Figure Flattering Tunic Tops: How to Choose the Right Shape

Figure Flattering Tunic tops Once the weather gets warm tunic tops are widely embraced.  They’re cool in the heat, are effortless, dress up casual outfits and can even go to work if styled professionally.  However, just like when I talked about a-line skirts and the figure limitations that come with them, tunics can only be figure flattering if you choose the right styles for your body.  With so many different shapes out there it can be hard to decide which is right for you.  Below I am featuring five tunic shapes along with tips on which are right for different body types and physical characteristics.

Figure Flattering Tunic Tops: How to Choose the Right Shape

Shape #1

figure flattering tunic tops

Tory Burch is known for her tunic tops.  They’re often crisp and tailored looking.  This particular style is no exception and is perfect as a classic base for any spring or early summer look.  Here it is styled with a pair of jeans from J. Crew, a pair of gold ballerina flats, green Nine West handbag, blue and green chandelier earrings and bracelet from Bauble Bar.

This square, crisper shaped tunic has a lot going for it.  If you have a tummy, the style can graze the body without giving away a lot of lumps and bumps like clingy knits can.  However, what is important to look for in tunics like this is a little shaping on the side seams, especially if you are curvy or bottom heavy.   The problem with these boxier styles is they can make you look rectangular.  If you have curves and bypass the waist with shapeless styles you will look as wide and your bust and thighs.  Even women with large tummies have to be careful that their tunics aren’t too box-like.  These types of tunics don’t have to be overly shaped, you don’t want to lose the ease of the silhouette.  Often a little shaping just above the waist, right at the lower ribcage, is enough to make the top figure flattering.

The good news is that if you have a tunic top that is boxier you can bring it to your tailor and have it taken in a little at the side seams to create the shape you want.

Shape #2

Figure flattering tunic tops

Trapeze style tunic tops, which are tops that are fitted at the top and flare out at the hem can, unfortunately, be the kiss of death for a lot of body shapes.  Here I am styling this style with a Modcloth tunic, pair of skinny aqua crop pants from Lord & Taylor, a pair of yellow flat espadrilles from Via Spiga, a denim jacket from J. Crew, Echo Design scarf, long pendant necklace from Stella & Dot and gold Vince Camuto tote.

The problem with this type of top is that the a-shape of the trapeze brings all the focus to the hips and thighs.  Even if you aren’t pear shaped you can look this way in tops like this.  Unless you are really narrow on the bottom, these types of tunics can be really unflattering, especially if the hem ends at the widest part of the thighs.  If you have a tummy, the extra fabric can hide it, however, if you do have a tummy, make sure you have narrow hips and thighs before purchasing, and also make sure the knit of the tunic isn’t too clingy.

Shape #3

Figure flattering tunic tops

For curvier women, and women who are pear shaped, showing the waist is important, which is why a belted tunic, like this one from Modcloth, can be the way to go.   You get the ease of a tunic without the shapelessness. Here it is styled with a pair of skinny pants from Elie Tahari, a pair of orange wedges from Macy’s, a pair of geometric earrings from Max & Chloe, bangle from Ann Taylor and a blue cross bodybag from Big Buddha.

If you have a large chest, you still have to watch belting.  It is important not to wear the belt too high up on the waist.  Doing this will only shorten the torso and make the bust look disproportionately bigger.  If you have a tummy be careful of belting too tightly, as the tummy may look big under all the gathers.  A slight tummy, on the other hand, can be camouflaged by loose shaping.  If you have a straighter figure and want more waist definition, a style like this can also be flattering.   Lastly, if you are petite.  Belting a tunic can help make you look taller because all the excess fabric is contained.  However, to not break your body up too much horizontally, choose a self belt to make sure the belt matches the fabric of the tunic.

Shape #4

figure flattering tunic tops

This tunic top from Chico’s has a lot going for it.  It is easy, but has shape and is in a flattering jersey fabric.  Here it is style with a pair of white skinny jeans from Boden, a pair of silver ballerina flats from Tieks, a long silver necklace from Stella & Dot, silver stud earrings from Bauble Bar and blue handbag from Born.

What makes this tunic so flattering is the ruching and gathering over the tummy area.  This is great for those with tummies because the shape hides the lumps and bumps without any bulk.  For curvier figures, the gathering shows off the waist and makes the body look more balanced.  For women who are straighter and want to create a shapely waist, the ruching does that too.  It’s really a win for everyone.

Shape #5

figure flattering tunics

This last tunic style from Boden looks more like a dress.  It could possibly be worn that way with very thick tights, but here it is more spring looking with a pair of grey Athleta leggings, beige slingback flats from Lucky Brand, gold bib necklace from Max & Chloe, coral bracelet from Kenneth Jay Lane and beige bag from Ann Taylor.

What makes this tunic style flattering is the shape at the rib cage.  Fit and flare dresses and tunics usually look more flattering when the shaping isn’t at the natural waist but a few inches above it because this is where women are usually the slimmest.  By emphasizing this slender part of the body, women quite often look a lot more balanced in their clothing.  By also shaping the waist area like this, the flare hem is more figure appealing than in classic trapeze style tunics that are more shapeless and draw the body down towards the thighs.  Bottom heavy women still have to be cautious of where the hem of a tunic like this ends on the legs, but it can often still be a flattering silhouette regardless because the rib cage is shaped.  For women with tummies, those with narrow hips and thighs, and straighter shapes, this type of tunic style is often very figure flattering.

  • Renee Augustine Mathis

    That coral tunic! I love the v-neck and the shape. I’ve always wanted to order something from Boden….. 🙂 Thanks, Bridgette!

  • patricia

    I wondered why they never looked good on me … I was picking the wrong style for curvy body…

    • Boxy and curves are not good! I am glad you found your shape!

  • Heather

    Great post! The higher waist on that Boden dress falls into a complicated territory for me. Could you address in an entirely different post that critical point when a higher waist starts to look like maternity wear. I’d say the majority of women won’t wear that style because it does exactly that…makes you look pregnant. What are we missing…when does it go from flattering to suggesting pregnancy? Thanks in advance and keep up the extremely helpful tips.

    • Hi Heather!! That’s a great point! Yes, I think many women with tummies find this particular style very difficult, which is why I wanted to show different types of tunic silhouettes for women to consider. I think making it work not only depends on where the style hits higher on the waist but also how much gathering is over the tummy. And keep in mind an inch or two above the natural waist doesn’t necessarily mean empire, it’s a place on the ribcage where most women are the narrowest. I can consider doing a post like the one you are talking about. However, I do think that sometimes it is just smarter to know which styles to avoid entirely. I don’t think you are missing anything, I think you may have just identified a shape that isn’t your friend. Just like the tank in look 2 isn’t mine.

      • Lisa Sereno

        I second Heather’s request! I’ve struggled with this for the better part of a decade. I miss the 90s when the waistlines would hit a little lower. I don’t want the super dropped waists from the 80s, but just a little love for we women who were born with longer waists ;). An article teaching us how to navigate these higher waistline waters would be great.

  • Stacie

    I love the gray tunic with the aqua skinny jeans! I have all those pieces but have never put that combination together!!! Thanks!!!

    • Isn’t it funny when you realize you have the perfect outfit sitting in your closet without realizing it? Glad this post helped!!

  • Sandra

    Hi Bridgette Would you consider showing some pictures of yourself and how you wear the tunic? Mi have the same body shape(big boobs! small waist and thighs (I also have a tad middle age pouch not that you do…). I’d love to see how it might look! Please???!!!!