Why you need to stop worrying about what body shape you are

Why you need to stop worrying about what body shape you are

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 12 Comments

It really is time to stop worrying about what body shape you are. Wear what you LOVE, not what some archaic rule says you should. 

My name is Nikki Parkinson and welcome to my non-official, totally not endorsed TED talk about body shape classifications. I’ve been banging on about this notion that we should stop trying to compare ourselves to something best left in your fruit bowl for A LONG time now.

For reference, and an unashamed plug, here’s a passage from my book, Unlock Your Style (published more than six years ago and written more than seven years ago):

I don’t believe in body shapes. Gasp. It’s true. Well, true to a certain extent. What I don’t believe in is rules about how we should dress. We spend too much time thinking about these so-called style rules instead of making our own style rules. Guidelines are great, but it’s been my experience working one on one with women that too many guidelines fail to help – worse, they bamboozle women so much that they totally give up finding clothes that work for their personality and lifestyle.

Initially I thought categorising bodies by shape – classifying and ordering them – made sense. What I found when I looked into it, though, was more chaos, not order. Some experts would have us believe that we’re one of five body shapes; others tell us there are seven possible shapes; and yet another thinks there are 12. There are 3.5 billion individual women in the world. Maths may not be my strong point but something doesn’t add up. Each of us is different from the next woman. To think we can all be categorised as certain types of fruit or other kinds of shapes is just crazy – and it distracts us from the task at hand, which is to choose, buy and wear clothes that make us feel good.

Have a watch/listen to my latest Tuesday Lunchtime Live on IGTV as I delve further into this topic, which I have even more thoughts on seven years down the track, in my 50s, and giving even fewer f*%ks. HAH.

Key body shape points to remember

1. Style is not dependent on an outfit being considered “flattering”. I’m trying to stop using that F word because I realise it’s problematic and very much contributes to the constant war we have with our bodies, trying to turn them into something they’re not and hating bits of them along the way. By saying an outfit is flattering – on ourselves or another women – the hidden meaning is that it makes the person look thinner … because we’ve been told for so long that that’s something we should strive for. I challenge you to not stop complimenting another woman on her outfit (because that’s a nice thing to do) but come up with another way to do it instead. How about: “I love the way your {dress, skirt} makes your eyes shine a little brighter.” The emphasis is on the effect of the chosen outfit (confidence), not an idea that something has to make you look smaller.

2. Body shape classification can make us feel “less than”. The holy grail of body shapes – hourglass – is seemingly what we should all be aspiring to. Old school thought was that if you were something other than an hourglass that you should try and create an illusion that you are. What bollocks. If you don’t want to show your waist, don’t. You know me and my love of loose and lovely dresses.

3. Style is a window to who we are as a person. What we wear gives another person an insight into your personality – through your style personality or personalities – I have multiple! I advocate using clothes to show that. Nothing in this idea is about choosing clothes based on what body shape you are. It’s about what colours and prints you like to wear and the textures of fabrics you combine. It’s the style personality of the clothes, eg boho, classic, retro. Yes, the shape of your clothes helps to create an outfit with style but it’s not dependent on the body shape underneath. 

4. Learn to recognise within yourself what colours, prints and cuts in clothes you FEEL good in. This is all about working on that intuitive muscle and letting go of any “rules” that may be stopping you from dressing for your best life. Experiment with pieces in your wardrobe or in the change room at shops. Try on pieces and combinations you normally wouldn’t. There’s no right or wrong. Look for a spark in your eye when you see yourself reflected back in the mirror. That spark will tell you if it’s right for you.

5. Take your measurements to help understand your individual body proportions. This is the only “science” or maths I encourage you to explore because it can be helpful for understanding why some types of clothing pieces don’t work for your individual body. This isn’t about how big or small you are and there is no right or wrong. It’s about understanding how different parts of your body sit in proportion to others. Knowing if you have a longer torso and shorter legs will help you understand why tops and tees might feel like crop tops. Conversely, having longer legs compared with a shorter torso might help you understand why things like wrap dresses and tops never seem to sit smoothly. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear those types of clothes. Again, wear what you feel good in. I talk more about this in my book but below is a list of measurements that I suggest in the book. Remember, you don’t have to share your measurements with anyone. I do keep mine saved in my phone as it can help with online shopping for clothes.

Key body measurements to take to help you work out your individual proportions (Unlock Your Style, Nikki Parkinson)

6. Confidence should be the only body shape you subscribe to. Think about it … if we devoted the same amount of time and energy to loving and accepting our bodies – or trying to love and accept them – than trying to work out what we think we should wear because we are a certain body shape, imagine how much amazing we could feel. Imagine.

7. If you love it. Wear it. THE END.

Thoughts? Share them in the comments below.

Why you need to stop worrying about what body shape you are

Top Spell | Jeans J Brand via The Outnet | Shoes FRANKiE4 Footwear

Comments 12

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  1. I love this, thanks Nikki! As a fairly classic hourglass, there are times when I pine for a straight up and down figure…

    When it’s sweaty weather I embrace the floaty dress, which mightn’t be traditionally flattering but which feels great and gives me confidence.

    These days I ruthlessly invoke the no special undies rule: if an item of clothing needs some special undergarment to make it look good, back on the rack it goes. Life’s too short.

    I’ve been in flats and low heels for years, beautiful french ones for the corporate look, and Frankies of various shapes, styles and colours for everything else. Happy feet equals happy me!

    And find little ways (or big ways, why not) to be kind to yourself-not always front of mind, not always easy, but one of the keys to feeling good.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more Nikki. And I’ve also been struggling with the f word for a while now, because I agree, it seems to just be another way of saying you look smaller! And language is important- what we say out loud and internally influences our thinking.

    I teach an exercise class in a retirement village to women in their 70’s (my mum’s age) and they still want to know how to lose weight on their tummy or arms! I think it was so ingrained in that generation that it’s no surprise our generation is still suffering from the hangover of those ideas. But I do feel like things are starting to change for our generation and I hope for future generations- because let’s be honest, your size is the least interesting thing about you, right?!

    Thank you for the great work you’re doing in this arena – I’m plugging away at it in mine too. I like to think it makes a difference!

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      I think that age group you’re working with were so ingrained with the message that they needed to be small and lose weight to be “seen”. Thankfully women in generations coming through insist on being seen for what they do and how they show up in this world. Thank YOU for all that you do to help women.

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  3. I agree so hard, Nikki.

    I haven’t been a ready to wear size since I was 24. I’m fifty now. I’ve had kids, I’ve gained weight, my posture has changed. I’ve gravitated to shopping the op shops. I can play with sizes and styles for not much. And sometimes something I might never notice in the stores becomes my favourite piece.

    One tip for measuring yourself – if there’s a measurement system that you struggle visualising, measure yourself in that. You really only need to know your proportions and how bits of your body compare to other bits of your body. I grew up with the metric system. I measure myself in inches. Not only are the smaller numbers good for my ego, they’re easier to remember.

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  4. Thank you for your video and your article. I agree with you that we each have our own style and to embrace multiple styles. I am 51 and know my body has definitely changed in some areas but I’m pleased there’s lots of options out there.

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