Women come in all shapes and sizes, but most fit into one of four basic body shapes: hourglass, triangle, inverted triangle or rectangle. You can exercise and diet to modify your shape to a certain extent, but typically your proportions are going to still fit into one of these general categories.
You can however create the illusion of your "ideal" shape by choosing clothes to create the appearance of perfect proportions. The best way is to work with a trained personal stylist who can help you determine your vertical proportions (upper and lower body length) and your horizontal shape (the overall shape of your figure) and make recommendations based on your specific figure.
Here are some basic guidelines to get you started.
The hourglass is often considered the ideal female shape. If you have an hourglass figure, your full hip- and bust-line are approximately the same width. You have a well-defined waist, and you most likely have a balanced body vertical body shape (your upper body length is about the same as your lower body length.)
Clothes that hug your figure will emphasis the curves of your body and make them look attractive. Look for fitted and semi-fitted clothes, clothes made of soft, clingy, flowing fabrics and low to medium-low necklines. Avoid baggy styles, skirts with open pleats and very tapered pants.
If you have a rectangle figure, you likely have few or no curves. Your bust- and hip-line are about the same width and you have little waist definition. You most likely have a balanced upper and lower body. You also may look shorter and heavier than you really are.
The most flattering clothing styles are those that give you the look of having curves, such as fitted, shirtwaist or wrap dresses. Avoid wearing styles that look boxy as well as those made from clingy fabrics.
The triangle shape is often referred to as pear shape. You have a triangle figure if your upper body is very thin compared to the lower half of your body. Your full bust-line is proportionally narrower than your full hip-line. People with triangle shapes typically have narrow shoulders and full thighs.
If you have a triangle shape, choose clothing that gives you a more evenly shaped appearance. For example, clothes with shoulder pads will make your upper body look broader while wearing a narrow skirt will make your lower half appear slimmer. Look for accessories and designs that draw attention to your upper body or that emphasize your waste. Don;t wear tapered skirts or pants that accentuate hips or other garments that add bulk to your lower body.
You have an inverted triangle figure if your bust and shoulders are proportionally wider than your hips. If you have an inverted triangle figure, select clothing styles that give a more balanced look. Dresses and tops should make your upper look slimmer and the bottom part bit broader. Full skirts help to make your lower half look fuller.
Avoid stiff, bulky fabrics, styles that emphasize your shoulders, big collars and tapered skirts and pants.
Keep in mind that while most people resemble one of these body shapes, there are many other factors that affect how clothing fits you. Upper and lower body length, rib cage size, leg length and frame size all can play roles too. But knowing your general shape can help you choose clothing that shows your body in the best light.