What Not to Wear, for Pears

Today I’m talking about style rules. Do you follow the so-called ‘rules’ for your body type? Do you read magazines and take their suggestions on what to wear if you’re tall, boyish or curvy? Do you ever watch What Not To Wear?

As for me, I love reading about style! I read as much as I can, taking it all in and filing in my mind for future reference. Fashion magazines, books, articles – anything with tips and tricks always gets my attention. I read how to elongate my legs, draw attention to my face, minimize hips and thighs… but when I look at the clothes I have in my closet, they don’t all follow the rules. (My theoretical wardrobe – the clothes I wish I’d sewn for myself already – now that’s a different story!)

I was at the library, taking out Shirtmaking for the third time when I noticed the style and beauty section, right under the sewing section. Funny how they’re right next to each other, no? Although sewing is often an exercise in style and flattery. We judge the success of our sewing project not only by fit and construction, but also whether we feel beautiful in our clothing!

In the style section, there were several books by Trinny and Susannah, the British duo behind What Not to Wear. I’ve read their books before and couldn’t resist picking up The Body Shape Bible for a read-through. And since I’m still taking a break from sewing while my burn heals, I read through the book and thought I’d share some of the parts I liked!

Here’s what they suggest for us pear-shaped gals:

  • A fantastic knee-length belted coat
  • Full-skirted dresses, strapless
  • Trousers without pockets, with wide legs.
  • Blouses with shoulder interest
  • Long A-line skirts
  • Striped boatneck tee shirts
  • Platform heels
  • Statement necklaces to draw the eye up

I created a Mini-Wardrobe on Polyvore, to give you an idea what it would look like:

Mini-Wardobe for the Pear-Shaped Gal

Want. It. All. I’ve never played around with Polyvore before, but it’s so much fun! Like window shopping, but better.

Here are the items we’re NOT to wear:

  • Skinny jeans
  • Johdpurs
  • Ankle straps

Whenever I read things like this, I feel like overhauling my closet, removing all of the offending garments and writing a to-sew list full of flattering items. Or at the very least, holding a try-on session in front of the mirror, camera in hand and evaluating the contents of my wardrobe.

Wardrobe purging tip: looking at photos (instead of the mirror) helps you to stand back and properly assess yourself for figure flattery. If you can’t stop looking at your goofy face, crop the photo above the neck. I’ve done that when all I think is ‘you need a haircut!’

I naturally follow these rules by my own trial and error. I love a full-skirted look! I fear strapless because I’m small-busted, but the strapless Vogue dress I made this year was flattering. I rarely wear pants, mostly because it’s hard to get a good fit. The one pair of trousers I have are wide-legged with subtle pockets – which I’ve kept for over ten years so I’d agree, they are a wardrobe staple! You all know I love a good platform pump – no problems with that suggestion. I’m all about the fantastic knee-length coat, I love the silhouette and instant-style-factor of a long coat. I usually wear the same necklace all the time but love the drama and interest of a statement piece to bring the eye upwards. I can work on that one! The Pendrell blouse has shoulder interest to minimize the hips, like they suggest. I haven’t worn a long A-line skirt in a long time but I’m intrigued by the idea, if I could make it look cool and not frumpy. Dramatic and elegant, not conservative and dowdy. Can it be done?

Overall, I like the look of the rules. The book shows all of these items on one page, in a pretty colour palette, kind of like my Polyvore collection. It’s a wardrobe I can totally see myself wearing!

On the Not-To-Wear list, I tend to avoid these styles by default. Finding a good pair of jeans is a massive challenge, never mind skinny jeans! I keep trying but they just aren’t cute or flattering on me. You can see every thigh crease! Johdpurs aren’t even a consideration for me. And I know ankle straps shorten my legs, so I opt for T-straps which are a little more kind to the leg line. So I naturally avoid the so-called unflattering styles because I don’t sew them, and rarely shop.

On a side note, my sister has the same measurements as me and looks awesome in skinny jeans! She rocks them with total confidence though, perhaps that’s the difference…

There are a few things I wear that are totally unflattering, but so comfortable! I have a pair of flat, chunky motorcyle boots that I love, even though they stumpify my legs. They’re super comfy and I could walk for hours in them! (Which is more than I can say for my collection of platform pumps.)

