Best shapes for your body

All Sizes

When making the momentous decision as to what shape you should choose for your wedding gown, you have to look seriously at yourself in the mirror and be completely honest.

If you choose a gown that really suits your figure, that’s what makes the difference between perfection and ordinary, it doesn’t matter how elaborate or simple the fabric or detail is. If you follow these guidelines, subject to any particular religious requirements, it will give you a clear idea of what you should be looking for.

These are only guidelines however – not rules. Like everything there are exceptions so if you fall in love with a particular design that doesn’t follow these guidelines don’t worry, but to be safe, seek a second opinion from someone you trust (not necessarily the person selling the gown).




Here are some simple guidelines to follow for your particular figure types.


The Common Pear

What’s Best

If your hips are the widest part of you then your shape is the classic pear. It is the most common shape for woman and the easiest to disguise. By drawing attention to the upper torso, it diverts from the hips.   A decorative neckline or strong shoulder line can turn your inverted pear shape upside down. A boat neckline or a deep V neck that sits low on the shoulder will create width at the neckline to counteract the width of the hips. You also have the choice of having elaborate things on your shoulders, which includes decorative laces or beading.   The best fabric would be one that flows around your curves but does not cling, your choice of material is very important below the waist as this will make or break. Emphasising a slim torso and waist with a deep V shaped bodice creates the illusion of tall and slim. A pear shape can wear a full skirt, as long as it falls from a dropped waistline or otherwise a slim fitted shape without a waistline but more A-line falling off the hips is another option.   Choose a light to medium weight fabric that will flow around your curves, but will not cling too closely. A light silk faille or silk satin with a silk georgette (like a heavy chiffon) flowing from the hip is a perfect choice but you cannot beat the “princess” line.

What’s Not

Avoid stiff or heavy fabrics below the waist – they add bulk where you don’t need it, and don’t use anything too flimsy either. Gathers on the hipline are a sure way to add centimetres to this trouble spot, make sure the main point of interest on your gown is the bodice which will draw attention away from the hips.



The Apple


The Apple Shape is where a body has a larger torse and a flattish bottom. Usually the legs and arms are quite slim. This is not an easy shape to dress but if you think 1920’s flapper dress you life could change forever. Because your hips and bottom are slim you can look great in a drop waist fitted band on the hip with a blouson bodice.   Another 1920s look is the traditional flapper that has lots of detail going in straight lines but not touching or clinging at any point, and there’s nothing to stop you having a flipper-style fuller skirt around the hem. This is usually best made in a fabric such as silk georgette witha silk petticoat underneath. You can’t go past the V neckline for the overlay and the undergarment could have a soft round neckline that is seen above the V. Drapery fabrics are best, like silk faille, and a beaded georgette is perfect as this gives weight and body.


Avoid Strapless at all costs as this will only accentuate the larger torso. Anything that clings to the stomach, belts at the waist and shiny fabrics are a definite NO. And again I stress there are many more options to choose from apart from draping across your stomach. Go streamlined and not clingy.



Fuller Figure


If you haven’t managed to lose those excess kilos by the time it comes to shopping for your wedding gown, there are plenty of styles that will help diminish the weight. A traditional wedding gown with a long silhouette in one colour is the best way possible to minimise the fuller figure.   Starting from the top a structured shoulder line will add height and slim down your outline, and intricate detailing around the neckline will redirect the eye towards a beautiful face. Medium weight fabrics are the best option and a good quality polyester duchess satin is an excellent choice as it won’t crease around the stomach or the hips when you sit down. A V-shaped neckline is a good visual trick for widening the shoulders and diminishing the torso and teamed with the slenderising effect of long narrow sleeves is a good camouflage for big arms. A slight bell at the wrist will make the arm look slimmer too.   The perfect shape in skirt is the princess line (or fuller A-line) without too much tulle in the petticoats.


Keep in mind that shiny sequined or beaded fabrics will reflect light and make surfaces appear larger than they are. Very full sleeves will make the torso look larger and shoestring straps or tiny cap sleeves will make you look awkward. Stay away from strapless dresses as they have to be corseted and your bulk will just ooze out of the top.   If you do choose to wear a corset, make sure it’s not too tight, because it will only make you faint or vomit (or both). Streamlined and well cut is the very best option for the fuller figure.



Top Heavy


I spend half my life trying to hide a big bust (for those who have it don’t want it) and for those who don’t have it are desperate for it. Make the most of your shape by making the least of your bust.   A low cut V shaped neckline is definitely the best bet…it will draw the eye upwards and minimise your bust. You should make sure you wear a good supportive bra, built in bras aren’t always completely successful.   To use a few design tricks to lengthen your upper body you should wear a dropped waistline that finishes with a V shape and high shoulders will make your bust seem smaller. The bodice of your gown should be simple, and if V neck is not your favourite a scoop neckline will work as well. Something fancy below the waistline will also divert attention away from the torso and choose the bodice in a tightly woven fabric – as looser weaves will make you look broader, preferably not shiny.


Avoid at all costs high necklines, they will only make you look like your grandmother. The only time you should wear a high neckline is if there is an underdress and the high part is in a sheer fabric, like a silk organza.   Stick to narrow sleeves and avoid full or puffy sleeves as they will widen your upper body. If you have your heart set on a strapless dress make sure it doesn’t bulge under your arms or create the “the dreaded back cleavage” but my advice is “don’t”. Tight waist bands that end below the waist are a big mistake, they will cut you in half instead of streamlining your shape and if you want ruffles, flounces, tiers or something pleated, keep it below the waist.



Walk Tall


If you are tall be proud of it. It never did supermodels any harm. The idea is not to make you look shorter but to create an illusion of perfect proportions.   White is a colour to be avoided and cream or ivory would be more flattering. A tightly woven fabric such as duchess or thai silk will create beautiful sculptured lines to take advantage of your height.   If however, you are tall and thin and want to play down your height there are several options. You could introduce horizontal lines, for example, a wide sash at the waist is ideal. Drop waisted designs are another way to re-proportion a long thin figure. You could have lots of detailing above the waist or below but not both, and you may choose to have an uneven hem line, perhaps ankle length at the front falling down to a small sweep at the back.


There are few features that are off limits to tall brides, but don’t go for a dainty style or anything excessively pretty or frothy. You will just look awkward.


Extract from Rhonda Hemmingway’s book