Retro Essentials: Styling Rectangular Shapes

Shape: Rectangular
Characteristics: Stores fat evenly over the body, small difference between hips-waist-bust, often has a smaller bust and a ‘lack of curves’. Can lean towards any of the other body shapes but to a lesser degree than the people who actually are those shapes, so it doesn’t have to mean a completely rectangular body.
Closest to: usually apple but can be any of the shapes.
Furthest from: usually hourglass but see above.
Eras to be inspired by: The 1920’s idolised you.
Go to item: skinny jeans
Typical problems when shopping: falling between the chairs/shapes

Safest bet: 1920’s style dresses
Advice you shouldn’t take: artificially creating a form you’re not.

Seek inspiration from: Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and Veronica Lake. Or this Pinterest board I created.

Fashion: A lot of designers use rectangular body shapes as a model when they create and since your body shape isn’t extreme one way or another there’s seldom any mainstream clothing trends that look bad on rectangular body shapes. The 1920’s idolised rectangular shapes and with the exception of extreme pinup styles, almost anything can work with a rectangular body shape. As always, don’t try to force your body to look a different shape than it is. Work with it, not against it.

Dresses: A classic vintage shape with a square top and a bottom poofed up by a petticoat works well for rectangular shapes. You can always add a cardigan or blazer for warmth or if you dislike bare arms. Due to a relatively small bust, you have the luxury of being able to wear high necklines without looking matronly. In regards to waists there are several options. Firstly the 1920’s and 1960’s shapes that avoided having marked waists. Dropped waists and raised waists can work too.
Use contrasting fabrics to divide your body into sections as this can help you avoid looking boxy. If you want to approach an hourglass silhouette, do so by using dresses with a gentle hourglass shape that doesn’t try to change your body shape radically. You can get away with thin shoulder straps and a sweetheart neckline. For glamorous dresses, rectangles are one of the few body shapes that truly shines with embroidery and beading, let the pattern in the decorations create the shape.
Short dresses tend to be flattering on rectangular body shapes since they tend to flatter the legs. In regards to necklines, the one to be careful with is a v-neck. However, for something that gives a similar feeling, try this hybrid neckline. Rectangular body shapes are the ones who can truly use patterns to their advantage and can even get away with asymmetrical dresses.
  The two kinds of dresses I’d be careful with would be wiggle dresses and wrap dresses since they operate on hugging curves.
One trick I noticed when I researched this body shape is to let dresses draw focus to the back, have a look at the pinterest board for several examples of that.

Bonus section! Rectangular shapes are the ones who have the highest chance to look good in jumpsuits and rompers. This nautical number is a great example of that.

Skirts: This is an example of a skirt that pretty much only works with rectangular bodies. Most skirts can look good on rectangular body shapes as long as they’re either rectangular or create shape. Skirts that are figure hugging and depend on the person’s body to create the shape on its own (think jersey pencil skirts) are probably the least flattering option. In regards to length, it varies more depending on your height as opposed to your body shape itself. Structured skirts tend to give more shape than free flowing fabrics. The important thing to remember is that it has to work with the top. However, remember to not let the clothes wear you rather than the other way around, so don’t go too overboard with the petticoats.

Tops: A classic style that is rectangular friendly is sleek turtleneck shirts, combine with some of the relaxed pants shown below. Another option that works really well for those with a  smaller bust is ruffles in various shapes. For a modern option, you can combine an eccentric tunic with leggings or pants. This is something I’m kinda jealous of, but rectangular shapes tend to look really good in button up shirts. Just as with dresses, use the clothes to create subtle shapes. Elegant sleek blouses will make for a good summer option.

Bottoms: I’d recommend indulging in the rock side of rockabilly. Black tight denim combined with a plaid shirt or halter top. You can also take a note from Katherine Hepburn and go androgynous in the best of ways. This is another more relaxed retro friendly option. When it’s cold outside, you could always consider leather pants and go for the biker pinup style by combining it with classical feminine attributes.

Other Tricks: use fabrics and patterns to your advantage. Soft fabrics such as lace can make you appear softer, a pair of suit pants combined with a silky draped blouse mixes androgyny with classical femininity.


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