Body Shape- Holding A Mirror To Self

graphical representation of a women hugging herself while looking at herself in a round mirror. Image Credit-

Part 1: The Self Image Paradox

The problem isn’t with our body. The problem is what we think of it and of ourselves…

For long we have been trying to understand body types to make that perfect fit, so we did a little research to understand body shapes

We measured over 100 women across the length and breadth of this country between the age group of 20 to 60. The process would always get remarks like, ‘I am not in best of my shape, or ‘I am heavier at hip’ or ‘my one bicep is larger than the other’ and ‘I believe I have a round shaped body’. Invariably all women sounded apologetic about their hip and sometimes about their waist or shoulders. The result, however, had surprising tale to tell. Here's the same for you-  

  • 90% women felt they were heavier for their size and height.
pie chart showing that 80% of women have a negative body image. Result from a survey done on 100 Indian women by Cotton Rack
  • Only 10% were actually heavy for their size and height.
a pie chart showing that 80% of surveyed Indian women actually have the right/desirous body.
  • 30% of the women who took the survey believed themselves to be of hourglass shape, 60% believed themselves to be a pear shape or oval shape and 10% felt they were a rectangle.
  • When we calculated their measurements, 60% of the respondents turned out to be either an hourglass or a combination of hourglass and pear.
  • 30% were pear and oval shaped and 10% were rectangle.
  • 80% of the women had higher hip to waist ratio.

    This gave us an important insight. The majority of women believed they were heavier than they actually were and felt uncomfortable about their hips, something which is an integral part of South Asian body structure. Almost all participants felt they were not in their ‘best shape’, and while saying this, the ones accompanying them would laugh at their remark. It was quite insightful how almost 80% of the women we questioned, were not sure of their body shape and assumed themselves to be slightly ‘out of shape’.

    All shapes, no matter what proportion are beautiful. It talks about the journey you and your body have taken together. Media often tells us how one body shape is more desirable than the other and what is the ‘shape of the season’ but we need to understand that the best relationships are those that are cherished together and not ones where one partner is undermined. We want to hold up this mirror right so that we may use body shape for what it is, a mere tool to help us understand our body better. And that is how it should be seen. Nothing more. Nothing Less.

    Body shapes, also, should only guide us on how to dress better according to our needs and not at all dictate our feelings towards it or towards what we eat. To sum it up, understanding a body shape should only and only help you build your wardrobe with things that you will treasure and end up wearing and not your food plate or your emotions.

    Personal Note (Rameshwari): I am an hourglass and I envy rectangle. All my friends tell me how they like my petite structure whereas I envy those who are tall and lanky. I spent a lot of time trying to lose my weight to get that frame but my adamant skeleton and mother’s genes never let me. Today, I am comfortable with my body but still feel a few inches from here and there should go. And the moment I say this loud, I get a huge no from friends and family. Perception of body shape is a personal matter. What may not be good enough for you, could be desirable for many others.


    Part 2 – Understanding Body Shapes (Not Fruits)

    My limbs work, so I'm not going to complain about the way my body is shaped - Drew Barrymore

    1. Are body shapes relevant?

      Dressing for your shape, and especially the process of discovering your body shape, can feel frustrating, restricting and judgmental. So the question becomes, are body shapes even relevant?

      Defining a body shape is a form of judgment. A woman who has a pear shaped body, may or may not like to show her pear. That is her choice and her freedom to make that choice defines her personality. I am 5’1” and I love to wear horizontal stripes whereas ideally I should not but that has never stopped me from wearing them.

      Understanding body shape is just a tool and not a dictum to make an informed judgement about clothing. You may choose to use this tool or just let it rest in your toolbox. The choice is yours to make.

      2. What’s with the fruits metaphor anyway?

      vector shapes of banana, apple, pear and a question mark.

      Apple, orange, pear, banana and carrot are not just fruits but also the measure of a body shape because “pear shape” is a lot easier to imagine than “gynoid,” though both mean the same thing. That said, a lot of people aren’t fans of these fruit-based metaphors. They feel that this helps perpetuate the false idea that there’s an ‘ideal’ or ‘more desirable’ body type.

      In a study on objectification theory, researchers Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts write:

      “This perspective on self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women’s opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. Accumulations of such experiences may account for an array of mental health like depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.”

      3. Understanding your body shape

      • Look yourself in the mirror- Observe yourself in the mirror in privacy in a very intuitive way. If you look at the outlines of your body what kind of shape comes to your mind? Is your top heavier than your bottom? Or the other way around? Think what shape of clothes would flatter your figure the most. Perhaps you already know which shape of clothes make you feel happy, empowered and beautiful. Go with your instinct.
      • Take the easy way and do a quiz- We never knew understanding body shapes included doing formulas and calculations and when we did, we realized it would be better to just have a simple tool that helped you understand your body shape better. It is a simple exercise and all it needs is a measuring tape.


