Archive for February 2012

Nine Body Shapes : research details

February 25, 2012

How many people have a waist ? How many people have upper body emphasis, lower body emphasis ? How many have a high hip shelf ? a dominant midriff ?

There was a flurry of interest in my previous post. Obviously many of you have difficulty finding yourself in a simple set of body shapes. This is because there are so many body shape features which can affect fit and flattery. Including them all is impossible in any simple system. I’m planning another post which lists them all – a bit daunting but it does show this isn’t easy. The same people who find simple fitting systems don’t work. . . aargh. . . it’s the people with the difficult shape combinations who need the most help !

Meanwhile here’s something rather more boring – more on the numbers of people with different shapes, that come out of the North Carolina research.

I love looking for patterns in numbers, but many people won’t find this at all interesting, so skip to the summary results.

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Source of these results

The research was done at North Carolina State University. Reports are on-line here.

The numbers I use are in a table of results here.

All charts show percentage in each group.
Test group was over 500 people. Misses and Over 55s together included 6300 people. The study of Misses and Over 55s didn’t include the midriff measurements needed to identify Diamond and Oval shapes.

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Waist or no waist ?


Yellow = test group.
Blue = Misses.
Red = Over 55s.

Although the different studies found somewhat different results, it’s obvious at least half of us have no clear waist.

And about three-quarters of the Over 55s (red) have no waist. No surprise there 😦

Of course the world doesn’t divide neatly into 2 groups of people, one group with tiny waists, the other group straight up and down. But if you choose a limiting number, you can say people with a bigger difference than this between waist and bust or hips look as if they have a waist. And people with a smaller waist difference than this don’t look as if they have a clear waist.

In more detail :

Body shapes with no waist


Most of the people with no waist are :
Rectangle (straight up and down) : up to 2 out of 5 people.
Inverted Triangle (upper body dominant) : perhaps 1 in 7 of Misses (blue), 1 in 3 of Over 55s (red).
Looks as if the Over 55s who loose their waist may become Inverted Triangles.

About 1 in 45 are Triangle (lower body dominant).

Dominant midriff

Oval and Diamond shape people have midriff larger than, rather than similar to, other body measures. So it’s sad Oval and Diamond shapes were only identified in the test group (yellow).

Diamond and Oval shape people made up about 1 in 8 of the test group.

These results suggest the people identified as Oval in the test group (yellow) may have been classified as Inverted Triangle when midriff measures weren’t included (blue and red). Few Diamonds, but I guess they were classified as Rectangle in the big study.

Body shapes with a waist


If you have a waist you’re defined as one of the Hourglass shapes, or a Spoon if you have both waist and noticeable high hips.

In the larger study (blue and red) : clearly the Spoon (with high hips) is the most frequent body shape with a noticeable waist. Perhaps 1 in 5 of people.

A lot of people in the test group (yellow) were classified as Hourglass or Bottom Hourglass, and these shapes have nearly disappeared in the bigger study (blue and red). Instead there are more people classified as Spoon. The big difference between Spoon and Bottom Hourglass is that Spoon people have a high hip shelf. Makes me wonder if the two studies used different criteria for identifying a high hip shelf.

The overall results showed fewer people Over 55 have a defined waist. These detailed results suggest this loss of waist happens for all shapes, not just for a particular shape of person. . .

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Upper or lower body emphasis


About half the population are roughly equal in size above and below the waist. And roughly a quarter are larger above the waist, roughly a quarter larger below the waist.

Sadly the reports don’t say anywhere what is meant by larger and smaller here. We ‘pears’ usually have hips that are at least 1 pattern size bigger than our bust – 4 inches/ 10 cm. And standard upper body sizing is for a B cup. D cup needs about 2-1/4 inches / 6 cm added, DD about 5-1/4 inches/ 13cm larger.

In more detail :

Body shapes with upper body emphasis


Fewer than 1 in 20 are Top Hourglass (with waist).

Most people with upper body emphasis were Oval (with midriff) in the small test group (yellow), and Inverted Triangle (no waist) in the bigger study (blue and red). Previously I suggested Ovals might have been classified as Inverted Triangle in the larger study.

About 1 in 7 of the Misses (blue) are Inverted Triangles.

Notice there’s about twice the number of Over 55s (red) who are Inverted Triangle shape. Nearly 1 in 3 of the Over 55s. Many people put on weight in the upper body as they get older.

Body shapes equal above and below waist


Clearly most of these people who are about equal in size above and below the waist are Rectangle shape (no waist), about 2 out of 5 people.

