How to Measure Your Body Proportions

Iv’e been asked once again to share with you how to measure your body proportions, so I made a new video to help you figure out where you are proportionally longer and shorter.

Just remember, when you’re measuring.

1 head length (top of head to base of chin) – use this length to determine the rest of your frame (unless you have a really large/long head for the rest of your body).

Then, with each proportion, when you measure, if the proportion is not balanced, when you go to measure the next proportion, start the measuring point from where the last proportion was supposed to end, rather than where it did end.

Points to measure:

  1. Head length
  2. Base of chin to mid bust (bust peak)
  3. Bust peak to natural waist (that bit that dips in between your rib cage and your hip bone, not necessarily where your belly button is)
  4. Natural waist to leg break (where the leg bends at the hip, normally around 1″ or 2.5cm above the crotch)
  5. Leg break to mid-knee (this is 2 head lengths)
  6. Mid knee to ground (2 head lengths

Then measure from:

  1. Top of head to leg break
  2. Leg break to the ground

Is one of these two proportions noticeably longer than the other?

You may have:

  1. Longer legs, shorter body
  2. Longer body, shorter legs
  3. Fairly balanced, but shorter through your mid section from bust peak to knees) with longer or balanced head to mid-bust, and knees to the ground.
  4. Balanced - all proportions very similar

You can then read about dressing these proportions and all their variations.

Comments

  1. Kim Williams says:

    Thanks Imogen

  2. Lina/ Florentzia says:

    Im a bit confused about one thing regarding body proportions, can people with shorter torso have a long Waist?

    Before, I always thought that you can only have long legs, short legs or be balanced so Ive never heard of “fairly balanced” before. Which is what I think I am, because my legs are *Slightly* longer than my torso, but at the same time,I’ve also a long waist so the guidelines for short waist + long waist doesnt work on me. I’ve no problem wearing light colors, horitizontal lines and not blending hosiery/shoes with bottoms (but I think thats because Ive a very thin from waist to legs and has a defined waist), but long tops and tunics has always been a problem to me. It seems like the guideline for longer torso’s works better on me, like tucking in your top or wearing wide belt. I never wear my tops/tunics untucked unless wearing leggings or skinny pants or belting them over skirts.

    Btw: Personally, I prefer to take outfit photos of the same top but then test whether tucking, untucking and belting looks better (like these two tunics: https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xfp1/t1.0-9/s600x600/10369179_243776889164266_6639971923842942857_n.jpg The first outfit with shorts looks a bit awkward… :P It can get a bit annoying where many aspects like bodyshape, colorings etc dont work on you even though they suppose to do! (I dont take the guidelines too seriously, like strict rules. Its just when taken different things, i.e, your bodyshape where everything gets so complicated! xD)

    • Yes you can have longer legs and a longer waist. Humans are so varied that we can have any combination of elements! Remember that all the proportional and body shape rules are not really rules, they are just some guidelines to start from, that you adapt for your uniqueness. If you have a longer waist, then work with that proportion in the way that it works for you. If your legs are only marginally longer than your body, treat yourself as more balanced than unbalanced. You have to adapt the guidelines for you. So you’re aware that working with the shorter leg/longer body information works better for you – then go for it!

  3. imogenfan says:

    Imogen, I really appreciate your blog and have read just about everything on it many times over. Your posts are well thought out, explain complex concepts well, and use pictures, graphics, and videos brilliantly. I do disagree on one little bit of your body proportions explanation, however. I’ve been thinking about it since your earlier post on the subject.

    In Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor’s The Triumph of Individual Style, the authors illustrate the easy-to-dress body as eight head lengths long, just as you do. However, their illustrations and explanations do not describe the bust peak as one head length below the chin. They only say the easy-to-dress body is two head lengths from chin to waist. Their illustrations do not have that first head length end at the bust peak. Instead it ends a bit below it, which I think is actually more representative of a well proportioned body. Other bodies with other proportions are beautiful, too, as Mathis and Connor are at pains to express throughout the book. I believe two head lengths from chin to waist more accurately describes an easy-to-dress body than Leonardo Da Vinci’s way of breaking it up. I think you may be deriving the bust peak ending point from him?

    Da Vinci was an absolute genius, of course, but another of his idiosyncracies where concepts of body proportion are concerned is his depiction of a well proportioned body being inscribed in a circle when arms and legs are outstretched. In such a body, I believe the person’s arms would actually be on the long side. These proportions describe something called marman syndrome, which is linked to long arms, a heart murmur, and a tendency to metabolic syndrome. I lived with a boyfriend with this cluster of characteristics, so I learned a lot about it.

