A young woman zipping up her dress
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Finding the perfect dress is a constant struggle as Americans evolve in shape, size and ethnicity, but clothing sizes remain unstandardized and outdated. Kate Zernike of "The New York Times" explains that most designers' clothing sizes are based on a national study from World War II, not yet having incorporated the progress of 2004's SizeUSA survey. Because of this, using accessories and products to fit into your dress may be the best bet.

Sizing and Measurements

Have a friend measure your bust size, which is the fullest part of your chest, as well as your natural waistline and hips. Review a dress standard size chart from the designer of your dress or look at several different designers' charts to get a general idea of your dress size. If your dress size is vastly bigger or smaller than your measurements, return the dress and try on two or three sizes within your measurement range of the same dress. When in doubt, go slightly larger.

Quick Fixes for Dresses too Small

With a dress that's too small, the challenge is fitting into the dress rather than the dress fitting you. Purchase some shape wear -- thin and stretchy underclothing -- which can help you tuck in your tummy and tighten up your thighs and bust. If you're wearing a bra, wear one that's minimally padded so that your bust fits more easily into the dress and doesn't give you too much cleavage. If you can't fully zip up the dress, wear a matching cropped cover up around your shoulders and back to hide the zipper.

Quick Fixes for Dresses too Large

If your dress is too large, you must create the illusion that it fits using accessories. Strap a matching belt around the waist of the dress to create a form-fitting appearance. For a delicate look, use a chain belt or a thin, delicate belt that matches the color of the dress. For a bold look, wear a large studded belt or a belt with a matching buckle. If the straps are too long, fold them over and pin the excess length underneath the dress fabric with a safety pin. If you do this towards the back of the dress, it will go unnoticed.

Quick Fixes for Dresses That Almost Fit

A padded bra or padded inserts for your bra will fill out a loose top to create a better fit. Wear heels with a gown that's a little too short to emphasize your ankles and give the illusion that the dress is longer than it is. Heels also help lift you off the ground if your dress is slightly too long. For sleeves that are too small, wearing them just off the shoulders can emphasize your neck and collarbone while slimming your shoulders. Sleeves too large can be pinned back to shorten them.