Hourglass have a waist, less than 1 in 10 people.

Very few people are Diamond shape (with midriff). (Most of the people with prominent midriff were Oval shape – with bust larger than midriff.)

Body shapes with lower body emphasis


The Spoon shape (waist and high hips) is the most frequent shape with lower body emphasis in the larger study – about 1 in 5 people. I commented before on the way Bottom Hourglass people (waist but not high hips) in the test group (yellow) have possibly been classified as Spoons in the larger study (blue and red).

The frequency of people who are Spoon shaped suggests it’s important to know about high hip measures when fitting the lower body.

In the larger study (blue and red), there were few people who had either no waist (Triangle) or a defined waist tapering smoothly out to hips (Bottom Hourglass).

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Main results

Despite some large differences between the research groups, there are ball-park figures which are clear.

At least half have no obvious waist. And fewer older people have a clear waist.

Most people with no obvious waist are Rectangle or Inverted Triangle / Oval (upper body dominant) in shape.

Many don’t simply have no waist, but have a larger waist area. The test group results suggest about 1 in 8 have midriff larger than hips.

About half of people are about the same size above and below the waist. Most of these people also have no clear waist (Rectangle shape).

About a quarter are larger above the waist. Most of these people are either Inverted Triangle (without waist) or Oval (with dominant midriff) in shape. A big group of people get larger above the waist when they get older.

About a quarter are larger below the waist. And the predominant shape here may be the Spoon (with noticeable waist and high hip shelf).

These results are from the USA. The numbers of people who are each shape may be different in different areas of the world.

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You may not recognise yourself in this body shapes scheme. But simplified body shapes are better than nothing. I added a note about some of them to my previous post. I don’t fit perfectly into any of the definitions, but I have learned something useful about myself from each.

I hope some of all this helps you with understanding your own fit and styling needs, or at least inspires you in thinking about them 😀

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Links available February 2012

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Nine Body Shapes

February 18, 2012

Some fascinating research suggests we need 9 body shapes, not 4 or 5, to describe everyone effectively.

The research was done at North Carolina State University. Nancy Erickson briefly mentioned this source in her recent newsletter. I though I’d follow up, and found full reports on-line here.

(And hey, I’ve learned a little about new spreadsheet software. Happily the learning curve for this is only vertiginously steep the first time you do it ! And I’ve found how to jump around in a post. Lots of technical progress :D)

Three main sections in this post :
– the nine body shapes.
– difficulties with doing this sort of study.
– how many people have these shapes.

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Nine Body Shapes

All the studies were made using full body scans.

The initial study found they needed nine body shapes to categorise everyone clearly. See research report pdfs one and two.

Top Hourglass (TH) :
Bust larger than hips.
Waist defined, and different from both.

Hourglass (H) :
Small difference between bust and hips.
Waist defined, and different from both bust and hips.

Bottom Hourglass (BH) :
Hips larger than bust.
Waist defined, and different from both.

Spoon (S) :
Hips larger than bust.
Waist different from high hip.
Bust tapers to waist, but waist doesn’t taper evenly to hips. High hips make a noticeable bump in the silhouette.

Inverted Triangle (IT) :
Bust larger than hips.
No clear waist.

Rectangle (R) :
Bust and hips are fairly equal.
No clear waistline.

Triangle (T) :
Hips larger than bust.
No clear waist.

Oval (O) :
Measures above (stomach), at, and below (abdomen) waist level are smaller than bust, larger than hips.
These people have a large mid-section.

Diamond (D) :
Mid-section larger than both bust and hips.

Sadly, they don’t say the actual numbers or ratios they used for deciding that bust or hips were ‘larger’, or that someone’s waist was noticeably smaller than their bust or hips. The shape decisions were made by software, so this must have been done by numbers not someone’s judgement.

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Simple symbols for the shapes


(Oval shape has bust larger than midriff.)

Images from this report pdf.

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Difficulties with doing this sort of study

Skip to the main results if you’re not interested in details and problems.

I’m going to mention two sets of results in this section :
– Test sample of over 500 younger people, used to check how well the software decides which shape is the best fit for each body scan. (this report pdf) (yellow in charts)

– Misses group of several thousand people with less complete measurements (this report pdf) (blue in charts).

As the purpose of that report was assessing current shape standards, and those standards don’t include stomach and abdomen measures, they were not included in the large study. So sadly the Oval and Diamond shapes weren’t identified. My guess is most Ovals were classified as Inverted Triangle, and Diamonds as Rectangle (see later post on details).

