My Beef With Body Shapes

by Arash Mazinani on May 17, 2011

I was recently reading Mrs Bossa’s blog article about a dress she found that was made by Trinny & Susannah. For my readers in the US that don’t know who Trinny and Susannah are they’re basically style guru’s that made a series of TV shows in the UK that highlighted how to dress for your body shape. I’d probably say they kicked started the whole phase of TV shows teaching you how to look and dress better. I can’t remember anyone really doing it before them. Anyway.. click on their names above to see them in action. Mrs Bossa also posted a picture of the back page from one of their books which she has kindly let me republish on my blog so please check that out below.

What’s my beef?

Well I’m sure you can see that they break down the body in to 12 different body shapes, they’ve even highlighted the shape that best represents their bodies. Trinny suggest’s she’s a pear and Susannah a vase. Now this is the part where I start to air ‘my beef’ I’d personally not describe Trinny as a pear, not by a long shot, she’s pretty much straight up and down. Not a good start when even the author can’t get it right.

You’re probably wondering how someone who actually works with people’s image is so anti ‘body shape’? I’ve read a lot of books on different body shapes and how to dress for your body and I’ve always found them confusing. Not because I’m a male trying to learn about women’s style or how to dress women, but because I’ve always found the method slightly flawed.

I’m not against people dressing according to the body that they have, quite the contrary. I am against trying to pigeon hole every body or ’99%’ as it says on the book into a very limited number of categories. I mean think about the human body and think about all the different shapes and sizes it comes in. Can we really just slot someone into 1 of 12 shapes?

When I was learning about body shapes I decided to try a little experiment. I watched different people go by while I was sat in a coffee shop and try and put them into different categories. It was quite difficult simply because they didn’t fit the perfect shapes that are often printed in books and magazines. You’d find that women would have often traits of more than one shape at least.

So what’s the alternative?

I mentioned earlier I do believe people should dress differently depending on the body they have. However, what I would advocate is focusing on the features you love about your body and aiming to highlighting them. If you love your bust, get a good bra (everyone should have good underwear regardless) and highlight it. If you have long legs, again make sure you wear clothes that emphasise your best bits. Then aim to take the emphasis off the parts of your body you don’t like so much. Think your arms are too big? Trick the eye into making them look slimmer… if your tummy is a problem area again wear clothes to take the emphasis off that region. It’s a damn sight cheaper than a tummy tuck.

So there you have it my beef with body shapes…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and definitely check out mrs bossa’s post as well.

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Joy May 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I miss Trinny and Susannah’s show! Are they still on in the UK? The show used to be on BBC America a couple years ago and then I think they did a show for an American network….

Now we have an American version of What Not to Wear and it’s just not as good (in my opinion).

But you’re right. For example, I have no idea what category I fit in — I’m sure it’s more than one!
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Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

No they don’t have a show on TV anymore I think Gok Wan has took over their role ha ha. Thanks for commenting


Madeleine May 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Well said! I don’t know how many women I stumble upon who love to pigeon hole their bodies as the described “apple,” “pear” or whatever object. They also live by this said object description especially during bikini season and of course whenever it is time to go jean shop. As mentioned above, I have no idea what category I fit in but it is certainly more then one. The only thing I do know, I’m short..really short. So any garment I buy -it will have to be altered. Ha ha.


Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Having a garment altered is not a bad thing, more people really should be friends with a good seamstress, thanks for your comment Madeleine.


Krystle May 17, 2011 at 11:36 pm

wow, I couldn’t agree more!! I’m sooo glad I added you to my Bloglovin’ feed!! :)

This has always irked me!! I used to look at these “guides” as a teenager and wonder why I didn’t fit. It really made me feel bad at times. I was a skinny RAIL growing up, with no curves, and I didn’t seem to fit into any of these “molds.” It made me feel so badly about myself. Of course, now I have the perspective to just be annoyed by these guides rather than feel like a freak. However, not everyone else does. It’s SO possible (and more realistic) to learn how to dress your body shape without using one of these charts to do so! great post!

