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How to Dress a Rectangle Body Type

Welcome to How to Dress Your Body Shape week!

Understanding your unique body type is a key step in creating a style and wardrobe you love.

So over the next five days we’re going to highlight each one, and breaking down the best tips and recommendations for each body type, starting with The Rectangle.

You might also hear a rectangle referred to as “straight.”

Rectangle Body Shape Formula

A rectangle shape is defined by your shoulders and hips measuring about the same and a waistline with little to no definition. 

There is an actual equation you can use to see where you fall.

Measure your waist and your shoulders or bust and plug those numbers in the formula below:

Rectangle Formula: Waist ÷ Shoulders or Bust = ≥ .75 

If the number you get is ≥ .75, your waist is less than 25% smaller than your shoulders or bust, then you fall into the rectangle category. 

You are considered a rectangle body shape when your shoulders and hips are proportionate, with little definition in the waist.

How to Dress a Rectangle Body Shape

NOTE: Bone structure dictates body type rather than weight and height. Of course, we consider all of these factors when we get dressed, so these guidelines are just that, guidelines. 

Think of it like this: 

Body Type is your bone structure, your body composition.

Fit/Size is your proportion; you may be “regular,” petite, tall, or plus. 

Weight is a factor that tends to fluctuate for many of us. 

It’s helpful to read about all the different body types because the more you understand balance and proportion, the easier it will be to get dressed.

Also, you can absolutely fall into two body types; you’ll want to learn about both so you can start to find your way between them. 

For example, I’m a rectangle, but when I have some extra weight, I benefit from understanding how to dress a pair shape too.

The Challenges of a Rectangle Body Shape

The main challenge a rectangle faces when getting dressed is her subtle waist.

Some “experts” will tell you a rectangle lack curves, but I disagree.

Many rectangles, myself included, have curves.

Our challenge is highlighting them in a balanced way which usually comes back to defining our waistline.

Below, I rounded up four images of celebrities with rectangle body shapes to give you a visual.

I included different heights and sizes to show how diverse each body type can be.

Famous Rectangle Body Types 

Famous Rectangle Body Shapes

Let’s start with Kate Hudson.

She is about 5’6 and the most “typical” of the rectangles with her thin and athletic build. In this picture, her exaggerated and daring v-neckline pulls the eye toward her waist, creating the illusion of a smaller waist. 

Of course, you don’t need to go so low.

In real life a tradition v-neck line gives the same effect.

Next, Reese Witherspoon is a true petite at 5’1. In this outfit, she’s wearing a peplum top with long skinny jeans, creating both a cinched waist and a curve at the hip.

The stunning Queen Latifah is my favorite example because she is tall, 5’10, and considered “plus-size.”

Interestingly, people often assume that you must be an hourglass if you are curvy, but she is an excellent example of a curvy rectangle.

You’ll notice the perfect placement of her blazer button with a strong shoulder. This combination creates a beautiful shape, elongates her neck, and shows off her stature.

Anne Hathaway is also on the tall end of the spectrum at 5’8.

I love this unexpected look because it shows the variety of styles a rectangle can wear, especially pieces with asymmetrical detail, texture, and pattern.

Of course, her height helps her pull off all this at once, but you can mimic the general theories she’s combining.

For example, the skirt and blouse create contrast, and her waistband sits at the smallest part. She’s also wearing a top with an embellished v-neck, a go-to trick for rectangles.

Finally, her pointed shoes give an elegant, long finish to the line of her body.

The Best Styles for a Rectangle Body Shape

For all body types, you want to focus on balance and highlight your favorite features. 

We have a lot of power in our choices once we know what we’re doing.

For example, we can create height and curves if we like, downplay what we’re not crazy about, and all that helps us feel a little more confident in how we show each day. 

In the range of body types, the rectangle has the most options. However, avoid boxy and shapeless clothes since they won’t do anything for you. 

Tops and Sleeves for Rectangle Body Shapes

WHBM, Flutter-Sleeve V-Neck Top, On Sale $49

Look for tops with scoop and v necklines or one that elongates the shoulder line. 

A great is example is this v-neck, flutter sleeve top from WHBM.

The v-neck draws the eye in and the detail at the sleeve extends the shoulder, both are simple tricks to make your waist look more defined.

You might also like a few tops from Reader Favorite brand, CeCe, like this tie-neck top with shoulder detail.

