Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Love Your Shapes... [KNOW YOURSELF]

Tactfully said a husband to his wife as she bemoaned pregnancy weight gain. I assure you that it was not my husband (because if he did I wouldn't proclaim it publicly, even under false auspices.) Those of you who know who I am talking about, please don't post it in the comment section unless you are the said party and want to go public.

That was my humorous intro into the touchy topic that I actually want to talk about today: body shape, or type.  I would venture to say that most of us ladies have body issues; we don't like how big, small, uneven, short, tall, etc, etc, this or that part of us is. Too fat. Too thin. You name it, if someone has it, someone has a "problem" with it. I know we are very hard on ourselves for a variety of reasons, the images we are barraged with daily not being the least of these, but ladies, let's get over it. Let's be honest with ourselves, when you meet someone new do you take them in as a whole, or do you think, "What a pretty picture, except for those hips!"?  No, we don't deal with others in the latter way, so we need to stop doing that to ourselves.

I have a concept about how we perceive others; its called "critical mass." I didn't invent the idea of critical mass, but the physicists who did were probably too busy doing more important things than to think about applying it to personal appearance. According to my version of this idea, one's overall presence is the total of all physical aspects and one's attitude. If a majority portion of these elements are positive, the world at large will find you attractive and appealing, despite the elements you consider your flaws. It is empowering to realize that this is how others perceive us as well. We can control our attitude, we all have positive physical aspects to work with, and the intelligence to minimize (or maximize) those that we consider less than ideal. You may not make a career as a runway model, but you will be beautiful. We have already talked about using our best colors, now on to the more sensitive subject of body shape.  Let's figure out what we are working with, love it (or at least accept it), and look great in it.

Like color analysis, body type determination can be more or less complicated, as can the clothing / style recommendations for this or that body type. Now, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel - there are a lot of resources out there. Primarily, I want to give you the basic facts about body type, the basic measurement method to determine your body type, and the impetus to pursue further knowledge on how to look your best based on this reality.

So here is the rundown on body type. Most sources agree that the basic body types can be described using the terms Hourglass, Box (or Rectangle), Pear, and Apple.  Body type is not based on size, but on proportionality of bust, waist, and hip, and patterns of weight loss and gain.  Once a person passes through puberty, body type is basically set for life, though pregnant and post-partem women may find themselves temporarily in a different category. A quick summary:

Hourglass: This body type has bust and hip measurements that are equal or nearly so, with a defined waist. Those of this type tend to gain and lose weigh proportionally throughout the body.

Box (or Rectangle): This body type has bust, waist and hip measurements that are nearly equal, giving the appearance of no clearly defined waist. Weight gain may occur first in the torso or the lower body.

Pear: This body type is usually characterized by a slender upper body and the hips measure greater than the waist and bust. Weight is gained first and lost last in the bottom, hips and thighs.

Apple: This body type is characterized by broad shoulders and larger chest, with a smaller measurement in the hips. Weight is gained first and lost last above the waist.

You may be able to determine your body type just by looking in the mirror, or it may be hard to be objective so there is a scientific formula. All you need is a tape measure. Follow these steps:

Measure your bust at the widest point, going around your back and not drawing the tape too tightly.

Measure your waist at its most narrow point.

Measure your hips at the widest point, again not drawing the tape too tightly.

Enter your measurements into this calculator

This "calculator" will give a name to your measurements. There are multiple such calculators on the web, and they may have slightly different parameters for each body shape (e.g. some require a difference of 9 inches or less between hip and waist measurements to qualify as a Rectangle, on others it's 8 inches). Keep in mind the weight gain/loss patterns and how your shape appears in the mirror. All these things taken together should give you a good idea of your basic shape. Now that you know your body type, look here, and here, and here for tips on how to dress your particular type. As you might discover, some suggestions seem contradictory, so I suggest to not follow them dogmatically, but use them as a starting point to find your best looks. 

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