Dress to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

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The Rectangle-Shaped Figure Type

Kristi Yamaguchi at JCPenny Asian Excellence Awards in Los Angeles, April 23, 2008. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

If you have a rectangle-shaped figure, you have a balanced figure type, just as women who have an hourglass figure do. If you're both a tiny size and have a rectangle shaped figure, other women would have wanted to have your figure type had you lived in the 1920s or 1960s when boyish figures and straight dresses were all the rage. Although your shape was considered ideal in other eras, fashion's darling right at the moment is the hourglass-shaped figure.

Rectangle figures can be any size; it's the shape that determines the type. Women who have rectangle-shaped figures don't have a defined waistline, but they do have an equally balanced top and bottom.

Petite women who have rectangle figure types have more of a challenge in dressing because they are short. So if you're a petite woman, you'll want to combine flattering styles for your figure type and also dress to look longer and leaner.

Celebrities with rectangle shaped figures include:

  • Kristi Yamaguchi
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Marissa Jaret Winokur

In the example above, Kristi Yamaguchi wears a long pink gown with a diagonal stripe that helps create the illusion of more shape. The dress features a side slit to show off Kristi's toned legs. Also, Kristi maintains her already balanced shape with this gown, which doesn't over-emphasize either bust or hips.

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Dress to Maintain Your Balanced Shape and Create a Defined Waistline

Kristi Yamaguchi at the world premiere of 'Wall-E' June 21, 2008, in Los Angeles. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

When dressing to flatter your rectangle-shaped figure, your main challenges will be to maintain the figure balance that you already have and create the illusion of a defined waistline so that you look more like the hourglass ideal. Avoid styles, such as shifts or trapeze dresses, that hide your shape.

The exception would be for women who wear extra-small sizes, such as 00P or 0P, and who want to wear trendy trapeze or straight shift dresses or tops. You can get away with these styles because of your tiny size. If you wear such styles, you're imitating the 1920s flapper style or the 1960s Twiggy look, rather than trying to create a shapely look. However, if you're size 6 or above, you're better off sticking with the strategy of creating an illusion of an hourglass figure.

Also avoid styles that tend to over-emphasize either bust or hips. For example, if you wear a gathered skirt, your hips will look bigger and make you look bottom-heavy. Likewise, if you wear a style such as an off-the-shoulder top, you may find that you appear top-heavy.

Your other big challenge will be to create the illusion of a defined waistline. Placing emphasis on the waist or midriff area in such a way that you appear to have a defined waistline will make your figure look more shapely.

In the example above, Kristi Yamaguchi does everything right. By wearing a cap-sleeve top with a band at the hip, she adds to her already balanced shape without putting more emphasis on top or bottom. The top makes for a defined waistline with the satin band under the bust. Kristi Yamaguchi wears straight, dark-wash jeans, which makes her look taller, and the vertical line on the top helps add height as well.

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Tops to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

Graphic print empire top from Petite Sophisticate. Image Courtesy of Petite Sophisticate

Look for tops that create the illusion of a defined waistline. That may mean either an empire waistline that has a band under the bust or a top that has a band at the natural waistline.

Tops with self-belts or other belted tops can work well too as long as the belt does not fall below the natural waistline.

Although styling of the top is key, you can also use color contrast to bring out the waistline definition. When the waistline band is a darker color, the definition created is more pronounced and desirable. Dark colors recede, which makes the area covered by the dark color look smaller. Tops with curved-seamline, side panels in dark colors that contrast against the color of the front can also create the illusion of a waistline. These types of tops can be difficult to find, but if you sew, you should be able to find or design a workable pattern for such a top.

Avoid tops that have too much sleeve or detail unless you balance your look with details that add hip interest too. Otherwise, your naturally balanced figure can appear unbalanced.

For an evening look, try a corset-type top that cinches your midriff.

In the example above, the dark waistline band of the graphic print top from Petite Sophisticate (Vendor's Site) contrasts with the print and creates a defined waistline. The V-neckline, also emphasized by a dark band helps make the wearer look taller.

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Jackets to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

MICHAEL Michael Kors Petite Short-Sleeve Tweill Jacket from Macy's. Image Courtesy of Macy's

If you have a rectangle-shaped figure, pick jackets that define the waistline and don't upset your already balanced shape with too much detail. Belted jackets, which can be cinched at the waist, work well whether they're self-belts or separate belts.

Another feature to look for in a jacket is a focal point at the waistline, such as a noticeable belt buckle. This draws the eye inward toward the focal point, making your waistline seem smaller.

