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Fashion Tips and Tricks for Inverted Triangles

Updated on January 23, 2013
1940s Fashions were, and are, perfect for inverted triangles.
1940s Fashions were, and are, perfect for inverted triangles. | Source
Lucy Lui, inverted triangle,  uses a tone on tone wide belt to create a waist and the draping creates fuller hips.
Lucy Lui, inverted triangle, uses a tone on tone wide belt to create a waist and the draping creates fuller hips. | Source

A friend of mine emailed me with this question: “Any advice for a chick with a boy's figure aka no curve separating the side of the abdomen and hip?”

Being that she is girly shaped on top, I know that she is an inverted triangle. I am also an inverted triangle. If you have an ample bosom, no waist definition and slim hips, you are most likely an inverted triangle. Finding clothes that fit and flatter can be quite the challenge. Since our upper bodies tend to be one or more sizes larger than our lower bodies, dresses and suits can be particularly difficult. Many inverted triangles have some body image issues. The wrong clothes can make us appear much larger. Do not fear, I have learned over the years a few smoke and mirror tricks that help a lot.

Famous inverted triangles are Alyssa Milano, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Lucy Lui, Rachel Ray and Kelly Clarkson.

The Good Thing is...

There are a few things that are actually beneficial about being an inverted triangle. The best one is our legs. Inverted triangles usually have very shapely legs and nice calves. That is definitely an asset. Secondly, most inverted triangles have the kind of cleavage some women pay good money to get. Some inverted triangles see this as a problem area, but that is just because they have been wearing the wrong clothes. Thirdly, when inverted triangles gain weight it tends to distribute evenly. Inverted triangles can usually carry an extra 10-20 lbs without it being significantly noticeable. Yes, I know WE notice. Most people, however, do not notice when we pack on few extra pounds. Feeling better yet?

Christian Dior's 1947 New Look signaled out with the inverted triangle and in with the hourglass. Women wore corsets, girdles and petticoats to get the look.
Christian Dior's 1947 New Look signaled out with the inverted triangle and in with the hourglass. Women wore corsets, girdles and petticoats to get the look. | Source

The Hourglass Ideal

The hourglass figure has been the standard of beauty for decades. Even in our uberthin obsessed culture, hourglass is the preferred figure. A perfect hourglass figure has a ten inch difference between the bust and waist, and waist and hip. The bust and hip are usually the same size. Very few women are “perfect” hourglasses. There were periods in history when hourglass figures were not the standard of beauty. In the 1920s, a more boyish, athletic figure was all the rage. Today they are referred to as rulers. In the 1940s it was, Inverted Triangles! Yep. You heard me right. Women’s clothing had shoulder pads to give wider shoulders, jackets that came down straight to the hip and narrow skirts. This change in fashion was brought about mainly by the shortage of fabric caused by World War II.

After the war skirts and dresses start getting very fabric hungry. Big, huge circle skirts are in and there is a return to ultra feminine attire. In 1947, Christian Dior unveils the iconic look of the decade, dubbed “The New Look.” The New Look was very full skirts, requiring voluminous petticoats, and nipped in waists, requiring women to don girdles or corsets. The hourglass was in. Even with the popularity of Twiggy in the 60s the hourglass look remained.

Faking it!

Many women want and hourglass figure. If you aren't naturally born with one all the exercising and dieting in the world isn't going to change that. It may make you the thinnest most in shape inverted triangle you have ever been, but it isn't going to make you an hourglass.

No problem. We have the technology. We can fake it. If you don’t want to squeeze yourself into a corset, there are other things we can do with smoke and mirrors. Remember those assets I mentioned? Nice bosom? Great legs? Well, you gotta play those up.