Also, I saw your reply to my comment! Thanks, and yes, check out my blog! Today is actually “Fit Tuesday.” I post that weekly and it just went live. Today’s is a little different than usual, but it’s still a good one! :)



Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for commenting again and thanks for adding me on bloglovin! I checked out your blog I liked the post on exercising if you have bad knees. You should do one promoting the use of weights to women. I know so many that are scared if they do a single bicep curl they’ll look like Arnie lol.


Fashnlvr May 18, 2011 at 12:22 am

I have to agree with you on this topic. Sadly, certain members of the human race are always trying to stick the rest of us in our respective boxes. Few of us fit exactly one body shape.


Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for commenting Yvonne :-)


Fashion Limbo May 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Agree with you A LOT Arash… firstly, Trinny a pear? surprising, when I thought that’s my body shape and it has nothing to do with that tall, fairly straight, leggy woman! But then again, I also find the whole body shapes guide confusing. I’ve been told I’m a pear and then I just go, ok, fair enough… but I never go pass that. I mean I don’t think there are general rules that apply to everyone with a similar shape.

The whole idea of having 12 body shapes is ludicrous, absolutely ridiculous. There are pear-shaped women who have bigger boobs than others, and certain things will look better on them than on the flat-chested ones… There are countless types of arms, legs, hips, bums, how can they all be reduced to 12?

Like you, I believe in the “make the most of your virtues” theory, and flaunting what’s good and what you are proud of. Years ago, I bought I book by T & S, same topic, about body shapes… bought it in the morning, went through it over lunch time, returned it early afternoon as I found it was of no help at all.
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Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for commenting Jessie :-)


Mrs Bossa May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for the shout out, fella!

I’m quite surprised T+S went down this route; at first they were far more concerned with a ‘part by part’ analysis, and dressing to flatter each individual’s best features. There’s no denying it’s tough to shoehorn women into one of these shapes, but I’ve gotta give the girls credit for going beyond the hourglass/pear/apple/triangle tradition. Though as I said in my post, I think they could have come up with more flattering terms in some cases…
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Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

You’re welcome :-) yeah the term ‘brick’ is really awful.


Kate Parker May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hi Arash

Really enjoying your blog. I have to say that I do think body shapes have a role to play as a ‘starting point’ in helping women to better understand what styles work best for them. They can however, only act as a starting point and that’s where Personal Stylists like us can help individual ladies to personalise the information. I totally agree that ‘highlighting the best bits’ is a great way to go, but equally highlighting the small waist of a pear can often result in making hips look bigger because of the imbalance. Just as encasing the long lythe limbs of a lovely apple might make her look top heavy. The gorgeous Trinny is definitely a pear, albeit a very slight pear. I have a very similar body shape to her, though unfortunately not quite as slim or tall! A key element of this is that her legs are short in comparison with her body. Dressing for your body shape is also about balancing out the disproportion. When Trinny and Susannah introduced the 12 different body shapes I believe they caused more confusion, rather than clarity. Rules are there to be broken and I’ve even found a pair of skinny jeans which people tell me make my hips look small – who would have thought it? Sometimes it’s the tiniest details that can make the difference. For anyone who would like to know what these magic jeans are they are JBrand Majors – they have a cunning seam which runs slightly forward, and optically slims the hips. Also the fact that they are cropped means they are often the right length for short-legged pairs to wear with flats or shoe boots. Kate x


Arash Mazinani May 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Nice to meet you Kate thanks for your lovely comment :-).


perdita May 18, 2011 at 8:33 pm

One thing I have never got is why disproportion is SO bad. Firstly, it’s ‘our’ idea of disproportion: an overly big bottom varies wildly in perception, for example, between continents and cultures. Secondly, many women who are admired for their looks- not just by fashionistas but by the general public- are hugely out of proportion, yet appeal to us (Twiggy, Dolly Parton, Adele, Kylie… all accepted though an ‘odd’ shape). They even dress to exaggerate it! Why do so many of us lack the confidence to do that?
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perdita May 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I agree precisely with you. It’s too simplistic, and simplistic styling develops people scared to work ‘in and out of’ the rules and express themselves. T&S’s ‘victims’ all ended up looking the same!

