Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are you a Ruler or an Apple?

(from left to right) Hourglass, Ruler, Upside-down Triangle, Pear figure, and Apple

I found this article months ago on the website. The original text came from comments by La BellaDonna. The comments and descriptions were so interesting to read, because they take the notion of body shape a step further and help explain how body shapes can be enhanced, visually modified, and adapted to whatever fashion is currently in style, or whatever era of pattern a sewer most likes to follow. These comments and ideas have come in handy during my recent sewing pursuits. I wanted to share, because I feel that every woman should become familiar with her body shape, and the most ideal ways to cloth it, in order to feel best about herself.

I also posted the following illustration to help shed some light on the body shapes. Look at the picture and identify your own shape first, before reading on. This will help you recognize the tips and tricks for your own figure.

As La Bella Donna says:
... Body shapes can use illusion to achieve other proportions when they are in vogue. Consider:

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.
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 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.”

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 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.
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. Mostly, you will manage to create an overall look of Largeness without Shapeliness.
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).
I think I'm an inverted triangle with Red Delicious tendencies ... I love the 1950's New Look hourglass shape, with full circle skirts and fitted waists. So, the good news is that my genetics allow me to simulate this look, with some help of extra fabric petticoating around the hips. The weird thing is that I am in no way attracted to the inverted triangle silhouette to which my body is most suited. This dress is a good example of that look, but I immediately want to add a full circle skirt onto the bodice (I actually bought this pattern, so we will see what happens).

Anyhow, I hope my re-publish of this information offers some new and helpful information for all the ladies out there looking for flattering clothing. Good luck!


ohmypuddin said...

I think I'm a Ruler and a Pear. I don't know! It's like trying to figure out your face shape, you need someone else to tell you.

Carla said...

A lifelong ruler here — that is, unless I gain more weight, in which case I will definitely be an apple. My rulerish-ness comes straight from my mother and her mother. Shoulders, bust, waist, hips — they are in almost a straight line. Sigh.

Carmen said...

I think I'm an hourglass that's slowly becoming pearlike. When I mentioned this to my mom she said something about how it's my body preparing for children, but she really wants grandchildren so I think she's just projecting.

Kate said...

Haha Carmen, that is too funny! I sometimes feel like my body is preparing for pregnancy by stretching out my stomach into a maternity-like shape... but that could just be the cheesecake I ate last week!

Anonymous said...

Lauren, you are not really likely to be a Ruler AND a Pear. Have someone take a picture of you from the back; are your shoulders the same width as your hips? They ARE? Okay, you might be a ruler. Is your waist 6 inches or less smaller than your bust and your hips? Sounds like Ruler to me. On the other hand, are your hips wider than your shoulders? Pear. Plain and simple. "But--" Pear. On the OTHER other hand: Shoulders and hips LOOK the same; waist is not very small; but the hip MEASUREMENT is sure wider than my bust measurement i--- WAIT. WHAT'S THAT THING FOLLOWING ME? It's big, and round, and the guys are watching it and - oops. It's Nature's Bustle! If your shoulders and hips appear the same width from side to side (and NO, you DO NOT MEASURE AROUND YOUR SHOULDERS TO SEE "HOW WIDE" THEY ARE!!!! IT'S A HORIZONTAL PERCEPTION!), but your hip measurements measure as if you're hippy - but you're not, you have a nice rounded backside, you are likely to be a Ruler With A Round Rump. Measurements, of course, are always helpful. But one is seldom a Ruler/Pear cross; shoulders and bust smaller than the hips is usually what we call a "Pear" - but it does have to do with the SHOULDER WIDTH more than the bust measurement.

Carla, I am sorry if it is not what you want for yourself - but there are things you can do physically to modify your build (I'm talking sensible workouts with weights, or dance, depending on what you'd like to pack on in terms of curves). You also have THE EASIEST, BESTEST shape to modify into ANY of the historical shapes. You can rock ANY of the fabulous slinky 20s fashions, you Erte pinup girl, you; you can wear all the others, too: you can create that 30s/40s V-shape, and you can even create the 50s Pear if you want, as well as the Hourglass. You can also wear the clothes of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and Oughts. You are limited only by your imagination. Suck back that sigh, dear. You can be the Mistress of Illusions, if you so choose, because unto your shape alone is all choice given.

