The Ultimate Plus Size Guide to Dressing For Your Body Shape

Posted by Jen Anderson on

The Ultimate Plus Size Guide to Dressing For Your Body Shape

Dressing for your body shape influences how confident and comfortable you are. It's also the gateway to really enjoying your clothes. I've written about this subject a lot, and since it's so important I decided to collect it all in one place. I'm including a lot of links to other posts so you don't have to scroll past loads of things that don't apply to you.

Why Dressing For Your Body Shape Matters

If you don't keep your body's natural shape in mind, your clothes will be too tight in some places and too loose in others. You'll spend all day adjusting your clothing. If you do dress according to your body shape, you can forget about what you're wearing and go about being your amazing self. 

Once upon a time not that long ago, everyone's clothing was custom made either by a professional like a tailor or seamstress, or at home. So clothes just fit better. But made to measure isn't a complete solution - as an experiment, I once ordered a made-to-measure dress with a silhouette that doesn't usually work for me. Despite fitting my measurements, the defined waist rides up a bit because the seams just aren't where my body needs them to be.

For a deeper dive:

Why Does Body Shape Matter?

Why Don't Clothes Fit Me Properly?

woman wearing a black maxi tank dress

What Dressing For Your Body Shape Actually Means

It's not a bunch of rules designed to hide your perceived figure flaws. It's identifying the styles that give your body the room to move and breathe that every body needs. We want clothes that work with our bodies instead of fighting them.

What Shape Is Your Body?

Body shape categories are ridiculously confusing. They're meant to be convenient, but I own style guides that divide women's bodies into dozens of shapes. In theory, once you figure out which one applies to you, you can just follow the guidelines in that one section. In reality, you'll never be quite sure if you're a cello or a vase, so you'll just give up.

I tend to refer to the main 5 body shapes - Pear/Triangle, Apple/Oval, Hourglass, Rectangle, and Inverted Triangle, but we're all combinations of those, plus we have to consider the length of our waists as well as our overall height. The 5 classics refer to the relative width of our shoulders, waist, and hips.

So instead of thinking, "I am a pear and therefore articles about being pear shaped apply to me 100%," think, "Some pear shape tips apply to me." Instead of, "I can't wear that because of my body shape," think, "That style isn't great for me."

woman wearing a black a-line dress

Now you need to do some work.

Figure out which shapes you are, and come on back:

Can I Be More Than One Body Shape? (Yes. Yes, you can.)

What Plus Size Body Shape Am I?

Most of us are a little bit apple, so: 

Style Tips For Apple Shaped Women

More Style Tips For Oval Shaped Plus Size Women

40% of women are at least partially pear shaped, so:

Style Tips For Pear Shaped Women

More Style Tips For Plus Size Triangle Shaped Women

8% of women are at least partially hourglass shaped, so:

Style Tips For Hourglass Shaped Women

You may be inverted triangle shaped thanks to your shoulders or your chest:

Style Tips For Inverted Triangle Shaped Women

More Style Tips For Plus Size Inverted Triangle Shaped Women

You may have a rectangle shaped body:

Style Tips For Rectangle Shaped Women

More Style Tips For Plus Size Rectangle Shaped Women

Height is a factor for all of us. Petite means 5'3" and under, tall means 5'8" and over.

Petite Plus Size Shopping Tips

Tall Plus Size Shopping Tips

woman wearing a navy blue dress

Waist length can completely negate any height-based guidelines. You can be tall and so long-waisted that petite pants are the right length for you. Or petite height but so short waisted that that you need regular length pants.

First, bend to the side - that spot where your body creases if your natural waist. Next, put one hand on your torso right below your bust. Then place your other hand below it.

If you have two hand widths between your bust and natural waist, you have a balanced waist. If there are more than two hand widths between your bust and waist, you're long waisted. Less and you're short waisted.

Shopping Tips For Long Waisted Plus Size Women

Shopping Tips For Short Waisted Plus Size Women 

Some of us have lipadema:

How To Dress When Your Plus Size Arms Are Extra Plus

And some of us have extra-bodacious lower halves:

Style Tips For When You Wear Different Sizes On The Top And Bottom

Style Tips For The Bootylicious

The Ultimate Goal

Figure all this out and you'll end up with a wardrobe that you love. But even more importantly (yes, there are things more important than fashion), I want to see that your body is perfectly normal. I can tell you that there's absolutely nothing wrong with your body shape until I'm cerulean in the face, but analyzing the situation yourself will teach you that I'm right.

Check out our other posts about plus size style.


Hi Kathy,
Thanks for commenting. I think you might be an apple pear. Some of the posts that I link to here can help you figure it out, or you can call us at 818-223-8853 and Leslie can help you figure it out.

—Jen anderson,

I really enjoy your articles. Especially the way you drive home the point that there is nothing wrong with any body shape.
I’m really confused about my body shape since I don’t fit any category. I would probably be hourglass but my tummy isn’t small enough. I could maybe be apple but my upper body isn’t small. I could be pear but I’m too heavy in the hip and thigh. Ugh!
Any suggestions?


Your articles are great! Full of really helpful information.
I am 60 years old, and no matter how hard I have tried I have never felt comfortable, or confident in anything I have worn outside of my Hospital scrubs while I worked.
I am plus sized, and scrubs don’t really matter when you’re working in surgery.
I no longer work as I am disabled, I have a rare form of Cancer, and will probably spend what’s left of my life never wearing a single outfit that either fits me, or makes me feel confident.
I may just be the square peg who never fits .
Who knows? Maybe if I had your article, and it’s very detailed breakdown years ago when I was younger, not so tired, maybe I would have had better results.


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