Friday, August 6, 2010

Shopping for Your Body Type: Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses are having another moment in fashion--not only are they on-trend for this summer and fall, but they're the perfect pieces to wear to the beach as a cover-up.  They're basically the perfect, easy insta-outfit, because they're really the only piece you need to wear.  The drama of that long, full skirt pretty much negates the need for a lot of accessories.  The only problem with maxi dresses is that they can be very unflattering if they're the wrong silhouette for your body type.  I rounded up a few maxi dresses that would work for different body shapes.  If I went into every body type that existed, we'd be here all day, so I just picked a few standard ones: pear-shaped, boyish, very skinny, hourglass, petite, and apple-shaped.

T-Bags V-neck Long Dress, $194 at, Young, Fabolous & Broke Hannah Long Dress, $273 at This first dress is perfect for a pear-shaped, or bottom-heavy body, where the hips are somewhat wider than the shoulders. In order to make your hips look smaller, you want to make your shoulders and chest look a little broader--that's where the optical illusions come in.  A skirt like this, that flows over the hips without hugging them, will highlight your hips without emphasizing them, the patterned waist-tie will draw the eye to your waist and make it look teensy, and the slightly loose top and wide neckline will make your shoulders look wider, balancing out the width of your hips.  That gorgeous aqua hue is just a lovely bonus.  This slim-lined, grey maxi dress would be really nice for boyish, or straight figures.  You don't want to go all out with a really full skirt, because it will completely overwhelm your torso.  You want to go with a dress that clings to the upper body, emphasizing whatever curves you have, and then flares into a gentle a-line skirt.  This will make you hips look wider and curvier, and the high(ish) neckline will make your chest a little bigger.  If you have a straight torso and a larger chest, you want to show a little skin at the neckline, or it will just make you look bustier.  This grey maxi dress has a detachable bib necklace that's really fun and will immediately draw the eye to your waist.

DVF Ganza Printed Jersey Dress, $345 at, Rachel Pally Two Tone Halter Dress, $233 at This DVF dress would be great on a thin, waifish figure.  If you're very thin, and don't want to look even thinner (it's a concern for some people, I swear, I mean hello, Rachel Zoe) a cut like this is perfect.  It would overwhelm your frame, but the gently flaring skirt and looser top with add a subtle amount of volume to your frame.  While it's loose, it's not shapeless or boxy, and the cheeky print balances out the simple cut nicely.  On the flip side, if you have an hourglass figure, this Rachel Pally dress would be fab.  I feel like with an hourglass silhouette (at least from personal experience) you want to highlight your curves, but you don't want to emphasize them to the degree where you look like a cartoon character.  This dress works because the black serves to make you look nice and sleek and the white at the waist points out that you have a little waist.  The way that the skirt hugs the top of the hips and flares out highlights the curve of the hip, but plays it down a little by making the skirt the widest part of the silhouette.  The amount of skin bared on top will actually make a larger chest look smaller.  Have you ever seen a girl with a large chest in a crewneck?  It just makes you look bulky, whereas showing skin can elongate your neck and make you look slimmer.

Forever 21 Jersey Maxi Dress, $22.80 at, Roxanne Grace Martine Long Dress, $246 at Maxi dresses are hardest to wear if you're very petite, just because all that volume can make you look shorter.  However, it's not impossible.  What you want to look for is a maxi dress with a slightly narrower skirt--more of a column than an a-line, and an uninterrupted line from top to bottom.  A slim, empire-waist dress like this is ideal, because it creates a solid, lean, long silhouette.  A v-neck neckline like this is also great because it makes your neck look nice and long, adding to the illusion of height.  Finally, if you have an apple-shaped body--widest in the middle and narrower at the top and bottom, a dress like this last dress is great for you.  Here you want to work with an interesting print, which always works nicely to camoflauge any trouble areas.  While a voluminous skirt sounds like a good idea, it's actually just adding volume on top of extra volume.  You want a soft a-line that pulls away from the hip, but doesn't make you look bottom heavy.  I would add a belt to this dress to make you waist look slimmer, but the great bit about this dress is that the focal point is at a thinner area right below the hips, making you look smaller overall.

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