Style tips for hourglass figures

Ask any woman about trying to buy clothes and she’ll bewail the apparent randomness of high-street sizing and she’ll also most likely inform you that certain shops are for ‘giraffe people’ or something of that sort. Buying clothes and getting dressed can be quite a challenge if you aren’t a standard sample size. Which most of us aren’t.

Style tips for hourglass figures

Photographer: Cat Marie Portraits

I’ve always been curvy, regardless of how slim I am (side note, curves doesn’t just mean plus-sized, which is I always find when I look for ideas for curvy girl dressing). Over 2015, I went up a dress size, making me a size 12, but my measurements have kept a pretty similar ratio. An hourglass figure is defined as the hips and bust being almost the same size (within two inches of each other), with a significantly narrower waist (usually considered to be of at least 9 inches less than the hips and bust). I fit that definition, with my bust and hips usually exactly the same size (at most, an inch difference as my weight fluctuates) and a waistline that is dead on 9 inches smaller.

Dressing an hourglass figure can be challenging on the high street, which is cut mostly for straighter figures, apparently the most common shape in the UK. But it can be done! Here are my top style tips for hourglass figures.

Start on a good foundation

If the bottom layer is wrong, it’s much harder to build on it, so start with a good foundation for an outfit. Getting your underwear right is essential. If you’re busty with a narrow waist, chances are you’re an ‘awkward’ bra size. I know I am. Finding a small band size with a large cup can be a bit of a headache on the high street. My advice is to save those pennies and then buy the best you can afford. What you consider ‘the best’ will differ for each of you, so try everything on! Try out loads of brands, try on different styles and get properly measured. Not all bras in your size will work for you. Accept that and find what does work. Personally, I can’t abide the hell of the Primark lingerie department even though they apparently stock larger sizes now. I can never find anything and I end up irritated. I like the nice, tidy, well-organised lingerie departments of Marks & Spencer (great for basics, but I have found some very pretty sets here too) and Debenhams. Debenhams usually have a whole separate section for DD+ ladies, with their own Gorgeous range and collections from brands like Freya and Curvy Kate. Otherwise, I also get on well with Boux Avenue. Their VIP scheme is rather nice too.

Lots of curvy girls swear by shapewear. I only really use it for cosplay, but when I do, I always buy in bra size, not my dress size for things like bodysuits. A size 12 bodysuit will not contain what it needs to on me! Waist training is a bit of a buzzword at the moment, but nobody seems sure how much damage it actually does to your insides, so be careful and always seek advice from someone smarter than me before messing around with waist training or tight lacing corsets. That said, you can accentuate that waist with Spanx or underbust waist cinchers without moving all your organs around (just double check what you’re buying and be sensible!).

Pencil dress for hourglass figure


Your waist is your narrowest point and should be flaunted. Look for shapes that will accentuate, not hide, your waist. In dresses, full skirted, pencil, wrap and fit and flare styles will play up your waist. For skirts, again, I find full and pencil styles best, but try things on and play around with lengths. High-waisted skirts, trousers and shorts are your friend. They hit your thinnest point, showing off slim waists and curvy hips. If a waistline isn’t working for you, whack a belt round it. I swear by thick, elasticated waist belts and wear them all the time. I find them especially useful to counteract that issue of a dress fitting my bust and hips but being a little loose at the waist. Skinny belts around the narrowest point works well too. Cinch it in. Show it off.


If you’re curvy up top, high necklines can make you look matronly. Even a small sliver of a scoop neckline can be instantly more forgiving. V-necks, sweetheart and scoop necklines are most flattering on bigger busts. You don’t have wear low-cut things all the time, as a little can go a long way with these shapes. Necklaces can help balance out an awkward neckline, and help avoid looking like you’ve got a bolster under your jumper.

Red Jumper

Balance it out

Be careful about adding embellishment like ruffles or peplum skirts. They can make you look out of proportion. If you’re adding bulk to the top, balance it at the hips and vice versa. This keeps your hips and bust looking the same size; an hourglass essential.

Bootcut trousers and jeans can be very flattering on hourglass figures, as the extra fabric at the bottom of the leg can help to create a bit of balance with the hips and bum. Of course, if you want to really flaunt it, forget the balance and get on the skinny jeans. If you’re wanting to downplay curves, stick with the bootcut. Big earrings are a downplayer too, as they draw the eye upwards, away from the chest.

Experiment with fabrics. Adding too much bulk with chunky fabrics might not work for you. I struggle with heavy knits, and find finer fabrics, layered lightly, are much more flattering on my figure.


I am a shoe addict and advocate wearing whatever shoes you enjoy. If, however, you’re looking to elongate your figure a little (if you’re a shorter curvy girl like me), get into heels. Peep-toes and rounded toe shoes are generally considered most flattering on hourglasses as the shapes mirror the curves of the body (or something…), but wear whatever you’re comfortable in. Remember that balance though, and beware shoes that cut you off at the ankle. This is a good look on exactly nobody. Unless you have legs up to your armpits and could use them balancing out somewhat.


Embrace your hourglass figure and enjoy it! Girls, any more tips?