Trouser styles for different figure types

posted in: Style advice | 6


Let’s start with the theory.

Trousers look best on tall, slim leggy women. However this body shape looks great in just about anything. Trousers have the effect of outlining the bottom, stomach, thighs and legs. A skirt on the other hand can be more easily designed to hide figure faults. So what can we do about choosing trousers if we are not tall, slim or long legged? What if we are curvy, overweight or have relatively short legs?

The rules are that we should follow when choosing trousers

  • vertical lines
  • plain, deeper colours
  • darted shapes rather than gathered type waists

However in addition there are other issues to consider

  • the length
  • the width
  • the style

I will go through the main body types and suggest trouser shapes that will flatter

Straight body line

If your body shape is very straight, without a defined waist, trousers will generally look good because straightness goes with trousers. Here a bootcut leg balances out the broader shoulders.  In order to minimise width at the shoulders consider what to wear on top.  A sleeveless blouse will often work quite well. To create a waist wear a contrasting top and a belt. But overall this is the body shape that looks good in trousers.

straight body line and trousers
Straight body line

If you are very slim, or petit, you will look better in trousers that are to scale. The model is wearing skinny jeans which look good on anyone who is smaller than average. Even if your legs are not so slim a slim fitting trouser leg will make them look slimmer. On this straight body waist definition is created by a curved jacket shape, horizontal lines to make the bust look more shaped and a toning colour palette and high heels to make the figure look longer. The relatively wide shoulders on this model are disguised by the lines of the collarless lapels.

petit model in skinny jeans
Straight body line (petit)

Shaped body line

If your top half is petit but your hips and thighs are heavier, with a defined waist, you will probably suit tapered leg trousers. If you wear wider legged trousers you will look like an inverted triangle. As this model has a relatively long torso a higher waisted pair could be worn to elongate the leg. The model is wearing relatively short trouers which seems “wrong” but here the overall colour palette elongates the whole body (with high heels too).  Showing a bit of ankle makes the eye think the legs are long, and a long line jacket disguises the thighs.

trousers for pear shapes
Shaped body line

If you shaped but larger than average, carrying extra weight, then look for more width and length in the trouser leg. The wider leg balances out the wider hips. Also wearing a similar toned top will lengthen the body. Here the model has chosen larger accessories such as the bag, the high, chunky heels and the trim on her cardigan is showy, getting the scale right.

trousers for plus size
Shaped body line


6 Responses

  1. Rivergum

    Hmm, interesting. You have quite motivated me to sprout forth my own theories on trousers. I don’t disagree with what was said in the article, but being a pronounced pear shape and a bit overweight has made me give up on conventional type pants and I take quite a different approach now. No point trying to play a game you can never win.

    • fabrickated

      To be honest I had more or less boycotted trousers for smart wear as I felt it was “a game I couldn’t win”. I just told myself that I was a skirts and dresses kind of shape. But I think Stephanie is right when she says women are probably too self critical about themselves in trousers. Sewing has given me a chance to separate the “does the style suit me” disussion from “I can’t find a pencil skirt/pair of trousers/one piece swimsuit/tailored trousers to fit”. I would be very interested to read your thoughts on trousers when you have the time as I am sure it will be illuminating.

  2. Stephanie

    I don’t know how you consistently produce such informative posts. And with useful photos, too!

    I’ve noticed recently that many women are self-conscious in pants. I used to be picky about the styles I would wear because I thought my thighs were out of proportion to everything else, but these days I will wear any style. I think my favourites are a pair similar to the pair on the far left in the top photo (cropped and a bit wide). I like them in light colours in spring and summer, in lightweight wool with nude pumps. I find that this is leg-lengthening. I also particularly like the slim ones on the right-hand side. Full-leg trousers can also be very nice. The only ones I am ho hum about are the boot cut ones, which seem rather bland to me. It’s an interesting topic.

    • fabrickated

      I am sure you (we) know what suits us from years of trial and error, but I also think you are right about how unbelievably harsh we are on ourselves. I think your analysis of what suits you is accurate S and that you would look good in most styles. I read the latest look is cropped full legged trousers with built up trainers. And a baggy jumper or bomber jacket. Eeeek. Not for me. But then I thought wide legged cropped trousers and just a divided skirt – which is what you are doing for the SWAP. In essence I think we need to be guided by the actual proportions we see (and can measure objectively) and keep an open mind about both our own “figure faults” and “fashion”.

      • Stephanie

        You know, I think I’m not that good at determining styles that will work, or at least new styles. I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone from time to time. I completely agree about keeping an open mind about figure faults. It’s a shame to limit oneself on the basis of something that probably no one else notices!

  3. symondezyn

    I absolutely LOVE trousers, and part of the reason why is that I have a relatively straight body line, and long legs, so you’re spot on there!! One thing I will note, is that for me (and potentially others of similar body shape) I can wear just about any leg shape but a high waisted trouser is not flattering at all, nor can I ever seem to wear a belt successfully either LOL. I always prefer my trousers to sit below the waist – it’s much more comfortable and flattering 🙂

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