Fashion: Body Shapes Re-defined

Posted on Jan 23 2019 - 9:00am by Guest writer


  • New data confirms the traditional body shapes – pear, apple, hourglass, rectangle and inverted triangle – do not reflect modern women
  • 10 new body shape illustrations based on the new data supports the movement to expand body shape definitions, with inspirational names to encourage body positivity
  • According to research, 99% of women use negative words to describe their own body shape

The term ‘pear-shaped’ has been used to describe the female body since the 1800s, but new research from Long Tall Sally highlights how out-dated and unrepresentative the five standard body shapes are.

Long Tall Sally’s research suggests that over 40.1 million women struggle to identify with any of the classic body shapes. Their in-depth analysis of body measurements from women in the UK and USA, reveals that that the reason for this is because the classic body shapes fail to account for how a woman’s height affects the shape of her body.

Old shapes

The outdated body shapes

The measurement data of 2,000 women – including their height, shoulder width, waist, hips, inside leg and torso length – was collected and analysed by a body expert to find the most common combinations of height and body part measurements. The expert team of Garment Technologists at Long Tall Sally then transformed these groupings of measurements to create a series of ten new body shapes. Together, these new body shapes champion diversity and showcase a more inclusive and representative range of contemporary women’s body heights and shapes.

One particularly striking element of the research is the astonishingly negative words that women use to describe their body shape, with 99% of participants using shaming terms, such as ‘an ugly mess’, ‘potato’, ‘repulsive’ and, the most popular adjective ‘fat’. Just 1% of women used positive descriptions such as ‘beautiful’, ‘strong’ and ‘perfect’.
In naming these new body shapes, and in a refreshing contrast to the prescriptive labels of yesterday, Long Tall Sally has adopted empowering adjectives based on the words that women use to describe other women; Extraordinary, Courageous, Inspiring, Determined, Passionate, Powerful, Graceful, Strong, Fearless and Invincible.

The new body shapes from Long Tall Sally

“Our research provides evidence that the traditional approach to body shape isn’t representative of modern women, and whilst the new shapes we’ve unveiled are by no means exhaustive, they demonstrate why the fashion industry needs to adopt a more inclusive stance and cater for a wider range of body types. As part of our #TrueToMySize campaign, the designers at Long Tall Sally will be using these new illustrations as a starting point to make sure the fit of our new fashion ranges suit a more inclusive set of body shapes.” Camilla Treharne, Creative Director at Long Tall Sally.

The new shapes take into account a woman’s height, as well as horizontal measurements, creating a far more accurate representation of the female body shapes. The Powerful body shape shows an average height, with wider shoulders and longer torso, whereas Extraordinary shapes are slightly taller, with wider hips, waist and bust. Body shapes with a shorter than average height, wider shoulders and hips are acknowledged as Inspiring (all pictured).

Fashion Director Alexandra Fullerton says of the campaign: ‘How refreshing that Long Tall Sally has taken steps to counterbalance these old-fashioned figures and reflect the diversity and evolution of women’s bodies. By discovering and decoding the measurements and proportions of 2000 women across the UK and US, and the fits offered to them, #TrueToMySize provides a far more inclusive set of shapes. When your clothes are designed to fit your body, getting dressed becomes easier. Good fit is the foundation of any stylish outfit and now there is acknowledgement of the reality of women’s bodies today, everyone can be one step closer to reaching style nirvana.’

For the full set of new body shape templates, and styling tips for each from Alexandra Fullerton visit:

This post was created in collaboration with Long Tall Sally.

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