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Looking Professional at Work: Forget the Trends and Focus on Your Body Type

By Ellen York

If you look in the mirror every morning and know that nothing in your closet will look good on your figure, then join the many women in the same predicament. There’s no such thing as the perfect body and everyone has challenges when it comes to buying flattering clothes. Looking professional at work can be more of a challenge, especially since many of trendier pieces you find at the mall may not translate in the office.

Since no two bodies are shaped the same, you may need to refer to several parts of the article for help. Follow these do’s and don’t’s for your body type and dress your way to success at work and beyond!

Pear-Shaped: If your body is pear-shaped then you are smaller on top and larger on the bottom. Your shoulders are narrow, which make your hips and thighs look larger. Here are some tips for making your body look more symmetrical:


  • Tops with a horizontal stripe or pattern make your torso appear more in proportion. A pattern or argyle sweater is also a good choice.

  • Insert a ” to ” soft shoulder pad to give your shoulders more substance.

  • Wear sweaters with a wide neck that stretches to the edge of your shoulders; boat neck tops are great.

  • Look for ribbed knit tops, which add dimension to your torso.


  • Set-in sleeves emphasize the narrowness of your shoulders because the shoulder line of the garment is falling off your shoulders. Look for dolman or raglan sleeves to help disguise narrow shoulders.

  • Avoid vertical stripes because they tend to give your upper body a narrower look.

Inverted Triangle: The inverted triangle is the opposite of the pear-shaped woman. Your bust is large, your shoulders are wide and square, and perhaps you are carrying extra weight through your torso, although your hips and thighs are small.


  • Look for blouses that are fuller cut with no darts and fitted seam lines. Silk, rayon and poly-blends that have a soft drape to them will be the most flattering.

  • Purchase a minimizer bra. Having the right undergarments will help how your clothing looks on you.

  • When buying pants, look for a bell-bottom or flared leg. The fullness of the pant will help balance your bust and shoulders.

  • Look for skirts that have some fullness, like pleats and tiered skirts.


  • Avoid tops and blouses that are fitted. Buy knit tops that are cut straight down on the side seams, thus drawing the attention away from the bustline.

  • When wearing tops with buttons, make sure the buttons at the bustline don’t pull or gape open. If that’s a problem, stay with knit tops.

To counter the inverted triangle or pear-shape, you basically add volume to one place and take away from another place, to give the allusion of a well-proportioned shape.

Long Legs/Short Torso: Long legs and a short torso are a common problem that can be fixed by picking tops and bottoms that will ‘re-proportion’ your body.


  • The peasant blouse is perfect. A seam under the bustline and fabric draping down over the waist, ending four or five inches below your waist, will elongate a shorter torso.

  • Buy skirts that are mid-knee and longer. Long tiered skirts work well with the top out over the skirt.

  • When buying dresses, look for empire-waist styles or a drop waist, which camouflages where your waist actually is.


  • Avoid short jackets or sweaters that show every inch of your long legs.

  • Pick jackets that come right below the fullest part of your hips. Do the same when you purchase cardigan sweaters.

Short Legs/Long Torso: Low-rise pants, slacks and jeans are all the rage – but ladies with short legs/long torsos should avoid them. They only make legs appear shorter and elongate the torso.


  • Buy pants with a waistband that buttons at the waist or right below, giving the illusion of longer legs.

  • When wearing capri pants, buy them with a waistband at your waist. An open toed-shoe or sandal will help elongate the look.

  • Skirts should be hemmed at the mid-calf and work well with boots or a shoe with a 2-inch heel. Tiered skirts are good, if they are not full. Hem them at mid-calf.

  • Look for jackets that are slenderizing and end two to four inches below your waist.

  • Go for tops that end at your waist or a couple of inches below.


  • Avoid wide-leg pants, which can make legs look even shorter. Go with a slimmer, tapered leg. Pinstripes are good because the vertical stripes make your legs look longer.

  • Short skirts emphasize short legs, so look for longer ones instead.

  • Turtleneck tops elongate your torso, so avoid them.

Petite: If you are a petite woman, your goal is to look taller. If you are heavier than your ideal weight, you may want to minimize that. Here are some tips that will help accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative:


  • Have your tops altered, if they are too long or too wide. A good seamstress can help you by tailoring them your body.

  • V-neck tops are ideal because they open up the neck and face, while giving an illusion of height. Look for vertical lines or ribbing, which can give you the appearance of being taller.

  • Button-down tops are great for the office. Look for pinstripes or vertical tuck pleats to elongate the body. Sleeves that are length show more skin, which gives the illusion of height.

  • Skirts with a straight line or bias cut can be flattering on the petite woman.


  • Avoid any large patterns, flowers or plaids when shopping for jackets, as they can be overwhelming.

  • Jackets made with bulky fabrics will make you look short a boxy, so avoid these as well.

Pants are probably the most difficult item to find for petites. Pleated pants add more bulk to the body, so look for flat-front pants as they are more flattering. Also search for pinstripe pants as they give the illusion of looking taller.

The guidelines that are given will help you make better decisions when shopping and will emphasize the positive traits that make you look better. No one has the perfect body, but everyone has the power to change the style of clothing they wear to enhance their look and dress for success.

Read other articles and learn more about Ellen York.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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