SHAPE SHOPPING with Figure & Fit by Catherine Schuller, AICI Certified Image Professional

A woman who wants to create a wardrobe that makes dressing a true joy each day, often knows what the reason is she’s shopping (i.e., replacing, updating or special occasion), what her budget and/or flattering colors are, but can very quickly become confused when it comes to style and even more baffled when it comes to what shape she is. 

Many women report they would rather undergo root canal than spend a day combing through racks or searching online to unearth something they can wear.  How desperate that sounds!  58% of women say they can’t find anything they like most of the time and just settle for something workable.  Life’s too short to not LOVE what you are wearing.  It can make the difference in your day being one of a divatude and feeling connected to yourself through the self-expression of clothing.  It shouldn’t matter this much, but it DOES!  It truly is one of life’s true joys!  It shouldn’t be a chore, it should be enchanting. 

I’m here to tell you the secret sauce and the little tidbit that will make things a lot easier when you are shopping.  After all, shopping is a process of elimination, not consideration.  You must have some set of criteria and really know what you are looking for to select garments you love and ones that love you back.   This way you are confident with your selections and engaged with the clothing in a meaningful and individualistic way.  You won’t succumb to trendy, one offs, but rather a serviceable repertoire of reliables that make for a lifetime of true wardrobe wisdom.

Most of the time, when you ask a fuller figured woman, for instance, what shape she is, they immediately reply, “BIG,” to which I say, “That’s a judgment, not a SHAPE!!! 

For all of the myriad of negative talk and emotional reasons surrounding the selection of clothing that truly complements, not covers up, the body shape is the one thing that once resolved, offers the most purchasing relief and wearing satisfaction.  Imagine buying with certainty!   The returns would definitely be a lot less, for sure.  It’s the missing puzzle piece that sheds much-needed light on a very misunderstood topic. 

The solution is less about height and weight and more about SHAPE. 

Using image terms such as ease, proportion, balance, line, design, silhouette, pattern placement and focal point, one can objectively describe what clothes are best suited to one’s figure type and best suited to highlight the positive and de-emphasize the challenge areas.  Everyone seems to only dwell on those problem areas, and very often it results in making those areas look more pronounced and exaggerated.  When a woman wears clothes too tight, she looks disproportionate.  Conversely, wearing clothing too large adds unnecessary volume and she winds up looking even larger. 

The mantra to sum it up…Cling, cinch and hide and you just look wide; skim, hug or drape and you show your shape.

For this reason, we don’t usually use the emotionally charged word “measurements.”  Rather, underscore “differentials” and stick to directing the eye and distracting attributes by finding ways to create illusion – not merely camouflaging.

Shape Shopping with Figure&Fit was created to take the opinion and criticism out of the discussion that so easily takes over when trying to find a wardrobe item or items that fit and flatter with appropriateness and effortless ease.  The Figure&Fit wheel is a simple tool that allows for an assessment without tape measures or calipers.  The wheel divides the body into comparisons – bust to waist, waist to hips and bust to hips. 

Everyone has an idea which of these comparisons are larger, narrower than or equal to.  Just differentials… The Shape Shopping system allows for a clear path to answering the age old question, “What’s right for me?”  Shape shopping breaks the figure types into two segments.  Simply put – Waists and Waist-nots.  It consists of answering the question, “Do I have a pronounced waist indentation that yields at least a 10” differential?”  The Waisted Woman is Hourglass, Inverted Triangle, Triangle and the Waist Nots are Oval, Rectangle, Diamond.  The icons represent the overall outline of the silhouette of the body and uses a simple wheel chart that helps to figure out your figure and then describe the Fit Mantras that must be followed when selecting garments to complement the traits that the wearer most wants to accentuate.

We are three dimensional creatures and shape reflects horizontal circumference, whereas torso to leg ratio is the dimension that refers to vertical proportions.  When horizontal and vertical are balanced, the end result is harmony and it is aesthetically pleasing and the wearer is instantly seen as smarter, taller, successful, more educated, sophisticated and even of a higher socioeconomic status. 