    It’s a neat idea to think of the human body as inscribed in a circle and each head length marking a significant body part. Iin this case, however, I think theory got ahead of empirical data. In Da Vinci’s time, of course, there was no way to accumulate such data. I’m not sure how one would go about it today, even.

    Granted the definition of a well proportioned body is, to some extent, a matter of opinion. The Triumph book uses a wide range of art to illustrate how beautiful different bodies have been considered through the ages. If one takes the concept to heart, I believe both your concept and theirs are equally valid. However, looking at photographs of many women considered ideally proportioned in our particular culture, I tend to conclude the one head length from chin to bust peak is not, actually, considered in our time to be an ideal. It’s not less than ideal, but, rather, it is not a marker of good proportions. It seems far, far more common for the distance from chin to bust peak to be slightly more than one head length long.

    What do you think? Am I off on the Da Vinci thing? Have I misread the Mathis/Connor book? This may seem obsessively nitpicky, but I find ideas about body proportion endlessly fascinating. I would, in fact, welcome many more posts on the subject from you. I’ve not come across a personal style blog that is as comprehensive on personal style as yours.

    • When I look at Triumph, and look at the artworks, the chin to bust peak is about where that proportion is defined, plus it was what I was taught when I did my training and is something that is pretty much agreed upon in the industry I work in. Yes there are many who have longer than chin to bust peak proportions, either they have a longer neck, or a larger bust (which is becoming more and more common) which makes this a longer proportion. What I also find with my clients is that badly supporting bras will also elongate this proportion, as soon as you get the breasts up a little higher they fit more closely to this proportion, which in turn elongates the waist area. The thing I always think about these things is that it’s all guidelines. You can do whatever you like, but if you feel that you have a short waist, then wearing a better fitting bra can make a big difference.

      • imogenfan says:

        Yes, you can often raise the bust peak with a bra. I guess I need to look at the pictures in Triumph again, and more closely. Perhaps in earlier times busts were frequently smaller and bust peaks were higher. In any case, I agree with you that a good bra can do wonders for elongating the waist, even if your breasts are self-supporting. Thanks for the input!

  4. I was thinking about this for the past couple of days, and came up with this: the bust peak is the only one of these measurements that isn’t fixed. You can move the bust peak depending on the kind of bra you wear, as Imogen points out above. So I concluded that the bust peak is aspirational — where it should be, rather than where it often is.

  5. marymary says:

    I guess I’ve been dressing myself long enough to know my chin to boob is long, but I’m short from boob to waist.

    So though I’m very petite up top, spaghetti straps don’t flatter, there is just too much acreage! I’m good with chunky necklaces and quite a lot going on in the upper chest area to break it up.

    Wide belts are uncomfortable, they dig into my ribs.

  6. This was enlightening Imogene – thank you. I found that I am longer from breast peak to waist as well as waist to leg crease. I’ve always known I was long waisted but the waist to leg crease being longer showed me why this is such a difficult area for me to dress. A close fitting tee over jeans and all you see is long torso. A more loose fitting tee and I look boxy due to broader shoulders than hips. Long legs too. Any ideas?

    • You are the one body proportion that looks right with layered tops, add extra horizontals by having different coloured tops end at slightly different heights.

      • Interesting. I see that I’m already drifting toward things that I know balance me. I love the tiered tops and knew I needed horizontal width but wasn’t exactly sure why. You gave me a new idea with the layering tops in different colors and heights. Thanks for your generosity as always.

    • Also think about adding a wide waist or hip belt to break up the space.

  7. Hi,

    I have a proportion related question. I am a pear shape and according to the norm ought to be short legged and long waisted since I store fat in the hips. However, I am fairly balanced and slightly short waisted! Now I am confused because all the pear recommendations say to play up my small waist, but all the short waist recommendations say to skim over and downplay it. I have always considered my waist one of my best features and am fond of wearing flowing cardigans belted at the waist. Thoughts? Any pearls of wisdom would be sincerely appreciated! Thanks

    • You are working with both your short waist and your narrow waist. By belting over a cardigan you are defining your waist, but the hem of the cardigan is longer so helps to elongate your shorter waist.