The research found three quarters of these people didn’t fit the official standard shape specification well ! – no surprise to people who try to buy RTW. . .

Table of the results I’m using is here as a pdf.

Chart of results from those two groups :


All charts show percentage of people in the group who have this body shape.
Yellow = Test sample group.
Blue = Misses group.
For example, 31 % of the test group were classified as Rectangle shape, 43 % of the Misses were.

The test group and the main group have different results. They look dramatically different, but at most the percentages differ by less than 13 %.

It’s obviously difficult to get precise counts of the numbers of people with different body shapes.

Results depend on the group of people measured, This needs to include all age ranges, as well as ethnic groups in the same proportions as in the main population. (All those Japanese pattern books with Extra Large = 38 inch hip show how different other countries can be !)

It also depends on the quality of the measurements. You’d think full body scan data would be as precise as you can get, but there are a couple of problems. The measures are affected by what the people being measured chose to wear. And by how correctly the software identifies the right point on the body to take the measurements. (Examples in this report pdf.)

And the results will obviously be affected by the specific numbers used to identify upper-equal-lower body emphasis, yes-no waist, yes-no high hip.

According to statistical theory, a larger group should give more reliable results. There were fewer measurements from the larger group, so two of the shapes were not included. Even so, I give those results more emphasis.

– – –

Main results

Despite all the difficulties, it is possible to make generalisations.

Here are the percent results for the Misses (blue) and Over 55s (red) groups from the main study pdf (6300 people). I’ve combined the 3 Hourglass shapes (I wouldn’t usually group them together, as Top Hourglass, Hourglass, and Bottom Hourglass have very different fit and flattery needs).


A lot of people are Rectangles (R), about 2 out of 5.
Many people are Spoons (S), at least 1 in 5.

Among younger people (blue), Inverted Triangles (IT) (upper body emphasis, no waist) and combined Hourglass shapes (H+TH+BH) (with waist, equal or upper or lower body emphasis) are about equally frequent (about 1 in 7).
Among the Over 55s (red), it looks as if many of those Hourglasses may have become Inverted Triangles (about 1 in 3).

Interesting. I thought people put on weight below the waist as we get older. But it looks as if many of us put on weight above the waist !
No wonder there is a such a large and vocal group wanting information about doing a Full Bust Adjustment 😀

Less than 1 in 20 are Top Hourglass, the classic film star shape.
Perhaps 1 in 45 are Triangle shape, which is usually considered the basic ‘pear’ shape.

There were no Oval and Diamond people in the Misses and Over 55s groups, because the measurements to identify them weren’t included in that study. But the results from the test sample suggest at least 1 in 8 people have a prominent midriff. It’s a pity this body feature wasn’t included in the main study, so these shapes get forgotten again, even though there are a lot of people like this !

Presumably the basic body shapes stay the same around the world. But these numbers for how many people have each shape are from the USA. The most frequent body shapes might be different in northern, southern or eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, India, Asia, China, Japan. . .

What about more details ? The body shapes are based on relative upper-lower body proportions and waist, also high hip shelf and midriff. So it’s possible to say a bit about these. That’s the focus of my second post, which is here.

– – –

Obviously we need to include stomach, abdomen, and high hip measures in our assessment of fit and body shape, not just the basic three of bust-waist-hips. A dominant midriff isn’t mentioned in body shape standards, so RTW don’t design for it. (If you are midriff dominant, see Gale Grigg Hazen “Fantastic Fit for Every Body” to cheer you on :D)

And of course many other body features affect fit and flattery. The researchers acknowledge that, but including them would have made the whole scheme too complex to be workable.

Can you recognise yourself as any of these 9 shapes ? or are you a person who needs to consider more detail in finding what flatters your own body ? (see later)

Do these more detailed shape descriptions help any of your fit or styling decisions ?
I’m definitely a ‘Spoon’. It is helpful not to be mixed up with Bottom Hourglass and Triangle. I realise how much my high hips affect which styles are good on me. I’ll describe myself as a Spoon not a Pear in future. A Pear sounds more attractive, but a Spoon is a good description of the shape 😀

Do these shapes clarify anything for you 😀

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P.S. Some other sources on shape and style

lin3arossa comments she prefers Imogen Lamport’s shapes at Inside-Out Style.

Hmm – how do they match up ? Possibly :

Imogen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . North Carolina

8 High hip hourglass . . . Spoon
A Pear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Triangle
H Rectangle . . . . . . . . . . Rectangle
I Boyish
0 Apple . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Diamond
V Inverted Triangle . . . . Inverted Triangle
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Oval
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Top Hourglass
X Low hip hourglass . . . . Hourglass
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bottom Hourglass

I’m a Spoon and find it difficult to think of myself as a High Hip Hourglass, as I have a small bust.