This little red number features princess seams and v-neck.
This little red number features princess seams and v-neck. | Source
Dian Van Fostenburg's iconic wrap dress is perfect for inverted triangles.
Dian Van Fostenburg's iconic wrap dress is perfect for inverted triangles. | Source
This red wiggle dress is perfect for showing off God-given curves (bust) and created ones. The wide waist detail creates a waist and the peplum adds volume to narrow hips.
This red wiggle dress is perfect for showing off God-given curves (bust) and created ones. The wide waist detail creates a waist and the peplum adds volume to narrow hips. | Source

The Tricks

  1. Play up that fabulous décolletage! Inverted triangles do not look good in t-shirts or other boxy attire. Avoid crew necks and turtlenecks as if your life depended on it. Look for deep v necklines, scoop necks, and button downs. Blouses with princess seaming gives the illusion of a waist. You need to look for blouses, tops, and jackets that “cut in” at the waist. Wrap style blouses also work well. The way the blouse crisscrosses the torso and ties at the waist creates the illusion of a waist.
  2. Show of your legs and create a waist with wrap dress. This follows the same principal of the blouse, with added benefit of easy dressing and wearing. One perfectly stylish piece that only needs a great pair of heels, too further show off those gorgeous calves, and a long necklace to drawn the eye down, elongating your entire silhouette.
  3. Think like an architect. Structural design details help create illusions. Look for detailing at the waist. Look for pieces that are fitted. Avoid clingy fabrics.
  4. Jackets are another way to create waist definition. If you have larger breasts look for jackets with only one or two buttons. Pick jackets that a very tailored and that nip in at the waist. If they flare out a little at the hip, that’s good too. You don’t have any hips so it helps create them.
  5. This may sound counter-intuitive, but wiggle dresses and pencil skirts look very nice on inverted triangles. With our narrow hips, and shapely legs it gives us a chance to show of our small parts a little. I like to wear mine with a button down cardigan and my secret weapon – a wide belt.
  6. Put some wide belts in your arsenal. I prefer the kind that are leather, or pleather, in front and elastic in back. Narrow belts don’t really help. You need a nice thick belt the create a defined waist.
  7. The bigger the skirt, the smaller the waist. Choosing very full circle skirts or dresses with very full skirts will help create the illusion of a waist and hips.
  8. Unlike me, a lot of women like to wear pants and jeans. Luckily, there are manufacturers who make pants and jeans for different body types, including those of us with no waist and no hips. Stores such as The Limited and Lane Bryant have a variety of fits. Levis jeans also offers a variety of fits. Top your pants or jeans off with a fitted blazer, jacket or vest. If you have nice toned arms a camisole under a fitted vest would look great. Look for pants that go straight down or flare a little. This will help balance you shoulders and hips. Because of our narrow lower halves it is tempting to want to wear skinny jeans. If you do decide to wear skinny jeans definitely pair it with a fitted jacket and some nice pumps or high heel booties.
  9. Size matters. It is very important to get a good fit in all your clothes. If you have to buy larger blouses to fit ample bosoms and have them taken in at the sides for a perfect fit, it is much better than wearing something to tight that pulls at the buttons and gaps.
  10. Chose your accessories and your colors wisely. Don’t choose a dainty little handbag. A bigger bag on your shoulder and at your side will make you look smaller. Choose longer necklaces that draw they eye downward. When choosing colors, inverted triangles have to do the opposite of conventional fashion wisdom. Most fashion experts are proponents of women having at least one black skirt, one pair of black pants and a white blouse. Well we are large on top so we need to go dark on top and lighter on the bottom. Try a navy blue blouse and gray skirt. Maybe you want to try black silk top and red pencil skirt? Try pairing your tan pants with a dark teal top.

No one is perfect and you don't have to be

The most important fashion rule is to find what you love and what makes you feel confident. Nothing looks as good on a woman as confidence. So you aren’t a perfect hourglass. You might not even be a perfect inverted triangle. This doesn’t mean you aren’t pretty, smart and sexy. Armed with a few magic tricks, a great sense of personal style, and understanding of you own wonderful assets you are going to look fabulous, darling!


Submit a Comment
  • Tess45 profile imageAUTHOR


    14 months ago from South Carolina

    Thank you, Hillary

  • Byonder5 profile image

    Hillary Burton 

    14 months ago from UK

    Some wonderful counter-intuitive fashion lore here. Thank you.

  • Tess45 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from South Carolina

    DiY - well you know what they say! Write what you know. And why do you say you have no figure! Not true at all. But, ok. An article on Rulers, then?

    Sinea Pies - I love fashion so much I wish I could marry it.

  • Sinea Pies profile image

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Love this hub! So well researched and explained. Don't you just love fashion?

  • DIYweddingplanner profile image


    7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

    Excellent article, Tess! Love the red suit, by the way. I know this works, because I've seen you do it for years now! Now could you give us girls with the "no figure" figures some equal time?!


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