Good morning! Welcome to our first of our shape-focused posts in our series of sewing for Trinny and Susannah’s 12 body shapes (see New Series: Sewing for Trinny and Susannah’s 12 body shapes and Book Review: Trinny and Susannah’s Body Shape Bible). First up are the Skittle, Pear, and Bell shapes, which I’m grouping together because many of the style suggestions overlap for these shapes. With that in mind, there are subtle differences between the shapes, and I’ll point those out in this post.
Proportions for Skittle, Pear, and Bell Shapes
With the Skittle, Pear, and Bell shapes, the focus is all on the lower body. According to Trinny and Susannah, women with these shapes have focused on their lower bodies, and dress based on how they feel about it. For example, the Skittle tends to eschew dresses and skirts in favor of pants to hide her thighs. The Bell, dismayed at her middle-aged body, cloaks herself in metres of fabric. The Pear also tends to hide under fabric. The authors note that it is easier to dress for a “problematic” lower body than very full breasts or a protuberant belly. Because we sit so much, our lower bods are more frequently unseen behind desks and tables, these three shapes can more easily create flattering proportions than certain other shapes.
The goal for all three shapes is to draw the eye to the trim upper body and play with volume on the upper body for balance. All three are narrow shouldered in relation to the hips. All three are small busted and tend to have lean arms. Pears have heavier, chunkier legs, even through the calves, than the Skittle or Bell. Pears have a longer waist than the Skittle or Bell, while Skittles tend to have slimmer waistlines and flatter stomachs. The Bell stands out, Trinny and Susannah explain, because she is a mature woman. The Bell shape only emerges after having had children or not until peri-menopause begins. The Bell body has that stereotypical “middle-aged spread” with weight settled in the butt, hips, thighs, and lower torso. The Bell is short waisted and low-breasted.
Looking at the body types side by side, we can see the similarities and the ratios that make the shapes distinct from each other.
We can also see the similarities when we look at the tag line for each shape and the “never wear” list for them.
All of the tags focus on the size of the lower body, especially in relation to a smaller upper body. Most of the “never wear” items have some similarities in avoiding clothes that are tight or clinging through the buttocks, hips, and thighs or that truncate the calves and shorten the line of the leg. All three shapes should also avoid mini-skirts. Pears and Skittles will find that “mini” means “cuts at a wide body part,” which emphasizes the width. Minis also give that effect to Bells, but an additional issue is that “mini” generally means youthful, not mature. Given these similar concerns, we shouldn’t be surprised that the suggested “Key Shapes” share similarities as well.
When I mentioned above there was an exception to the 3 celebrities in each shape, the Bell is the exception. They could only find 1 famous Bell to include: Hillary Clinton.
Trinny and Susannah attribute this to the media’s (and general cultural) fixation on the “young nubile variety” of women (p.162). I would add to that the way a woman has entered the public’s attention is important too. Let’s face it, there is more cultural interest in women who are famous for being actresses, models, TV or music stars, or being a “hot young thing” from a well-known, wealthy family. In general, the women we are likely to see featured in the general media are not politicians, writers, business leaders, or academics.
Style and Pattern Suggestions
Trinny and Susannah suggest vests or gilets as garments to balance the upper to the lower body. Bells especially can benefit from fuzzy vests that have a subtle V-neck and tie closure at the waist. This free pattern is a near match for the vest they suggest. The difference is it has an open back. It would effectively add interest and dimension to the upper body, and using the waist tie would add gentle shape to that area.
Pears can use a variety of vests over tops with shoulder accents, while a slim knitted vest with accents at the bust can help balance a Skittle. Pears can layer vests or shrugs with tops that end at different places on the body to draw the eye to the upper body and break up the lines at the hips and thighs.
The patterns Simplicity 3921, Vogue 9016 (views C and D), and the free Hot Patterns Shining Star vest all have features that work for Pears and can layer with tops with puff sleeves or shoulder accents.
For the Simplicity pattern, think about glamorous fabrics, strong colors or prints to draw the eye up. Have a longer knit top under the Vogue or HP to create levels and keep the eye moving. See the similarities to their suggested Pears’ toppers:
Puff shoulders or other poufy details on sleeves are suggested for both Skittles and Pears to draw the eye up and create balance.
