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Choose your best plus-size dress style

woman wearing a floral sheath

Creating a great wardrobe is all about stocking your closet with quality clothes that fit. No matter your shape, size, or skin tone color, you’ll always look great in something made out of long-lasting materials that is designed for your measurements, whether that’s jeans, a suit, or a dress.

Yet some women struggle to feel confident in the clothes they choose – dresses in particular. Looking fabulous means dressing for your body type and drawing attention to areas that make you feel good about yourself. This guide will help any woman find the best plus-size dresses for her curvy body and style.

Click here to learn how to take body measurements for a dress.

Choosing between different dress styles

There are a number of different silhouette styles for plus-size dresses. Each highlights or de-emphasizes one or more features. Here, we’ll break down the most common dress silhouette types and help you determine which one suits your frame and curves.

Quick Tip: Check out this handy guide to learn your body type!

Let’s help you find the perfect dress for your body type!

A-line dresses

The A-line dress silhouette creates the impression of an hourglass shape. A-line dresses have a fitted top and torso, then flares out at the waist in a triangular fashion. This style is truly flattering for women of all body shapes, but particularly for plus-size women – whether you consider plus-size starting at size 12, size 14, or size 16.

Full-figured women should choose plus-size A-line dresses made of sturdier fabrics such as cotton, rayon, denim, and polyester rather than flowy, clingy options like silk and satin. Stiffer materials retain the shape of the dress, making its flattering features suitable for every body type.

Also, check out this article on the best contouring dress for the full-figured body type.

Spot-On A-Line Dress

Empire Dresses

These dresses gather just beneath the bust instead of at your natural waistline, emphasizing your upper body rather than your lower body. This dress style is suitable for women with oval, rectangle or triangle body types, as it draws attention upward while draping nicely over areas below the bust. Empire-waist dresses come in a variety of lengths, from short tunics and mini dresses to breezy, flower-printed versions that brush against the floor, similar to a maxi dress.

woman in black multi-colored, fit and flare dress with red heeled sandals

Peplum dresses

You’ve likely seen several versions of a dress with a ruffle at the waist over the past few years. This style is called “peplum,” and it’s great for creating a curvy, hourglass figure. Although the underlying structure of a peplum dress is similar to that of a bodycon, an added ruffle wraps partially around the natural waist, flaring out for a few inches. This makes the waist look smaller compared to the shoulders and hips. This means peplum dresses are suitable for rectangle or oval-shapes who want to balance their waist against the rest of their body. This is a slimming dress for plus-size women.

Woman in white, eyelet-peplum dress

Straight dresses

Comfortable and effortless, straight dresses are great for women who like casual-cool styles. This type of dress doesn’t have a waistline built-in but falls directly from the shoulders. Straight dresses are great for women with shoulders the same width as or wider than their waists, such as rectangle and apple shapes. These can be in a variety of materials, including knit sweater dresses.

Woman wearing black scuba dress with cutout accents at collar and hem

Corset dresses

Invoking the garments worn in the 17th and 18th centuries, corset dresses have a panel that hugs some or all of the torso. These “corsets” may or may not be boned or shaped to emphasize the waist, but they usually have a laced detail on the back. The corset and/or the lace are structured in such a way that the panel cinches in at the waist, pushes up the bust and releases at the hips, creating an exaggerated hourglass shape. Because this dress style physically enhances your figure, it’s good for any body type, but it is an especially flattering plus-size dress style!

Off-the-shoulder dresses

Designed to show off your decolletage, off-the-shoulder dresses have sleeves – usually at least an inch thick – that wrap around the shoulders rather than going across from front to back. The effect adds weight to your upper half, making off-the-shoulder dresses great for balancing out women with shoulders that are more narrow than their hips. Wearing an off-the-shoulder dress with an A-line silhouette also creates an hourglass figure for women with a rectangle body shape.

Check out our lookbook and other tips to get tips & ideas.

Empire

An empire waist is gathered just beneath the bust, rather than at your natural waistline. This emphasizes your upper body and is a good choice for women with triangular, rectangular, or oval body types.