Carmen, Nature doesn't have to be Destiny, unless you want to let it. First, have someone take a photograph from the back to see where you really are in Pear/Hourglass terms. And then decide what you want to do about it. Hips, particularly, CAN be reshaped by exercise; over the past six months, I have personally watched an athletic runner at my gym, who was an Hourglass, slip into an unmistakeable Pear, because she wasn't running the way she used to. I have personally shifted my Upper Hip/Lower Hip distribution with exercise (once I did it so fast I was lopsided; the fat that makes the shape had just kind of ... slipped). And I do think our Kate is a V with, as she says, strong Red Delicious tendencies.

Kate said...

Oh what delightful comments. I laughed and laughed out loud at the description of "nature's bustle." I long for one, but figure I compensate with my ample frontside. :)

Knowing both Lauren and Carmen personally, I believe they both have misjudged their own figures. I can't speak to Carla, but La Belladonna you make a ruler sound like the ultimate figure. We should all be jealous.

Carmen, I would peg you as a ruler, maybe even a slight inverted triangle. To me, you always seem to have narrow hips, and a petite rear end. You do have a nice slim waist. I think you would look stunning in a pencil skirt, and you pull off the hourglass look well. That dress you wore to your rehearsal dinner is a perfect example!

Lauren, I would bet you to be a ruler or an minimal hourglass, if not a barely-there inverted triangle. I think visually your shoulders appear as broad, if not broader, than your hips. Plus, the fact that you look SOOOOOO fabulous in wrap dress, wide legged pants, and that cute brown strapless and full skirted dress you have been wearing all summer is a dead giveaway that you are not a pear at all. Otherwise your bottom would look huge in those style, and it doesn't.

Thanks for the interactive comments, all of you! It means a lot to me to have this conversation.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to say one figure type is more to be desired than another; I think each has its merits and beauties, regardless of how difficult one's own may be to shop or sew for during this current era.

However, the Ruler is certainly the most versatile, IMO, in terms of "most able to look like Something Else" - which is important, really, only in terms of wanting to look like Something Else. The Hourglass, as such, is the one that's pretty much stuck; she has to wear garments that are fitted to her figure, or she will look like The Blob, and that is NOT the 50s movie icon most of us hope to emulate.

I will say that IF Lauren is a Pear, she is absolutely wearing the right clothes for her Pear-shape - the wrap dress, the widelegged trousers, the strapless dress with the full skirt- are ABSOLUTELY what she (and any other Pears out there) should be wearing. It is possible that she looks so good because she's A Pear Who's Aware - aware and a-wearin' the right clothes for her figure. Those are the very items I would have recommended to her, and the very fact that she looks amazing in them indicates she made the right choices.

Is Carmen's waist SMALL, as in: quite tiny compared to her hips and bust (meaning, in turn, that they look LARGE compared to her waist), or is her waist simply very trim, as in, not particularly large, but neither is she? Generally the Ruler doesn't have a significantly indented waist - but it's possible for the V-shaped figure, of course, to have a small waist. Generally, however, even if her waist is trim, it's large compared to the size she needs to fit her hips. The significantly V-shaped woman may find that commercial skirts and trousers, if they fit her hips, tend to be too tight at the waist; if she buys them to fit her waist, they may actually be a size or two too big through the hips, and she may have "fins" of fabric at the sides where her hips do not fill out the material. Sars of Tomato Nation is a classic V-shape; she wears a size 14 top, size 10/12 waist, and size 8 hips; she's listed her sizes a couple of times, and it's clear that whether she's the size 12Bust/8Waist/6Hips she was a few years back, or the 14Bust/10-12Waist/8Hips she is now, she's a V-shape, and she's likely to stay that way.

Deidre said...

I am a ruler,I have no hips and small breast. but I think I have a nice body, especially my torso it is perfectedly curved.