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Choosing the best plus-size dresses for your style

Plus Size Dress Guide

Creating a great wardrobe is all about stocking your closet with quality clothes that fit. No matter your shape, size or skin tone, 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 body and style.

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.

(Quick tip: Check out this handy blog post to learn your body type!)

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

A-line

This silhouette creates the impression of an hourglass shape. It has a fitted top and torso, then flares out at the waist in a triangular fashion. This style is great for women of all body shapes.

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.

woman in multi-brown colored fitted waistband dress

Empire

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.

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

Peplum

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 an 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.

Straight

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.

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

Corset

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.

Off-the-shoulder

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.

Things to consider when you choose the dress for your body shape

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

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.

Occasion

A casual approach is great for some occasions, while others 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. For more expert style tips, check out the Monroe & Main blog!

woman wearing wedged heels and an earthy floral tank dress

34 thoughts on “Choosing the best plus-size dresses for your style

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

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

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

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

    2. That’s what I’m saying.

      1. How do I order a catalog?

        1. 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!

  2. 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.

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

  3. 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!

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

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

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

  5. 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!

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

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

    1. Probably not, but thanks for checking out our blog.

      1. 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.

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

  7. Thanks for sharing I Loved post…

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    If you are looking for a tux rental in Miami contact A-Z Formalwear today to find the best fit for you.

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

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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!

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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

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