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How to choose the perfect (and most flattering) dress for your body type

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

How to pick a dress that works for your body and not the other way around

Dressing to look and feel your best is all about focusing on the positive. Sure, most women have a few things they'd like to change about their bodies, but picking a figure-flattering dress is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the skin you're in. It's time to mentally shred that "perfect body" checklist and work with all of the beautiful features you were born with.

"There are two myths you must know when it comes to our bodies: One, there's no perfect size, and two, there's no perfect body," says Dr. Carol Parker Walsh of Vancouver, Washington, who has a PhD in human development and social psychology and is the stylist and owner behind Evolve Image Consulting. "Hopefully, this comes as no surprise, but more than not, I'm often dealing with clients who have a love, but mostly hate, relationship with their bodies. Why? Because of the never-ending challenge to find something that fits or the constant comparison with others. The key is to overcome this is to first learn to love and accept your body as-is and to learn how to dress your body appropriately for fit and balance."

With some guidance from the experts, we've put together these simple tips to help you play up your assets and embrace the physical "imperfections" that make you so unique:

Full hips and thighs

How to pick a dress that works for your body and not the other way around
Image: WireImage/Getty Images

For pear-shaped women with full hips and thighs, the dress should shouldn't be shorter than an inch or two above the knee. Select a dress with an A-line skirt but not something too full. A short, super fuller dress will look like a tu-tu.

More: Finding my personal style with dwarfism meant breaking all of fashion's rules

You'll know you're a pear if "you often wear a different size on the bottom than you do on top," Dr. Walsh says. "Add width to your top with horizontal stripes and bright bold colors, while keeping the lower half in dark colors. You'll find a better fit if you go for two pieces as opposed to a one-piece dress."

Full waist

How to pick a dress that works for your body and not the other way around
Image: WireImage/Getty Images

If you are apple-shaped with a thick middle, you may want to elongate the appearance of your torso and draw the attention away from your waist. Select a dress with an empire or drop waist to re-define your waist line. Avoid thick belts cinched around your midsection and instead choose a chain or sash belt slung low on your hips.

"Consider emphasizing your shoulders. Creating the illusion of more width in this area will make everything below it appear more narrow. Don’t rely on padding for this (too much bulk). Instead, wear a structured jacket (ending mid-hip) to accentuate shoulders or wear dresses that cover the shoulders (cap-sleeves are great) and have enough detailing, such as a bit of puffiness or blousing, to visually balance your hip-to-shoulder ratio without adding mass," says Constance Dunn, style expert and author of Practical Glamour.

To minimize fuller arms, sleeveless and cap-sleeve dresses are best avoided. Instead, select billowy, bell sleeves that are three-quarters or even full-length to flatter your upper body.

Next Up: Small bust

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