What do you think? Do you follow body-shape rules, either purposefully or subconsciously? Do you follow what’s in fashion regardless of your body type? Or do you wear whatever you please, regardless of figure-flattery and fashion trends? Tell me, I’m curious!

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33 Responses to What Not to Wear, for Pears

  1. Patty December 21, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    I’m totally addicted to reading stuff like that. I realized after I started sewing that I’m not really the hourglass I thought I was – i’m definitely more of a pear, although a full busted pear with high hips! The biggest thing I’ve realized over the last few months is that what I thought was the best skirt shape (a-line, right?) isn’t that great on me – with high hips, it flares away from my widest point and makes me look larger! And full circle skirts, while my favorite, also add bulk. I always stayed away from straight skirts, but they actually are the most flattering! Who knew!

    The best part of sewing is making clothes that are flattering – especially with a hard-to-fit body or odd sizes. I’ve spent a lot of years wearing ‘good enough’ in RTW – either good styles, bad colors or vice versa, it’s awesome to figure out what looks best on me (purple? really? teal?)

    And you are so RIGHT ON with the picture taking versus photos! Half the reason I blog is to have a reference point to look at to figure out what works! Or, at least, used to blog… Christmas has caught up with me, it seems!

  2. G December 21, 2010 at 6:52 am #

    You might like this: http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/search/label/X%20shape
    I’m assuming you’re the type of pear that’s an X-shape rather than an 8.

  3. K-Line December 21, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    I love those books but I also break the “rules” routinely. Sometimes a girl wants to wear the slightly less flattering things cuz they’re cute. And I find it fascinating that you and your sister have the same measurements and she looks great in skinnies! It must be the vibe she brings. (Something tells me you look great in them too…) Having said that, I”ve noted that 2 people can have same measurements and still carry density in totally different spots. Which is so weird.

  4. Mav December 21, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    I love those rules and I find I actually do buy and wear the things they suggest for pear shaped bodies because they are the most flattering on me. I find very few people can rock skinny jeans and I can’t wait for that fad to be over.

  5. Jenna December 21, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    I just recently discovered that I’m a pear (never knew or cared before I started sewing). As a stay at home mom, I’m mostly in jeans & t shirts, but I do tend to follow the style rules. I love wide legged trousers, though I’ve had a lot of trouble finding them.
    I had to smile when you said you shy away from strapless because your small busted…I shy away from them because of my large bust! :) Great post, Tasia!

  6. daiyami December 21, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    A few years ago, I made my dressing room rule of “it has to *actively* make me look better”, not “I could wear this”. It has really helped me buy clothes that are better for me. I pay some attention to the rules, but more to my own judgment (because if I feel confident in it, that’s going to matter more than whether it is perfectly flattering). So I’ve developed my own rules—drawstrings are my friend; no point in trying on skirts with pleats, because the pleats will always gape; bootcut if I’m looking at pants. (definitely a pear—A shape rather than X or 8 in that lingo) I wear a lot of long scarves, which both pull attention to the face and distract from the hips.

    With sewing, I’ve had to translate that into looking for patterns that allow for shaping at the waist, but am not sure yet how else it goes. Once I find a pattern that works for me, I’ll be making it over and over.

  7. Uta December 21, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    I love style books, but in the end I decide on what I see in the mirror. One gripe I have is that books often have conflicting advice, e.g. I’m pear-shaped and short-legged, and so I’m advised to cover my rear end (pear) and wear cropped tops (short legs). Same with skinny jeans: I think it depends on the shape of the pear and what’s worn with the jeans. I wear them sometimes and think it’s not too bad… Also, practicality: Heels are suggested for pears and short legs alike (yay!), but I don’t have a heel-wearing lifestyle. I walk and bike a lot, go on rough trails with the kids, and as every mom knows, I have to pick the kids up eitther in the mud or in the sandbox.