  8. This has left me very confused! According to this I am more or less in proportion bottom half to top half, but my rise and thigh are short. However I KNOW I have a long body and long neck with proportionately shorter legs – I can just see it! I’ve seen two stylists before (I’m in the UK) and both have agreed that I have a long body in proportion to my legs and that I also have a long rise. jackets tailored for tall people are usually still too short for me yet average length trousers are just about right for me (slightly short, but long length for tall people are usually too long)! Plus the advice you give for dressing for “fairly balanced, but shorter through your mid section” is totally wrong for me – empire lines look terrible on me and wide belts look great as they break up my long back.
    Why doesn’t this work for me? Could it be because my head is long so I’m actually in proportion with myself but because I’m tall everything just looks long generally and the short thigh makes my legs look shorter, but my calf actually balances it?!

    • Hi Helen,

      Thanks for your comment. Honestly, without actually seeing you I have no idea. You have to remember to take into consideration all elements of you – body shape, proportions, scale etc.

      You may be regularly proportioned in the legs, just have a long body on top, which is why jackets are too short, but pants are right. Of course the short mid-body information would be wrong for you if you have a longer body. It’s just that maybe your legs aren’t short – short, if you know what I mean.

      If you have a long body (not a short one) then of course wide belts will work (particularly if you have a defined waist too). You need to remember, that if you’re tall, you usually have more length all over. Vs if you are average or short, then you have less space to play with and have to be more careful with your shorter elements.

      It sounds to me like you’re long body shorter legs, but not really short legs (if you get what I mean). So you will just want to visually break up your body, with your belt, but other than that, not spend too much time worrying about it as you’re not also trying to compensate for really short legs.

      • Wow, prompt and detailed response, thanks! I think you’re right, I am long body shorter legs – but not short legs – but that doesn’t tally with the measuring instructions above as this puts me at ‘in proportion’ top half v bottom half. The outfits you show for the longer body, shorter legs are exactly how I dress and look good in (I think!) So I guess I have to go with my instinct rather than trying to be scientific about it…

  9. BTW, does this measuring method work for men too?

  10. This is very helpful. Just for fun, I calculated how tall I “should” be according to my head measurement: 6’3″! I’m actually 5’6″ and those missing 7 inches belong to my legs. Everything else is relatively proportional. No wonder it’s very easy for me to look stubby. On the other hand, I’ve always considered myself long in the torso. One-piece swim suits rarely fit and I was thrilled when tankinis were invented. But there’s maybe only a little extra length there. I guess combined with my large bust it is enough to make a 2 piece suit a better option.

  11. Hey Imogen. Is it possible to have a body type that’s a mix of two?. I find that I fall into both the body type ‘X’ and ’8′ categories, yet still not completely into either one. When it comes to styling tips (& body descriptions), some for type ’8′ work really well on me, whereas some don’t, and the same happens for ‘X’ styling tips. My measurements are: Shoulders-36, Bust-34, Waist-25, Hips-37.5 . I have a high waist and a high hipbone , but my hips aren’t as high as the lady’s in type ’8′ but also not as low as the lady’s in type X. What body type am I, am I a blend of both? Thanks.

  12. Charlene says:

    Imogen I’m confused – my measurements are proportionate head to bust, short waisted, then shorter thighs and longer calves – which I believe is just like YOU as compared to your video above. When I did the half body measurement – my head to leg bend measurement is shorter than the leg bend to floor by about 2 inches, which means my legs are definitely longer than my body! That stunned me as I always thought I had short legs….go figure. I’m only 5′ and have a defined waist, but it’s definitely high up compared to my rise. I also tend to carry weight in my butt and hips always, so on the curvy side.

    Would love your thoughts here as to how to dress and where I might fit in ? thx so much, this site is wonderful!

  13. I have mixed feelings about the ideal proportion suggested by this way of measuring. I associate it with classic European ideals of elegance, which is is just one aesthetic.

    What about more grounded shapes, e.g. think of hip hop style with baggy low-sitting pants. Their ideal is more boxy, no highlighting of a thin waist there.

    Similarly for face shape I am not sure that oval is so ideal. I quite like wider faces, so I don’t hesitate to widen my round face (within limits).

    Is it the creative/relaxed in me I guess?

    • O – remember these are rules that are made to be broken – should you choose to (and the creative person likes to break rules). But in doing so, be aware when you’re playing with proportions that you may make the appearance less balanced (the oval is all about balance, nothing more, as is proportion and we innately like balance). If you are slim, you can get away with playing with these ideals way more easily than someone who is curvy.

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  1. […] For those of you who thrive on hard facts and struggle to understand your figure’s unique proportions, Imogen has created a short video explaining how to measure your body proportions. […]

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