It’s that time of the year again! A time to fret about gift exchanges, trying to decide which Christmas or New Year party to attend, and most importantly, what to wear. Many of us would be tempted to reach for the Classic LBD™ in the back of your closet, conveniently forgetting the fact that you have probably worn the same dress to a company dinner a few months back, or even to your prom dog years ago. There is only one rule I go by when picking out dresses: It has to flatter your figure. Whether the dress is trendy or glamorous are secondary concerns. Here, we will try to cover the basics of what type of dress will flatter your figure.

First, you have to determine your body type. Are you bottom heavy? Curvy? Stick skinny? Apple shaped? A flattering dress should downplay your problematic areas and emphasize on your attributes.

  • Top Heavy / Busty
  • If you are top heavy (large chest and small hips), you can opt for dresses with voluminous  skirts to balance out your figure. Keep the bust area clean of frills and decorations, and choose a dress that cinches in right underneath your bustline or at the waist. This creates an illusion of a larger bottom and a small waist.

    Left: Sequin Skirted dress by Wal G, Topshop.
    Right: Turron Dress by All Saints

    Things to avoid: Empire waist dresses, which cinches under the bust and falls in a straight line down to the hem. It will only emphasize the size of your bust and make your hips look narrow and unbalanced. Also steer clear from dresses with has rows of frills and sequins on the bust area or are more voluminous on the top. Turtle neck tops create an illusion of larger chests as well.

    Additional tips: I cannot emphasize how important it is to get a well-fitting bra. Get fitted by a bra specialist, and remember to keep your back straight! Many women hunch their backs to hide a large chest, but remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of. 🙂

  • Bottom Heavy / Pear shaped
  • Pear-shaped bodies have a narrow chest and wide hips / thighs. Once again, balance is the key. You may wear dresses with frills and decorations on the top and cinches in at the waist. Opt for a dress that falls in a straight, natural fashion from the waist.

    Left: Teal Cut-out detail Grecian Dress, Topshop
    Right: Cape Maxi Dress, Topshop

    Things to avoid: Clingy fabrics. Herve Leger inspired bandage dresses may be all the rage these days, but they are not flattering on ladies with a larger bottom. Tapered pants draws the eye up to the hips as well, so avoid wearing them. The usual rules of fashion applies: dark colours makes you look skinnier, and sequins will bloat. So while sequinned hotpants may be a quirky addition to your wardrobe, it is probably not the best if you have wide hips.

    Additional Tips: A-lined skirts which flares out from the waist can disguise larger hips/thighs as well. You can also wear dark coloured stockings and tights which can make your legs look skinnier. High heels make your legs look miles long and create narrower hips.

  • Apple shaped / Thick waist
  • Some of us have thicker/more muscular waists, and this can be one of the trickiest body type to dress. But that doesn’t mean you can give up and just wear a moomoo. V-neck and wrap tops are flattering on figures with broad shoulders / large chests.  Choose a dress with a belted midsection for a slimmer illusion.

    Left: Dolman Wrap Dress, Nasty Gal
    Right: Anais Trench Dress, All Saints

    Things to avoid: Drop-waisted dress probably wouldn’t be your best bet. It makes your body look tubular, and the same goes for tent dresses as well. Avoid dresses with loud prints at the stomach area, as well as clingy dresses.

    Additional Tips: Thick straps will flatter broader shoulders more than thin spaghetti straps. Boleros will also create an illusion of narrower shoulders. Use statement accessories such as earrings and bangles to draw the focus away from your midsection.

  • Rectangular shaped / Skinny figure
  • Rectangular bodies (small bust and hips) is probably the “ideal” body shape, as apparent on runway models, so this isn’t as much about hiding problematic areas as it is about creating curves if you want to appear to have larger chests or hips. You can wear just about anything, so don’t be afraid to approach dresses with exaggerated shapes. Go for dresses with flared skirts to create the illusion of curves.

    Left: American Sleeve dress with flared skirt, Zara.
    Right: Tulip Skirt dress, Zara

    Things to avoid: Try to steer away from wrap dresses. They do not flatter smaller chests. If you want to wear a bustier dress, make sure that the chest area fits properly. The last thing you want is to have a dress that gapes!

    Additional Tips: Contrary to popular beliefs, smaller chests DO need good fitting bras. Get a bra properly fitted by a professional! Turtle necks and mock turtle necks makes your busts look larger.

  • Personal preferences: This is by no means a be-all-end-all guide to choosing your dress, but I would like to include a few personal tips anyway. I prefer dresses made of Matte Fabrics. I detest satin with a passion – they remind me of gaudy and tacky prom and pageant dresses. Shiny fabrics like satin hi-lights bulging areas, and even microscopic wrinkles could be seen if you wear a dress made with cheap satin. They wrinkle easily and highlight flaws, whereas matte fabrics like wool and cotton disguises both well. Plus, matte fabrics photographs better anyway. Another tip I have is to always wear heels whenever possible. Heels elongate your legs and make you look slimmer. A pair of heels can make a plain dress look dressy, and keep your posture straight.

We hope that this guide has been helpful to those of you who are looking for dresses for upcoming Christmas and New Year’s party! Should you want to ask us any questions, please do not hesitate to drop us a question on FormSpring.

Additionally, our Guides to Christmas Gifts for Travellers and Gadget geeks may also prove helpful if you need gift ideas!