouble finding bras (I currently wear a size that isn’t usually sold at the major stores, and have found one line that works somewhat for me at a department store nearby). I have tried balconette bras and find that it feels like, uhm, I’m going to hop out of them. I’ve tried racerback ones, only to find to my dismay that evidently my shoulders are uneven and I didn’t look good. I currently wear a soft-cup with full coverage (I think that’s a good description).

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foodandshoes November 19, 2006 at 7:30 pm

Bras and the idiosyncracies therof! I am a classic hourglass, but I am extremely narrow from side to side. I’m 5’8″, 145 lbs, I have no hips and a 30 in ribcage. I do, however have E/F breasts and that “apple” booty. I suggest Rigby and Peller for larger busted women who have a small ribcage. They are a british company who make beautiful bras that are marvels of engineering. Straps are short enough to never slip down, cups are built for breasts that were human-grown and not those developed in a lab, and they are made with beautiful laces and embroidery. The only caveat is that they are made by the same company that makes La Perla, so they are extremely pricey. $80-$150. If you have a large bust and small ribcage, though, it is worth every penny. When my breasts are “high” I can show off my tiny waist and I don’t look 15 lbs. heavier. http://www.rigbyandpeller.co.uk

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Floridaprincess November 19, 2006 at 9:32 pm

La Belladonna, I do not shop when Iam PMSing anymore. I quit this over 6 yrs ago. I decided this was best for my mental and emotional health. This was the best decision I ever made. I do shopping alone by the way. I dont have anyone to shop with. I do not bring dh with me!!!Thak you for all the info about british bras. I had often wondered if there was something different there. I have 6 british bras. I love them. Next time I go to London Im stocking up. I do not care for american bras.I have been measured in the U.K and in the U.S. They both tell me a different size. LOLI would love to have some bras from Rigby and Peller. Gawd, they so expensive tho. I need to win the lottery to buy bras from them.

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Kelly November 20, 2006 at 3:54 am

OH now I am really confused LaBelladonna. I am not British. A 34 band size creeps up around my neck by the end of the day on the tightest hook and a 36 band size I can pull over my head like a t-shirt on the tightest hook. Ok I went home this morning and remeasured. I am 30 1/3 inches just below the bust (today could be different later :) ) with tape even and snug. Actual bust is a little over 34 uppper bust is 33 1/3. I wore 34B most of my life except when I was pregnant and nursing my daughter. Now, A 32C is snug without ride up and is level across my back. Fabric between the cups does not gap away from my skin and straps are good without digging in… after I make the adjustment you stated earlier about moving them towards the hook. So that they stay up. I am more blessed on the left then on the right.. so if I go down a cup size one fits great the other cup runneth over so to speak. I buy the store brand at Nordstroms.. At this point…. if it fits like it is supposed too.. I guess I wont question why I can not do bra math. :)

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sewinggirlfromtheothersideoftheworld November 20, 2006 at 4:33 am

Belladonna what great advice. I just read the whole bit one what different body types should wear and have come to the conclusion that I am basically an hourglass – shoulders balanced to hips but without the ten inch ratio which sort of makes me rulerish. Add to that short stature and a small-to-average bust. I find that what I look good in also depends on my weight, even the monthly bloats affect whether a garment will look good on me that day.On a skinny day waisted garments are ok as long as the skirt is mid shin length but mostly on me what looks good is garments that skim rather than emphasise the waist and go straight in the skirt. On the shoulder area I can do anything I like because of my strong frame and lack of big ‘ta-tas’. I sometimes feel like a minority amongstthe sewing community but I’m really starting to understand what suits my body. Iam grateful for the wonder of the internet.

