Rulers, inverted triangles, hourglasses. So many labels that are meant to help us (‘us’ being women; guys, you don’t have to deal with this crap) in our quest to look and feel better, but actually end up inhibiting and restricting us.
I’m a pear (or occasionally an hourglass if I’m feeling generous towards myself). Us pears are pretty popular, well, maybe not popular but prevalent. For a while, in an attempt to ‘dress better’, I sought out every fashion and style book out there. I would flip to the inevitable pages on ‘pears’, and then I would try to follow the rules diligently.
Just three of the books that grace my shelves include The Fashion File by Janie Bryant (costume designer on Mad Men), How to be Gorgeous by Nicky Hambleton-Jones (who used to front How to Look 10 Years Younger), and Lauren Conrad’s Style.
Janie identifies four body types – apple, pear, ruler and hourglass. As a pear, my ‘objective’ is to ‘detract from the hips’; my ‘wardrobe staples’ are A-line or full skirts, flat-fronted trousers with wide legs, polonecks, wide-collared shirts, boat neck or strapless necklines, and bootleg jeans. This is all very well, but I really don’t feel comfortable in skirts and dresses, and I don’t want to wear bootlegs. In fact, most of my options sound unappealing.
Nicky H-J adds a fifth body type – strawberry – and once again, as a pear, I’m directed to tops with detail around the neckline, hip-length tunics, tuxedo jackets, high pointed court shoes, flat-fronted trousers, bootleg jeans; and told to avoid skinny jeans, boxy jackets, clingy dresses, and prints on my bottom half.
While Lauren doesn’t have a specific section on body types, she does write that if you want to downplay your thighs you should opt for an A-line skirt, and avoid skinny jeans, while you can balance out your hips with a wide top half or embrace the 1950s pin-up girl look. Now, I adore the pin-up girl look; it’s absolutely gorgeous, but it’s not me.
I suppose I should be grateful that most of these experts recommend the same items of clothing to wear, and the same ones to avoid; but instead, I find myself frustrated and more body-conscious than ever. Some of their suggestions I’m happy to take on board, but others I feel uncomfortable in. For me, bootleg jeans seem mumsy; I love my skinny jeans and pull on a pair every day. So, do I, in actual fact, look bloody awful? It’s a depressing thought.
Another piece of advice I stumbled upon recently was to identify your body shape (check), and then find a celebrity with the same shape. Usually this celebrity will not only have their body in its peak condition so you can get a realistic idea of how your ‘best’ would look, rather than trying to compare yourself to flat-chested pre-pubescent model, they will also have access to the best that the fashion world has to offer (and more importantly a personal stylist to show them how to wear everything) so you can see how trends might work on your own figure.
One pear-shaped celebrity is the above-mentioned Lauren Conrad. And she wears skinny jeans, and looks great, so that’s something to take heart from.
And then, I have Momma P, or, more specifically, Momma P when she was my age. Surely if she can look fabulous, then I (carrying 50% of her genes) can also look cracking? Huzzah, we have light at the end of the tunnel, but do we? Because both Lauren and 27 year old Momma P are a good 30-50lbs lighter than I am. And now, finally, we find out what it all really boils down to – are you fat, or are you skinny?
If you’re the latter, lucky you, because whatever your shape, you’ll be able to wear every single trend going and look wonderful; if, on the other hand, you’re chunky, you have to think twice before you put on that crop top. Or at least, that is what Western society has brainwashed people into believing – so what if a girl with beanpole legs looks ultra-skinny in her skinny jeans? Surely it’s better than that fat chick who’s ladled herself into the same jeans and has a muffin top and fat bulges all over the place? Right?…
At the end of the day, style rules for body shapes are invented for those of us with less than perfect figures, and even then, they’re only really helping us achieve a sort of patch-up job. I have the most enormous respect and envy for any woman (or man) who can embrace their body – thin or fat, apple or pear – and think f*** it, I’m going to wear that crop top, and I’m going to rock it. But I will never be that person because I’ve spent too long reading, absorbing and worshipping the ‘fat is bad, ugly, lazy and stupid’ myth, but only when applied to myself.