Body Shapes Discussion and your comments...

Hello Everyone

I've had quite a few comments about body shapes - some of you can see your own shape, and some are not so easily seeing their own shapes, so I thought a little discussion might help.

The last series has introduced the concept of body shape.  I haven't totally finished yet but every so often will be introducing new posts to further clarify shape analysis - along with other aspects of style.  I plan to do this throughout the rest of the year when time permits.


Every one has their own unique combination of curves and angles - and not one shape template can accommodate all the different shapes and size combinations in the world.

They are meant as a guide only - really you can break the shapes down into 3 main categories:

Bottom Heavy                Top Heavy                        Straighter Shape


Short (Petite, has a slightly different shape)




Scale  - Frame size and weight/build.

Today's quick sketch is intended to show just what happens when a couple of these shape variables are present.  Pretend these rectangles represent people. The top row is all a short height, the bottom row is a taller height. There is a vast difference between the petite slim rectangle shown above (1, top left hand corner) and the larger, taller, rectangle (6, bottom left hand corner). And there is a vast difference even in the same height groups between slim (1, 4) and heavier build (3, 6). I used  a rectangle shape because it is quick and easy to draw, and illustrates the principle.  If you are an hourglass, pear/triangle, inverted triangle, round/apple/diamond/oblong shape then the same principles apply.


You can be taller or shorter - Petites also have a slightly different shape - being shorter, there is not so much space between shoulders, ribs, hips so everything tends to be more compact.  This means that clothes actually need a different cut than those for taller people. 

Frame size and weight is important as well.   Some of us have small frames and builds, and some of us larger frames and builds.  Multiply that by the number of basic body shapes and that is a lot of subtle differences!


Then you can also have a combination of shapes.  You may be bottom heavy (a pear or triangle) with a large bust - so you might wonder if you are an hourglass.  What you need to do is combine ideas from both sorts of shapes so that you look good.

Or you might be a straight shape (rectangle, column) and have more curve than the more angular rectangle.  That means you might have a bigger bust, slightly more defined waist and curvier bottom than the standard rectangle.  Use the guidelines for the rectangle, but also make sure you define your waist or you will look larger than you are - perhaps also check the  hourglass guidelines.


I also want to share a comment with you that Mary from posted last night, because what she has raised is very relevant - and she has put it very well:

"Petites are also either proportionate or not. Some petites have long legs in proportion to their torso, while others have "regular" leg length. Same applies to arms, torso length etc. If you have a proportionate body type, while being petite, your work in alterations is a bit easier"

(I think this goes for all shapes - we all know that patterns are made for the "regular shape"  - which is a statistical average of shapes - so how many of us really have that? Every body type can have different proportions)

While today's discussion is just a broad one about shape I would also like to post the rest of Mary's comment - and this illustrates especially the problems that petites can have using regular patterns, but also more broadly the problems all of us have at one time or another with patterns - because very few of us have the statistical shape.

I remove length above my bust, sometimes below my bust, and above and below the knee. I also do a narrow shoulder adjustment, and change the length of sleeves. Fitting the back is something I am now working on...I get lots of extra fabric in the small of my back. 

I think Petite shapes - and while there is a petite shape, there are also variations in frame size, weight, and maybe overlaps with other body shapes, these are the sort of challenges petites face - everything is compacted!

Thanks everyone for your comments about body shapes - some of the issues raised I will attempt to discuss in later blogs - comments and discussions welcome...

Sarah Liz :-)  



  1. I've already said this but your series is so thought-provoking, thank you so much. I am setting aside time this weekend to try to figure out my shape from all your info - so far I've established I'm petite (5'2") but with long legs for my height 30" inside leg (so I guess that means my top half is really compact), and a smallish frame (UK RTW size 8 - does that sound about right?). My back is smallish I think, certainly not in proportion to cup size so I get gaping at the neck on most tops. And my waist is only 8" smaller than my hips, so a bit of a rectangle. Good grief, it's no wonder clothes don't fit! :) x

    1. Hi Jacq, once again it's a pleasure. A lot of petite's have compact bodies with slightly larger waists (more rectangular) than taller ladies. Next time you get a chance, look at the slight difference in measurements for Burda patterns Petite and Burda patterns "Normal" and you'll see what I mean. Yes, if you have long legs the rest of you is going to be short waisted and squashed up! As far as small back is concerned, I remember one lady who fitted me for a bra (back in the days when you could easily get this service - who said English have small backs and larger fronts - whether this is so or not, I can't say - but I was born in England and it's certainly true of me.

  2. Hi Sarah, This series is so interesting, and helpful. Thanks for adding my comments to your post for today. It really is important for those of us who sew to measure ourselves. Once we get in that habit, all those scary measurements just become helpful numbers used to make us look better in our clothes. I spent YEARS feeling fat, and only until I realized that I was compact did I change my mind. There is not much space for extra fluff on this body :-)

    1. Hi Mary, you are so right - so many of us do feel ugly and fat, and we are not - it's the wrong size, shape and style of clothes. And you are right, those of us that are compact have to be careful as there is nowhere to nicely store the extra.

  3. Thank you so much for the post Sarah Liz.. they are so helpful.. Appreciate your time spent on them.
    Have a great day..

  4. Hi Judy, thank you and a pleasure as always.


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