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Famous Dress Cuts You Should Know

Ever heard of any of these dress styles?

Ever heard of any of these dress styles?

Dress Cuts

You'd be surprised at how easy shopping can be once you've armed yourself with knowledge of which dress styles suit you best. The right cut makes you feel good wearing it and can brighten your whole day.

Here's an introduction to the most common types of dress. You're probably already familiar with round, square, and V-necks. Let's see what else is there for us to know.

Meg's Handmade Dresses

Meg's Handmade Dresses

The Empire Waist

An empire waist falls far above the natural waistline. It is a cut that puts the waistband right below the bust. This creates an outline that's especially flattering to those wishing to disguise the stomach area or emphasize the bust.

Since the empire cut sits higher up between under the bust and the waist, it creates a high-waisted appearance. This style is also known as the "High Waist."

A flattering princess cut defines the front and sides of the dress

A flattering princess cut defines the front and sides of the dress

Princess Cut

Seams in a princess-cut begin at the waist and moving upward. The vertical lines feature the waist and elongate the torso as it curves up to accommodate the bust.

Brides love this fit, which starts small on top with a wonderfully-fitted bodice, tapers at the waist, then flows freely down for the rest of its length.

Similar to the empire waist, pear and apple-shaped ladies love the princess cut because it doesn't hug the tummy or mid-section. Instead, the linear panels produce a slimming effect, drawing the eyes lengthwise down the seams of the dress.

Cool and comfortable wool shift dress

Cool and comfortable wool shift dress

Shift Cut

Cute and comfy, a shift dress is defined as a straight line dress without anything that cinches the waist. It's a garment that falls straight from the shoulders down the hemline. This cut of dress typically has darts around the bust.

The shift-cut offers a roomy, boxy look. One with a slightly flared hem can balance a large bust and smaller waist.

Its simple lines basically are designed for the garment to move and shift with you. Since the outline helps conceal any problem areas in the middle portion, it looks perfect on all body types.

Don't confuse the "shift" dress with the "sheath" dress. The latter is shaped by tucks on the waist area and is form-fitting.

The form-fitting simple sheath dress

The form-fitting simple sheath dress

The Sheath

This is the sheath type of dress. As you can see, it is outlined to fit close to the body. While the style is almost unadorned, the sheath dress is a straight-cut dress and nipped at the waistline.

Wearing this style accentuates the waist with the skirt portion either fitted or straight line. Sheath dresses come in any pattern and length, but seamstresses simply love creating ones with short sleeves and reaching-the-knee length.


Basque or V-Waist

A basque-cut dress has a V-shaped fitted portion at or just below the waist. The waistline accentuates the hips by giving an illusion of an elongated contour. It perfectly suits curvy, short-waisted, and wide-hipped figures.

The "V" or "U" shape can plunge deeply below the natural waistline or can feature a large waistband, fitted bodice, and a softly pleated skirt running down just below the knee. The basque waist is also known as the dropped V waist.

Since basque is a 1923 style, it generally presents a long silhouette, closely fitted sleeves, and a bodice that is too tight to permit the dress to be slipped over the head. The 1950s basque waist dress pattern comes in full-circle skirts.

The smooth lines of a bias dress

The smooth lines of a bias dress

Bias Cut

The bias is when the cloth is cut at a diagonal angle instead of following the line of the weave. This style creates a unique look and feels different when worn as the fabric drapes softly over the body accentuating body lines and curves.

Unlike the other styles in this list, a bias cut refers not to the pattern, but to the orientation of the fabric. A plain weave has horizontal and vertical threads. A bias-cut turns that weave so that the threads in the fabric run diagonally.

This allows the garment to gracefully cling to the curves of the body. Because of the diagonal fall of the fabric, it develops a very natural draping, ensuring a straight and smooth hemline.

Fabrics cut on the bias appear as softer, thinner, and more fluid, stretchy, and more supple than those cut on the lengthwise or crosswise grain.

