OK, bear with some obsessive detailing for a while. There is a fantastic, though old post on figure types, quoting a highly knowledgeable commenter at the always delightful Dress a Day blog. According to this post, I'm TECHNICALLY not a pear, because my shoulders are the same width as my hips. But visually, I think I "read" as a pear, because my hips are very rounded and low (or it could be that my waist is high, or both, not sure). Also, though I'm not exactly small-busted (embarrassing anecdote from early twenties: on a second date, this charming gentleman gazed into my eyes and said, "You have a nice rack for an Asian girl." I had low self-esteem at the time, so I just mumbled and turned red, instead of walking out haughtily or spilling wine on his shirt), the volume there is more, well, 'forward' than 'sideways', if that makes any sense. Plus my thighs are where I carry most of my weight. (I could diet and slim those down, true. But the hipbones would remain. And I'd have to consume less french fries, and wine, and chocolate, and other life-enhancing things. Whoever said nothing tastes as good as skinny feels has CLEARLY never tried the fried-in-chili-oil fries at Little Pepper in Flushing, or the chocolate at Bouchon.)
La BellaDonna does acknowledge that infinite variety exists around those four pillars of figure types:
"One of the confusing aspects is it is possible for four women to stand next to each other. Each has hips which are, say, 38 inches. Woman A has her weight distributed evenly; she isn't very hippy, she doesn't have a big booty. Woman B is quite narrow through the hips, but she has a nice round rear. Sometimes she has an amazingly round rear. Woman C has no backside at all; if it were any flatter, she couldn't sit down. But she has hips like Sophia Loren's, and they curve in a graceful parabola. Woman D is different still. Her backside's fairly small. However, she carries a lot of weight in her abdomen, which affects her upper hip measurement, and a lot of weight at the tops of her thighs.... But they all measure 38 inches at the hip...That doesn't begin to cover all the possibilities, either. It doesn't really address whether our ladies have high hips, average hips, or low hips (and this is something also determined by bone structure)."The possibilities, they are endless. I guess I'm closest to Woman C, except I do have a backside, and you shouldn't take the graceful parabola part too literally.
It's one of the reasons I loved this quote from Already Pretty's post On Variety:
"If everyone had the exact same figure, it might diminish some of the body snarking. It might eradicate much of the world’s jealousy. It might help with the rampant plague of negative body image that has so many women suffering and anxious in the present day. But my guess is that if everyone had the exact same figure, we’d be busting our butts to force our figures to stand out, look different, be distinctive. We’d be falling all over ourselves to create the diversity that exists naturally today."It reminded me of that interesting scenario from Fashion Advice Counterfactual on what dressing for your shape could really mean: "If you were pear-shaped, for example, the advice would be all about highlighting that awesome booty and tiny waist and shoulders. Work that pear-shape!"
That being said, when I get dressed, I try to look as hourglass-y as possible. So most of the dresses that I feel best in will play around that shape, defining the waist and skimming over the hips. Though I'm petite, I don't necessarily dress to look taller. (Because petite flattery tips and pear flattery tips often contradict each other, I usually pick Team Pear. I'll throw on some heels, sometimes, though, and call it a day.)
So, dresses that play nice with me:
Dresses with fitted bodices and flared skirts:
But I love circle skirts. So what if they do make me look shorter...they are joy sartorialized.
Ooh, these two dresses together remind me of The Red and the Black! Sorry, I guess that's a little blasphemous. Was at the Strand on Saturday and saw a gorgeous old leather-bound edition of it.
Dresses with high waists and widely gathered skirts.Nanette Lepore Stella dress is one of the most flattering dresses I own. This deceptively simple dress does so many things right--the graceful lines, the defined and high waist (Nanette Lepore should get more credit for petite-friendliness), the buttons drawing the eye to the narrowest point and making my waist look tiny, the wide and gently draping pleats. It also has pockets! It also hits me just a couple of inches above the knee.
Skirts with pleats, which are narrower and more precise, generally look horrid on me. So this sexy black number and sweet little grey/silver one would not be my friends. You'd think that all those vertical lines would be slimming, but pleats like that have a kind of built-in volume, so I would end up looking like a gourd. My hips would also pull some of those pretty pleats out of shape.
Gathers or even wider pleats give one some room to put hips without adding extra volume. Gathers and pleats in soft, flowy materials are also very flattering..see this lovely one below! The V-neck, the gentle asymmetry, and that vertical ruffle detail are very elongating as well.
Sheath dresses, if belted, and the skirt is straight, not tapered:
This dress has a simple, classic silhouette...that would turn me into the Hindenberg. But if I added a wide belt or sash, this one could probably work on me. A little sweater or shrug wouldn't hurt, either.
Dresses with interesting bodices/necklines (V-necks, bateau/boatnecks, sweetheart necklines, other eye-catching details):
Dresses with vertical lines/detailing:
For those who find the lines on this one too fussy and visually distracting, something subtler, like this, would do as well:
Dresses that SUBTLY play with color:
However, clothing is like writing. Every now and then, someone will come along and break every rule ever ventured, and take your breath away in the process. (That's borrowed from Margaret Atwood's famous words: "Once you start making lists or devising rules for stories, or for any other kind of writing, some writer will be sure to happen along and casually break every abstract rule you or anyone else have ever thought up, and take your breath away in the process.") For example, pears are warned to stay away from dropped-waist dresses like the plague, but Nanette Lepore has somehow concocted a Magic Rain dress that, magically enough, makes me look like the hourglassiest of hourglasses.
Confession: I have it in orange and a jewel blue (got that one at a sample sale, so it might be a sample-only shade) and I'm so obsessed that, if I ever come across it, I may just get it in pink as well.
So, now I try on everything that appeals to me, even if I don't think it will flatter. Yes, sometimes I tear it off again in horror after I get a good look in the mirror. But every now and then, I find a Magic Rain dress, and even if I didn't...well, now that I'm over the worst of my body issues and don't take it personally when something doesn't look good, it's fun to try on different things. I'm able to say, it's the clothes, not me.