  8. daiyami December 21, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    PS. I spent years ignoring and not understanding the rule about wearing big necklaces, ruffles, etc, up near the neck—and then when I cut off my curly long hair, suddenly I was much more interested in having shape and structure at my neck, and it all made more sense. So some things are very individual.

  9. Hatty December 21, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    I think there is another aspect to body shape that is never throughly considered at all by anybody. In which direction do your outie bits stick out, sideways (to give an hourglass shape) or front and back? So for example, I have a physique which pushes a certain amount out front up top and a similar amount out back below but nothing goes out to the sides. So straight on I am quite a column – I have little visible waist indentation even though my waist is ten inches less than my hips and eight inches less than my bust; sideways on I am an S-shape! My S-shape gives me prominent boobs, a swayback and a prominent rear (and means that even when I was nine months pregnant, I didn’t look pregnant at all from behind!). That S-shape used to be fashionable about a hundred years ago! But a columnar shape is also typical of modern women who have done a lot of sports in their youth – doing sports develops your ribcage and your abdominal muscles and prevents the spreading rear, so you lose that “1950’s” waist definition.

    So to cut a long story short, despite my being a slight “pear”, belted anything doesn’t suit me or anyone like me, I think, because of my lack of sideways curves. Shoulder interest is good and for me hip pockets also. Basically anything that gives a bit of “sidewaysness” above or below my invisible waist. Phew, took a long time to explain this conclusion, didn’t it? I’m sure there are lots of women like me!

    By the way,that skirt in your photomontage looks like a bias cut skirt rather than an A-line to me. Happily both types suit my shape. The bias cut flatters my prominent rear without cupping underneath it and horribly exaggerating it like some knits do, and the A-line gives me the illusion of a waistline.

  10. Darci December 21, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    Except for the ankle straps on the shoes, I’m in! I’ve got legs that go on for DAYS, so cutting them down a bit ain’t a problem.

    I’ve got a closet FULL of cute clothes, but I don’t wear them all, so when I put an outfit together, I ask, “How do I feel wearing this?” If it’s ill-fitting or for some reason doesn’t make me feel FABULOUS, out it goes!

  11. Becky December 21, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Lots of good tips here! I think Hatty had a really good point about which way your curvy bits stick out–measurement-wise, I’m slightly on the pear side due to my hip measurement being a couple inches bigger than my bust measurement, but that’s extra padding on my backside instead of my hips so I look more like an hourglass. I think I do subconsciously follow the “pear” rules for my bottom half, though. Especially because I think I look better in wider-legged pants, and things like skinny jeans make my thighs look HUGE. (I’m finishing up round 2 of the jeans-making class at Pattern Review, this time with much more success in getting a muslin that fits well enough to actually make a pattern from, and discovered that apparently I have “muscular thighs”! It’s amazing how self-aware of your figure sewing makes you become.)

    I do have a pair of gladiator-style sandals with ankle straps, though, and I like them. But I’m also kind of long-limbed. I always have to add a bit of length to sleeve and pant hems. So I think it’s ok. (They’re also metallic silver, and I’m perpetually pale, so I don’t think they add quite the visual cut that a darker color would!)

  12. TanitIsis December 21, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    I tend to find that the things I find most flattering on me (as opposed to on other people ;) ) are also the things that are recommended for my shape (rectangular, short waist). On the other hand sometimes an item is sufficiently cute or comfy or practical that you have to throw the rules out the window.

    On the skinny jeans subject, I think it has a lot to do with your leg proportions, too—thigh to calf in particular. Skinny jeans look best with muscular calves ;)

  13. Karin December 21, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    I am a classic pear with wide hips too. I agree with Becky, I mostly follow all these rules subconsciously after years of trying on clothes and noticing what seems to work best.

    Hatty’s comments are interesting. I think she is onto something.

