We’ve all stared at our reflections on more than one occasion—maybe at home, maybe in a dressing room—and thought with more than a little disgruntlement that none of the options we’ve pulled out of the closet or off the racks is working. Sound familiar? In the moment, you may be quick to criticize your taste in fashion or your body shape, but neither is to blame! The answer could be as simple as a shift in perspective. That is, you should consider not only dressing for pleasure or fashion but dressing for your body shape.
If you’re reading this article, you probably already suspect you have an inverted triangle body shape or a body type characterized by strong shoulders and narrow hips. In this article, we’ll throw out all the misconceptions of following trends or fads when getting dressed each morning. Instead, you should be dressing in clothes that feel good and flatter your amazing figure. We’ll discuss what it means to have an inverted triangle figure, help you determine if you have it, and cover our simple style rules for how to approach shopping and dressing in a way that flatters it.
Knowing your body shape and how to dress for it is incredibly empowering. If you use the right framework for your body shape, you’ll never again purchase ill-fitting clothing just because it looked cute on the mannequin or the rack. Instead, you’ll fill your closet with pieces that you know will fit great! When you take our tips to heart, you’ll approach your daily trip to the closet with confidence.
The first step to dressing with more confidence is discovering your body shape and learning how to create balance with the clothing items you choose. It all starts with defining your body shape. So, you think you might have an inverted triangle body shape, but you’re not sure. What exactly is it?
The inverted triangle body shape is defined by broad shoulders or a broad bust line that narrows down through your hips. In other words, your shoulders or bust are the strongest part of your shape. They are wider than your waist, and your waist is wider than your hips. When you look in a full-length mirror, you can draw an inverted triangle from your two shoulder points diagonally down to your hips.
This body shape tends to reflect an athletic build. Maybe you’ve enjoyed crew, volleyball, or rock climbing and built up powerful, enviable arm, shoulder, and back muscles. Or maybe athletics aren’t your thing and you’ve had this shape all your life. Either way, you may be feeling like your everyday wardrobe is lacking. Each day as you dress, you may find yourself frustrated again and again, annoyed at how your clothes drape. Maybe you find yourself in a negative thought cycle, blaming your body by saying your shoulders are too wide or your hips are too narrow. On the contrary, it’s your wardrobe that’s off-balance, not your body!
Does this sound like you? The next step on your fashion journey is figuring out the clothing items you should consider and which you should toss aside while getting dressed. Our tips and tricks will set you on the path to rocking looks that embrace and highlight your inverted triangle figure.
When you’re considering how to best highlight your features and flatter your inverted triangle shape, it’s important to keep some advice in mind. Because you’re working with a silhouette that skews stronger at the top than it is at the bottom, you can follow our tips to create more balance on your lower half. Once you figure out what works for your body and what doesn’t, you’ll be loving your new, balanced wardrobe and feeling more confident in your daily life.
Balance It Out
As we discussed, the inverted triangle body shape is defined by broad shoulders or a larger bust and straight or narrow hips. If you focus your style prowess on the lower half of your body by choosing pieces that draw attention downward to your waist, hips, and legs, you can balance out your strong upper half and create a softer, more symmetrical silhouette. With the right pieces of clothing, you can even create an hourglass figure. But where do you begin?
Take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror and find the features on your lower half you’d love to draw attention to. Maybe you have long legs, like many other women with the inverted triangle body shape. If this is you, try a wide-leg trouser or jean to create a long line from your waist to your ankles and adding volume to your lower half. If you want to be daring, try palazzo pants for extra leg drama. If you want to show off those legs, you’ll find that fit and flare dresses are a welcome option for creating an hourglass figure. Maybe you have a slim waistline you’d love to show off. Try clothing items that will highlight your waist and hips like high-waisted pants or an A-line skirt.
There are so many ways to balance out your outfit and draw the eye down and away from your shoulders. We’ll cover several of them in the following sections. As we continue, remember that you’ll create outfit balance and soften your shoulder line when you choose well-fitting pieces made from drapey, romantic fabric on top, and structured, voluminous fabric on the bottom.
Draw the Eye
An important step to dressing in more balanced outfits is drawing the eye to other parts of your figure that tend to get overlooked. Many of the following sections will focus on different ways to draw the eye downward, such as playing with curves, colors, volume, and sleeves. When choosing an outfit, you’ll want to consider where each piece will draw the eye and make adjustments as needed. Parts of your inverted triangle figure that tend to get overlooked include your forearms and wrists, your bust, or your waist. Try to balance your outfit in those places to break up the triangle and add more volume. You can even augment your shape using key pieces to achieve a more hourglass look.
If you’d like to draw attention to your bust, choose tops that feature embellishments like a unique décolletage. Or you can draw attention down to your waist by adding a chunky belt over a slim midi dress or women’s tunic top and leggings. Draw the eye even further down to your legs with a full skirt, like a drapey circle skirt or a romantic tiered maxi skirt. To see if you succeeded, step into view of your full-length mirror and assess where your eye goes first. Did they land on the body part you were focusing on? When you play with texture, draping, and accessories, drawing the eye where you want it to go becomes much easier.
