This week we will look at understanding body shapes of women straight on, which follows on from my previous post about Understanding Body Proportions. In that post we looked at understanding body proportions in relation to the western world’s ideal. You can read that post here if you missed it.
We looked at how to use our head length as a measuring tool and were then able to plot our body’s proportions more accurately. At the end, we discovered that my body is not much like the ideal, in that I have a longer torso and a wider waist! Oh well! 😉 Did you run through the post to work out your body proportions? If so, what did you find out?
Understanding Body Shapes: Women
This week we will explore different body shapes for women, looking at them straight on. next week we will look at understanding body shapes from different angles. I will explain them in a way that makes sense to me, and hopefully to you too. You don’t need to be a trained designer or pattern cutter for this to make sense – I promise! 🙂 That said, if something doesn’t make sense after reading this, please do pop your question in the comments, and I’ll do my best to reply asap.
The Human Form As A 3D Shape
If we think about our body as being a three dimensional shape, it makes it a lot easier to think about fit and thus understanding body shapes.
‘Common’ body shapes are:
- Pear / Spoon – upward triangle
- Apple – downward triangle
- Banana – rectangular
- Hourglass (Full and neat) – opposing triangles.
What do these really mean?
Here’s a visual to help you out, looking at a woman’s body straight on.
- Pear / Spoon: Waist is a little bit smaller than the bust. Hips are larger than the bust.
- Apple: Upper body is wider than the hips, with little in the way of waist definition.
- Banana / Rectangle: The waist is slightly smaller than the equal bust and hip size.
- Hourglass: Bust and hips are the same with w well defined waist
- Diamond: The waist is thicker than the bust and hips, with smaller shoulders and smaller
- Potato: Hips that are narrower than the shoulder, and a waist that is larger than both the ample bust, and the hips
So, how do we break it down in order to understand the effect body shapes have on pattern making? Aha, let me show you the ways my lovely reader!
This week, we’ll look at the body shape straight on, which gives us an inkling but doesn’t tell the full story of how our body shape can affect fit. Lets take a body shape, and wrap a piece of card around that body, from bust to hip. We’ll start with an hourglass.
Hourglass Body Shape
Think of the hourglass figure as having two opposing triangles. The bottom of one triangle is parallel and in line with the hips. The straight edge of the second triangle is also parallel to the ground and is at the shoulder line. The tips of both triangles meet in the middle – at the waist. You can see from the lines the ‘hourglass shape’ forming.
Now, if we take that piece of heavy card and wrap it around our hourglass shape, so that it touches the shoulders and the hips, it would most likely be equal measurements (or thereabouts) at these key points. This gives us a cylinder shape.
If you were the person inside the card, and looked down, you will see and feel space between your waist and the edge of the card.
This is where darts – aka fabric suppression – comes in. If we use darts to take out that excess card, it would fit much closer to your body shape. This is reflected in the charcoal grey areas on the image.
Pear Body Shape (AKA Spoon)
Now.. Lets take a pear shape.
The pear body has hips that are larger than the bust. So, when we wrap our piece of card around our pear body, we have more of a cone shape than a cylinder shape.
Again there will be space at the waist between the card and waist, and this will need to be suppressed away, but it will be less than if it was the hourglass cylinder. The dart shape would therefore be different to the hourglass darts.
Apple Body Shape
An apple shape is like an upside down pear, with the point of cone shape card pointing down to the ground, and not quite as dramatically, instead of up to the sky.
Diamond Body Shape
A diamond body shape has a waist that is thicker than the bust and hips, but narrow shoulders and lower body.
Looking at my drawing, we can see that with the widest part being the waist, a cone could be made from the waist to the bust, or from the waist to the hips. It is essentially a diamond shape.
Potato Body Shape
When you add a full bust to the diamond, you have what could be called a potato shape. There is very little difference between the bust and waist or the bust and hips.
Now that we have an overview of each body shape, let’s lay the card flat and see where the darts would lie on the two dimensional pattern.
Banana / Rectangle Body Shape
The banana body shape is quite rectangular, and the card when placed around the body does not need much in the way of fabric suppression.
Now, these examples are of course looking at understanding the body shape from the front on. We next need to look at the body from the side. Why?
That’s right. The gazillion figure variations that exist all work to build up a body shape. Looking at our body from straight on, using a mirror or a photo, isn’t the only way to assess our body shape, as it doesn’t;t give us an accurate idea of what we need to be doing for the best fit. And as understanding body shapes for women is key to being able to achieve a great fit, THAT is what we shall be focusing on next week…
Check out the other posts in this series:
- Understanding Body Proportions
- Understanding Body Shape: Straight On (This Post)
- Understanding Body Shape: Around The Body
- Realistic Patterns: For All Shapes and Sizes
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.