A-Line

An A-Line silhouette is triangular-shaped, with a fitted bodice that flares out from just below the bustline. It complements all body types; just be sure to choose a sturdy fabric that retains the contours of the dress.

“This dress fits like a glove! I’m in love…it’s absolutely something every woman should have in their closet!”

Colleen (Massachusetts )

Peplum

A peplum dress features a ruffle attached to the waistline of a formfitting silhouette. This makes the waist appear narrower than the shoulders and minimizes hips, creating the perfect style for rectangular or oval-shaped women.

Sheath

Sheath dresses don’t have a defined waistline. Instead, they fall straight from the shoulders. They’re a great option for women whose shoulders are wider than or equal to the circumference of their waist, such as rectangular and apple shapes.

“Beautiful and fit well! Beautiful color for Spring.”

Linda

A Few More

Fit & Flare dresses have a cut that enhances your waist and creates a proportionate and defined upper and lower body.

Off-the-shoulder dresses embody a casually chic style and balance the upper body.

Corset dresses hug most of the torso and cinch the waist. They are suitable for all body types.

Considerations when you choose the dress for your curvy or plus-size body shape

Choosing the best plus-size dress is also about color and occasion.”

Monroe and Main

Just because you’ve found the right silhouette doesn’t mean you’re done making decisions! Choosing the best plus-size dress is also about finding flattering shades and matching your outfit to the occasion.

Color

Ever wonder why black flatters everybody? It’s because dark colors downplay areas of the body. Black in particular is a neutral, so it doesn’t clash with the undertones of your skin.

That said, this doesn’t mean plus-size women should shy away from color! Adding brightness to your dress is a great way to play up your assets.

You can also mix and match light and dark for an interesting effect. If you’re an apple shape and a fan of yellow, for example, try wearing a slim, violet belt over a lemon-colored A-line dress. The belt’s dark color and slim appearance both de-emphasize the waist and make the torso appear longer.

Learn more about using color to dress for your body shape.

Occasion

Casual dresses are great for some occasions, while formal events demand you look your absolute best.

For example, because beaches are such a relaxed environment, sheer, flowy empire-waist dresses are completely okay. In fact, many swimsuit cover-ups are made with this silhouette with the idea that women will wear them regardless of body type.

However, empire-waist dresses are too casual for a business meeting. Instead, you’ll need an option like A-line or peplum – something with more structure.

Hopefully, you’ve come to realize that finding the perfect dress for you isn’t as daunting as it may seem.

woman wearing wedged heels and an earthy floral tank dress

Tell us your favorite style in the comments below!

Comments (77)

Diane

good article, pity the models arent a ‘plus’ size to get a real picture of how dresses would look on a larger size!!

Barb

Anything over a 12-14 is pretty much considered plus size. I do believe these women would be considered plus size. They are plus size, but not obese. A lot of women are in good shape, but they are naturally a plus size.

Wendi

You go right ahead and tell a size 12-14 wearer that they are plus size, they will smack you in the face. Plus size starts at 18 and moves on from there, always has and always will. Get your facts right.

Deena Rose

As a 6′, plus size woman, always have been, plus size, starts at size 14 and goes up.
In the couture world, you would rarely find a “teen-anything-size”! Walk into almost any plus size store. You may find a 12 in a few sizes, but the norm is 14. That’s a fact.

Nicole

Plus size but different body types is what was really needed.

Jay

Plus size starts at 1x..which generally translates to a 14/16.

Paula

All these “1X, 2X, 3X etc are all bull!!! That’s not a size, it a sack of misc portion that doesn’t fit much of anything!! A bag of Variables!!!

Cheryl Conidaris

I totally agree with Wendy. I’m 71 and let’s get real.

Elisa Brooks

Well… Wendi aren’t you polite… I am a size 14 and I know I’m plus sized and I’d NEVER smack a person in the face for suggesting it I find nothing shameful about being plus sized its who I am naturally. I never fall lower than a size 10 and that was when I was very active. Just cuz a woman can fit in large yoga pants dosent negate from the fact she is plus sized. We’re talking about dresses. YOU ought to get your facts straight… Smh

Joanne Joie

Plus size stores start at size 16, do I figured it was plus size from 16 & up…

Paula

Totally agree with this. Just beginning to lol towards “plus sizing” IF you look for size 18 or more. Still those larger sizes cater to tall people. 5’6 or more. Us shorties have one heck of a time finding anything to fit our full body arrangements. 64 yrs and I still can’t buy anything that fits right.

