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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!