We’re also starting to see a return of the peplum top, and I was thrilled to find this one from SPANX in black and white, with sizes up to 3X.

A simple peplum with cinch you in at the waist and add a touch of volume to your hips, also giving the look of a more defined waist.

You may be surprised to learn that wearing a 3/4 sleeve instead of a full sleeve is another way to minimize a fuller waist because it draws the eye up and away. 

Think about it like this: a full-length sleeve will end at the waist and extend the line, making your waist appear larger. The 3/4 sleeve breaks up that line.

Boden has some lovely basic tops in 3/4 sleeve.

You can also simply zhuzh up your sleeves to right below your elbow to create the same effect.

Need a Blazer?

J.Crew, Going Out Blazer, $198

A strong shoulder in a jacket or blazer will give the illusion of a more defined waist, like the Queen Latifah example above.

You’ll look great in a one or two-button classic blazer, a wrap style, or anything belted. 

Because it’s all about defining your waist.

The option to the right from J.Crew and is a great example of focusing on tailoring and elegant lines.

You’ll notice the jacket doesn’t have any buttons, but the shape of the neck and lapel have a curve to it that pulls the eye in.

It also has a structured shoulder and hits a the natural waist.

Available in black, navy and heather, in sizes 00 – 24, in regular, petite and tall.

However, avoid an oversized style and anything with an extreme puff sleeve.

Also, skip boxy cuts of any kind.

Pants for Rectangle Body Shapes

Lucky for you, you have your pick of most pant styles. 

Whether you’re looking for jeans or traditional trousers, mid to high-waisted bottoms will work.

Skip low rise, but, frankly, I think everyone should 🙂 

Go with a skinny, straight, boot, or wide-leg cut. 

You want to avoid oversized or dramatically full bottoms as they will likely overwhelm your frame.

Dresses for Rectangle Body Shapes

Again, rectangles have many options when it comes to dresses.

Still, your best bet is a fit and flare, a-line skirt, or sheath with a defined waist.

This Tahari dress is ideal, combining all the flattering details: v-neck, structured fit, and side ruching.

You can also easily wear something like this high/low hemmed maxi dress, with a wrap waist.

Rectangle Body Shape Guidelines

Remember, these are guidelines.

If you put something on and it breaks all the “rules,” but you feel great in it – wear it!

Of course, wear whatever you want.

But I’ve found over the years that getting dresses becomes easier the more we understand what feels good on our bodies and why we increase our choices.

Everyone’s body type is unique.

For example, if you fall into the rectangle shape category but have a full bust, you will want to wear a different thing than a petite rectangle with no curves.

Use these recommendations as a starting point in dressing well, knowing you’ll have to adjust for your unique needs.

How to Dress a Rectangle Body Type
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MEET THE AUTHOR

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Katie

Sunday 5th of November 2023

Hello, I need help figuring out my body shape. I've gone through several articles online on the subject but I'm still very confused. I took my measurements and my waist is the smallest, followed by my bust. my hips and bust have similar measurements (although waist is slightly wider). That would technically mean I'm an hourglass no? But here's the thing, my shoulders are wider than all of em. Please help 🥺

Megan Kristel

Sunday 5th of November 2023

Without seeing you or your actual measurements, if you your shoulders are the widest, follow guidelines from the inverted triangle for minimizing your shoulders. Because the rest of your measurements sound balanced, yes, you can probably follow the advice for an hourglass. Keep in mind, it's rare to be just one bodyshape, most women are a mix.

Christie

Tuesday 5th of September 2023

How do you feel about empire tops or dresses for rectangle shape? I'm 5 10" with long legs but have a tummy Thx Christie

Kelly Z

Monday 21st of August 2023

Thank you for sharing such relevant & solid information. I am really looking forward to this series!

Mary

Monday 21st of August 2023

Thanks for this series. I'm a VERY short-waisted rectangle. Measuring only my shoulders, waist & hips, I'm a rectangle but I have a larger bustline. I've found that wearing a belt or even tucking in my top is very unflattering. I tend to wear "a column of color" with a v-neck or open neck top. What advice do you have for us short-waisted ladies?

Karole Sherlock

Monday 21st of August 2023

Thank you for noting the difference between hour glass and curvy. I was stumped on my body type due to broad shoulders and a flat chest. However my shoulder - waist - hip measurements fit the hourglass formula. It was extremely confusing until I learned that hourglass and curvy are not the same.