Imogen is especially good on suggesting styles which flatter each shape, see her Body Shapes section.

Which system you like may depend on which tells you most about the special features of your own shape. Trinny & Susannah Body Shape Bible has twelve shapes. In their system I’m a Bell. Helped me know how important being short-waisted is in styling. Also that there are no celebrities this shape, so it really is difficult to look good 😀

The beautiful book ‘The Triumph of Individual Style‘ uses 6 basic body shapes. Plus whole chapters on type of line, length proportions, other shape elements, scale, colour, and texture. Some of these topics are also in Nancy Nix-Rice’s newsletter.

P.P.S. Don’t worry about squeezing yourself into a specific body shape ‘label’. Every body shape system has to be a simplification of all the possibilities.
Relatively large/ medium/ small size of shoulders/ bust/ waist/ high hips/ abdomen/ hips/ thighs,
square/ average/ sloping shoulders,
flat/ average/ large butt,
short/ average/ long waisted,
short/ average/ long bodied,
tall/ average/ petite height,
thin/ average/ plus body size.
I think that makes over 15000 possible combinations ! Body shape systems focus on the shapes that happen most often. Which leaves many of us not knowing where we fit in, and having to identify our own specific combination of features.
Big-small, long-short are vague terms. The important question is : are you sufficiently different from average that what’s suggested for average people isn’t the most flattering for you ? For example, most suggestions for pear-shaped people don’t work well for me because I’m also short waisted with sloping shoulders.
Trial and error needed.

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Links available February 2012

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Peplum jacket

February 11, 2012

The main new shape for the coming season is the peplum, as picked out by UK Vogue. “It’s spring’s big silhouette story” – literally.

Not a jacket with any old waist seam, but a shape with emphasis below the waist.

UK Vogue February 2012 : designers Yves Saint-Laurent, Jason Wu, Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci

For more photos, see the ‘Cristobal Method’ section of the US Vogue Spring Trends.

Most patterns with a waist seam are flat and fitted below the waist, but these have a bigger shape.
Which (if any !) do you think would be more flattering on your body ?

Only a couple of pattern shapes with a peplum as a big style element : flared or with an emphasised hip curve. And with less emphasis than the stiffened designer extreme on the right, which most people would only wear for special occasions.

Gathers and up-down pleats are other possibilities for a bigger peplum, but I didn’t find them in current patterns. If you know a little about pattern making, it’s easy enough to make your own versions.
Use the above-waist part of a jacket pattern with waist seam, and combine with :
Gathers : a hip+ length of fabric.
Pleats : the top of a pleated skirt pattern with released pleats. Or play around with making your own pleats in a length of fabric.

Here are some emphasised versions which are wearable for everyday.

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Slight flare

Burda 7292 (with skirt and vest)


Burda 7401


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Full short flare

Burda 7495 (with dress)


Vogue 8739 (with dress, skirt, pants)


And a lovely one with raised waist from Chado Ralph Rucci, Vogue 1269 (with dress). Good if you do want the emphasised styling.


– – –

Full long flare

McCall’s 6442


Vogue 8465 (choice of fitted or flared below waist, hip emphasis can be balanced with big collar)


– – –

Strong hip curve

Vogue 1136 is a vintage pattern with interesting horizontal tucks (with dress)


Vogue 8601


Vogue 8627


I saw an attractive padded parka with this waist-to-hip shape the other day.

– – – US Vogue picks out a bare midriff as another type of waist emphasis in the coming season.
See the ‘Ab Fab’ section of their Spring Trend Reports.

”midriff” designer No.21

Basically a matching bra and skirt, or sometimes pants. Waistline at natural waist, rarely lower. A style that would only be important for somewhere with a warmer climate than we have in the UK !

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Have not managed to come to clear conclusions about which body shapes an emphasised peplum would look good on.

Though I do know the flouncy ones are not for me. I’m different sizes above and below the waist and have a noticeable waist, so I like a waist seam as an easy route to good fit. But I prefer a style that’s sleek over the hips – that’s not a body area I need to emphasise. Several patterns for flatter styles. Vogue is good place to look.

I suspect the emphasised shapes are best for people who are looking for ‘essence of waistline’.
People who like girly styles will love the flounces.
And a few of these patterns are definitely challenges for dressmaking skills !

I enjoy a peplum as a style element.
Does this sort of feature fit in with your personal style ?
Would a flat peplum or flare below your waist be best for your body shape ?