      Part 3: Dressing The Awesome Body You Have

      a digital illustration showing different women with different body shapes namely oval, round, triangle, inverted triangle. hourglass and rectangle. 

      The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress- Hubert de Givenchy

      All body shapes out there are either one or variation or combination of the following body shapes. Just as their uniqueness, each involves a different thoughtfulness.

      • Triangle

        Hips - you've got 'em! 

        Flaunt them by drawing attention with darker colours and voluminous cuts. Play-down by adding volume to the top with clutter, pattern, colour and drawing the eye up.

        Add to your charm by-

          • Jackets that are short or have wide lapels or boxy fits.
          • Tops & blouses with boat, cowl, ruffles, V or U neckline and end either above or below your hips.
          • Dress & kurtas in empire-line, wrap around style, A-line & straight fits.
          • Bottoms that have straight fit.
          • Colour-blocking with dark on top and light on bottom.

        Cautiously experiment with-

          • Bias cut dresses & skirts.
          • Skinny or cropped pants.

        For link to clothing for Triangle Body Shape, click here 

        • Inverted Triangle

        You are statuesque with your broad shoulders and longer legs! 

        Keep details, fuss, anything that creates volume to your lower half and keep your gorgeous top half clean and uncluttered.

        Add to your charm by-

          • Jackets with straight cut, funnel neck & small notch collars.
          • Tops & blouses in solids & clean cuts with longer sleeves.
          • Dress & kurtas in A-Line, kalidars & wrap styles.
          • Bottoms that taper or flare.
          • Colour-blocking with light on top and dark on bottom.

        Cautiously experiment with-

          • Anything that adds volume to your top half.
          • Patterns on top, scarves around your neck or shoulders.

        For link to clothing for Inverted Triangle Body Shape, click here


        • Rectangle

          (other variations: Lean column or Athletic)

        Your body is a canvas. Experiment all you want!

        Flaunt your shape and go with the straight silhouette or play up your legs, waist and arms to emphasize them.

        Add to your charm by-

          • Jackets that are unstructured.
          • Tops & blouses with off-shoulder, ruffles and empire bodice.
          • Dress & kurtas in princess-Line, kalidars, A-line & Bias cuts. 
          • Bottoms with structure or details at hip.
          • Creating curves with colour-blocking, embellishments, details at neck, bust, waist or hips.

        Cautiously experiment with-

          • Both boxy & figure hugging fits.
          • Straight skirts and dresses with no details to draw the eyes up.

        For link to clothing for Rectangle Body Shape, click here

        • Oval

          (Other Variations: Diamond or Round)

        Flaunt those exquisite shoulders of yours!

        Show those shoulders, elongate that torso and draw the eyes up or to your legs to add to your shine.

        Add to your charm by-

          • Jackets that either end at waist or at/below the knee.
          • Tops & blouses in boat, cowl, scoop necklines and straight or slight fit.
          • Dress & kurtas in wrap, A-line or anything that draws eyes to legs or up to face.
          • Bottoms that are straight or tapered with details at hem.
          • Keep details above the bust line and below the hip line.

        Cautiously experiment with-

          • Details, belts & volume at waist.
          • Gathered skirts & boxy cuts.

        For link to clothing for Oval Body Shape, click here


        • Hourglass

          (Other Variations: Top Hourglass & Bottom Hourglass)

        You got the curves!

        Highlight them by defining your waist or play down by wearing straighter cuts.

        Add to your charm by

          • Jackets, blazer & cardigans in sharp cuts.
          • Tops & Blouses with scoop, V, Boat, Sweetheart, Cowl neck in A-line or slightly fitted cuts.
          • Dress & Kurtas in Wrap, A-line, Kalidars & Bias Cuts.
          • Bottoms with a bit of a flare or tapper to balance hips.
          • Wear styles that define your natural body shape.

        Carefully experiment with

          • Styles that hide your body shape.

        For link to clothing for Hourglass Body Shape, click here

         At the end of it all, I've learnt to remember that our body is ours and we are the sole owners of it. Every nook, corner, crack, scar and bend has a story to it. Why not let our body tell those stories, why not proudly wear them just like we proudly wear our favorite brand of clothing. I have also learnt that there are tools to accentuate my body and just like all the tools in wrong hands or with a wrong mindset can cause more harm. It is important to understand when to use them and where to stop. I sincerely hope, that our learnings come equally handy for you too.

        Shop ethically handmade clothing by India's best sustainable clothing brand- Cotton Rack

        For further reading and references:

        Image Credit-

        Fruits- Food vector created by brgfx freepik

        Self Love Mirror- Love vector created by freepik 

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        Congratulations ! Such an insight into a topic which is so much part of every woman’s thinking, never been addressed like this. Lovely presentation.

        Bina Rao

        Very well written! Loved the article on body shapes. It highlights the problem of not being satisfied ever, by what one has. We need to be utterly grateful for what we have and responsible for what we want to make out of it. Keep sharing meaningful information!!

        Toolika Gupta

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