A bias-cut creates a different look from standard garments. Though it won't wrinkle as easily as a straight-grain garment would, it could "grow" on a hanger, so it is suggested to store bias-cut dresses folded and flat.

A 1920s dress style that hangs loosely from the shoulder down the waist.

A 1920s dress style that hangs loosely from the shoulder down the waist.

Dropped Waist

Very classic-inspired style, the drop-waist is a lot relaxed and comfortable to wear.

The cut features a loose-fit from the shoulder to the hips and transitioning into a pleated skirt. It skips the natural narrow-waistline look by dropping it at the hipline, hence, its name "dropped waist."

This style may come in a few patterns but typically the dress hangs very loosely giving an overall proportion that makes you look lean and tall. A dropped waist dress may be short (above the knee) or long (below the knee) in length.

You'll love the way the halter highlights the shoulders comfortably

You'll love the way the halter highlights the shoulders comfortably

Halter Cut

Generally, a halter cut helps define not only the bust but also the shoulders. A halter dress is the popular sundress style that ties around the neck, exposing a great deal of the shoulders.

Although they can be made more formal with the kind of fabric used and added embellishments, halter dresses are typically backless and very casual; some are designed as beachwear in large tropical prints. This cut is usually secured at the back of the neck and the waistline.

Black Marilyn Mermaid Gown in Oxblood Velvet

Black Marilyn Mermaid Gown in Oxblood Velvet

Mermaid Cut

Mermaid is a body-hugging dress that dramatically flares out from the knee or down the hem. It creates silhouettes that mold curves—perfect suggestion for special occasion dressing.

Unlike other designs, mermaid dresses conform well with almost every bodice and neckline style. A long-sleeve design and a high bateau neckline (boat neck) creates a sensual, alluring accent on the body.

One of the most comfortable styles is the blouson

One of the most comfortable styles is the blouson

Blouson Tops

From the name itself, blouson tops are designed with the extra fabric below the waistband so it looks puffy, flowy, and full.

This blousing effect creates a lovely camouflage that covers the hips and stomach area. Many women like the way this cut and style hides a pudgy midsection.

If you look at it, the whole ensemble looks like top clothing or blouse being tucked in and then pulled slightly out just enough to create a graceful flowy effect over the waist.

The Wrap

Wraps are skirts and dresses that wrap around the body. They carry a fresh spin that accentuates the waist and draws attention upward to your decollete.

A wrap is a timeless dress style with a flattering silhouette that cleverly separates and lifts the bust, creating a more hour-glass figure. Wraps are known as a bust-enhancing, waist-whittling, and hip-reducing style. Curvy women look great in these dresses. However, more willowy figures can adjust the dress to create curves.

Smock or Tent

A style that has been on for generations, a smock dress has a billowing style that is super comfortable to wear. It's a versatile dress cut you can choose to have sleeves or without.

It is cut a bit angled for shoulder touch with any type of neckline - round, V-neck, off-shoulder, boho, or collared. The loose-fitting cut is intended to give a superfluous easy feel to the wearer. Now it's up to you if you like it midi or maxi length.

This smock-frock style has a beautiful history of being worn by workers somewhere in Wales and England. The breezy comfy style made it favorite apparel for children in the 19th century to these days.


Tunics are versatile. They are typically a piece of clothing that falls somewhere in between the hips, mid-thigh, or knees. Usually, they're worn belted with tights. Tunics are easy to dress up and dress down, making them a fabulous alternative to both casual tees and dress shirts.

They go well paired with slender bottoms, bootcut pants, or the perfect tights, but not with flared or baggy jeans. You can even wear shorts with a tunic, as long as your shorts are longer than the hem of the tunic.

The comfort of a man's shirt in a dress

The comfort of a man's shirt in a dress

Shirt Dress

Yes, you're right - it looks like a button-down shirt made into a dress that's either long or mid-thigh.

A shirtdress is a style of dress with the details of a boy's or man's dress shirt. So that means it comes with a collar, front buttons, and cuffed sleeves. The garment may also come in cotton, silk, or denim.

