Style and Styling

Hurray for the H Shape!

The H Body Shape

Happy day, dear reader!

Welcome back, or just plain old Welcome if this is your first visit! We are right in the middle of a back-to-school refresher about body shape, or shapes as the case may be. If you want to find out more about why body shape matters, check out this blog post. Otherwise, you are welcome to read the previous posts in the series about the A Shape, X Shape, 8 Shape, V Shape, and I Shape. As you can see, five have been covered, today will be number six, and then we will have only two left. Yes, there are eight different female body shapes, and an infinite number of variations on these eight depending on your proportions, and weight distribution!

What do I mean when I talk about body shape? Your body shape is the silhouette, or shadow, you create.  The width of your shoulders and hips, and their relationship to each other, and the definition of the waist, determine what that shadow looks like. The H Shape (like our friends X, 8, and I) is a balanced shape, meaning that the visual width of the hips and shoulders is equal. Look at a capital letter H. If you imagine the top of the H as the shoulders, the crossbar is the waist, and the bottom of the H is the hips, you get a feeling for look of an H. The H Shaped woman does not have a defined waist, and the shoulders are even with the hips. Please note that an undefined waist is not the same thing as no waist! Everyone has a place they bend in the middle! H’s have a waist, but there is not much of a curve from the shoulders to the waist and back. Many women who are 8 Shaped become H’s when they put on weight, aka the “mummy tummy” or later, the menopaunch. (Not my coinage!)

If you are not sure if your shape is waisted, wrap a ribbon around your ribcage below the bust. Hold the end in place and slide the ribbon down to your waist. Bend sideways like a teapot to find the spot I am talking about! If you have to draw the ribbon in to measure around your waist, your shape is waisted. If the ribbon stays about the same, or needs to be let out, you have an unwaisted shape.

How to Find Your Body Shape

No Measuring Tape Needed! We have all heard the old 36-24-36 ideal of curvaceous womanhood, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story!

Get Out Your Camera! To determine your body shape, take a photo of yourself in leggings and a form-fitting cami, or if you are feeling brave, a one piece swimsuit. (Note: If you share cloud storage, delete it as soon as you are done unless you want it showing up on someone else’s phone! How do I know? Don’t ask…) Printing out your picture is even better; it helps to be able to lay a ruler on it. Draw a straight line from your shoulder bone (not the outside of your arm) to the widest part of your hip. For some women this will be the hip bones. For some, the widest part may be across the leg crease. If the line from your hips to your shoulders is vertical and perpendicular to the ground, and your waist remains inside the line, your body is a H Shape.

Now that we’ve sorted that, what’s next? Your body’s scale and proportions play into your best choices, but in general…

H Shape: What to Wear

H’s generally want to avoid drawing attention to the waist area, but prefer to focus attention on the bust and above, or down on the legs. You lucky H’s often have enviable legs; let’s keep them in view! Ensure that detailing, like appliques, designs, or seaming on tops stays at the bust or above. Dresses and tops with princess seaming to lengthen your middle are flattering (H’s are generally short-waisted.), as are simple little shift dresses. Vertical patterns, like striping on tops, elongate the middle as well. Jackets with strong vertical lines, seaming, front openings, and lapels are also a good choice to keep the eye moving up and down. Keeping with one color (monochromatic) from shoulder to hip prevents attention focus on the middle. Interesting hemlines, and border prints on skirts are great for H’s. (Those legs, again!) Attention getting shoes and boots are also fun, especially for taller women!

Here, you can see that the statement necklace helps keep the eye above the bust. The off the shoulder top does the same, and its vertical striping helps elongate the torso. The lacing detail on the shift dress and piping keeps the attention away from the tummy area, and the straight lines skim smoothly over her undefined waist. The yellow pants and shoes are a fun touch, drawing the eye to those fabulous legs (And away from the tummy!)

H Shape: What to Avoid

Since the ribcage is the smallest part of your waist area, a horizontal here may seem like a good choice. Even though an empire waist is great, the gathers that usually fall from it are not, as they add bulk to your middle. If you can find it, a smooth flare from an empire waist creates a lovely silhouette. Traditional denim jackets and other cropped styles create unwanted horizontal lines through the waist area. Stay away from gathered and pleated waists, cinched dresses, and tucked in tops. Avoid a stark color contrast at the waist, like the traditional black pants and white or bright shirt. A great look for a thicker middle is a dark under layer (top and bottom, or dress) with an open light colored topper. (The opposite: Light column topped with dark is very nice, too!) Make sure tops skim the body, and do not cling. (Knits are especially prone to this!) Belted coats and jackets are not the best choice for the H.

When You Love It Anyway

So, you love the belted look that is everywhere this fall and winter? No worries! Finesse it by wearing your belt under a jacket, and over a column of color. You get the visual effect of the belt, but shortened by the open edges of the jacket, creating an illusion of narrowness. Bonus points for matching the color of your belt to your under layer for even more length. Your favorite top is a blousy empire waist? Tame the volume and create vertical lines with a more structured jacket on top. If you must wear a trench coat, leave it open, or draw the belt to the back. Tailoring, like for all other shapes can be your best friend! Buy bottoms to fit your waist, and have the hips and thighs taken in to remove excess fabric. This helps keep the silhouette trim while avoiding waistbands that cut in uncomfortably!

Of the six body shapes we have discussed so far, the A, V, X, 8, I, and H, which do you feel like it would be easiest to dress? Which do you think is the easiest to shop for? Can you better appreciate the beauty of your own shape? (That’s really the main goal of this series!) Please let me know what you are thinking in the comments below!

Stylishly yours,






    Liz, I was always a small 8 but I believe after gaining weight in my late 40’s that I am a H. That’s why my flannel shirts with pretty pintucks up top with a short-haired faux fur this winter was a favorite very casual outfit. Of course my sparkle dangle tear drop earrings had to go with it! Personality rules!

  • Lise

    I always thought I was an Apple but after reading your articles I realise I am an H. All your advice totally resonates with me. Thanks for all the interesting info. Lise

  • ratnamurti

    I think that I’m an H. Shoulders and hips equal, a straightish sort of torso, even when I put on weight (which is now….) the weight appears to all be on my abdomen, but still, shoulders, waist, and hips will measure roughly the same. Many years ago I was measured to see what clothing styles suited me best, and everything was more or less equal eg torso to legs ratio etc. (don’t know if that actually is possible, but, hey, she was the professional, not me). And because I’m straightish, curvy styles look awful. But guess what people try to put me in?

    • closetplayadmin

      Oh, Ratnamurti! Please don’t tell me that she put you in blousy waisted pieces to “give you some curves.” That would make me weep! I hope that you are finding some tips here that work for you…

        • closetplayadmin

          Oh, no! It’s not my intention to make anyone cry! (Unless they are laughing so hard that they cry.) Did you recognize your shape as an H? I like to think of knowledge as power… It’s nice to know that I can choose to use what I know about my body shape for my benefit when I want to, and ignore it when I wish. Every shape is beautiful and has its advantages!

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for asking! I’m working on getting the newsletter logistics set up! The European rule changes threw a wrench in the works, and I have not been as speedy as I’d like about getting back on track. I can see your email on my comments, and will put you on the list as soon as it goes live!

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