Using the body shape to advise on dressing is a widespread practice among image consultants. Even the fashion media uses body shape in their articles to inform and to give guidance on picking the right clothes.
People are now so tuned to the body shape approach that every one is eager to find out what their shape is. Fueled by its popularity, it becomes a convenient and conventional way for the image professionals to work with.
However, it is not always effective in addressing individual’s dressing needs.
First of all, there is no one person who adequately fits into any of the shape. Since we are not created out of mould, every one’s form is unique. At best, this approach is an approximation. If we are not mindful, we could get it wrong.
Second, when we focus too narrowly on body shapes, we not only limit a person’s options in dressing, we also overlook some of the real body challenges that the individual faces as well.
For example, a lady whose hips are wider than her shoulders with well-defined waist is ‘typed’ as having a pear body shape. In theory, ‘pears’ are advised to play down on the bottom and show off the shoulders and arms. However, not all ‘pears’ are created equal. What if, instead of a heavy round bottom, this lady has the weight distributed between her bottom, hip and thigh? What if this lady has no issues in showing off her curves but is rather concerned with her flabby arms? In this case, a pencil skirt in dark colour could help to show off her curves and accentuate her waist. She would also want to avoid sleeveless and strapless tops that are sometimes recommended for ‘pears’.
Lastly, getting too caught up with our body shape could have an adverse effect on how we feel about ourselves. We all know that the hourglass (for women) is the yardstick of the perfect body shape. Marilyn Monroe was widely considered to have the perfect hourglass figure with measurements of 36-24-34. So, when some of us realised that we fall short of the ideal hourglass, we feel out of shape. Worse yet, some of us have succumbed to the pressure and let it become a body image issue. This is not healthy to say the least.
Instead, what we want to take note of when it comes to dressing our body is to know what features and assets we have, what challenges and issues we want to address. Most of all, we want to be comfortable in our own skin and shape first. We need to recognise that the standards set out by the popular media and pop culture is unrealistic and it would be naïve to compare ourselves with it.