But while it is cut with no seam at the waist, this dress is especially tailored to hug the figure with flattering darts and seams so it highlights a slender waistline.

Drape's flowing fabric hangs loosely and artistically

Drape's flowing fabric hangs loosely and artistically


Drapes are made of an entire piece or layer of cloth. They are not cut into parts as in fitted dresses. Any draped garments are one-piece items that can be held for the fabric's lovely gravity alone.

A drape cut usually describes the way fabric hangs when made into a garment. You can use the cloth for draping, knotting, sash or belts, fixed with pins, design as clasps, or any way you want to tie it. When a dress is cut in a drape style, the flowing fabric hangs loosely on the front and back bodice of a dress.

To Wrap Things Up

The dressing scene has practically become a kind of communication in today's culture. Being familiar with the famous dress cuts allows you to pick what suits you best and what makes you feel confident.

It's about dressing to show your own sense of fashion and encourage other women to embrace the style they love and be gorgeous. No matter how simple a dress cut style is, it transforms you into a model of beauty, fashion, and elegance if you feel good about it.

© 2012 Tonette Fornillos


hyhuh on March 21, 2015:

i need kids styles not adult please put kids styles my friends say i do not look nice everyday of my life

Seston on December 14, 2014:

I was drawn by the hosenty of what you write

Antonia Lamberti from Italy on March 21, 2014:

Thank you for your answer, I really apreciate. It really helps me a lot.

I found here the Lyric Dress from Kate Spade, I think is amazing. Is exactly how you said.:D Hugs for you too!

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 20, 2014:

Hi Antonia, so glad you came by. I looked into the 2014 trend and it says the current fashionable styles are like cut-outs at the waist, asymmetry of neckline and hem, draping, layering, deep cuts and flounces....whew! I guess it goes with anything flowing. "Beach" dresses are getting loud -- embroidery, lace, knitted, etc... it's everything that suggests a feeling of comfort in style -- hot and cool at the same time.

After summer, drapes and waist cuts are very trendy -- so again anything that you wish, you can play it up with a style. Why not go empire? It's the safest style :=) that goes with all occasion.

Hope that helps Antonia. I think you're ready for summer!:-) I think we have a lot in common, beginning with our names, lol. I'm Antoniette, by the way. Hugs for a warm and happy summer! -Tonette

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 20, 2014:

Very welcome Cherylann. Basque, I believe, is timeless and a style that goes with any body type. For the curvy, it gives a "heightened look" that can leave a "sexy shape" :=). I'm slender, but feeling pretty in a basque style, lol. It surely will make you feel great, as well. Thanks for the comment. Enjoy! -Hugs to you:=)-Tonette

Cherylann Mollan from India on March 10, 2014:

Hi Tonipet! Thanks for this hub. It gave me a good insight into dress cuts that will suite my figure. I'm definitely going to try on Basque or V-waist dresses as I think they'll complement my figure. Thanks again for the tips!

Lola from London on February 10, 2014:

The basque and revel cuts suit my figure the best. If you stick on a pair of heels with any dress they will make you look amazing!

Lola from London on January 28, 2014:

The revel cut is my fave! Looks awesome dressed up or down.

Thanks for sharing. x

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on January 25, 2014:

You're welcome red smith. I hope your new website will bring inspiration to learning and beauty. Just what the world needs now. hand-in-hand, we can do it. I wish you luck! Go go go! :=)Wishes from me -Tonette

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on January 25, 2014:

Hi EaseUp. It makes me excited about your next piece -- I'm sure some knowledge makes fashion wiser and prettier. Thank you for reading and happy shopping! -Hugs from the city of generals :=)-Tonette

red smith on January 24, 2014:

I'm putting up a website myself so this site really helped me with it. Thanks for the brilliant ideas!

EaseUp on January 06, 2014:

this is wonderful.. Now i know how to go about shopping for my next piece of garment!