The media seems to twin positives with negatives (how many times have I seen petite height go hand in hand with the assumption I need help with my flat chest? The ‘flat chest’ that has to get kitted out at Bravissimmo LOL! How many times the assumption that curves = size 14+, or that a large bust needs hiding (lest it drive men wild??). Why not focus on emphasising the good, toning down what the PERSON wants toned down (not what the rules assume needs changing) and thus building positive guidelines not nasty rules?


Arash Mazinani May 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

Aww thanks for the great comment again Perdita. Always look forward to reading them.


Beautifully Invisible May 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Another fabulous post that is sure to end up in next week’s link love!

I am not familiar with Trinny and Susannah, but I obviously am familiar with the idea of categorizing body types into shapes. I’ve never been able to really define my shape this way. I’d say I am probably somewhere between an hourglass and a skittle, but i certainly don’t fit any shape perfectly. In a way I appreciate that they are trying to expand the available options, but at the same time I wonder why it is necessary. I agree with what you say, that people should learn to dress to emphasize their best assets. It takes work, sure, but once they know how to do it they will feel a lot better than if they try to fit a standard “shape”.

You know, this post reminded me of the first time I tried to buy a dress on Shabby Apple. They allow customers to browse dresses by body type and – get this – they determine body type with 3 simple questions ( Needless to say, it didn’t work for me! How about just sticking to measurements? I know my measurements. That is a better way to determine fit for me.

Brilliant post – thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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Arash Mazinani May 21, 2011 at 10:06 am

That’s an interesting way to try and get your fit, especially online. I think measurements are the only way to go online because you miss out on trying it on.


Jamillah May 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I hate this too!!! I had a colleague a while back and she was infuriated by a fashion mag that had a similar chart. She threw it out of her cube and exclaimed, “WE ARE NOT SHAPED LIKE FRUIT!!! WTF!!!” It’s a true true story and I hate that this is what has come of assessing bodies.

I have no idea what inanimate object my body would come close to, lol. I really dress to play up things I like (hi short skirts!!! i like my leges!!) and downplay the things I’m not so crazy about i.e. longer shirts for my non-existent torso.

Thanks so much for writing this. I’m glad you don’t think a woman’s body can be compared to a friggin pear.


Jamillah May 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm

CAN’T!! I meant can’t be compared to a friggin pear!


Jamillah May 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Oh gawsh…lol

Wrong again…well you know what I mean!!!


Arash Mazinani May 21, 2011 at 10:07 am

LOL “we are not shaped like fruit”. Thanks for commenting Jamillah.


FASHION TALES May 19, 2011 at 9:57 am

Yes, I remember Trinny & Susannah’s series. I also had read Mrs. Bossa’s post earlier. I’ve never understood why women have to be categorised into certain shapes. It’s going to vary anyway because of the diversity within our cultures. I have always only dressed for my body sans using these so-called proper shape formulas. It has especially been a bit off for me, since I’m tall, short-waisted and actually have small muscles (becasue of pilates), however if I relied only on these shape guides, I probably would not or supposedly could not wear most of the apparel that I do. I trust my gut, what I like, & my experience in fashion a bit more. :) Good post Arash!


Arash Mazinani May 21, 2011 at 10:09 am

Great comment, I’m looking forward to the second part of Mrs. Bossa’s post as well.


Cynthia May 21, 2011 at 11:37 am

I don’t particularly think Trinny and Susannah’s body shape categories are helpful, because they don’t have a way of inputting your measurements and getting assigned a shape — you sort of have to squint at yourself in the mirror and decide. Well, what am I? I think I might be a goblet, but what if I’m a cornet? Or a brick?