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Patterns and links available February 2012

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To get to main blog – click on red header.

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Wardrobe pattern books – other possibilities

February 4, 2012

More on wardrobe pattern books which claim to have all the styles and patterns you need in one book. Here are some books which are more of a challenge to find or use ! There are also brief notes on children’s patterns and learning to sew.

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Out of print books

Rusty Bensussen. Making a Complete Wardrobe from 4 Basic Patterns (1987).


Draft your own 80s oversized patterns for pullover top also used for dress/ jacket/ coat, plus dirndl and circular skirts, and pants, from simple instructions. Pullover up to about 50 inch hip, skirt up to about 45 inch hip. Easy to enlarge (every 1/2 inch added to width of front and back pattern pieces adds 2 inches to the size). With many simple suggestions for pattern alterations. Add ease to jacket and coat, or you get top/dress, jacket, coat all the same size ! Complete sewing instructions (mainly words) only for the most basic styles.

Sandra Betzina. No Time to Sew (1997).


Patterns for slim and full pants (one-seam styles), skirt, tee, shirt, dress, vest, jacket, with suggestions for style alterations. All dartless. Simple advice on fit. Up to 43 inch bust, 46 inch hip. Melanie points out these are good for layering (in a comment on my layering wardrobe post). Sewing instructions have most steps illustrated. Conventional tissue paper patterns. Rare to find book and patterns together, as the pattern envelope isn’t part of the book. Easy to find the book, difficult to find the patterns. Search for the pattern pack as “Rodale Designer Collection” or “Sandra Betzina Rodale”. She now designs for Vogue Patterns.

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Japanese pattern books and magazines

If you enjoy a challenge, there are 100s of Japanese pattern books and magazines. In a huge range of styles : casual-crafter, 60s dresses, arty, lolita, drapey, quick makes, fitted structured blazers and coats, mother-and-daughter, for children, multi-layers, young modern. . . See Simply Pretty.

One type of book (such as ‘Mrs Stylebook’) just tells you how to draft the pattern based on your personal block. So you can get a good fit, but you’re expected to know how to sew it together.

Other books have a traceable full size pattern sheet, though the sizes may be rather small (as in Extra Large with 38 inch hips :D). These books do have sewing instructions. In Japanese but with very good illustrations, so it’s usually quite easy to work out what to do. See sample instructions at end of Simply Pretty excerpts.

A couple of these books have been translated into English. As I already have several Japanese books in similar style, I haven’t looked at these. If they’re direct translations of the Japanese versions, they have sheets of full-size traceable patterns, and sizes may be small.

Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha


This book has 8 basic patterns : for 2 dress styles, 3 tops and shirts, 2 skirts, pants. With 3 versions of each pattern, including tunics, light jacket and coat. Some photos of the styles here.

Shape Shape


From the cover and description it looks as if the styles are more ‘arty’. See more information here.

For children and learners

There are also many pattern books for children’s clothes. Most of them by designers with children’s pattern companies. And most have a tissue pattern pack. Often also teach sewing. Find them using the links to other books provided by Amazon with :
Oliver & S Little Things to Sew

Bunkhouse books are written for children learning to sew, but of course can be used by adult learners too. All with full size traceable patterns : 27 – 38 inch bust, 28 – 40 inch hip, in girls and misses heights. Reviews at Amazon, but here are links to the parent company as you can scroll down the product page to photos of the styles. Also patterns for matching 18″ dolls clothes.
Stitches & Pins
Beginner sewing for girls. Patterns for simple skirt, vest, pants, top – also usable for nightwear, plus accessories. (Comments at Amazon that a complete beginner needs help.)
Buckles & Bobbins
Similar for boys.
Pins & Needles
Intermediate : patterns for vest, blouse, culottes, dress and jumper dress, shawl collar jacket, shorts, tee, sweatshirt, sweatpants, hoodie.
Pintucks & Lace
Advanced : heirloom sewing, mainly baby and home items. Also blouse (use pattern from previous book), half slip, 2 skirts, shrug.

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Previous posts in this group :
Wardrobe pattern books – casuals
Wardrobe pattern books – mainly dresses

Pattern books are no longer unusual. They’re a growing type of sewing publishing, with many fascinating possibilities. Well worth looking out for. There’s a huge range of styles to explore, if you like the idea of easy co-ordination by just having one starting point for all your sewing.

But perhaps you prefer to sew every project completely different, rather than being sensible and wardrobe building 😀

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Links and most books available February 2012

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