Retro Essentials: Styling an apple figure

Oval. Diamond. Apple. Round.
There seems to be a lot of debate happening in regards to this body type. Not only does it seem impossible to agree upon one single name, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement as to what an apple figure actually is. So, for the sake of clarity, let’s define a few things.

By an apple shape, I mean someone who tends to store fat around their waist/on their belly rather than on their hips/thighs/chest/arms/etc. This does not mean that the person looks like how kids tend to draw overweight people as stick figures with a really big circle for a body and then tiny arms and legs. As with all types of body figures, apples exist on a spectrum. Apples also come in all different sizes. There seems to be this misconception floating around that only plus sized women can be apples, however, your inherent body shape doesn’t change with weight gain, it only becomes more noticeable.
So yeah, an apple can range from ‘minor chance of muffin top with certain pants’ to ‘rude strangers ask if you’re pregnant’ and they can wear any size.

I also believe apples have gotten a bit of a bad rep for no good reason at all and I think the advice given to apple shaped people is sometimes downright demeaning and certainly not something that’s going to be flattering. If someone is telling you to wear a tent, they’re not trying to flatter you.

Since I’m not an apple shape myself, I decided to create a Pinterest board where I’m pinning clothes I think might be of interest to apple shapes since I won’t be writing further blog posts tailored to apple shapes, so if you want to keep checking what I’d recommend then that’s a good place to start with.

Anyhow, onto the file!

Shape: Apple
Characteristics: stores fat around midsection, often has relatively slender legs and arms, hips and bust varies but narrower than mid section.
Closest to: rectangular & pear (will be discussed more later)
Furthest from: hourglass
Eras to be inspired by: 20’s & 50’s-70’s
Eras to avoid: 30’s-40s
Go to item: Long blazer or cardigan
Typical problems when shopping: shirts that are too short and pants that don’t rise high enough, clothes that cut off at mid-section, clothes tight around mid section but too big around hips/legs or chest.

Safest bet: high waisted dresses
Advice you shouldn’t take: ‘fake’ an hourglass figure by using a thick belt at the waist.

Fashion has a very weird view of apple shapes, it seems to spend most of its time pretending that they don’t exist, only exist in plus sizes, or trying to convince apples to transform into something else. Unfortunately not a lot of the retro styles are tailored for apple shapes, but there are still ways to indulge in them even without shape wear. The thing is, a lot of the retro styles put a significant emphasis on an hourglass waist which is convenient for everyone except rectangular and apple shaped individuals. That’s why I suggest moving away from the 30’s and 40’s and examine the earlier and later periods of vintage fashion.

Dresses: The trick to styling an apple figure is to move the waist. Instead of drawing focus to the less defined areas of your midsection, look for dresses that either have a dropped waist in true 1920’s fashion or one’s that focus on your ribcage/just below your bust. The difference doesn’t have to be dramatic, but enough to trick the eye. Here’s a dress where the waist has been moved up just slightly. It still looks like a fitted waist but it drapes loosely over the actual midsection. A lot of maxi dresses tend to have a borderline empire cut and do make for a good option for most body shapes. A dress with an over-all relaxed fit can help draw focus to the legs, especially if combined with awesome shoes. A lot of people with apple shaped bodies tend to have gorgeous legs, so under the principle of drawing attention to your best features I’d definitely consider a shorter dress that helps do just that. Elegantly draped dresses can also help draw focus from the midsection. Using a shiny material on the top part of the dress and a calmer but still elegant material for the bottom can also help shift focus upwards. A lot of sites and blogs that write things like this tend to recommend wrap dresses. However, be careful with this. There’s a difference between the kind of wrap dress that I’d recommend to an hourglass and the kind I’d recommend to an apple. The waist needs to be adjustable and higher for an apple shape than an hourglass. This is the most apple friendly wrap dress I’ve come across recently, notice that the waist and bow is placed just below the bust. Always try on wrap dresses with a critical eye since the wrong cut can result in an unflattering bathrobe look.

Dresses to avoid: wiggle dresses tend to focus a lot on the waist, swing dresses can be worn as long as they sit high enough. Beware dresses that go out of their way to mark your midsection.

Skirts: I think the one thing to keep in mind is to avoid skirts that sit at the waist combined with a shirt that’s tucked in. A loose fitting shirt over a pencil skirt can cover that the skirt itself doesn’t have the most flattering cut. This is an example of the kind of skirt to avoid. Try for skirts that sit at the hip and combine them with a long and loose shirt, or for skirts that sit above your waist and then combine them with a fitted top.

Tops: The same rule applies here, careful with the mid section. Opt for either short or long cardigans/blazers, I’d recommend this bolero. A relaxed blazer that goes down to your hips or upper thigh helps make the upper body look longer. Outerwear of any kind with long straight lines have the same effect. Tank tops with a rockabilly pattern can be a good option if worn with skinny jeans or leggings. This top is an example of something you could wear combined with a high waisted swing skirt that radiates out from above your waist. It’s essentially a classic pinup/rockabilly silhouette where the waist has just been slightly adjusted upwards.
I’d recommend trying a statement necklace to draw attention to your upper body.

Bottoms: Opt for pants that sit at the hip and draw focus to slender legs, combine with a loose fitting shirt such as a plaid button up. I just discovered these sweatpant jeans and just wanted to point out that they’re a thing. If you’re opting for short dresses, you might want to consider leggings or stockings to either stay warm or draw more attention to your legs.
Shoes can serve the same purpose in highlighting legs and a pair of heels can help lengthen the entire body.


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