It really behooves us to get this right because we all need to give off an air of credibility and create a wardrobe that speaks volumes without  ever opening our mouths. 

Talk about a great first impression….  Because we are hardwired to recognize symmetry and keep the eye moving up and down and around the clothing on the body, not landing on any one distraction is the aim. 

It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. 

Confidence is achieved and dressing with self-knowledge and a “wear this/not that” directive emerges.  It’s a logical and objective approach.  This is all a recognize and repeat using the mantras from the figure and fit description as a guide.  Do this everytime you shop, and you will see that it pays off because all the clothing seeks to follow the needs of the body lines and will result  in years of wardrobe longevity and endless compliments.  Shape Shopping with Figure&Fit was designed to allow for discovery and solutions.  After truth there is choice.  Afterall, style is many things, but shape is its own category of exact dimensional determination.  Style includes knowing one’s shape and dressing for it.  It helps in guiding and controlling people’s judgment calls and truly being yourself on purpose.  Finding one’s purpose has infinite benefits and payoff.

During the wardrobe workshop, guests will be treated to an overview of the system and how specifically it relates to their issues.    We will assist everyone in how to figure out their figure types and then coordinate and assign looks that are most suitable appropriately and becomingly.

This knowledge can be applied to their entire wardrobe, allowing them to select which items work toward the end result of image consistency and coherence, with the most pleasing head to toe overall balanced silhouette.  

Everyone will walk away with a Shape Shopping Figure&Fit wheel chart regarding explanation of body types….these can be referred to and with some practice the customer will become quite well versed in determining how to “know their shape and then show their shape.”  After the determination has happened, the fashion show will begin and feature all the different body types and the clothing displayed according to shape within the Alembika collections.  A question and answer period will sum up the evening and one on one networking with the possibility of booking consultations with Catherine at the Alembika showroom at a future date. 

This is really the connective tissue missing in retail today…Avatars are great but require computer knowledge and the process is very cold and clinical.  The Shape Shopping event will uplift and entertain, educate and enlighten and everyone will walk away knowing what their shape is and how to assess their clothing selections going forward.

Register here to attend

Alembika believes every day is a fashion show and the world is your runway. Learn how to use Catherine Schuller’s acclaimed Shape Shopping w/Figure&Fit body typing system to learn your figure type and which clothing from their collection best fits and flatters your silhouette. There will be a demonstration with the Figure&Fit wheel which everyone will get to keep their very own wheel set by Catherine and the Alembika fashion team at the event. You’ve always wanted to learn which clothes you love and which love you back…now this is your foolproof method of identifying how to Know Your Shape to Show Your Shape.

Catherine Schuller is a AICI Certified Image Professional. You can follow her on Instagram at unwaytherealway and catschuller111. To learn more about how you can work with Cat and Alembika to find your perfect fit click here.


As one of the first plus size models who began her modeling career after being told by a booker at Ford Models in New York City in 1982 that she would need to lose 50 pounds to be a “real model.”  At 162 pounds and 5’10” she would have to get down to an impossible-to-maintain weight.  Getting there and staying there would mean a tremendous effort that she didn’t feel she would be able to achieve and would make her miserable and despondent.  She sought revenge by forming a four person comedy troupe called “The Nerve!”  It was her personal statement about having “the nerve” to be your own individual.  It was her knee jerk reaction to being pigeonholed into a conformity mold that only served the corporate apparel market and fostered the “thin is in” mentality that was pervasive in the industry.  Anorexia and bulimia were rampant and she felt it was a complete disservice to her purpose to acquiesce and join the model roster knowing it was a travesty.  Her act flew in the face of all the major institutions mind controlling the population.  Her act resonated so much so that she was asked to audition for Saturday Night Live.  Of course, she wasn’t thin enough for that either, so she continued on her niche quest.  Finally after one night of performing The Nerve! A booker came backstage and said, “You should plus size model!”  She retorted, “You should write for my act!”  But, there was a small stirring of size acceptance in the industry and she was signed on the spot to a plus modeling division at Ford Models!  Irony of ironies, she welcomed the chance to finally communicate her true mission and show other women they were fashion icons in their own right.  Catherine’s reputation became that of a spokesperson and vocal advocate for size diversity and acceptance.  It was the equality of representation platform that she embraced and the newly forming full-figured apparel niche was beginning to take notice of this curvier woman in the recession in the 80’s.  The market was looking for a boost and they got it in double digits with the plus size market.  With her ability as a trained actress and standup comedienne, she started to speak out about how ridiculous and absurb it was to just have one standard of beauty featured in print ads and on the runway.  She worked closely with Emme, the supermodel whose message broke through with her book and she recommended Catherine to a new Vogue- executed type plus magazine starting in 1997 called MODE.  She jumped on the chance to tour as Fashion Retail Editor and created a program called MODE on the ROAD taking the pages of the editorials and translating them onto runway formats in the retail stores across America.  This magazine’s influence was EPIC as she helped bring the subscription base to 4 million readers in four years!

