Ideas on Figure, Frame, and Form
By Alexa Hotz
Images by Anna Gleeson
We’d bet that the average woman doesn’t know her own body shape. Hasn’t studied it, measured it, or assessed its distribution—at least not objectively. How could she with the vagaries of body ideals clouding the process? A pear, an apple, or some other piece of fruit? Seems like an unfitting comparison for a woman of substance. If you’ve ever bought a piece of clothing that was all wrong for your figure, you’d be well-served to study your shape and its accompanying styling stratagem. Who better to guide us than artist Anna Gleeson whose practice centers around vessels, clothing, and the body? “I am interested in the casual, everyday objectification of women’s bodies,” she says. “The way the waist is treated like a moveable sculpture; dressed in garments that cinch to reveal the thinness of the thinnest part, making the body a tidy shape on which to put some ornamentation—like a vase ready to be painted.” Here, eight vases exemplify the bevy of shapes to which we might identify with. Find your shape—a trapezium or a parallelogram?—and the right fit will follow.
The triangle shape (formerly known as “pear”) has a waist that is slightly wider than the bust and hips wider than the shoulders. It’s best highlighted at the center where a rigid structure defines the waist and back and a v- or scoop neck can elongate the body. Ornamentation works well on the triangle, as does anything a-line, so it’s Erdem’s floral jacquard skirt that suits a triangle so well; sitting high on the waist with pleats and tucks for volume at the hips.
We’re calling it the trapezium, a quadrilateral shape with at least one pair of parallel sides, which is made up of two of these angular shapes that meet in the middle. The trapezium body is defined, athletic, taut, and muscular without much rounding or give. This shape likes good tailoring and fabrics that don’t pucker, but rather, lay flat against the body. No billowing volume for the trapezium, please. From atelier Emilia Wickstead, a marigold-colored fit-and-flare dress with angular darts and both vertical and horizontal seams flatters the trapezium nicely.
The oval is somewhere between what was once called an “apple” and a “pear” shape where the shoulders and ribcage are wider than the hips. This is where a structured waistline (like a fit-and-flare dress or belted jacket) can compete with the natural shape of the body. Low and v-necklines, frock dresses, and knee-length skirts, instead, balance the body without overdoing it, or overthinking it. Acne Studios’ soft and structured ribbed sweater with a v-neckline, dropped shoulders, diagonal rib stitch (for a trompe l’oeil effect), and long sleeves complement the oval perfectly.
A curvilinear triangle is a supple shape with a gentle curve of the waistline and hips, but still some definition there. It’s an hourglass-like shape with a dose of softness. What better pairing than Sies Marjan’s velour ribbed off-shoulder sweater. The curvilinear triangle shape enjoys tailored tops, round and boat necklines, form-fitting fabrics, and like the sweater at hand, vertical ribbing.
The parallelogram shape is a play on the rectangle, as though each side was pushed this way or that for a slight variation. Both the bust above and hips below the center waist stand in symmetry with one another, but there’s a little definition in the middle. To showcase the proportions of this shape, Gleeson chose the parallel lines of Totem’s Waist Detail Blazer. Here, the collarless blazer is cinched in tight at the back to create the illusion of a defined waist where there may not be one.
The curve shape, what most call the “hourglass” figure, has the most defined waist of all due to the near identical measurements of the bust and hips. The fullness of the hips give a potent shape to the curve. To keep everything well-defined, look to the pinafore—the bustier-like bodice and flared skirt that works so well on the curved woman. LOROD’s rust red pinafore has that classic American quality to it with two triangle-shaped darts that mimic the outlines of the curve shape.
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