Willow

Me too

Kamien

In runway a plus size model is a size 8. Most major lines may go up to a 14 or 16. I am between a 14-16. The smallest that l have ever been was a 14. And even if l got down to a 12 l would be plus sized. It is the body type. I don’t care what people say!!! I care if it fits and if it looks great! And baby this plus sized woman slays!

Mickie

Respectfully, try to find a 14 on a rack at Nordstrom Rack or White House Black Market or Loft, for starters. They make it VERY clear they don’t want us there. Buy it online and pay return shipping…so, I’d suggest either EU sizing (Armani, the real one, does that, not the fake Chinese-made Exchange). Or have it made. It’s not very expensive.

You do need a tape measure. A 32 pant is NOT 32 inches. Please note, they always come in stretch fabric. It’s at least 6 inches larger than that.

Truth is to see the facts. If you eat bread, sugar or wheat, you WILL pay for it. Dairy can go on there, too much of the time. Watch the skinny girls; what they buy, eat and do.

Fat is from eating too much too often. It’s using food as something other than fuel. Food is also messed with to be addictive on purpose.

Only way around is make it yourself. Use Allulose. Doesn’t mess with your blood sugar at all (supposedly, I didn’t check). Eat vegetables. Eat a little fruit. Little fat (high fat DOES NOT work on me, lol) and long periods without eating. Working up to 17 hours.

Never Eat late.

Look at the truth. In the 80s, nobody was fat (I was there). Now, EVERYONE is fat, minus rich women who don’t do anything for themselves but work out all day (I’ve seen them. They also never eat anything that tastes good).

Try traditional oatmeal. Use almond milk. Cut calories.

Use Nutritional yeast. It’s great on salads and with meat/fish.

If I personally do those things and some working out, weight goes down over months. It’s not fast after 40/45, either. If I eat bread/sugar/a lot of dairy/meat, weight comes back.

It’s very simple math.

Most men don’t like fat chicks either. And as a 14/16, I’d qualify. They also don’t want anyone more competent or smarter/more accomplished than they are, but that’s another story…lol

If you want body positivity, then look up Cheryl Porter voice coach on YouTube. Or Lizzo.

But, truth, if you’re heavy, it’s kind of your own fault. You have to keep a real tight leash on what/when/where you eat. There’s little to no booze, either. It’s all sugar.

I walk 5 miles a day and I ASSURE you, grown men have chased me around, talking about “they’re tired.” But add 100 calories over 1,500 for me to lose, and anyone WILL gain 10 lbs over a year or less.

The only solution is strict calorie counting, weigh and measure. Overeaters Anonymous, maybe. Free online.

Trust me, I’ve done much of it. Staving down to 117 (looked like garbage) and had full body lipo, too. The fat came back. Then, you had weirdos stalking you, which you don’t get very often being fat, so there’s one advantage, lol.

You can’t be mad at the truth, tho. You’re not a size 2 and probably never will be.

Put a smile on and dress well, learn stuff and be highly educated and interesting.

I disagree about the dress shapes in some cases. I’m busty. Small belts/accessories aren’t really for me. They look stupid. Big hands (tiny wrists) and big feet (size 10 at either 117 or 170 pounds).

14 is the average size. It’s plus.

Grown women buy ONLY even sizes in dresses and pants/shirts. DO NOT buy “unisex” (read: MEN), you’ll look FAT. And AVOID junior’s sizing. You’re NOT a young teen if you have kids and can buy your own booze. That’s who junior’s is made for.

Not grown women.

Only deal with free returns and buy 2 sizes. Photograph and send back the reject.

Seams go at the end of the shoulder. Not down the arm. Setting shoulders isn’t worth it, so buy another brand.

I like Redbubble. They have some nice stuff and FREE RETURNS. 🙂

Maxi anything looks AWFUL on me.

Yvonne Wells

Absolutely, thank -you!!!!

