Reader Gretchen sent me this request:
My trouble is finding outfits that work without making my hips/butt look huge. My waist is 28″ and my hips are 38″. If I wear flow-y tops or pants, I look like I have gained about 10-20 pounds because everything falls in line with my hips; however, if I wear more fitted clothing, my hips and butt stick out. Flow-y with belts around my waist perhaps? This doesn’t seem like a common problem for women anymore as it seems the true hourglass figure is getting lost somehow. So it’s been tough to find information.
Before we dig in, a few things to keep in mind: Few people fit neatly into a single figure shape category. Most of us are a mix of several. Hourglass figures come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, so even if some of the body shapes used to illustrate concepts here don’t meet your own expectations, they may be helpful to others. Even if some of these tips pertain to figure-flattery goals you don’t share, they may be the goals of others. And, as always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent. Good? Good. Let’s dig in.
Tops with flow and drape
Unless you are purposely doing something to visually alter your silhouette, you generally want to show the true shape of your figure. If you mask the places where your body curves – ankles, knees, wrists, waist – you aren’t showcasing your shape. With an hourglass figure, the primary curve in question is the waist, and tops or dresses that stand away from the waist will add visual volume to the figure. Think stiff blazers or thick sweaters that may fit in the bust or hips, but don’t really hug the waist.
Fluid fabrics like jersey knits, poly blends, rayon, and silk will skim your curves and are lightweight enough to conform to the curve of your waist. They are also more flexible and will stretch over your bust without gapping or pulling. This is not to say that stiff or thick fabrics are out of the question, but they will work better with your natural shape if they conform to your curves. And that may mean tailoring.
Hourglass figures often include pronounced hips, and that can mean that longer length, untucked tops cling to your bum. Shirttail and curved-hem tops are a great work-around if you want length without bunching. This style of top works best worn with pants when untucked, although it can certainly be tucked into a skirt. (And honestly, this style is great for all figures!)
As Gretchen mentioned, belting can be incredibly helpful for hourglass figures. Belts are great for drawing the eye to your waist if you want to highlight it, but can also help bring in the volume of tops, tunics, and blouses as needed. Belt at the smallest part of your waist, even if that falls above your skirt or pant waistband.
If you’re belting a loose or voluminous top, try to stick to a fitted bottom: A pencil skirt, leggings (with a tunic), straight legs, or skinnies will create balance. Also bear in mind that belting a top that’s three sizes too big will just great poofing. Belting should be a minor adjustment, not an attempted overhaul.
I feel like wrap dresses are prescribed for just about every fit challenge, but they really are an amazing option for hourglass gals. Faux wraps are fine, but true wraps are even better because they allow you to customize the placement and cinch-level of your waistline. Knits will conform to your bust and hip curves the best, but wovens like poplin can work, too. Experiment with wrap tops when you can find them.
Pencil, full, and A-line skirts
Mini, midi, and maxi skirts may be tough on a curvy figure, especially if you want a balanced and streamlined silhouette. (Which you won’t always. Wear those minis and maxis to your heart’s content when you want to.) But pencil, A-line, and some flared skirts will all work harmoniously with many hourglass variants so long as they’re around knee length. Pencil skirts will show off the curves of your lower half, and look marvelous with a fluid, tucked-in top. A-line skirts add volume in the bottom half which balances your bust, and are great with fitted untucked sweaters and tucked blouses. Full skirts work best if they have a yoke or pleats that begin a few inches below the waistband. This prevents them from sticking straight out from the top of your hips and keeps the volume in check. Try full skirts with fitted jackets or sweaters. (And, as always, when you tuck you’ll generally want to belt.)
High- and mid-rise pant styles with top-entry pockets
Hourglass figures look great in everything from trousers to skinnies. Bootcut jeans are often highlighted since the slight flare at the ankle balances curves, but they’re not the only option. Wide legs that skim the hips can work with fitted tops, straight legs are a fabulous option especially with heels, and skinnies work fantastically with tunics.
The main features that hourglass gals should seek in pants are a mid-or high rise and top-entry pockets. If you’ve got hips and a nipped waist, low-rise styles are likely to create muffin-top. And be uncomfortable. Higher rises will fit better, though they may need to be taken in at the waistband. Side pockets on pants will wing out since they are designed for women with no hips. Stick to top-entry pockets or no pockets for a smoother line.
If you are an hourglass with a large bust, you probably know this one already. In fact, if you are anyone with a large bust, you’ve probably been told that lower necklines are ideal for your shape. V-necks, scoops, and drapes all visually lengthen the neck which balances the bust. Since some hourglass figures have lots of curves, both elongating the neck and downplaying the bust can help create overall visual harmony.
Find a fabulous tailor
I didn’t mention jackets of any kind because, in my experience, blazers and jackets are incredibly difficult to fit off the rack for everyone. Hourglass variations may have more trouble than most, especially if the waist is considerably smaller than the bust and/or hips. Buy garments that fit your largest spot – shoulders, bust, hips – and have them taken in.
Now. Gretchen asked for outfit ideas, which is a little tough since I don’t know her personal style or dressing preferences. But here are some general formulas that will work for many hourglass figures:
- Flowy blouse, belted, over slim pants
- Fitted low neckline sweater or top, untucked, over trouser-cut jeans or pants
- Fluid top tucked into pencil skirt, belted
- Fitted (potentially tailored) jacket, low-necked tank, yoked full skirt
- Contoured tee shirt with low neckline, straight-leg jeans, heels
- Flowy tunic, belted, over leggings or skinnies
- Peplum top, pencil skirt (peplum will need to hit at the natural waist)
- Shirttail top or blouse, straight legs, heels
Whew! That was a long one. Hope there were some helpful tidbits in there, and would love to hear what works for you hourglass-shaped ladies. What are your favorite garment shapes? Outfit formulas? Do tell!