Your Business Style: A guide to dressing your shape

Some may dismiss fashion and style as unimportant, frivolous and perhaps a bit shallow. But studies show that our first impressions of other people are made within 7 seconds of meeting them, so your appearance really counts.  Also, our initial perceptions of people influence our interpretation of their later behaviour because of our – possibly misguided – expectations. People who meet, read each other visually. This is how it works: You see. You process. You think. You get an impression. You have a feeling. You behave a certain way toward that person, and so it goes on. Appearance matters, not just in how you come across to others but also how you feel. If you look good, you feel good and your performance improves!

80% of your Clothes can Go!

The average person only wears around 20% of the clothes in their wardrobes, the rest of it is stuffed full of unused items that just get in the way.  We live in a disposable society consuming like crazy and often shopping for clothes in a thoughtless way. Wouldn’t it be great to get dressed with ease every day knowing what cuts and styles suit you, saving time and money by making more thoughtful and focussed purchases while defining your personal style all at the same time?

Focussed shopping takes time and we are all short of that.  So I’ve put together a guide for the three main body shapes – apple, pear and hourglass – with key business pieces for those shapes. But first, some general rules we could all follow to get our look defined and fabulous!

Rule 1

Make the most of your assets and detract from your liabilities.  Do this by creating focal points at your best bits.

Rule 2

It is never about the size of clothes (they all differ wildly from shop to shop) but about FIT and the right cuts for your shape.

Rule 3

Style is not to do with fashion at all; it is about knowing who you are and expressing yourself in the best way.


A body shape guide to business dress:


Your shape – Rounded , with a soft top half (big bust), little or no waist definition, often with great legs.  Should wear darker colours on top and lighter on bottom.

  • Tops               This should be tight under the boobs with a tummy-skimming top
  • Jackets           Always below the bottom, longer ‘boyfriend’ or ‘classic styles’
  • Dresses          Empire line with little or no waist definition
  • Shoes             Chose curvy rounded styles to compliment your rounder shape and the higher the heel the better.  Open toe is good
  • Skirts             Always side fastening and flat fronted that ideally flip out at the side. A-line is flattering or any curvy styles
  • Trousers        Tailored, wide-legged trousers
  • Cardigan       Calf length cardigans


Your shape – Enviably small on the top with slight narrower shoulders than hip.  Mostly bigger legs and saddlebags – good waist definition and flat tummy.

  • Tops               Fitted, tee shirts, and shirts. Something that accentuates your small top half
  • Jackets           Never wear a jacket that stops at your widest point (in this case your hips). Choose longer styles that end below the bottom
  • Dresses          Empire line, wrap dresses with a tie to define your waist.  Fitted and flared dresses (skater, tea dresses etc…) that are smaller on the top half then flare out at the bottom will flatter you
  • Shoes             Chunky, heeled and rounded are best to balance out your heavier bottom half proportions.
  • Skirts             A-line, flared, in flowing materials to skim over your curves
  • Trousers        Opt for flat fronted to minimize bulk on bottom half and wide legged are good to slim the legs.  Jeans can be bootleg (when in fashion), flared or straight
  • Cardigan       Long styles again for this shape.


Your shape – perfect really.  All bust with tiny (in comparison) waist and then those beautiful rounded hips. Wear darker colours on the bottom and lighter on top.  Match colour of shoes with trousers or skirts and hosiery to elongate your legs and look taller and slimmer.

  • Tops               Go for styles that have a v-neck to flatter your ample bosom. Opt for shoulder detail to detract the eye from your bust area.  Choose fabrics that are flowing – blouses are perfect, avoid shirts, they are too straight cut for your curvy body.
  • Jackets           Three quarter length sleeves are good as they show off slim wrists. Always choose a jacket with a nipped in waist that flares over you bottom. Choose rounded lapels and avoid straightness in the cut
  • Dresses          Wrap dresses!!!  Any dress with waist definition to show off your curves
  • Shoes             Cute rounded shoes that are a bit more on the chunky side to balance out your proportions. Open toe and platform are good.
  • Skirts             Pencil skirts and any that flare out over your bottom half
  • Trousers        Flat fronted that zip at the side and that flare. Same with jeans, avoid skinny cuts which will accentuate and increase the size of your hips.
  • Cardigan       Everyone needs a cardi! Again opt for longer styles but belted versions are especially good for you.


By learning what cuts and styles best suit your body shape, you can turn your

clothes into outfits that enhance your best features. But most of all, knowing

you look fabulous in whatever is in your wardrobe will make dressing every day

easy and fun and we all need some of that!


Author: Lisa Gillbe,

Lisa is a professional stylist and image consultant providing image related services to companies and individuals including; Wardrobe Revamp, Personal Shopping and Colour Analysis. Her background is in finance and banking where she worked for many years in major banks, most recently in the not-for-profit sector. Most of her clients come from the business world but she has dressed everyone from politicians to garden designers and even guests for a royal wedding!

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


Join the Community
Subscribe to the
Women Unlimited Newsletter
Keep up to date with the latest articles, webinars and events that we are running to support you on your journey to being a change maker and change leader
I'm in!
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Join the Women Unlimited Community
Join now