I have previously written about the three basic body types – straight, semi-shaped, and shaped. This describes the actual position of the body structure and is nothing to do with how fat or slim you are.
In my opinion it is easier to explain about the shapes that flatter your figure type best if we refer to vintage dress making patterns. These normally show clearly how the optical illusion is achieved.
The basic idea with dressing for your shape which is the most important aspect of looking your best is to choose shapes which emphasise the best aspects of your body (legs, waist or bust for example) and disguise the less attractive parts. By choosing an era to suit you will be able to find contemporary patterns or outfits that have some of the features, but feel free to use vintage patterns. If you use modern fabrics, and get the length right for you will not look like you are in a play!
Let’s have a look at the typical body shape of the key decades of the 20th century. Because there are so many pictures I will do this post in two parts. More tomorrow!
Here is the typical 1920s silhouette. The focal point in all these dresses is the dropped waist/high hip, with the actual waist and bust de-emphasised. The long, column like silhouette was finished at both ends with neat hair and shoes, making the wearer appear as tall and thin as possible. It is easy to see which body shape works best with this style, isn’t it? The straight body where the hips and bust are relatively slim, with strong shoulders and not much waist. When this shape came in it was a real departure from nearly all previous styles in Western dress, where femininity and curves were emphasised, even if you didn’t have them, through the use of corsets and highly shaped skirts and jackets. If you have a straight, athletic body then variations on this look are great for you. The open or V neck keeps it fairly simple around the face with buttons, asymmetric detailing, showy belts, or long necklaces bringing the eye down to the hip.
In the 1930s there was a move away from this very distinctive shape, in that the waist was now emphasised again. But the shoulders are generally emphasised with gathered sleeves, shoulder pads or lots of detail above the waist. The lower parts of the dress are very slim and often cut on the bias to really cling to hips, thighs and legs. A great look if you have a slim hips, broad shoulders and nice long legs. Generally this style suits the straight body shape as well, although if you have a semi-straight body with a good waist it will also work well. If you have a round bottom and hips it just looks wrong.
By the 1940s the curved figured women eventually get a break. The shoulder emphasis remained (I think all of these dresses would have a shoulder pad) but more to balance out fuller hips.The clear emphasis on the waist, and the fullness of the skirt provides a perfect disguise for the shaped figure with full bust and hips. If you are an hour-glass or a pear go for the 1940s. I personally love these shapes are have always been attracted to them, buying and wearing original 1940s and war-time frocks in the 1970s. If you have a nice slim waist these styles are very flattering.
Tomorrow I will cover the 1950s to the 1980s.
Do you have a decade you prefer?