Dressing a Rectangle Body

As promised we’re continuing the series we started last week on body types. I want to remind everyone that it’s not about size…it’s about shape. The point is to create a balanced, symmetrical look so that, not only will we look more pleasing to our viewer’s eyes, but we will feel more confident in ourselves.

I’m going to start with the body type that is easiest for me to convey – the rectangle – my body type. As I indicated last week, the rectangle shape is essentially a straight up and down shape – shoulders, waist and hips basically the same width – in line with one another.

IMG_20190418_195905757 (2)

When dressing any body type there is one basic rule that you use across the board – the rule of color and pattern – which we’ve discussed before. We diminish the areas we wish to de-emphasize, or make smaller, with deeper colors, as well as with neutrals, solids and vertical lines. We draw attention to what we consider assets, or anything we want to appear larger, by using bright colors, prints, textures and horizontal lines.

With my rectangle body, my goal is to make my body appear as close to “hourglass” as I can. The hourglass representing balance because the shoulder and hips are aligned while the waist angles inward. A very symmetrical look. Also, because I’m so “vertically challenged” (okay, I’m short!), I also try to elongate my body – NOT because there’s anything wrong with being petite, but because that also adds to the balanced look. Your legs and torso are visually balanced when your legs appear to be as long, or longer than, the rest of your torso. (If my torso, or the upper part of my body, appears longer in comparison to my short legs, I’m going to look like I’ll topple over.)

So, how can we rectangles achieve this? Remember that light, bright shades, as well as high-contrast prints, draw the eye. Wear these around your shoulders and/or hips to highlight those areas. Use darker hues near your waist, which will cause it to recede and draw inward. Patterns with curvy prints, diagonals or other geometric shapes that appear to move with your body are also beneficial.

That’s the basic concept of color and pattern, but the shape or cut of your pieces are also going to play into this. Some general guidelines:

Bottoms (skirts/pants/shorts): Look for items that are going to add curve or shape to your lower half. You want to draw the eye and define that area.

For skirts look for flared (such as A-lines) and trumpet styles, as well as bubble or tiered designs. (Avoid square-cut skirts which have no shape)

For pants and shorts try relaxed and wide-leg (flare, bell-bottom, boot-cut) cuts, as well as, believe it or not, pleated and tapered pants.

This great jumper demonstrates several elements we’ve mentioned here: the wider leg pant bottom, a curve-creating element in the shawl-like neckline and the vertical stripes for length. Additionally, I added a belt for a more defined waistline.


Dresses: Here you’ll want to look for pieces that are going to give the illusion of a more defined waistline and that create curves or shape. Great choices would include fitted shapes (such as body con dresses), peplum styles, wrap dresses, A-lines, fit and flare or a tapered tulip design. You want to look for items that have “curved” elements. Stay way from shift dresses, which tend to look boxy and have no waist definition.

Here I’m wearing a fit and flare dress which gives more definition to the waist and width to the hips. Adding the belt further defined the waist. I’ve used the vest as an element to draw attention to the upper area so the waist looks even more defined. Lastly, I’m wearing a relatively nude/neutral shoe to help lengthen my legs.


Shirts/Tops: Again, you want to look for items that create the illusion of a waist – molded, or corset style designs or wider belts. Styles that will work well for you include: ruched and gathered pieces, off-the-shoulder, cowl necks and draped tops, asymmetrical cuts and bustier or very feminine fits. Avoid square cut tunics, that, again, create a boxy, waist-less appearance.

This floral peasant top is a perfect cut for a “rectangle” shape – the wide open shoulders creates width for my top, the cinching gives the appearance of a more defined waist and the slight peplum emphasizes the hip. This gives us the illusion of an hourglass shape.

If you’re also petite, as I am, consider the following elements:

  1. vertical lines, seams or detailing (things that create vertical lines: lapels, princess seaming, arms, length of pants/skirt, placement of embellishment and buttons)
  2. shoe colors that blend with skin, hosiery or pants
  3. monochromatic or low-contrast color palettes
  4. long necklaces or scarves
  5. up-and-down patterns and prints
  6. pant creases (they lengthen)
  7. pushed up or rolled sleeves
  8. shorter hemlines
  9. empire-waisted dresses and tops
  • Shorter hairstyles, which highlight your neckline, are also a plus.
  • These tips also apply if you’re fuller figured.


  • Ways to define a waist: tucking tops (make sure you blouson a little), belts, princess seaming, horizontal color-blocking, embellishment placement
  • Monochromatic looks: one color, color family or pattern head to toe. Consider accenting with a jacket or other finishing piece to create a long visual line.
  • Necklines that create a wider line at the shoulder: bateau (boat neck), collar, shawl, scoop, cowl, bowed
  • If you’re a “shortie” contrary to what we tend to believe, stay away from super high heels (i.e. 4″) and stick to flats or moderate heels – Very high heels make us look unbalanced, like we’ll topple over.
  • Jewelry is another good way to draw attention to your top. Consider statement necklaces or earrings.


I hope that this gives some help to those of you who found yourself in the “rectangle” category. Next week we’ll take a look at the “diamond” shape. Stay tuned!

Until We Meet Again,



4 Replies to “Dressing a Rectangle Body”

    1. Thanks Jodie! It really is… now I just need to round up some people to do the other shapes! Easier said than done! Haha!
      Have a great weekend!


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