Paula

Sorry sweetie – plus sizes ARE … any size PAST-size 20 or more. If you are short well that’s the biggest problem. Proportions are overlooked which causes the incorrect fit. Lengths are way too long and body separations are all of line. Necklines are too big-waistline is wrong-hips to knees are not located right and the list goes on …

Nicole

That’s what I’m saying.

Debbie Mullikin

How do I order a catalog?

Monroe and Main

Sure, you can order a catalog online at https://www.monroeandmain.com/cm/catalog-request/ Or, send your name and mailing address to us via private message at socialcs@sccompanies.com. It may take a few weeks to receive your book. In the meantime, you can also browse our virtual catalog online here: https://www.monroeandmain.com/cm/online-catalogs.html. Thanks for your interest!

CjV

Thanks for the info. I agree with many of the comments posted. The take away is, imho, we would love to see dresses on women who appear more plush than slender so we may better gauge how plus size dresses would look on our bodies, rather than bodies that resemble more slender bodies. Just a thought/request.
Cheers.

Valerie

I agree with Diane. It may be confusing as there are two different sets of models.

At the beginning of the article there is a slideshow of dresses that are NOT modeled by plus size women. The models pictured within the article were plus size.

Kim

Amen to that! I hate looking for dresses just because of this!

Nicole

Those models are definitely not suitable for this article. They would never have any trouble wearing dresses. Should have went with models who actually have problem areas. I’m still not sure what my body type is so I have no idea what I should be looking for.

Marti

EXACTLY!! These images don’t reflect what plus size women want to see. WE want to see women our size so we can better gauge if we will like the style on us!!

Gayu

Such a lovely article and i enjoyed reading this throughout. Choosing the right dress that not only gives you the best look but also gives you the comfort is utmost important for anyone us and the styles which you have mentioned i really likes. Thanks for this.

Monroe & Main

Hello, Thanks for the compliment! We’ll keep working on bringing you more helpful information.

Paula

Truly would also loved to see “plus size” fashions modeled only by “plus size” women bigger that a size 16/18. Like ones say…5’4 & 195+ pounds! How about creating fashion that creates great looks & comforts in those sizes to show us how good we could look!!

celebrity fashion

I enjoyed so much reading this post ! all the blog really but this post says so many trues so often ignored. Happy to have discovered you!

Monroe & Main

Hello, Thanks for the compliment! We’ll keep working on bringing you more helpful information.

Nita Matthews

Great article I enjoyed reading also, It gave me a lot of valuable information of what to wear.

Monroe & Main

We are glad to hear it! Thanks for your feedback.

Joduco

A lot of the time, people who are designing dresses for plus size women think that they need full skirts, but I agree that A-line dresses and even body-con style dresses are more flattering. Thank you so much for these helpful tips. Would you please teach other designers that you are exactly right in what you wrote!

Monroe & Main

Hi, Joduco. We’re glad to hear you agree with some of our tips! Thanks for letting us know.

Gideon

I’m a man that loves wearing dresses would these tips be the same for me?

Monroe and Main

Probably not, but thanks for checking out our blog.

Margaret

To Monroe and Main:
Of course they apply to men. Fashion tips on looking good have no gender blocks. I think you are just a robot and did not have the logical automatic reply. We will overlook and assume good entent.

Margaret

Gideon. Yes. Obviously their answers are robotic for them to say the same rules don’t apply to you. Of course they do.

Paula

Try generating a website for that type of needs. Men are built totally different in all aspects of the word. Heights- shape – dimensions- weights etc.

A-Z Formal Wear

Thanks for sharing I Loved post…

Discover a wide range of men’s suits, available to hire in a range of colours and sizes.
If you are looking for a tux rental in Miami contact A-Z Formalwear today to find the best fit for you.

Paula

I think you missed the point that HE said he wore Dresses. Not “men’s” suits.

Jan

It was a let-down to see, in the photos, what you consider plus-sized. To me, they look normal-sized.

