Dresses have many charms. They can function as a complete outfit when you don't feel like putting separates together, and they can also be basic canvasses upon which you can showcase your favorite accessories. Because there are so many different kinds of dresses, larger ladies should not feel they must miss out. Certain styles and cuts of dresses are particularly flattering for them, too.
Danica Lo, author of "How Not to Look Fat," endorses the shift dress as "universally flattering." Most famously worn by Audrey Hepburn in her role as Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," it is form-fitting--but not too form-fitting--and may be dressed up or down, and accessorized both to accentuate your best features while concealing other parts that you want to hide. "If you are concerned about your armpits, you can find a cap-sleeve sheath dress; if you want to cover your stomach, put on a cardigan," Lo advises.
Plus-size women often have the advantage of curves. Bust and waist are accentuated by styles like the empire dress, which pair a high waistline with a flowing skirt. "Empire dresses can work very well," writes Stella Ellis in "Size Sexy," "as long as they flare out slightly just below your bustline and skim over your midsection." Dresses like the empire dress emphasize shape, rather than concealing it. As Jill Martin advises in "Fashion for Dummies," "Loose dresses with an abundance of material make you look even bigger...Don't choose anything that resembles a mu-mu."
A drop-waist dress is an alternate method of achieving shape: it accentuates the point of the hips instead of the waist. "A dress or top with a drop-waist...bypasses any constricting fabric around the tummy area and makes your torso appear longer and leaner overall," says Jill Martin. A drop-waist dress, particularly in a soft fabric and feminine color, will make you appear slim and ladylike.
Wrap dresses, with their V-necks, are another way to accentuate the bust and the waist. According to Rita Mauceri, author of "Curves Rule and Flat is Fabulous," "the cut of this dress draws attention to curves and slims the midsection." Mauceri particularly recommends "big, bold patterns that move in a vertical direction," which "further enhances the slimming effect."
It's become a commonplace--though no less true--that black is the most slimming color to wear. However, black is not the only slimming color. "Other slimming colors and patterns," writes Lo, "include navy, any deeper solid color you may be comfortable with, and pinstripes." If you decide to layer over your dress, Lo cautions to "make sure your underlayer is darker than your overlayer--this color contrast will make your body seem to sink back, away from the outer layer, and, as a result, you will look slimmer."
- "How Not to Look Fat"; Danica Lo; 2006
- "Size Sexy: How to Look Good, Feel Good, and Be Happy--At Any Size"; Stella Ellis; 2010
- "Fashion for Dummies"; Jill Martin and Pierre A. Lehu; 2010
- "Curves Rule and Flat Is Fabulous: Sexy, Stylish Looks for Every Figure"; Rita Mauceri, Elycia Rubin and Edward Duarte; 2009