2009 January 5

Few of us could afford a fashion faux pas last year, because looking like a drip is never good for our careers, love-lives or family street cred. But this year, with money ever tighter, we won’t just make fools of ourselves, we’ll have made a bad bargain too.

The way to ensure you dress well is to establish your body shape and stick to clothing that suits it. Both men and women have distinct body shapes: ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph but for women there are other considerations too.

Ectomorph: If you this body type you will have a slight muscular frame, your limbs will be relatively long in proportion and your shoulders will be narrow or droop. Think Kate Moss or Johnny Depp.

The ectomorph is the catwalk model. While women can wear anything and get away with it, men may want to appear bulkier. For women, to accentuate height and slimness pick clothes that all have the same hue and don’t wear a belt because that bisects your body and makes you look shorter. To look more voluptuous, choose an open-collared top like a rugby shirt, with horizontal stripes. Men may want to aim for horizontal stripes too, or end-on-end pattern shirts that add solidity to the body. Hoods on clothing take the eye away from sloping shoulders so aim for hooded tops to look macho!

Mesomorph: has well-defined muscles and large bones. The torso tapers to a relatively narrow and low waist and the bones and muscles of the head are prominent – think of most female tennis players, Sarah Palin, Bruce Willis.

Mesomorphs have great bodies for casual clothing. Look out for clothing with relaxed necklines, like polo-shirts that will draw attention to your good musculature and stay away from V necks which can make you seem bulkier than you are. Because most mesomorphs have a low waist, casual clothing that isn’t tucked in makes the most of this shape, where formal clothing can appear to cut you in half. Aim for work shirts with a back pleat to allow your relatively large shoulders room to move.

Endomorph: the endomorph has a rounded body and it will appear as if much of the mass of the body is in the waist and abdomen (which may not be true). The hands and feet of an endomorph are comparatively small, and the torso has a high waist. Think Jack Black, Jennifer Lopez or Elizabeth Taylor.

Endomorphs are likely to be pear-shaped. This means you want to draw attention to your upper body. Women should aim for an interesting (and relatively low) neckline, while men should look for contrasting collars and wear lapel pins to draw the eye to the upper body.  Keep lower body clothing to black, navy or charcoal when possible as this will cause it to appear to taper. Never tuck clothing in and when wearing sportswear or jog pants, try to buy them without pockets as these can widen the lower body even more.