In theory, dress shopping is a breeze. You walk into a store (or visit a website), pick a dress that has a gorgeous color or pattern that appeals to you, find your size and waltz out the door. If only it were the easy. The truth is, finding a dress that was practically made for you is all about embracing your body type and celebrating your favorite features.
And for a lot of us, that’s not always so easy.
“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
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.
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.”
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
Updated by Sarah Lazzari on 10/31/2017.