The Style Arc Felicity top fits the bill for Skittles and Pears! Darts give shape for the narrow waist and upper body, and pockets are a bust detail to add volume. The horizontal seam adds width to the upper body and the short puff sleeves add width to the shoulders for balance. Open a button or two to create an arrow to the face and voila! To be honest, I like the Style Arc top better than the Skittle blouse they’ve selected. The boob bow is a bit twee for my tastes. On the right, the suggested blouse for Pears.
Skittles can use interesting bust accents. Both Skittles and Pears can use open scoop or V-necklines. The mature Bell should avoid deeply opening necklines. Think subtle Vs or softly draped higher cowls with modesty panels that provide chest coverage. Bells can look to subtle ruffles at the shoulder or metallic accents at the neckline to create proportions between the upper and lower body and to draw attention to their faces.
A lovely blouse for a Bell is Hot Patterns Refined Peasant Blouse. Use a vibrant color or print or try a contrast or beaded or metallic fabric to accent the neckband and try some beading or embroidery/ decorative stitching along the neckline for drama and to draw the eye up. This gives a lovely dressy or casual caftan blouse for warm weather wear. Avoid, though, the narrow wristbands. Leave them open and give a hem finish.
All three of these shapes are well suited to shoes with shaped, sturdy heels, avoiding wedges. Thicker calves benefit from a sturdy heel to act as a foundation, while the shaped heel can help elongate the leg.
Dress shapes for all three should have fluid skirts that at least graze the bottom of the knee. The skirt should not cling or be tight in the thigh, hips, or butt. Use open necklines and collar or shoulder treatments for balance. Look for details of different types at the waist to emphasize a trim midriff. Notice the similarities of these Best Look dresses: details at the upper body, skirts with movement, and waist accents.
An option for Pears is the strapless dress, which can be worn for smart occasions with the right footwear and jacket. The dress they’ve chosen is on point with Colette’s Éclair.
Trinny and Susannah strongly suggest for all 3 shapes pants that close at the side, are flat-fronted, and softly drape and flow to the ankle, with dark, solid colors being preferable. Pears and Bells should avoid pockets, while Skittles should look for angled pockets that are not on the side of the leg.
Trinny and Susannah highly recommend skirts to all 3 shapes. Vertical lines are strongly suggested to keep the eye moving up and down. These body shapes are well suited to A-line skirts and to using kick pleats or godets to create movement to skim wide parts and flairs for balance. Pears can layer soft, floaty fabrics in the pleats and godets (or in the skirt in general) at different lengths to create multiple lines, again, keeping the eye moving and skimming over thicker points.
An interesting skirt option for Pears or Skittles is Cake’s Urchin pattern, made up as a light, 2-layer skirt, and light cotton short, with all three having different lengths gives that effortless, multi-level skirt they recommend. The Pear or Skittle who likes her waist and tummy area has a statement waistband with a graceful, airy skirt to skim her hips and thighs. Here’s the Pear Party Best Look for comparison.
All three shapes can take advantage of skirts in sturdy fabrics too. Skittles do well with interesting vertical piecing, while kick pleats and godets are especially helpful for Bells. I’ll talk more about skirts, and tops and pants later, because many suggestions for these gals work well for Bricks, Cellos, Goblets, and Apples so hold onto to your seam rippers for more patterns and design features. All of these shapes, especially Pears, could check out Sewaholic patterns. This company drafts for a Pear shape, and they’ve recently expanded the size range for their newest releases. For more info, visit http://sewaholic.net.
To sum, this is a compilation of major pieces of advice for these shapes:
Like I said, I’ll have more pattern suggestions, especially for skirts and tops later, but Pears, Skittles, and Bells, remember to create length below the waist with loose, easy pants and vertical lines in skirts. Use colors and design or accessory details/ accents above the waist to draw the eye up and balance the shoulders to the hips.
My next post will talk about a body shape that is featured in basically every system, but seldom seems to get patterns or RTW garments (if they have shape codes on them) with her shape. Let’s talk BRICK.