How to Get a Flatter Figure No Matter Your Shape

It's a common dilemma—you're a little heavier than you'd like to be, and you fully intend to lose five or 10 pounds, like, five minutes ago, but in the meantime, nothing fits quite right.

And while you might look at that as motivation to shed the extra weight, the truth is that the thing it's really shredding is your self confidence.

Think about it. It really doesn't matter what size you are; pants that barely button or a top that squeezes your arms will never make you feel good about yourself.

You're the same awesome person inside whether you're currently a size 4, 14 or 24, so don't you want to dress in a way that makes you feel awesome, too?

As a girl who's never in her life been particularly thin (I've been fit, I've been athletic, I've been muscular, but I've never had the kind of body that can carry off any of the latest trends), I've picked up quite a few tips for flattering the figure I'm working with at any given moment, and, you know, I'm a giver.

So let's talk fashion! First things first, let's figure out your body type. If you're not sure where you fall, this article and this article will be really helpful. And remember, this is only meant to give you a starting point; if you have an outfit that makes you feel amazing, I'll bet $100 that you look amazing, too!

Dress: Old Navy | Cardigan and Belt: anthropologie

If your bottom is a little larger than your top half, you’re considered a pear. Think of generous A-line and full skirts that skim loosely around your hips, and keep things fitted (but not necessarily tight!) on top. An empire waist (where the waistline is slightly below the bust) can be really flattering, but watch the fabric; if it’s heavy and clingy (like jersey and some cottons), it can actually accentuate the difference in size between your shoulders and hips.

When it comes to pants, you also want to follow the “skimming” rule—go with a straight-ish cut in a size that truly fits your largest area (like, maybe, your booty and hips), and get the waist altered.

If you’re wearing a sweater or loose/bulky shirt, play around with belts over the top. Try a wider belt with a thicker fabric and a skinny belt with something light and airy, and try wearing it higher (or lower) than you would normally wear it; you might be pleasantly surprised at the effect. And while we’re talking about tops, don’t shy away from tops with embellishment, like ruffles or a fun collar.

Some other accessories you should become very friendly with: scarves and statement necklaces. This will help balance out your proportions (plus, you know, they’re pretty!).


Top: JC Penney | Skirt: J.Crew

Those lovely lady lumps might sound awesome when Fergie’s singing about them, but in reality, they can pose the same problems as a big booty—proportion. Your instinct might be to cover up your top half with something loose and show off your thinner bottom half with some super skinny jeans and some killer heels, but be careful; if not done correctly, this can be a perfect recipe for the dreaded ice-cream-cone effect.

Remember how I said pear shapes should wear clothes that skim their “problem” areas? Same goes for you; you want to look for tops that fit the larger areas, whether that’s your bust or your shoulders or your arms, but don’t pull or—heaven forbid—gape. V-neck shirts will help elongate your top half (which is a good thing!), while a boatneck style will widen your top (not a good thing).

On the bottom, you can definitely get away with pencil skirts and skinny jeans so long as your top isn’t too billowy. If you have a long, flowing top you’re dying to wear, try belting it (yes, this is good advice for pretty much all shapes) to see if it shaves off a few visual pounds. Think about it—something hanging straight down from your bust is going to make you look like you’re that size all the way down. If your waist is much smaller than that, why not show it off? Dresses and skirts with an A-line or fuller skirt will give the illusion of an hour-glass figure, so long as you make sure the waist nips in enough to truly create that line.

Oh, and boots are your ally in the fight against looking like an ice cream cone. Pairing them with those skinny jeans or leggings you can’t quit will help balance those proportions…so long as you don’t go with something totally oversized on the top. No matter how bad-ass the boots, there’s only so much they can do.

Top: Old Navy | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Blazer: Gap

If you tend to carry your weight through the middle and don’t have a very defined waistline, that’s considered an apple shape. Right now, many of the most on-trend looks are really flattering for this body type, so, you’re in luck!

Whether you’re large- or small-breasted, make sure you start with a good bra; lifting your breasts away from your middle will help create the definition you’re looking for. From there, seek out tops with ruffles, cowl necks or other details that draw the eye upward. Some of the flowy tops that are so big right now can be great for camouflaging your tummy, but also try on various tailored jackets and tops; ruching and gathers can be incredibly helpful in defining a waist.

On the bottom, beware of items with a low rise; a higher rise can help reign in the belly, but a low rise can have just the opposite effect. A bit of volume can be a good thing if you’ve created a defined waistline with a ruched top or a belt, but think of flat fronted and straight or a gradual A-line rather than pleated pants that taper, which will only accentuate a rounder middle.

Straight body types have a couple of options. If you’re on the slim side and want to play up your slight build, opting for higher necklines and straighter fits (think 60s-style shift dresses and tunics) will be gorgeous on you. But, if you’re looking to create a curvier silhouette, there’s plenty you can do.

First, look at where you can add volume. Ruffles, scarves, statement necklaces, embellished necklines—these are all fun and easy ways to add more “weight” to your bust area. Flouncy and flowing skirts will do the same for your bottom half (in the most flattering way, of course). And, you can probably guess what I’m going to say next: Put a belt on it! A belt is pretty much the best way to create the figure you want, so cinch one up around the smallest part of your waist and see what happens. Seriously.

Dress: Banana Republic | Belt: Urban Outfitters

Many would consider you the lucky one of the group, but I know you face challenges, too. Hourglass body types have shoulders and hips that are similar in size, have a defined waist, and are generally curvy, often with a large chest. Like our top-heavy ladies, you have to be careful about wearing anything too billowy or tops that hang directly down from your bust; if they’re tailored, they can be killer, but if they’re too baggy you can easily add 10 to 20 pounds to your frame.

Can you guess who your best friend should be? The belt. You’ve got a little waist, so show it off! Tops with a scoop or v-neck will help create length on your body, which is always slimming but especially good for those who are quite busty. Fabrics that drape and hug your body will work better for your body type than many others, although you still want to make sure the fit skims you and isn’t so tight that it’s pulling, which might mean shopping for clothes that fit your curves and tailoring them in at the waist.

Your other best friend? The wrap dress. While this style is designed to be good on a wide variety of shapes and sizes due to its adjustable nature, honey, it was truly made for you. Rock it.

What body type are you? What are a few of your favorite looks? Do tell! —Kristen