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on November 06, 2013:

Hello Beezkneez. What a wonderful hubby you are. You can surprise her with a wrap-style dress -- it's classic, elegant and trendy... a piece that most women would not hesitate to wear on any occasion. Thanks so much for visiting and reading, I hope you have picked the best dress cut for your wife. Lucky she is to have a man like you. Allow me to send you a basketful of love wishes for you both. Keep up and happy loving! -:=)Tonette

BEEZKNEEZ on November 06, 2013:

I think that I need to find a dress for my wife. She has been dying for some new dresses. Thanks for the ideas.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on July 01, 2013:

Thank you Nicole, glad you found this informational. When we have some know-how on which dress cut best suits our shapes, we can come out even more confident in our choices of style. Best of fashion and smiles to you :=)-Tonette

Nicole S Hanson from Minnesota on July 01, 2013:

Very informational and interesting! Nice hub :)

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on June 29, 2013:

Great to know that, Marion. Most often than not it pays to know some details. Goodluck and thank you for dropping by. :=) Happy weekend!-Tonette

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on June 29, 2013:

Thank you IslandBites. Hope you find this helpful. I think your Caribbean cooking is a must-try. Loved those little decadence:=) Smiles from the city of generals:=)-Tonette

marion langley from The Study on June 29, 2013:

This apple loved this!

IslandBites from Puerto Rico on June 29, 2013:

Nice hub!

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on June 27, 2013:

Hello healthygurl. I'm glad you find this helpful. Just a little knowledge of the different dress cuts can be enough to help us find the best pattern for our body shapes. When we know what best flatters us, shopping is easier and no guilt, lol. Thank you for reading and for the nice comment. Keep up and nice meeting you.

Hugs :=)-Tonette

healthygurl from Canada on June 27, 2013:

This article will be helpful for when I shop for my next dress. Great tips!

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on March 31, 2013:

Hello queendresses100, wow I missed on this note of yours!... so sorry. But thank you for reading, hope that makes it easier to pick the cut you're going to have for your next dress already :=). Many thanks for sharing this bateau neckline link, I think it's a must-visit. Thanks again for visiting and have a great Easter Sunday :=). -Tonette

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on August 09, 2012:

Hello AG dots n stripes. So nice to know you find this very educative. I hope the different cuts and styles will bring you to the heights of your clothing business. It pays knowing which cut suits one's shape and personality, it adds. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate. Enjoy your styles!

AG dots n stripes on August 08, 2012:

Hi. I live in Nigeria,my name is aghogho. I am so thrilled to be connected to this page. I make clothes but I have always wanted to know more abt styles, body shape etc.the styles are classics.I was wowed when I started reading about different cuts n dresses. I use them but don't know their universal names.pls keep them coming. Its very educative to me. I love dis page. thk u

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on July 13, 2012:

Hi MariaTheresa - Styles that has stood the test of time, I'm so with you a 100%. Truly elegance is classic. Thanks for dropping by, hope you're in the best.

Teresa Martinez from Philippines on July 13, 2012:

The styles you featured here are so classic, they will stand the test of time. It should remind us women that there are many options to choose from than the "hippest" styles of today which may not necessarily fit us all.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on June 05, 2012:

Hi Helen - So nice that you find this worth-reading. The problem with a lot of us women is we're too busy to learn the other types of dress cuts yet we keep looking for what could suit our shapes best. Wish this finds a good place in your list. Thanks for following too Helen. Blessings!

oceansider on June 05, 2012:

Hi Tonipet,

I like your hub which shows and explains the different types of dresses, and who looks best in each kind of style.

Thank you...and also, thank you for following my hubs. I following your hubs as well, as of a moment from now.


Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on May 29, 2012:

Yes Christin, and most of us are so limited with the round, square and V-necks. Perhaps it would be more fun to explore other famous and fabulous dress cuts. So I've thought of making a hub out of it that we all learn together. So glad you've realized that. Enjoy!

Ann-Christin from UK on May 29, 2012:

Really good hub I didn't realise there were that many dress styles.