I used to love the MyShape website, because there, you could take lots and lots of detailed measurements and get yourself assigned a shape. Turns out I was an “M”, with wide high shoulder line and a bit topheavy…but then when I lost 10 pounds, I was an “S” (which is more analogous to Trinny and Susannah’s hourglass) because some of the topheaviness went away. I can actually see that subtle shift in the mirror but MyShape helped me understand it. Then they went out of business, oh wellz.
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm

That sounds like a cool website, it’s a shame it went out of business someone should definitely pick that up and run with it and bring something new out.


tiny junco May 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Hullo Mr. Mazinani! i found you thru Mrs. Bossa’s post and am so glad i did! really, people are so many many different shapes and thank goodness! i’m so happy to see different shapes colors, aesthetics, and so on – another think i don’t like about these ‘shape rules’ is that they assume everyone should be trying to disguise themselves as one certain ‘ideal’ shape, and that people will want to present the same shape all the time. i have a pretty ample bosom. i don’t necessarily want to showcase it when running down to the hardware store. but out to dinner with my husband, i may want to go beyond the bounds of good taste ;)

the only ‘rules’ i find useful are those of proportion and aesthetics, because they help you to figure out how to do what you want to do. they also take into account the whole look, down to subtle details which can have a big impact as Kate Parker points out. oh, and i love Angie’s (of only rule of fashion – Have Fun!! happy saturday, steph
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for finding me :-) hope you stick around just going to check your site out now.


Fabienne Jach May 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Funny you should bring this up, I couldn’t agree with you more. We can only hint at generalizing, stereotyping body shapes into certain categories is futile. It’s rare than any one individual is so precisely defined as being one exact thing that we can create a set of rules, let alone start using absolutes such as “you should never…” and “you should always…”. I think your advice is quite sound.
xo, f

The House in the Clouds


Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Thanks for commenting Fabienne. Enjoy your honeymoon!


Fajr | Stylish Thought May 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm

My sentiments precisely. Again another eloquent and thoughtful post Arash. The thing with “body types” is that they are so limiting, not to mention that reducing our bodies to simple shapes is kind of degrading. Every body is built in a unique fashion and while two women may have similar shapes, that doesn’t mean a dress made for a “pear” will look good on both bodies.
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Yeah, great point you made their Fajr.


heather May 24, 2011 at 2:21 am

I really enjoyed this! I always try to figure out what body shape i am every time i see those damn magazine editorials about whats best for your shape. And your so right about how we all don’t fit into 12 categories perfectly. That bodies come in lots of shapes and sizes. We should def. focus more on about the things we love and work on showcasing that instead of trying to figure out what body shape we are.
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Thanks for your comment Heather :-)


Mode Plus May 24, 2011 at 11:42 am

I do believe that women (in general) tend to give ‘experts’ a lot of power what to (not) wear. Even though I blog about my fashion choices, I still feel like the girl-next-door having fun with fashion. Too many times I’ve seen gorgeous ladies obsess about their figures, even refusing to wear pieces because they looked fat/not flattering according to some expert on fashion /body types. I don’t mind having these experts do their job. But please, ladies let’s not forget that the best expert is yourself. Have a little faith in your inner fashion vixen. Or am I missing something? Will be checking Mrs Bossa’s article.
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Yeah I recommend Mrs Bossa’s articles for sure. I do agree with you in essence in terms of not following the rules in terms of being rigidly fixed to a particular body shape. BUt I also think that people should dress according to the body that they have.


THE-LOUDMOUTH May 25, 2011 at 1:25 am

“However, what I would advocate is focusing on the features you love about your body and aiming to highlighting them.”

YES!!! I completely agree. I try to do this and it works!

I was actually pretty impressed that there were 12 different body shapes on that book because in magazines there are normally 3 or 4!
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Arash Mazinani May 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Yeah I think that was their selling point.. the 12 body shapes. There usually is only about 4… but they came out with the amazing terms such as ‘the brick’ lol.


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