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Flatter your Figure
Flatter Your Figure

by Aysha Griffi

Accentuate the Positive This Season

The holidays have arrived, and with them, invitations to parties near and far. Wherever you are this season, you’ll need several outfits that look great and work at various events. The key to looking your best starts with understanding which type of clothing flatters your body type, and balances your upper and lower body.

As with everything in life, you want to maximize the positive and minimize the negative, drawing attention to your best assets. Your holiday travel wardrobe should be flexible, easy-care and flattering. TravelSmith offers a wide range of adaptable styles—for formal events, casual gatherings and everything in between.

Remember: No body type is ideal. Each female shape has its unique style attributes and challenges. Knowing which type of clothing enhances your body type will help you select and enjoy a wardrobe that makes you look and feel good.

Here, we’ve compiled tips for selecting clothes that balance and enhance each body type.

Bigger on Top

While this is the least common body type found among women, it is the most common type seen on designer catwalks. You have many options when it comes to holiday dressing, but clothes that define your waist and soften your shoulders will flatter your shape the most.

  • De-emphasize a larger bust with details like trimmed pockets or embroidery lower in the figure.
  • Define your waist with tailored shirts, jackets with waist belts, ties, or ribbons, and jackets of any length as long as they are fitted to your waist and do not gap at the bust.
  • Soften your shoulders with dropped shoulder points, like raglan sleeves and shoulder slits.
  • Add shape with bias cut, tunic and shift style dresses.
  • Avoid stiff fabrics that have no stretch, as well as styles that exaggerate the width of your shoulders, such as halter necks, puffed sleeves, boatnecks and strapless tops.
  • Your slim hips give you tremendous choice when it comes to pants—try to balance your top with wider legs and softer, flowing fabrics.
  • Add shape and curve to your body by choosing fuller, A-line, knee-length skirts with contoured waistbands and patch pockets on front or back.
  • Avoid overly narrow silhouettes and pencil skirts if you are busty—they will emphasize your broad shoulders, making you look top heavy.

Bigger on the Bottom

Flattering clothes for this body shape—the most common for females—de-emphasize your bottom, elongate your legs and draw attention upward to your best assets: waistline, upper body, shoulders and arms.

  • Emphasize your upper body with wide collars, and details such as ruffles and embroidery. V-necks and sweetheart necklines with longer sleeves add width at the shoulder.
  • Show off your torso with slim-fitting tops, cardigans and button-down shirts, with strongly defined shoulder lines.
  • Play up your arms and shoulders with strapless or sleeveless tops and dresses.
  • Layer to create a visual balance.
  • Accessorize lavishly with necklaces, earrings, hair clips, and belts. If you’re short-waisted, wear your belt lower.
  • Avoid tops that finish straight across your bottom or thighs.
  • Choose simple and structured pants, boot cut or flared-leg, and skirts that skim the contour of the thigh.
  • Elongate your legs with pants that skim the ground. (appropriate height-heel required).
  • Choose knee-length shorts that hang straight down from the thigh (like culottes).
  • Look your best in knee-length, A-line skirts and dresses (fitted at the top, flared at the bottom). If you are tall, try ankle-length, A-line styles.
  • Slim down curves by wearing heels, especially sling-backs, peep-toe pumps and long boots.
  • Avoid straight dresses that tighten at the hips, straight and tapered-leg pants, cargo pockets, waistband detailing, elastic, side pockets, pleats and drawstrings.

Straight Torso

This well-proportioned, straight body type challenges you to define your waist and create curvature on both top and bottom.

  • Elongate the upper body with necklines that fall below the collarbone.
  • Emphasize the bust line with breast pockets, front panel detail, pleating and wrap tops layered underneath.
  • Add shape with blouson tops or wear a tee or shirt with a belt slung low on your waist.
  • Lengthen the torso with a longer jacket. Tailored and belted coats and jackets of any length provide more shape and definition.
  • Enjoy the fact that yours is the only body shape that can wear a shift dress and look equally good in bias-cut dresses that fall just below the knee.
  • Avoid boxy styles, belts and pleated fabrics at the waistline.
  • Broaden the lower half of the body with detailing on skirts and pants. Choose cargo-pocket pants of any length for casual wear.
  • Wear jeans of any style, shape and length with any amount of detailing.
  • Tuck a shirt into your pants or skirt and use an eye-catching belt to emphasize your waist.
  • Create curves with a pencil skirt that falls just below the knee. Add bulk with bias and A-line skirts, either knee-length or calf-length.
  • Enjoy dresses with any skirt styling, shape and fabric, but pay attention to the top half of the dress.
  • Avoid ultra low-rise pants and skirts.


With a balance between top and bottom and a well-defined waist, your challenge is to create a sense of height and slimming to avoid looking bigger.

  • Outline your shape with clothes that skim your body and draw attention to your focal points.
  • Shape your shoulders for a more-elegant look with shirts and tops that have a defined shoulder line.
  • Elongate the leg and slim down the midsection with tops and jackets at hipbone length.
  • Add style and sophistication with soft, neutral colors.
  • Invest in tailoring for extra adjustment.
  • Avoid pleated and tapered bottoms and shapeless clothes.

Full Figured

With a little extra in the middle, consider how to balance the upper part of your body, define your curves and de-emphasize your rounder midriff.

  • Distract attention from your torso with tops that have fairly low necklines (V-neck) and lots of sleeve detailing.
  • Disguise your midriff by layering stretch-wrap tops over fine knits, creating a “V- shape.” Knits and woven stretch fabrics are best.
  • Simulate an hourglass look with a short, structured jacket that buttons below the bust line and finishes at the top of your hips.
  • Formalize your most-flattering look with a tailored long coat or jacket worn over a knee-length skirt and layered knit-top combination.
  • Avoid belted and double-breasted styles, crop tops, puffy sleeves, skin-tight knits and tucking in your tops.
  • Keep your pants and skirts simple and your waistline as flat as possible.
  • Emphasize your waistline with A-line, bias-cut and wrap-knit skirts that fall to the knee or calf.
  • Deflect the eye from the widest part of your body with asymmetrical and handkerchief hemlines.
  • Add volume to your bottom half with a flat-front, semi-low rise and boot-cut or flared pants with front and back pockets.
  • Conceal your tummy with long tees by pairing them with a V-neck sweater, or shrug or cropped jacket.
  • Avoid tapered and pleated pants, slim and tiered skirts, dresses made of delicate fabrics, tight clothes, belts and waistline detailing.

Aysha Griffin, a pear-shaped travel/business writer and owner of, recently road tested TravelSmith clothes (2 weeks, one carry on) to London and Paris. She can be reached at

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