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La BellaDonna November 20, 2006 at 8:32 am

Hi, Melanie! Sounds to me as if you are not a Classic Hourglass, in fact – even if, by your measurements, you are. The Classic Hourglass looks like an hourglass – that is, broad through the hip, so that when you see her face-on, she looks X-shaped; narrow through the hips, with a booty, is not a Classic Hourglass, even if the measurements would indicate that you are. See what fun Finding Your Shape is? It’s like our poster who thought she was an Hourglass, because her J-Sized bust measured the same as her hips. Then she saw the size of her shoulders from side to side, compared to the size of her hips from side to side. She turned out to be a Busty Pear. You have a 30 ribcage (an American 34 Bra), and an E/F cup, and no hips. You sound as if you are an Upside-Down Triangle (our “V”-shape) with a nice-sized rearend. A Classic Hourglass, believe me, does NOT have narrow hips. Unless you have really, REALLY narrow shoulders, you sound as if you are larger on top, and taper down to the hips. If one were to look at you from the front, and not the side or the back, would the viewer see your backside? Probably the viewer would see the “V” shape, going down from your significant bosom to your narrow hips. Woman of Letters, if you have a gap between the top of your cup and your breast tissue (you say you have a gap between the top of your cup and “your body” – you do mean the breast itself, right?), then that cup isn’t really the right size/shape (one or both) for you. Does it fit when you’re having your period? Your breasts may expand to fill that gap. In which case, a small pad tucked under the breast on other days would even it out. Instead of a balconette style, you might try a demi-cup, which isn’t exactly the same. (A balconette is a demi-cup, but not all demi-cups are balconettes. Bra math!) I wear a demi-cup because the full cup slices across the tissue; you might try a demi-cup to eliminate the gap. It’s low enough not to slice, but not so low I’ll fall out or bounce out. Or … try another (the next smaller) cup size. Or a different style.Kelly, the instructions are guidelines, at best, and every woman’s body is a little different. What you can usually count on, though, is if the band rides up, you need a smaller band! So you are correct in trying on bras in a 32. I would suggest you buy the bra with a cup size that fits the larger breast, and just slip a pad beneath the smaller one so the top of the cup doesn’t crumple in and look wrinkled under a shirt or sweater; that looks better than one breast nicely contained, and the other squeezing out like toothpaste out of the tube! And again, you did the right thing – if a 34B is almost, but not quite right, going down a band size (to a 32) but up a cup size (to a C), can be just the adjustment needed.For the ladies who can’t afford Rigby and Peller, and who aren’t ultra-tiny through the ribs (30 isn’t ultra-tiny; it’s a 34 bra), do consider Frederick’s; they do offer bras in the 34 DDD range (I’d have to double-check for much larger, though.) And yes, it is really tough, if you are small through the rib, and very large through the bust. Just because your breasts are large, doesn’t mean your ribs are – any more than it means just because your ribs are large, your breasts are! It’s even harder for the ladies who need a 42A bra to find bras that fit right!Ladies, if you sew, or are starting to learn, don’t be afraid to alter your bras! If you haven’t the money for Rigby & Peller, or can’t afford to go buy all new bras, if your bras are at least large enough in the cup, but too big in the band, or if they used to fit, but the band has stretched out, don’t be afraid to stitch a tuck (on each side, to stay balanced) right through the back of the band to make it tighten properly! As long as the cups aren’t too small, you can adjust your bras to suit your own figure. Move your straps, balance an unmatched side with a pad; do what you need to in order to be comfortable and happy.

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foodandshoes November 20, 2006 at 10:26 am

LaBellaDonna, my shoulders are indeed narrow! One cannot underestimate the power of a good bra. I recommend Nordstrom or, if you are ever in NYC, The Town Shop; bra Mecca. They have so many sizes and will let you try on all different makes, models, and sizes. You will see that your size varies from brand to brand, style, and time of the month! The price is worth it; heck, I’m a bartender, but I don’t want to be able to tuck my breasts into my waistband by the time I’m forty!!!townshop.com

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La BellaDonna November 20, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Melanie, English is a wonderful language. You say your hips are non-existent, and your waist is tiny, and your shoulders are narrow. It sounds as if you may, in fact, be a small-framed person. I should ask, how wide are your shoulders in relation to your non-existent hips, as you look at yourself in a mirror? Are they narrower than your hips? As wide as your hips? Wider than your hips? It is possible for them to be quite narrow, in and of themselves, and still be wider than your hips – which would still make you an Upside-Down Triangle. What is your bust/waist/hip difference? It’s possible for your waist to be much smaller than your bust – again, an Upside-Down Triangle. If your shoulders are the same width as your hips, and your hips are not much bigger than your waist (6 inches or less), you’re still going to appear as if you’re an Upside-Down Triangle, since your bust is so big. Yes, Townshop is definitely a mecca to long for, and to visit, if possible; not just for the hard-to-fit, but for anyone who wants whatever bra is best for her shape.

