From Runway to Closet

The Best Dresses for Your Body Type: 4 Key Silhouettes

by Rebecca Casamayor

Of course you want to look chic every time step outside your front door. The key to feeling your best from day to night is having a wardrobe packed with the best dresses for your body type.

While fit and fabric should always be considered, narrowing in on your ideal silhouette is all about dressing for your shape. But every woman’s body is unique and rarely falls perfectly into one of the six reputed body shapes. (Can we just forget about the hourglass shape, please?) Because in reality, you might be pear-shaped with a flat behind, or petite with a large chest. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world.

That’s why we’re putting an end to the shopping guessing game by breaking down four essential dress silhouettes, explaining which are the best dresses for your body type—and those in-betweeners, too.

1. Shift

Shift dress

While these uncomplicated dresses are a winner with pretty much every body type, just make sure you choose your fabrics carefully for the season you’re in. A lightweight sleeveless or short-sleeved cotton shift dress with a pair of sandals is best for daytime in the summer, while a long-sleeved shift dress paired with ankle boots, tights, and a cardigan is stellar for daytime in the fall, winter, or early spring.

At night, opt for a bold color, fun print (think animal, stripes, or polka dots), or striking texture (think velvet and tweed in winter, lace or eyelet in summer). Finish off the look with a pair of nude pumps or sandals.

A more revealing neckline is perfect for a date or party, and you can pair it with a statement necklace or stack of bangles. At work, style your crew neck, scoop, sweetheart, or small V-neck shift dress with flats, loafers, or ankle boots and a black blazer to make the look more formal. And don’t be afraid of sparkles. Jewel-collared shift dresses are a fun addition to any work attire lineup.

2. A-Line

Leather Trim A-Line Dress

Fitted at the waist and wider toward the bottom, A-line dresses fan out to create a flattering shape. This silhouette is great for those who are larger up top or on bottom, as it de-emphasizes the hips and creates curves where there might not be any—if you have an athletic or boxy build, for instance.

While they come in many sleeve lengths, sleeveless A-line dresses are always a safe option. If you’re insecure about showing off your arms, wear it with a denim jacket for daytime and weekends, or with a cardigan or blazer when at the office.

A jewel collar or V-neck is a good day-to-day option. For formal occasions, try a one-shoulder or strapless cut. If you’re looking to detract from your curvy figure, avoid clingy materials like jersey, and go for linen, wool, or jacquard material instead. If you’re looking to add some va-va-voom, opt for A-line dresses in cotton, spandex, or viscose.

3. Fit and Flare/Empire Waist

White Fit and Flare Dress

These silhouettes, categorized by their high waistlines and flowy skirts, create a slimming effect by highlighting your bust, while de-emphasizing fuller hips, larger waists, or larger thighs. If you have a full chest and choose a deep V-neck in this silhouette, you might feel a little too exposed. Tip: wearing a camisole underneath goes a long way. But if you do want to show off your bust, you can leave your busy necklace at home. Instead, let your décolletage be the star.

An empire silhouette adds desired curves for rectangle shapes, but avoid ruching or voluminous fabrics, which will detract from the waist. Be mindful about the layer you wear on top for the same reason. Choose something cropped, that hits above the waist but below your ribs, whether it’s a denim jacket, blazer, or thin cardigan.

4. Wrap Dress

Wrap Dress

A wrap dress is another crowd pleaser for every woman. Whether you hand tie the straps after wrapping it or fasten it with buttons, this dress silhouette forms a V-shaped neckline that hugs your curves and accentuates your body. If you’re aiming to add curves, this silhouette in a cotton jersey material will do just that.

Wrap dresses are versatile for day or night, but as with the empire waist, make sure to top it with a simple jacket or cardigan. The wrap element does wonders for your shape, so let it do its thing.

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