Teresa

Monday 21st of August 2023

I'm looking forward to this series.

Dianne

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

At first I thought I might be an Inverted triangle as my shoulder circumference is wider than my hips & bust. Then after reading your article, I am thinking of the curvy rectangle. Hips are 35", waist is 28" and bust 34.5". Do shoulders enter the equation? If so mine are 38.5". Is a curvy rectangle closest to what you might assign to my dimensions? (by the way, I'm shorter at 5' 4".) Thank you for any guidance or suggestions you may have. Dianne

Toby

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

I am a rectangle from the front for sure, and a pear from the side. I totally relate to Gloria - I personally dislike skirts! Now I know why. I am also quite short-waisted so also relate to Stacy with the shorter torso. I am 5'5' about 135 lbs. any thoughts on the newish style of the high-waisted, longer, softer pants? Also are capris totally out? Because shorts are out for me, what is the best skirt length?

Gloria

Monday 17th of October 2022

Straight on, I am a rectangle. From the side,I am a pear--belly and butt stick out.Finding skirts is a nightmare.

Natalie

Friday 8th of July 2022

Megan,

What are you thoughts on empire waist tops and dresses with rectangle builds?

Thank you! Natalie

Tracy Gray

Saturday 11th of June 2022

This is a great article! Thank you! Understanding more about different body shapes and which I am for sure will be so helpful in clothes purchases so I. n really like what I wear.

Camille

Friday 10th of June 2022

I would love to have swimsuit recommendation for body shape

Anne

Friday 17th of June 2022

@Camille, I’m a curvy rectangle and the most flattering swimsuits I’ve ever worn are fron Summersalt! My favorite is the Sidestroke - colorblocked one-shoulder. I also have their Ruffle Backflip and Perfect Wrap. Check them out at summersalt.com!!

Julie

Friday 11th of February 2022

Can you give some ideas of how to “create the illusion of a waist”? Thanks!

Megan Kristel

Friday 11th of February 2022

So, in the post we give specifics about this. Creating a waist when you are a rectangle is all about defining it with other elements. A v-neck, a peplum top, the placement of a jacket button, it's all about bringing the eye in and creating the illusion of a waistline if you don't have one.

anna

Thursday 27th of May 2021

where can I get the wardrobe checklist. thanks Anna

Neen

Saturday 22nd of May 2021

Thank you for this post! As a curvy petite (4'10) this is SO helpful and love Reece and Kate and Anne's style (but didn't know why) so love that you used them as examples. LOVE these posts thank for all you are doing for all of us - you make it so easy!

Tracy Gray

Friday 14th of May 2021

Oh my gosh! I just read this and realized that I am a rectangle shape. I never would have thought it but I now see that I do have the smaller waist and some of the suggestions you made I also know that I wear and feel ver confident in. Honestly, never would have thought! Thanks!

Jem

Thursday 13th of May 2021

Can you give some examples of what a petite rectangle with no curves would wear and how that would be different from a full size rectangle with bust?

Megan Kristel

Friday 14th of May 2021

Reese Witherspoon is a petite rectangle with no curves. The same tips apply for any rectangle, pull in your waist line or create the illusion of a curve with details (like the peplum), v necks will bring the eye in to your waist, a strong but not over powering shoulder - all the same tips.

Stacy

Thursday 13th of May 2021

Torso length is a huge consideration, as well. I have a short torso and a rectangle frame - accentuating my waistline is the absolute worst thing for me to do, unfortunately.

Deb

Saturday 18th of June 2022

@Megan Kristel, Thank you for addressing the short waist. I find dresses and swimsuits my nemesis. I go to lengths to avoid both. SwimSuit recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I am almost 70.

Megan Kristel

Thursday 13th of May 2021

Please remember these are just guidelines. If you have a short torso you still want to focus on elongating necklines, v-necks in particular. You also want to create the illusion of a waist, so you can wear a drop waist, or a shift dress. Avoid crop style tops and jackets, keep your tops untucks (though you can sometimes half tuck) and generally let your jackets and tops hit at your hip bone to lengthen your torso.

petunia

Thursday 13th of May 2021

This is good advice, thank you! I guess it is no wonder I like your blog--I am a tall rectangle, too.