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knitgirl November 21, 2006 at 10:03 am

I work for a software company that is developing new sewing software that is really and truly based on your measurements, and it has been very educational to really see the incredible spectrum women’s bodies come in. It’s too bad that such a small range is considered fashionable at any one time, and the rest of us beat ourselves up for not fitting that “norm”. I am a larger ruler with definite apple tendencies, I’ll call myself an Ida Red.

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chrispy November 21, 2006 at 5:49 pm

Wow Le BelleDonna thanks for the information. I know that I am a classic hourglass with a high bust. I also buy my bras from Fredrick’s since I am a 34 F (DDD). I used to be a 36B in High School but fate laughed and made me keep growing till its time for my ten year and I have huge tracks of land according to my hubby. I keep praying they will stop growing. I have not even had kids so it might get really interesting at that point.Your information will also help me make suggestions for my friends who love how stylish I dress but I am clueless about what they would look good in. I do constantly recommend to them to get a style guide from http://www.missussmartypants.com/ for the price of a cheap pair of jeans. She even will help you classify yourself if you are unsure. I like getting the style guide since it lets me know I have been on the right track and sends me places to buy the right stuff.

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bonnie-ann black November 22, 2006 at 9:51 am

if any of you sew savvy ladies/gents have a suggestion for a good look for an hourglass figure (classic: shoulders equal to hips, 11-12 inch difference between bust and waist, etc)with a long torso — i’d love to hear ‘em. my crotch to shoulder measurement is 71″. a fitted waist does not work for me because the waist is always 3-4 inches above where my waist actually is, which is just above my hips. you can even email me directly, rather than clogging up erin’s comments column. blynchblack_at_yahoo.com. thanks.

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Elly November 26, 2006 at 11:22 am

I have an hourglass figure. It’s a pain when shopping because more high-street stores (in the UK at any rate) assume all women have no bust, no hips or no waist-hip ratio – just because their models do .It’s been a while since I’ve bought off-the-peg that didn’t need altering and I’ve given up trying to find a winter coat that doesn’t make my look like I can walk through walls!I can pull off 1950 or 1890s styles well tho ;o)

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Meretta November 29, 2006 at 4:04 am

Le Belladonna,Please, please, please start your own blog, I loved reading your comments in this one. I have never known what my body type is, but thanks to your comments I think I’m close. My hips are big, waist 9 inches less, small busted (34B) and big shoulders (as in wider than my hips). I decided from you comments that I would be an upside down triangle crossed with an hourglass, and should dress accordingly. This kind of makes sense, my favourite clothes are fitted waists and flared skirts.I really thought I was either ruler or pear, to I guess that’s why I never liked dressing according to my ‘supposed’ bodytype.thanks,mbeeza

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Christina November 29, 2006 at 4:19 pm

If you start your own blog, I would absolutely read it. I always thought I was an hourglass. (at 36C, 30, 41)But reading your post, I took a second , harder look and really, I have wider shoulders than I thought. Which explains why I never like myself in high cut tops since they just make the line of my shoulders even wider. I hourglass it up with tank tops and low-rise jeans, usually. Hmmm…now I know why I’ve been so frustrated with every cute 50′s pattern that has a collar. Cool. Now if I could only figure a better way to compensate for my obscenely long torso…

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Precyse February 10, 2007 at 7:22 pm

Can you tell me what shape I am. I have 40″ shoulders, 37″ bust, 30″ waist and 40″ hips. I have a bit of a tummy due to excess weight and I have a behind. I would like to know what shape I am so I can buy clothes that fit and suit me. Thank you and I have enjoyed reading all the comments. They have really helped.

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Anonymous February 11, 2007 at 10:40 pm

OMYGOSH. this was an incredible post…however, i’m still confused as to how i should be dressing for my body type – i’m doing alright (i wear stylish clothes and all) but i have a hunch i could still be doing better.i would consider myself a very skinny pear with a relatively big bust. i am actually a 30DDD(F)similar to a 34D (i work at victoria’s secret and wear their bras), i have a very defined waist, and i wear about a 4 or a 6 in pants (gap, express, etc). my butt is about average. my shoulders are very bony and small. also throw in the fact that 5’4″ and short-waisted. if i’m not careful, i run the risk of looking two ways: 1) pear-shaped, or 2) blocky.i follow very closely to fashion – but it’s hard to know whether or not to follow a pear’s advice, or if i can get away wearing “hourglassy” clothes. i know it depends on the seams and material, but i haven’t figured out EXACTLY what works so i spend forever in dressing rooms playing around with different things. it’s extremely difficult.is there anyone here who is built similarly to me and can offer advice?