Create Curves Around Your Hips
Step back and think about it. The inverted triangle body shape is the top half of an hourglass figure. So, if an hourglass figure is what you seek, all you have to do is create the bottom half of it. How do you do this? You focus on your hips. Find bottoms that mimic a second triangle starting from your waistline and fanning out to your ankles. Try high-waisted bottoms that billow out the further away from your hips they get. Classic shapes that will look simply divine on your shape include A-line skirts, circle skirts, palazzo pants, and fit and flare dresses.
Another way to create curves around your hips is with colors, patterns, and embellishments at or below your waist. Maybe you’ll try an A-line skirt for extra volume. Go the extra mile and make an impact on your lower half when you choose a skirt with color blocking, polka dots, or a tropical print.
It may be trickier to create curvier hips when you’re dressing casually, particularly when it comes to wearing jeans. When you’re struggling with your weekend or after-work look, opt for wide-leg or straight-leg jeans instead of skinny jeans or leggings. Strap on low heels or Chelsea boots to complete the casual outfit. If you want to up your game, add high-waisted sailor jeans, which have extra wide legs, to your style menu. Grab your favorite striped tee and lean into the nautical fashion nod!
Think About Color
When you have the inverted triangle body type, your goal will be to achieve balance with every look you pick out. That’s when color begins to play an important role in your daily dressing. Because you’ll focus on drawing the eye downward to create that balance, you’ll want to stack your bold color choices on your bottom half. That means you can play with many types of women’s skirts and pants, like jewel-toned skirts or red trousers.
Subdue your shoulders and torso by pairing your bold bottoms with something neutral, like a camel-colored women’s cotton sweater with your red pants or a white or light-gray top with your skirt. You can consider a myriad of other softer color palettes on top, including pastels, sage green, cerulean blue, and butter yellow.
The other thing to consider for this body shape is where to place clothing items with patterns. Again, you will want to soften your upper body and torso while drawing the eye down to your waist and lower half, so bold patterns should be introduced in your bottoms, like a houndstooth trouser or animal print mid-length skirt. Smaller, more subdued patterns will fit the bill up top, like ditsy florals and pinstripes.
Soften the Shoulder Line
One of the keys to dressing successfully for the inverted triangle body shape is softening the shoulder line, which often steals all the attention. You can do this by focusing on fabric that drapes rather than hugs, that softens rather than sharpens. When you’re considering the fabric, try delicate chiffon, satin, silk, or chambray shirts instead of elastane and spandex.
You’ll want to steer clear of styles that draw too much attention to your already prominent shoulder line, like shoulder pads and shoulder embellishments like a puff sleeve, cap sleeve, or ruffle sleeve. You’ll also want to choose more delicate accessories, and avoid ones that add too much bulk or weight, like big scarves, bows, or shawls. When in doubt, trust in your full-length mirror. Make sure your top isn’t the only thing you notice. You’re aiming for an outfit with balance.
Speaking of sleeves, you’ll want to find tops with sleeves that balance out your strong shoulders and draw the attention downward, away from the top of the triangle, to other parts of your torso and arms. Perhaps bell-sleeved blouses would be a fun and stylish way to add volume and balance to your forearms and wrists. Thinking back to our section on shoulder lines, you’ll want to steer clear of cap-sleeved or puff-sleeved styles. Another way to create volume lower down on your arms is rolling up the sleeves of your long-sleeved shirts or even choosing 3/4-sleeve tops.
For the summer months, you may fret thinking about the myriad of tops that bare your shoulders, but always remember that you aren’t trying to hide your shoulders. You can dress to flatter your body shape without hiding it. So go ahead, show some skin while you’re creating a balanced summer outfit. Boxy or oversized tee shirts or polo shirts will give you the drape you desire. When you’re going sleeveless, avoid tops that draw too much attention to your shoulders like Bardot tops, spaghetti-strap camisoles, halter tops, or tube tops. Women’s tank tops with thicker straps will keep you cool and balanced in the summer months. If you’re carrying a denim jacket or cardigan for a possible drop in temperature, tie it around your waist instead of your shoulders.
Avoid Wide and Low Necklines
When you’re trying to draw the eye away from your shoulders, you’ll want to consider the necklines of your tops. With an inverted triangle body shape, you should avoid wide and low necklines. That includes styles like boat necks, V-necks, and plunging necklines. Women’s crewneck tops and button-downs will be your new go-to. If you want to try fun and flirty necklines that will flatter your shape, opt for a peter pan collared shirt, a tuxedo-style button-down shirt, or a boxy women’s turtleneck sweatshirt.
Avoiding wide or low necklines doesn’t mean you can’t show off a little skin or experiment with flirty styles. If you’re looking for a top that will flatter your shape and make you feel sexy, why not consider a top with well-placed cutouts around your décolletage or even on your back? Or, for a casual and flirty look, throw on a boxy crop top and give a glimpse at your bare belly while the flowy fabric works to soften your figure.
Now that you’re armed with dressing tips and shopping advice that works with your body shape, it’s time to begin experimenting with your style. You can approach this phase with confidence and joy instead of frustration and disappointment because you know what styles to avoid and which to bring to the forefront when you start to put together outfits. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t work with your inverted triangle body shape will be a breeze, and you’ll find yourself enjoying your time digging through your closet and throwing together new looks, mixing and matching colors, necklines, and types of skirts, dresses, and pants. Go ahead, stand in front of your full-length mirror, admire your body, and give yourself your best vogue.