Our body shape is related to our skeleton - when we think about the construction of our skeleton it will be the basis of our body shape. Essentially, we have a rib cage, and a pelvis, in between a spine (arms and legs are not considered important components of body shape, only body proportions which I'll write about next month). The further the pelvis is from the rib cage, the longer the torso and more likely you are to have a waist.
So, to find out what your shape is, stand up, feel where your rib cage ends with your fingers, work them round to the side of the body, about 3cm from your sides. Now put your thumb on that point, now feel with your fingertips for your hip bone - that's the bone that sticks out a bit from your pelvis.
1cm - 10cm - Short Waist: you don't have much space between these bones for a waist, it doesn't matter how thin you get, that magically tiny waist will never appear as your bones are in the way. Without major rib removal surgery, which I advise is unnecessary, then you will need to learn to dress your body to give the illusion of a waist even though you don't have a defined one. Your body shape may be defined as an H, Rectangle, Column (Princess Diana, Anne Hathaway) or if you for the produce market - celery. If overweight you may become the apple or O shape (Dawn French) 11+cm- Long waist: (unless you're pregnant, or gone through menopause, when the lack of oestrogen tends to make us gather extra weight around the waist and you're more likely to take on the H or O shape as described above). You may have shoulders that are approximately the same width as your hips, if so you will be either an 8 (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cate Blanchett) or X shape or hourglass (Jessica Simpson). If your shoulders are narrower than your hips you will be the A or for the fruit lovers, pear shaped (Kate Winslet, Kristin Davis) If your shoulders are wider than your hips, then you're a V shape (Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightley, Cameron Diaz - long waisted, Salma Hayek - short waisted), which can have either a long or short waist.
Dress Your Body ShapeIf you don't have a waist, it's cruicial that you don't draw attention to this fact and 'bypass' the waist, drawing no attention - no belts or detail around the waist area. You want to keep your clothes fitted to give you the illusion of a waist, but not stop the eye at this point. Your tops need to be at least hip length if not a little longer. Boxy clothes will make you look boxy, so avoid them. Never tuck in tops as it shortens and widens your already shorter upper body.
For the long waisted gals out there, play up your waist. Wear belts, tuck in tops, draw attention to your narrowest point. Again, make sure your clothes aren't boxy as this will make you look all together wider as will lose your asset. You will need to keep your tops and jackets no longer than an inch below your hip bone or it will draw attention to your widest point and make you look wider.
Now the difference between an 8 and an X is whether or not you have the shelf hip (you've got that shelf that your baby sits so easily on), where your widest point is the top part of your bottom (not your lower hip area), so you're an 8. If your hip slides away and the widest point when you look in the mirror is the top of your thighs, then you're an X or Hourglass shape. The difference in dressing these two shapes lies below the waist - they both can belt and tuck, but the 8 needs to wear straight skirts and trousers, whilst the X is most flattered by A lines and bootlegs.
You may have the high hip of the 8 body, but the narrow shoulders of the A body - if so, draw attention up to the face with pattern and detail above the waist, and keep your bottom half dressed like the 8 shape, clean, smooth and straight lines with no fuss or flounce.
For all those V shapes, balance your broad shoulders with some flare in your trousers and skirts. On the top half, halter-necks, raglan, dolman and batwing sleeves all work well for you. This is the typical coathanger shape of many models.
However, there is more to dressing your body than just your shape - this is your body proportion, which relates to the length of your legs vs the length of your body, and this will be the topic of another article.Until then, dress with style and flair.