The most common female shape is the pear, but the Rectangle is the most common shape acquired by women once they reach a certain age. The drop in female hormones causes the thickening around the waist and the loss of a more feminine shape ... if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s something else to look forward to ... (not).

Dressing a rectangle is actually quite easy, and a natural rectangle (i.e. one who is not a rectangle because of age), is often slim and athletic looking. Your goal is to add shape to the body and create a more feminine silhouette. 

The Dos

Some of the Major dos for a rectangle are padded bras and wide belts, shaped jackets, bold prints and A-line dresses (doesn’t sound right, but it works!), all of which are designed to create curves.

The Don'ts

Some of the major don’ts for a rectangle are big baggy shapeless clothes (except for a well-structured A-line), long jackets, figure hugging clothes and scoop or sweetheart necks.

There are so many great clothing options for rectangles and evening wear is no different.

There is nothing more glamourous than wearing a long gown with a pair of sexy high heels. Evening skirts always look stylish and if you choose to wear one, make sure you have a well-defined waist and that the skirt is fitting, with flare or frills or something extravagant at the bottom, because this will add to the shape you are trying to create.  

You may prefer to create your own style and make a statement by slipping into a pair of sexy palazzo pants; wear the pants (or a skirt!),  with a little top in lace or velvet or silk, in a matching or contrasting colour. And remember, whenever you choose a contrasting top colour, choose an item such as a brooch or a necklace to tie the colours together. For example, red palazzo pants with a black lace top, worn with some red earrings and perhaps some red bangles, or even a huge red brooch will create a very stylish look.

Of course, rectangles are able to wear halter necks to great effect. If the tops of your arms and shoulders are no longer up to scratch, wear a small bolero or even a short fitting jacket in silk georgette or some other diaphanous material to hide the jingle-jangle!

The LBD will never go out of date, but if your figure is now slightly out of date, or not quite the shape you would like it to be for an LBD, try a pants suit; they are comfortable and useful because you can dress up or down; it all depends on how you accessorise, and that depends on the function and the style you want to create.

Ideally, a rectangle should wear a princess-cut jacket (a jacket that’s shaped) to the top of the hips,  with a waisted top underneath, and a pair of cigarette leg or slim leg pants.  Always make sure your pants are long enough to cover your shoes when you’re standing ... they should be about 2 centimetres off the ground. This is a sensational look at any age, but perfect if you’re looking for super style and comfort. 

So go mad! Find an evening jacket in velvet or silk or satin and team it with or match it with a pair of pants. Find the right shoes or boots and have several different tops to wear; a frilled white silk shirt, or a black bustier. Seriously sexy and very elegant.

Shoes and bags are important to the overall outfit, so invest in a pair of evening shoes or sandals if you don't already have them. Or find a pair of satin shoes and either use shoe bows or clip-on earrings to dress them up ... if you don’t have any clip-ons, visit your local op shop.

And invest in a really good evening bag that covers all eventualities. There are so many to choose from and you can spend as little as $20 or as much as $3 million (I know ... who in their right minds would spend that much on a bag?!)

There is so much fabulous costume jewellery around you don’t need to worry about not having anything expensive any more. Bling is definitely in ... and mostly, it’s cheap and cheerful bling.

Wear a heavier and more glitzy make-up for an evening event (but no sparkle!), have your hair done, use the expensive perfume you’re saving, call for the pumpkin and you’re ready to hit the town ...

You're most important accessory for the evening? Good deportment and a dazzling smile ...

Read this next: Style and Your New Body Shape

Among other pursuits, Penelope Whiteley is author of the book "Hot Stuff: the Ultimate Guide to Style for Women of a Certain Age," has her own fashion line and speaks on various topics to audiences around the world. You can find out more about her at or