Contoured seamlines that curve inward at the waistline can also help make a waistline that really isn't there. Like-wise, a chevron pattern draws the eye inward and helps give shape to the figure.

Avoid jackets that are longer than top-of-the-hip length. Also stay away from boxy shapes, such as Chanel-type cardigan styles, because they simply repeat the rectangle shape that you want to look curvier.

In the example above, the MICHAEL Michael Kors white jacket (Buy Direct) from Macy's has a flattering V-neckline, which makes petites look taller, a self-belt to define the waistline, and a belt buckle that draws the eye inward to further define the waist. The pockets are balanced above and below the waistline, so they make the figure appear neither top-heavy nor bottom-heavy.

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Skirts to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

A-line skirt with self-sash at waistline from Gap. Image Courtesy of Gap

Try A-line styled skirts, especially those with self-belts that you can cinch to create waistline definition or skirts contructed in panels with princess seaming that curves outward from the waistband and inward at the hem to mimic a shapely hip.

Another way to create the illusion of a curvier figure is to peg your pencil skirts. If you don't sew, a tailor can make this easy adjustment, which will narrow the skirt at the hem. Before you run out and have all your straight, pencil skirts tailored, make sure this look is right for you because you'll need to have exactly the correct hem length to pull it off. Otherwise, you may not be able to walk in your skirt because it will be too tight at the hem. Pegged skirt work best for slender women, so if you're a full-figured short woman, you may want to pass on this skirt style because it will emphasize hips.

Consider the length of the skirt because when the hem of a skirt falls across a thick part of the leg, either thigh or calf, it makes you look wider and shorter. So avoid mini-skirts unless you have slender legs, and keep the skirt length around the knee at the most flattering length. In most cases, the best skirt length for short women is just above the knee, at the knee, or just below the knee.

Most short women should avoid bias-cut skirts because they cling and show everything. Even if you have a tiny bit of tummy bulge, it will show in a bias-cut skirt.

If you wear boots with a skirt, the boots should be high enough and your skirt hem low enough that there's no gap between them. This gives you an unbroken vertical line and helps you look taller.

In the example above, the gray skirt (Buy Direct) from Gap features a waistline sash, which helps define the waistline, a flattering A-line shape, and vertical seaming for a longer look.

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Pants to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

Pants with straight legs from Petite Sophisticate. Image Courtesy of Petite Sophisticate

Dark-colored pants with straight legs work best for most petites because they will enhance the illusion of a leaner, longer body. If you're 5'0" or under, you may also need to find pants with a shorter inseam than regular petite pants have.

Keep in mind that your main strategy to create the illusion of a curvy figure will be to find a way to define your waistline, and this definition should be not be at the hipline, so look for pants or jeans with at least a mid-rise or even high waisted pants that can be cinched with a belt to create the look of a narrower waistline. Alternatively, you can create the appearance of a waistline with the type of top you wear. When you use this strategy, make sure that your pants are not bulky at the top.

When selecting pants or jeans, avoid:

  • print designs.
  • plaid
  • low-rise waistlines.
  • belting your pants or jeans at the hip.
  • pleated styles
  • cargo pants
In our example above, the classic fit straight leg pants (Vendor's Site) from Petite Sophisticate create a vertical line, which helps petites look taller. Although they're available in several colors, a dark color, such as charcoal or navy creates the thinnest appearance. Another benefit: these pants for petites come in two inseam lengths.

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Dresses to Flatter Your Rectangle-Shaped Figure

AK Anne Klein color block dress from Nordstrom. Image Courtesy of Nordstrom

Several dress styles will work well for the petite woman who has a rectangle-shaped figure.

Empire dresses are an option because they create a waistline under the bust, and the skirt flows from the waistline. This style is also good because it doesn't distort the natural balance of your shape.

Wrap dresses with A-line skirts are a good choice too. You can use the wrap tie to cinch your waistline.

Color block dresses with a waistband that's a darker color than adjacent colors define your waistline by making it appear to recede. Although it's often more difficult to find this style of dress, you can usually locate a color block dress that's right for you. If you sew, consider a color block style the next time you make a dress for yourself.

Finally, for special occasion dressing, flatter your figure with a corset-style dress, which has a vertically paneled and boned midriff. This style is especially nice for the bride who has a rectangle-shaped figure. Bridal wear is frequently custom made, so if you're working with a dressmaker, offer a sketch or picture of a similar gown from a bridal magazine to show her the style you want.

In our example above, the AK Anne Klein color block dress (Buy Direct) from Nordstrom emphasizes the waist with a wide black ruched band while the square-neck top and A-line skirt maintain the balance of top and bottom.