Betty Rabino

Hands-down the worst article I have read on the subject. This was absurdly vague and the benefits of the dress styles seemed almost copy and paste generic for every style. And there were no examples of models with the body types being recommended actually wearing the styles described. Do not just crank out articles for quantity. Take some pride in your work. And either your reply-bot needs adjustment or your live reply representative needs sensitivity and educational training. A male inquiring about wearing the dresses should be answered, not brushed off.

Linda

I guess I have to change my search criteria to dress ideas for “obese”
women instead of ‘plus size ‘

Lorna

Great info, however the models were regular sized and didn’t match the article. There also wasn’t a photo for every style mentioned, which assumes the reader is already very familiar with those dress styles when the whole point was to show how well they work for plus-sized women. A “Part 2” should be in the works. Still liked it, I just need more.

L2C

Plus size in the millennial generation is any double digit, mostly after size 14.
Ever try to order off Amazon ?
We remember Roman ‘s and the newer Lane Bryant.
The average woman now wears a 14-16.

That said, high- end, 3- digit clothes designate a large as 10-12, or anything larger than single numbers, though I’ve seen an 8 labeled a large. Oh my.

Beyond sizing, the prints and colors offered in larger dresses are as a whole, horrendous. More like curtains, just horrible for dressy occasions.
Or, black. Who wants to wear a black dress to a warm summer wedding?

I support designers who take risks with color and patterns. Though hot pink- fuchsia can be retired now.

L2looknice

Amen to that!!

Jenelsa

Joduco I agree with you 100%. Plus size women are beautiful, the reason I know is because I’m on the curvy side and I’m absolutely beautiful. Plus size love beautiful flattering clothing.

Casilda

This article was not helpful. It seems to have spoken to size 12-14 only. Too bad.

MzzV

Size 14 and higher is plus size. I know bcuz I’ve been 12 or less most of my life, now, in two short years I’ve spread over into plus size world, and not in a good way. Not embracing it, don’t like it, so changing back bcuz its teaching me that it comes with all sorts of health issues and has lowered my self esteem. My family needs me and I love me, so buh bye to chunky me!

Paula

Well goodies for you! All your life you fit the picture book maniac. Trying not having a chose of your size. Short and thick regardless of efforts to be something your not meant to be. We still are people that deserve to be seen as lovely looking humans.

Felicia

You’re absolutely right for this reason it didn’t help me at all

Sarah Packer

My sister always gets nervous for formal events because she thinks she doesn’t look in dresses! I didn’t think about mixing light and dark colors for a bold statement, but I think that’s what my sister needs to gain some confidence wearing dresses that show off her body. I’ll have to look around for bold dresses that mix colors and would fit my sister in any occasion, thanks to this post!

Sarah Packer

My sister’s birthday is coming up, so I wanted tips and advice on buying her the right dress. I didn’t know you can always match light and dark colors for a bold statement like yellow and violet. I’ll have to keep that in mind to find a dress that flatters her figure and can be worn without any worry of flying up, thanks to this post! https://shopdressweights.com/products/signal-white-and-jet-back

Edgarmorgan

Nice post related to Plus Size Fashion. It contains all useful examples and tips. If people are really concerned about the overall personality, then they can get the best ideas from this blog. Thank you for such valuable information! I know about a site where you can take more ideas for plus size fashion. visit here: https://www.fashionstyleandyou.com/

Paula

Slim & tall doesn’t always mean pretty & healthy!! Curvy/fluffy & juicy doesn’t always mean ugly and unhealthy!
Don’t mistake propaganda for everyone’s life stories. Take a look at biblical “thick & Voluptuous” women of that time. —- WE’RE BACK!!!!

Kristina

Perhaps “figure flattering outfits for larger women”Would have been a better description. Please consider doing an article for plus sizes 2X & up. It’s very disappointing for women searching for stylish styles in true plus sizes.

Teresa

You nailed it. Plus I’m tall 6′. I do get tired of smaller peoples complaints because we can’t make the fabric stretch to accommodate the length. You can always have things tailored when things are too long. My life long problem. 56 here.

hope gonzales

i bought a formal gown in satin for mother of the bride and its an a line shape with a line neck cape and it has pockets and its a plum kind of bright color. It does make my waist look smaller and like the upper part of the dress and it does hide my stomach where it doesn’t bulge out and other areas as well in the bottom part of my body but i am having buyers remorse but its too late i already paid for it and waiting for it to come in. I hope it won’t make me look so big. i am a size 16 and 5’2 so i hope it will look good. it does look elegant which i had to have an elegant gown for the wedding where it is being held. It will need alterations so any suggestions in what i can do to make it look more shapely. It is flowy! Yikes!

