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How to Choose a Dress to Flatter Your Figure

Updated on January 26, 2011

Finding a dress that flatters your figure can be something of a challenge, not least because a style that looks great on one person may look awful on someone with a different body type.

Body Shapes

Generally speaking, there are a few main body shapes: pear/triangle, rectangular, inverted triangle and hourglass. As unflattering as most ogf these names sound, it's key to know which category you fall into. How to figure it out? Here's a brief overview to help you out.

Pear or Triangle: If there's a definite shape to your hips and you're considerably rounder on the bottom than the top, you're almost definitely a 'pear' shape.

Rectangle: If you don't have much in the way of hips or a waist, you're classed as a 'rectangle' shape. Generally, a 'rectangle' body shape is rather boyish and athletic.

Inverted triangle: An 'inverted triangle' shape typically has wider shoulders and and less definition in the hips and waist.

Hourglass: If your hips and bust are more or less in equal proportion and you've got definition to your waist, you're an hourglass figure.

Which Dress Style to Choose?

Once you've worked out which body shape you fall into, you can set about finding a suitably flattering dress.


Good bets. A-line dresses are a good option for flattering 'pear' or 'triange' shapes. Full skirted options are best avoided though as they will draw attention to your bottom half. If you're on the slimmer side of this body shape, you can get away with a ball gown type of dress, as long as you get it spot on with the style of skirt. This can be easier said than done if you're not a fashion expert, but generally speaking, a puffed out or flated skirt style can provide some balance to the two halves of your body. If you're more comfortable with your upper body, try drawing the attention away from your lower half with halterneck tops or strapless dresses.

Bad bets. If your hips are larger than you'd like, you're best to stay clear of ball gowns, sheath dresses, mermaid dresses and empire line dresses as these are liable to emphasise the lower half of your body, which many women with a 'pear' body type want to detract from.


Good bets: To make a 'rectangle' body shape look more feminine, go for dresses that fool the eye into thinking that you've got more curves than you really have. An empire line dress with a seam under the best can be a good option but if you'd rather showcase your trim figure, a sheath dress also works well.

Bad bets: Even if you want to show off your slim figure, don't go for a dress that is too tight-fitting as it can work against you by accentuating a lack of curves.

Inverted Triangle

Good bets: Balancing out both halves of your body is crucial with either of the 'triangle' shapes and with an 'inverted triangle', you'll want to draw attention to the lower body to detract from wider shoulders. Full sleeves are another bad move as this can also make your upper half look wider. Ballgown style dresses can balance out your body.

Bad bets: Stay away from big detail on the shoulders as this can make them look more prominent. With this in mind, simple sleeving is the best option. A flared skirt can balance out your lower body so that the upper body seems less obvious and details like bows can go even further towards this. Other bad bets include empire dresses (the high waist makes your waist and bust look closer together so your top half is more noticeable), one-shoulder dresses (they inevitably draw attention to the shoulders) and low necks (the eye goes towards your top half).


Good bets: For a slim 'hourglass' figure, ballgowns and mermaid style dresses can work well. if you want to draw attention away from your bust, sweetheart necklines, V-necks and scoop necklines are better than closed necklines and strapless as the latter options tend to make cleavage look more obvious. A dropped waist can also minimise your bust as it makes it seem as though there is more space down to your waist. If you'd rather make the most of your cleavage, a fitted waist (think ballgowns or mermaid style dresses again) is a good move.

Bad bets: Stay clear of heavy detail as this can make you look heavier than normal.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Very well written hub and with good advice.


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