How To Dress For Your Specific Body Type

What’s your body type? And, how should you dress for it?

This article provides an overview of body type throughout history and how our perception of the idea has evolved. At the end, we link to a series of articles on common body types and how best to dress for them.

What you look like with clothes on depends on what you look like without them.

A *highly-abridged* history of Body Classification

To better understand body types, it’s important to remember we’re far from first group to classify our bodies and that the “ideal” has changed over, literally, millennia.

Ancient Teachings on Body Types

Five thousand years ago, Sanskirt teachings and Ayurvedic medicine broke the body types into both shapes and personalities:


A thin body type belonging to a person who can be unpredictable and who becomes vivacious and excitable under pressure.


A medium body type represents a person who can be intense, orderly, decisive and tends to become angry and abrupt under pressure.


A heavy set body embodies a relaxed, calm, steady, easy going person who, when stressed may balk and grow silent.

Body Type: Ancient teachings. Vata, Pitta, Kapha.

The ancients Greeks considered body shape and aesthetics to the point of an obsession. They expressed their “ideal” in both painting and sculpture.

Classical Ideas on Body Type

For the Greeks and, eventually,  Romans, proportion and symmetry in the body was paramount to size. While some of the later figures may appear exaggerated with (literally) chiseled feature, the vast majority of sculpture was dedicated to creating a symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing figure.

The best way to visualize this is through the Golden Ratio:

Expressed numerically, this a 1:1.618 ratio.


The Old World Masters of the Renaissance saw a kind of revivalism of the Classical world.  Some, like El Greco, painted exaggerated figures; but for the most part, emphasis was placed on proportion and symmetry.

We can really see this in Leonardo’s Vetruvian Man sketch and Michelangelo’s ‘David’

20th Century

On the contemporary end of things, American psychologist William H. Sheldon (1899-1977) classified bodies into three body types and linked personality traits to them:


An ectomorph was a person with a tall, thin, fragile frame and a large head. He tended to intellectual, introverted, self-conscious and often nervous.


With a rounded, soft, plump body, this person was thought to be sociable, friendly, relaxed with a fondness for food and comfort.


His athletic body type had a muscular, sturdy and thick-necked frame. According to Sheldon, he tended to be active and noisy, risk-taking and sometimes insensitive in his personal relationships.

Body Types & Personality Traits. By William H. Sheldon
Image courtesy of Govt. of Western Aust. Dept. of Health


Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s talk about how you should dress for your body type.

To make it easy (and to avoid a very long article!) we’ve broken it out into links that will pop up in a separate window.

Be honest with yourself!

ATHLETIC: Stocky, muscular build. 8″ drop or greater

SHORT: 5’6″ and under

TALL: 6’2″ or more

HEAVY: Stout, Pear-shapedgents

THIN: Slimmer, Bean-shaped gents

Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoyed this primer!

This article is part of our “How to Look Your Best” series. This series is dedicated to helping people learn how to project their best image.