  14. Alana December 21, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    My take on the whole thing is a bit like my take on horoscopes, I choose to only believe the stuff I like! ;)
    That being said, I totally have the book you’re talking about and love it. I fall somewhere between an ‘hourglass’ and a ‘skittle’ (described charmingly by the ladies as a pear with big tits) so it opened up loads of different ideas which I wouldn’t have thought I could wear like a pencil skirt so I made my first Burdastyle Jennyskirt and it’s been love ever since.
    Plus, is anyone else obsessed about capsule wardrobes? Yours is gorgeous :)

  15. Jessica December 21, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    The insideoutstyle blog link above is great – it was there that I realized that I’m an S shape, (high hip hourglass) even though my hips are larger than my shoulders – it explained why I have thin calves, and some of the pear advice doesn’t work for me (I don’t follow that site’s rules about skirts though – I love full skirts, and hate tight skirts!

    I agree that photos are very helpful – since I started taking them every day I’ve gotten much more adventurous in what I wear! I actually wore an ankle length skirt last week and made it work – but it was my third try getting that skirt to look good and not stumpy!

    Oh, and I’m obsessed with polyvore too – like paper dolls for adults!

  16. Gabriella December 21, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    I love reading style rules! But hardly ever follow them since I get so confused. I am hourglass- shaped, but very short, with both stumpy legs and a short torso. There are different rules to all of that and they rarely coincide. So what rule to follow? Well, I choose cute, comfortable clothes and thats that.

  17. julia December 21, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I am just beginning to think about things like that. I have not read much yet. I am still wondering if I am an I or an H kind of shape. But it still is interesting. And some of the things that I’ve done just by “feeling better” in some things and less in others are actually logically explained, fun.

  18. Hatty December 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Daiyami’s right too. Head size and hair also makes a big difference to the balance of your physique.

  19. Brumby December 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    A while back I read Tim Gunn’s guide to style (highly, highly, highly recommend!) and it inspired me to cull my wardrobe by about 65%, it was the best thing I ever did and I highly encourage it! I set about making a plan for what I wanted to make to build my wardrobe back up with solid foundation garments that really expressed who I was as a person, sketched them all into a book with colour samples and fabric swatches. Regrettably some big life changes (moving cities, starting a new job etc) have meant I have completely lost momentum on it but hopefully over the Christmas break I will find some of my lost mojo and tick a few more sketches off my to do list!

  20. The Slapdash Sewist December 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I always love reading this stuff, though I hate the A line skirt advice for pears. A line skirts are not flattering on me because they show the width of my hips and then make it look like I get wider from there. A slim-cut skirt creates a womanly hourglass thing for me.

    I have short legs, but also really narrow heels with a wide forefoot so I literally cannot take a single step in shoes without an ankle strap. I step right out of them. I get a surprising amount of criticism for my ankle straps on my blog (odd), but I need them to remain shod and plus they are more comfortable and I walk at least 4 miles a day in my pedestrian commute. So whatevs on that!

    The other advice is solid, though.

  21. sallyann December 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Learning to sew initiated my interest in what worked on my pear shape. Who wants to spend time and money sewing something that will not be flattering? When in doubt about a pattern, I go to the mall and try on a similar design/silhouette to get a better idea.
    Yes, pears can wear a pleated skirt – just stick to pleats in the front ONLY. And heels are a real plus but not always practical. Still, no flat flats for me, I look for a little wedge or kitten heel to balance things out. I like to add a thin 1/4 inch shoulder pad to my jackets. I have one pants pattern that I use over and over, it’s a Vogue that took so much tweaking to get it right that I almost gave up. Wear Spanx, no thanx.

  22. Linnea December 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    what do they have to say about a six foot tell pear with wide shoulders but a narrow ribcage? :)

  23. Linnea December 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    what do they have to say about a six foot tall pear with wide shoulders but a narrow ribcage? :)

  24. Clare December 22, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    As quite a pronounced pear, I don’t like full skirts on me because they seem to make me look larger and shorter (short legs, wide hips!). One rule I try and follow is to draw the eye to my upper body with interesting necklines. The most flattering combinations on me (fitted skirt, heels) are not always practical or comfortable and I have to choose my footwear really carefully to make sure everything is balanced. I love a good shift dress, especially for teaching, but apparently pears should be avoiding those. I also wear jeans a lot but it’s a nightmare finding ones that look good.