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Anonymous April 1, 2007 at 1:59 am

I realize that this post is pretty dang old, but i am still going to ask in the hopes that this’ll be answered. I have equal measurements in my shoulders and hips which are 36, but then I have a 32 bust and a 26 waist. Am I a pear or a strange ruler-pear hybrid? thanks

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Anonymous April 22, 2007 at 4:33 pm

I am waiting also, lol. Accorind to http://www.myshape.com I am an M shape, and yes I have a flat tush -glad to know my body type exists on others. My measurements also are 32 26 36 , my shoulders measures 38 around.Underbust measurement is 26,over bust 32, I have 4 boobs in size 32 A bra, or spllis on the sides and 32 b’s fit perfectly in the store, when I go home and the fabric stretches, there is some room up at the top, In skirts I wear size 2, In blue jeans size 3 or 26, and dresses I have to try them on, a lot of times a size 2/4 fits in the rear and the top is so baggy without a gel/padded bra. A regular small is always too big, I have to find something in xs or 0/2 to look nice, and not like I’m wearing my mothers top/dress. I want to start buying higher quality tops/blouses in size 2 or xs, that don’t look cheap, or too trendy, but tailored and classy. *I always find pants and skirts on clearance, but never tops in XS/2.

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Caitlan October 7, 2007 at 3:33 am

Vespabelle- Strawberries are a top heavy fruit, and also delicious.

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La BellaDonna June 12, 2008 at 8:13 am

Good things come to those who wait.All you ladies who “know” what your shoulder measurements are, what are you doing?? Are you measuring “around” your shoulders for the measurement in inches? That’s NOT what you need to do, and I do believe I specifically mentioned it in a response to another poster! It’s also why I suggested that you have a photograph taken from behind so that you could see how wide your shoulders are from side to side compared to how wide your hips are from side to side without being distracted by your busts! It is a linear measurement, from side to side, not around! Another way to find out is to tape a piece of wide paper running from your head to your knees; have someone else mark, on the paper, where your shoulders are (one dot, each side) and where the widest part of your hips are, regardless of how high or low those hips are, one dot on each side. Connect the right shoulder dot to the right hip dot by drawing a straight line. Connect the left shoulder dot to the left hip dot by drawing a straight line. You should then either see: parallel lines: || – shoulders and hips the same distance apart; /-shaped lines – shoulders farther apart than hips; or / shaped lines – hips wider apart than shoulders.Anonymous at April 1, 2007 1:59:00 AM (ladies, a name helps!): You have a 32″ bust, a 26″ waist, and 36″ hips. Your hips are 4″ smaller than your bust; unless you have truly broad shoulders (and no, whatever measurement you took for your shoulders isn’t helping), you are, in fact, a classic pear.Anonymous at Apr 22, 2007 4:33:00 PM: Buy your bras in a 32B. Everything should fit properly to start, at least! Stop buying knit cups/stretchy fabric cups, and look for non-stretch cups. If you have absolutely no choice, then either buy new bras, because the old ones no longer are doing their jobs, or make a dart in the cup to take up the slack fabric, so they fit again and support you. I also suggest you try on some bras in a size 30, not a 32; you may find you need a 30C. Your measurements are 32 26 36; your bust is 4″ smaller than your hips. You are a classic pear according to those measurements. No, the measurements “around your shoulders” do not help. If you are truly very broad-shouldered, you may be an hourglass with a little more sand in the bottom than the top. You would still dress as a pear would. I suspect, though, that you are actually a slightly full-busted pear, even though “32″ doesn’t sound big – you have quite a small ribcage, and because bras with a 30 band are hard to find, you’ve been wearing 32s. Do at least try a 30. WITHOUT stretch cups!Anonymous at Feb 11, 2007 11:40:00 PM: Give me some more actual numbers, and I’ll do what I can to help; bust, waist, and hip. Also, if possible, have someone photograph you from behind, to see how broad your shoulders are FROM SIDE TO SIDE in relation to your hips (unless you already know you are very narrow-shouldered). “Small waist” and “size 6 in pants” are both emotional and relative sizes; numbers let me help you. If you “run the risk of looking pear-shaped”, you may very well be a very bosomy pear. A 34D suggests a bust measurement of approximately 38″, and size 6 pants suggest smallish hips, but it’s all just “suggestions”. And yes, being short-waisted CAN easily make you look blocky, if you’re not careful.Precyse, you know by now your “shoulder measurements” didn’t help much. By measurement alone, your 37 bust, 30 waist and 40 hips would indicate you are a pear; however, it sounds as if you may have more of you behind than from side to side, so you have slightly more/different flexibility than a standard pear. You need to double-check the hems on the skirts and dresses you buy off the rack, if you have a substantial rear end, because they will be shorter in the back than in the front and side. Just shorten the front and side hems to match! If you choose to wear a straight skirt – and unlike classic pears, if the weight is in the butt, it’s possible to look just fine in a straight skirt – make sure it’s big enough to fit that rear comfortably, and take in the waist. Don’t jam a big backside into a skirt that “fits at the waist”! It will look horrible, and wreck the skirt.Christina, I would say you sound like an hourglass with a little more sand in the bottom. 36C is usually a 39″ bust, which is smaller than 41″ hips; this would normally say “pear” to us, but you say you have broad shoulders. If they are as broad as your hips, that moves you into the “hourglass with a little more sand in the bottom” category. It’s possible, too, that you may have very square shoulders – which is DIFFERENT from having “very broad” shoulders! It is possible to have broad, but sloping shoulders; it is possible to have narrow, but very square, shoulders.More answers will follow!*Ladies, I do beg of you; if at all possible, have someone take your photographs from the back, in clothes that fit you snugly, so you can really see where your shoulders and hips are! Sleeveless would be great, but anything, really, would help – except measuring around your shoulders. That doesn’t help.

