Subliminal Style
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Catching Rae

Shopping for a Petite, Curvy, Figure-8 Hourglass

One of my clients from this weekend is a petite, curvy, figure-8, hourglass. On paper, it might sound very easy to dress an hourglass since that is often listed as the "ideal" body type. However, like every shape, the hourglass figure presents its own unique challenges, especially in a petite body frame:

  • Dresses and tops are often far too long in the torso, causing poor fit in the low abdomen and hip area.
  • Garments that fit a large bust are often too baggy in the waist, visually widening the frame.
  • Dresses and tops that simultaneously fit a small waist and large bust are often stretchy knits that highlight every lump and bump.
  • Structured, tailored looks very often have a high neckline that adds visual weight to the bust.
  • Sleeves and hems are very often too long.
  • Shoulders are often cut too wide.

Although my client loves her waist-hip ratio from the front, she is up a few pounds from her usual weight and was feeling very self-conscious about the look of her tummy area. The extra weight also changed her figure from a more elongated X shape to a more short-waisted 8 shape. She was also going to a Mothers' Day dinner at a trendy restaurant that same evening, so alterations were out of the question.

We decided to build an outfit around some black pants that my client already owned, so we had our radar set for:

  • Separates - to give us control over the torso fit
  • Scoop/V-necklines - to elongate the neck and slim the bust
  • Fluid cuts that would skim the waist but not cling OR poof out - to accentuate the waist while hiding the tummy.
  • Cropped or standard length tops - which would translate to standard and tunic lengths on her frame.
  • Cropped, curved, or hi-lo top hems - to avoid accentuating a full bottom half at its widest point.

Oh, and my client also had to like the stuff, too. Which eliminated some of the (scant) Actual Petites Sections in the mall.

After trying out a few stores, we eventually ducked into Armani Exchange. My client was attracted to the clean, classic shapes with an edgy and modern twist. This brand also runs very slim, so we had hope for a good shoulder fit. 

Some of the items she was attracted to - like this cool, mod shift dress - didn't work out because of the high necklines and large arm details (which are trendy now but add too much bulk near her waist). We eventually found three pieces that my client loved: one that was perfect for the dinner that evening, and two unplanned bonus items to enhance her work wardrobe:

High-Low Tunic Blouse - much better-looking and far less pajama-like in person, this blouse had enough weight to skim my client's waist and enough structure to flow over the tummy. The cropped front also hit at the perfect length to create a nice long leg line, and we left the top buttons open to create a nice V shaped neckline. At home, my client paired this blouse with black skinny pants and simple heels.


Open-Seamed top - this sleeveless, half-placket cotton shell seems to be sold out online, but here it is in the A/X catalog in the center outfit. This is actually very fitted in the waist without clinging at the tummy, and it has wonderful, slimming open seam details as well as the option to un-button the top half to adjust the neckline. My client sized up and went home with this in black.

PS: although no longer online, this item is still at full price, and our SA told us it is a new item that is "not going anywhere" (just in case my client wanted to come back for the white version as well). 


Bonded Longline Blazer - Somewhere in between a knit and neoprene, this blazer is stretchy, comfy, and yet still crisp. It is also unlined and drapes nicely into curves. Since my client never likes to wear her jackets buttoned, we sized down for an even more waist-hugging, riding-jacket-like fit. She plans to wear this one to create a long, slim line over dresses, t-shirts, shirts, and shells. 

Any more petite hourglass ladies out there? What are your favorite stores for a great fit?