Reader L e-mailed me this question:
I know this might be a question that applies to a lot of people, but in case it’s useful info, my specific body is like this: I’m about 5’7″, and I weigh somewhere between 145 and 150 lbs at any given minute. I have a very short waist (less than 2.5″ between my last rib and my hipbones), very small breasts (a-b cup, I rarely wear underwire bras) and a large ribcage–about 37 inches around. It’s not that I’m barrel-chested, which I know is an actual medical diagnosis, just that I’m really wide side-to-side. I’ve always struggled with those apple/pear/rectangle body classifications. I have the wide top half and super long legs that would make me an apple, except that I’ve never particularly had a tummy and my waist does come in a couple inches between my ribs and my hips (but it’s short enough to not particularly produce an hourglass shape). And while I have curvy hips and a big butt that mean I’m not really rectangular at all, my torso’s much shorter and wider than those shapes called pear.
I clarified with her that her figure-flattery goals were to create more balance and make her ribcage look narrower/smaller and her waist longer. She also mentioned that, due to her extreme short-waistedness, she experiences some stomach rolls no matter what she wears and would like to downplay them. Here’s what I told L:
Seek blazers with curved side seams
Not all blazers are cut this way, but the ones that are may work magic on your frame. They’ll be structured enough to downplay some of the rolls, and give the impression of a nipped-in waistline. The blazer at the top of this post is a good example. See those seams along the sides that curve? Those are what you’re looking for. You’ll find them toward the back on the sides of this style, too. My understanding is that true princess seams are ideal but rare in blazers, so just look for anything that has visible, curved side seaming. This particular blazer is a bit short, but if you find versions that are longer in the body they will help visually elongate your torso. Blazers that won’t work as well? Boxy, cropped, bulky styles like swing jackets. Also you probably want to avoid “boyfriend” style blazers as they are long, but cut straight up and down with little or no waist definition. (UPDATE: Reader Stephani has pointed out that these seams are called waist darts. I am mostly familiar with bust darts which are smaller/shorter, but looks like these qualify as darts, too!)
Try tunics, dusters, and leggings
The long-over-lean formula might be helpful in elongating your waist and minimizing the ribcage size. A longer style of top – like a tunic – will visually elongate your torso. Most tunics are fairly lightweight and a bit clingy, though, so adding a boyfriend cardigan or duster will give you more structure. It will also draw the eye up and down making you look taller. This layering formula also gives you the chance to try belting. And yes, I know that may be the last thing you want as a short-waisted gal with some midsection rolling. But here’s why I’m suggesting it: Belting underneath a top layer (like a cardigan or duster) gives the impression of a smaller, nipped waist even if you have the belt fastened very loosely. Try belting lower than your natural waist over the tunic – perhaps even verging on hip-slung – then do a cardi or duster on top. See how it feels.
Look for insets
So this suggestion is going to be the hardest to implement, but might help to keep in your back pocket. Insets in a different color or print can help create the illusion of a smaller waist/ribcage area. What you want is contrast – so color blocking in a lighter tone or a bit of pattern that goes in a different direction. Anthropologie often has some dress options with inset details in the bodice. They won’t be foolproof, but the right one will narrow your ribcage visually.
Image courtesy Banana Republic.
**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.
Originally posted 2013-06-18 06:39:20.