Emily Fang

I have never known which plus size dress is suitable for myself, and your article is very helpful for me to find the right outfits, so thank you very much for sharing.
https://www.shestar.com/wholesale-plus-size-dresses.html

On Point No Matter What - Night Helper

[…] patterns, but just be careful to choose the right ones for your body type. Another style blog Monroe & Main helps break down different silhouette styles that either highlight or de-emphasize one or more […]

Holley

Wow. Everyone is nitpicking the technicalities of what qualifies a plus size. However, any way you slice it, none of the models truly represented woman who actually have to look in the “plus sized” clothing category to find something that would fit them. Ultimately, companies continue to prey on women’s self esteem to try and make their products appear more attractive.

No Rest For Bridget

Thank you for providing such an informative article. It is definitely a help choosing the best plus-size dresses decisions. Looking forward to more such interesting articles.

franny

WHERE THE HECK DO I GET THE LAST DRESS PLEASE

hourglass body shaper corset

Thanks for your post. All best hourglass body shaper corset here.

Rashmi Gupta

Your blog is nice, thanks for sharing the information about plus-size clothing. Here I give you a suggestion to add information related to theplus size clothing for men.

Donnette

I was a talent agent for many a years. I see only one plus sized model in there. By the look at it they have a lot of size 6-8. Please

Darcy James

Thank you for sharing your product list which is used by you I will surely try these tips in future

Shirley Diggs

were can i get the last dress and the Empire dress in a 3x i love those dress so can i get them

crystal

why is it when you are showing a plus size woman is a dress/clothing style suggested by you, you always show a small person modeling it? Why not the plus size your talking about?

Teeta

I really am offended that they chose non-plus size women for this article. If you are going to tell plus size women how to dress, you should have plus size models.

Diane

Should have used plus size models. Sort of detracts from the information in the article. Certainly create a credibility issue.

Rgina

This was a good ready but nothing more. Why would you choose slim models when you’re addressing a plus-size audience? As a plus-size woman it’s a slap in the face and this article doesn’t represent me or help me at all.

Kat

….So you wrote an article for plus size women- a population already underrepresented in fashion and in the media- that doesn’t feature a single plus size woman *or* dress? I know this post is a few years old but journalistic integrity was still a thing. You really couldn’t have spent an extra ten minutes to include links to real plus size dresses? I want you to understand how problematic and tacky this is, to pretend to be inclusive and instead use pictures of women all under size 12, with most looking like a size 4. You really told on yourself by writing this lol. I also see people asking where they can find some of the dresses listed; I’m guessing you haven’t replied because none of them come in plus sizes. You’ve also ignored every comment like mine and instead focused on the minority of happy readers. You’ve had years to take this down or correct this and you did neither. Unless this was written for a sophomore high school English class, do better or don’t do it at all.

Brenda Kulow-King

Hello Kat, Thanks for the comment. We appreciate the feedback and will try to represent the plus-size customer more. We do currently have almost 100% of our styles offered in both misses & plus sizes. Thank you.

The Best Dresses Curvy Girls Should Wear for Easter

[…] it on, you won’t love it when you’re wearing it out either. As a plus size woman, when shopping for dresses I love to stick with a wrap dress, an a-line dress, or an empire […]

Andrea Wellman

Notice that when someone compliments them, they reply. But if you critique anything about the article (largely the size of the models) nothing is said.

You are missing a great opportunity to really connect to your audience and hear what they are asking for. It would be really easy to say “oops, we will include some bigger models next time, thanks for pointing it out…” But no, you continue to ignore everyone’s heartfelt pleas.

Brenda Kulow-King

For sure Andrea! Thanks for this feedback! We are hoping to work with plus-size models in the near future!

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Published on May 08 2021

Last Updated on Mar 28 2022

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