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Anne June 25, 2008 at 9:41 am

This is incredibly helpful, thanks! I especially like the bit about every silhouette being in vogue at some point.

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Bonnie November 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

La Bella Donna, please type my body (if it’s not too late)!I am under the impression that I am a skinny flat-chested hourglass. I have curvy, but fairly narrow, hips and thighs; my shoulders are broad and square, and my waist is tiny. Unless I wear form-fitting clothes that emphasize my waist and butt, I look rather masculine.Shoulders are 15″ across the front. Hips are 12″ across the front. From the front, my shoulders are noticably wider than my hips. From behind though, I look quite balenced as I have full round hips and a generous butt. I have very slim arms and legs, and no fat at all in the saddlebag area. My legs are thnner than average compared to my hips (it’s hard to find pants that fit my hips without gaping in the waist and bagging in the thigh).My bust is 31.5″, underbust just barely 27″ (I am an AA/nearly A cup), waist is 23″, hips almost 35″ at the widest.

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Bonnie November 28, 2008 at 10:39 am

Oh, and I have a flat stomach. When I gain weight I gain it fairly evenly (I recently gained 12 lbs – went from 29-23-32.5 to current measurements) and gained 1″ in upper arms and 2″ in thighs. But I always have the most muscle and fat in my hips and legs.

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Anonymous January 3, 2009 at 3:49 am

AS A MATTER OF FACT YOU NEED TO GET YOUR INFO RIGHT. AN HOURGLASS HAS BROAD SHOULDERS BUT IT IS THE BUST AND HIPS THAT ARE EQUAL, NOT SHOULDERS. HENCE 36, 26, 36.

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Jean August 7, 2009 at 11:31 am

Well, I always knew I was an hourglass, but that certainly explains why I look so awful in coats! (I was never quite dumb enough to try anything A-line.) I loved the princess dresses of the 80s, those were great…I only just found this, but thanks for the great explanations.

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Anonymous January 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I have been confused for a long time about what type of body I have. Here are my measurements, hopefully someone can shed some light on my confusion:Shoulder: 39Bust: 36Waist: 28Hips:36PS. I am slightly over the ideal weight.I guess I could argue for a hourglass with broad shoulders? Or a inverted triangle with larger hips? Or just a plain apple?

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