  25. Eilane December 22, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    Tasia Hello, I hope his injury is healing yourself sewing, I loved the pieces you put together, I also believe with pear body type, I will focus on renewing my wardrobe with pieces that enhance this biotype. ‘m Not particularly attached style rules, but would love to wear a skirt and high waist. (sigh)

    Eilan – Brazil
    (sorry for any mistake, I’m using a google translator.)

  26. Trisha December 22, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Tasia- thanks for introducing me to Polyvore! I had so much fun over there that I had to post about it.

  27. Lucy-Mae December 23, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    I’ve recently been working as a fit model, and it’s shown me how somebody with the exact same measurements can have a really different body shape. It’s amazing!

  28. Tasia December 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    Awesome – you guys like this stuff as much as I do! So much debate on rules, body types, and garments to avoid. There are no hard and fast rules, and the more we sew, shop and dress the more we learn what we like on ourselves. That’s what it’s all about in the end – dressing ourselves in a way we like and feel good in. I guess that’s the point of the rules – a shortcut to finding the styles that we’ll like on ourselves. Guidelines, that’s all! And as a few of you mentioned, sometimes practicality wins over having the ultimate figure-flattering look.

    And G, I think you’re right, I am more of an X-shape! Thanks for the link, while I hate to even type it, I definitely carry my weight on my low hips and thighs. That’s a great site for style advice, I forgot about it!

    I love hearing your thoughts and feedback, thanks so much for the great comments! (And yes, the skirt is more like a bias skirt than a long A-line. I had a hard time finding a long skirt I liked for the mini-wardrobe, that was the best I could find!)

  29. Tilia December 29, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    I’m very pear-shaped and it makes some of the rules that Triny and Susannah give not work. I love full skirts, but I can’t wear skirts that are to full because they make my hips look even bigger. A-lines are better.

    Just wanted to mention that the shoes you’re showing here aren’t good for pears though. Pears need a wide heels, not stiletto type of heels.

  30. sarah January 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    There are a couple of these What – to – Wear rules that my pear shaped body vehemently disagrees with…

    Full skirted dresses or skirts: They look horrible on me and seem to only make my butt look that much larger. On my slim waisted, long-legged, large hip figure, a slim-fitting skirt without pleats and gathers is far more flattering. (But they are more challenging to fit).

    Wide-leg pants: Can work, with one caviat: They need to be slim-fitting to the knee, and flare from there. A standard “wide leg” trouser gives me giant thunder-thighs. NOT pretty!

    But I can’t express enough love for A-line skirts, particularly ones that fall just below the knee, in that little dent between the knee and the fullest part of your calf. They are the secret to convincing me and everyone else that i’m skinnier than i am! You won’t be disappointed if you try them. :)

    • Alia September 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I know why that is – I think you’re more of a bell…. the long limbed type – you’re right to avoid the full skirts!
      Agree about pants, completely!

    • Alia September 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I know why that is – I think you’re more of a bell…. the long limbed type – you’re right to avoid the full skirts!
      Agree about pants, completely!

  31. Jennifer July 22, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    I’m 5’6″, 130 lbs, athletic, pear. A tiny percentage of manufactured fashions look well on me, and these I exclusively choose.

    Hell, no, I don’t wear “the fashion” if it doesn’t look good on me! That’s a straight-on invitation to the pig-in-lipstick ball.

    None of us should glorify the fashion world by sausaging ourselves into whatever they’ve decided we should want to buy from them from one year to the next.

    A given material’s drape is an essential part of the equation, but given the right material, I am fully satisfied with the following formulas:

    1) Pants must be long and have some flare at the bottom. Low rise is best, mid-rise is ok. Fitted toward the knee is great, but negotiable if it’s a fabulous linen or hemp material. No skinny belts.

    2) A fitted dress that fully displays all that’s best above the waist, then falls (still somewhat well-fitted) a short distance below the saddlebag zone. If you have great legs, that’s good enough. If, like me, you do not have great legs, flowing long pants or tights under the fitted dress will preserve the shape and hide the flaws with beauty and elegance. If, like me, you do not have elegant ankles, boots that come some distance up the legs are magic.

    It was many years before I discovered that last piece. Hope it helps someone.