She became size acceptance ambassador for the International Size Acceptance Association and appeared on Dr. Oz and the BBC, a regular on Cindy Hsu reporting for CBS, asking to be quoted in books on the subject and creating her own book The Ultimate Plus Size Modeling Guide.  She joined the Association of Image Consultants International and became their premiere plus size specialist.  Teaming up with Suzan Nanfeldt, who wrote the book PLUS STYLE:  The Plus Size Guide to Looking Great published by Penguin/Plume, they lectured, toured and hosted fashion events across the US.  She wrote frequent articles for magazines such as Figure and Amaze and BBW.   She has given countless interviewers on the topic of this new “real woman” that was gaining in market presence.  She was asked to discuss societal prejudice and how fat was demonized and blame and shame were undermining this woman’s confidence and causing major body dysmorphia.  With four decades of working in the field she was asked to come on board as a core team member of Divabetic, a charity outreach program for women living with, affected by or at risk of diabetes.  Since 80% of plus women are diabetic, it seemed like a natural fit to join this charity and talk about weight and health in a context of taking control of one’s eating choices.  With a “diva-tude,” her mantra became Glam More, Fear Less …she created the little black dress fashion station (a diva wardrobe staple) and did the national tour of Makeover your Diabetes sponsored by Novo Nordisc…the number one insulin creating pharma brand in the world.  She teaches at FIT on a course called The Long and the Short of It; Petites and Plus.  She has produced two movies entitled Curve and Sex, Lies and Superheroes.  She married the legendary Senior Executive Editor of Marvel Comics, Mark Gruenwald, and after his untimely death in 1996, she became his legacy advocate.  She created programs in his name, now co-producing with his fans who are successful businessmen and hark back to Mark’s work as the fomenting of their young minds and fueled imaginations.  They have created an event called CosMODA: Cosplay Runway.  Imagine if Comic Con had a baby with Fashion Week…that’s CosMODA.

She is now considered plus royalty and creates programs based on her Shape Shopping with Figure&Fit guide to finding the proper clothing that accentuates and highlights your body type.  She even was asked to develop a clothing line for QVC based on shape shopping.   Her mantra of “Know Your Shape: Show Your Shape” has been popular and something she weaves into everything she does regarding finding clothes that are perfectly balanced and in harmony with everyone’s body differentials.  Her silhouette selections for the 360 Fashion Maze Game, are all based on her knowledge and vast experience.  She created a fashion brunch called Runway the Real Way: Fashion Diversity on the Inclusive Catwalk.  This is a message that is all pervasive throughout her career and she imparts to all who have come to believe in the beauty of innovative integration.  We all ask the same question, “What am I going to wear?”  Her mission is to help everyone discover clothing they love and that loves them back.

Cat’s contact info:

Catherine Schuller, RUNWAY THE REAL WAY
Fashion Diversity on the Inclusive Catwalk
917-375-0731 |

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