Womenswear Basics: Tips for Choosing the Perfect Dress

Dresses are a staple of any woman’s wardrobe, but choosing the perfect dress can be a challenge. Finding the right dress begins with knowing your body shape and which dress styles flatter your figure.

Not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place! This blog is designed to help you choose the perfect dress next time you go shopping. Whether you need a dress for a work event or a wedding, we’ve got everything you need to make an informed decision.

Common Body Shapes for Women

While there are a wide variety of body shapes out there, we’ve narrowed it down to five of the most common. Keep reading to learn more about each body shape.

Rectangle/Straight/Athletic

If you have this body shape, your waist measurements are similar to your hip and bust measurements. Your waistline probably isn’t very defined, and your hips may be narrower than your shoulders. In general, you’re balanced and proportionate from head to toe. Around one-third of women are this shape, so you’re in good company!

Pear/Spoon/Triangle

Women with this body shape tend to have shoulder and bust measurements that are narrower than their hips. You probably have slim arms and a somewhat-defined waist that curves out at your hips. If your hips have more of a defined appearance, you have a spoon body shape.

HourglassWoman trying on a red dress in the mirror

This coveted body shape features hips and bust measurements that are nearly the same size. Your legs and upper body are proportionate, and your waist is probably narrow and well defined. Chances are your shoulders are rounded, too.

If your bust is slightly larger than your hips, you have what’s called a top hourglass shape. On the other hand, if your hips are slightly larger than your bust, you have a bottom hourglass shape.

Apple/Inverted Triangle

Women with this body shape are well-proportioned and have shoulders that measure larger than their narrow hips. They don’t have a distinct waistline and aren’t curvy in their hips, and their bust is typically above average size.

Round/Oval

If you have this body type, you’ve got wider hips and a fuller midsection. Your bust is probably on the larger side, while your shoulders are more narrow.

Dresses for a Rectangle-Shaped Body

Sketch of woman wearing dress for rectangle body shape

In general, women with rectangle-shaped bodies should look for dresses that create the illusion of a waistline and give them a curvier appearance.

Flattering Dress Styles

A-Line Wrap Dresses

  • These dresses compliment your legs and upper body while also helping you create a more defined waistline.
  • A-line wrap dresses are perfect for cocktail parties.

Shift Dresses

  • These dresses create a column effect that skims the body, so they’ll fit your shape well. They also drape nicely to create the appearance of curves on a straight frame.
  • Shift dresses are a good choice for outdoor summer parties.

High-Waisted Dresses

  • Lafayette 148 New YorkThese dresses make your waist look slimmer by calling attention to your midsection. Choose a form-fitting option to create more visual interest.
  • High-waisted dresses work well for formal occasions like weddings.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Color blocking around your waist and stripes make the eye narrow that portion of your body.
  • Dresses with sleeves and ruffles also help add volume to your body and create a curvier look.
  • No matter what kind of dress you choose, adding a belt helps draw attention to your waist and gives you more of a defined shape.

Dresses for a Pear-Shaped Body

Sketch of woman wearing dress for pear body shape

In general, women with pear-shaped bodies look best in styles that pull the eye upward and show off their shapely shoulders and bust.

Flattering Dress Styles

Belted Wrap Dresses

  • This style will flatter you in all the right places to accentuate your curves. They’re great for women with small waists.
  • This versatile style is perfect for any occasion, from a day at the office to a casual wedding.

Off-the-Shoulder Dresses

  • These dresses are flattering on pear-shaped bodies because they call attention to your bust. For a style that really pops, choose a dress with flair and detailing along the bust.
  • Off-the-shoulder dresses work well for any social gathering.

Sleeveless Dresses

  • Lafayette 148 New YorkThese dresses come in a variety of styles and are a great way to show off your arms and upper body. For some visual texture, look for collars that feature flirty embellishments.
  • Sleeveless dresses look great and keep you cool at summer parties.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Look for dresses with open backs since they draw attention to your slim upper body.
  • Choose dresses with hemlines that fall just below the knee, since they make your frame look longer while slimming your thighs and hips.
  • Maxi style dresses are also a great option because they lay nicely on your body shape.

Dresses for an Hourglass-Shaped Body

Sketch of woman wearing dress for hourglass body shape

In general, women with hourglass-shaped bodies look best in form-fitting dresses that narrow at the waist to showcase their curves.

Flattering Dress Styles

Belted Shirt Dresses

  • These dresses offer a casual look that will glide over your curves and create a focal point at your waist. They’re basically tailor-made for hourglass bodies.
  • Shirt dresses offer a relaxed look that’s great for any occasion.

Bodycon Dresses

  • This form-fitting style hugs your curves at both your waist and bust to show off your shape while elongating your frame.
  • Bodycon dresses are flirty, fun, and perfect for events all year round.

Fit and Flare Dresses

  • These dresses come in between your bust and hips, which helps show off your hourglass body shape.
  • Fit and flare dresses are a smart choice for cocktail parties and other semi-formal occasions.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Try a striped skater dress to play up your curves and show off your narrow waist.
  • Dresses with empire silhouettes are also great when it comes to showcasing your waist.
  • Consider dresses that lengthen your silhouette, like a midi-length fitted sheath dress.

Dresses for an Apple-Shaped Body

Sketch of woman wearing dress for apple body shape

In general, women with apple-shaped bodies look best in dresses that elongate their frame, draw attention to their legs, and create a more proportional look from head to toe.

Flattering Dress Styles

Sheath Dresses

  • These form-fitting dresses streamline your silhouette and create a longer, more slender frame. Plus, they hit at or above the knee to draw attention to your legs.
  • Sheath dresses transition effortlessly from the workday to after-dinner drinks.

V-Neck Dresses

  • This style brings attention to your bust and draws the eye away from your midsection. Choose a style with vertical lines to elongate your frame and keep you from appearing top heavy.
  • V-neck dresses are a good option for casual outdoor parties.

Dresses with Full Skirts

  • A dress with a voluminous skirt helps you create a proportional look that balances out your upper body. Dresses that flare above your hips also make your waist look smaller and create an hourglass look.
  • Dresses with full skirts work well at a variety of casual and formal events.

Other Helpful Tips

  • To slim out your apple-shaped body, try diagonal stripes and darker colors.
  • Go for strapless dresses, which emphasize your trim upper body and call attention to your arms.
  • Shift dresses are roomy and comfortable around your stomach because their silhouette lays nicely on your torso.

Dresses for a Round-Shaped Body

Sketch of woman wearing dress for round body shape

In general, women with round-shaped bodies look best in dresses that are loose, but still properly fitted. Dresses made from one material (instead of several) will also flatter this body shape.

Flattering Dress Styles

Dresses with Sleeves

  • Full or three-quarter length sleeves draw attention to your face and full bust.
  • Dresses with sleeves come in countless variations, so you can find something for any occasion.

Striped Dresses

  • Vertical diagonal stripes slim down your stomach and draw attention to other parts of your body. You should avoid horizontal stripes, though.
  • Striped dresses are perfect for spring and summer gatherings.

Flared Dresses

  • Because they flare out at the waist, these dresses deemphasize your midsection. They’re a versatile option that comes in a wide variety of lengths.
  • Flared dresses will be a hit at cocktail parties and casual gatherings alike.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Avoid high neck dresses, which can downplay your best features.
  • Don’t go for dresses that are skintight or body fitted, as they emphasize your midsection.
  • Choose dresses that hit at or below the knee to highlight the slimmest part of your legs.

Looking for advice on choosing dresses and other womenswear essentials for your body shape? Contact us today for a personal shopping consultation!