Skip to main content

How to Choose Plus-Size Dresses That Flatter

Sharilee Swaity has been an online writer for more than 9 years. Her many interests include plus-size fashion.

How to Choose Plus-Size Dresses That Flatter

How to Choose Plus-Size Dresses That Flatter

Dare to Wear a Dress

There is just something about a dress that screams "woman!" Wearing a dress is a sure-fire way to feel more like a woman, bring out your inner girl and lift your spirits. Why don't we wear more dresses? Wearing a dress takes a bit of courage—it's a bold move. The dress has a little bit of "look at me" in it and sometimes we might not want to be noticed. This article has some great tips for choosing a dress on your plus-size body.

Plus-Size Dresses From the Past

The first source we will consider when looking at how to wear a dress are beautiful women from the past. We will go back in time to an era when "plus size" was not unusual but considered beautiful. What can we learn from the women of this time? Let's examine first some paintings from the Renaissance era and see how they wear their dresses.

The first lady we will look at is from a painting by Titian called The Woman At Her Toilet. The women is thought to be a model. We don't know her name but we do know that Titian chose her to appear in several of his works. The other painting we will examine is by Peter Paul Rubens and it is also named The Woman At Her Toilet. Both of the women would be considered plus-size according to today's standards.

What can we learn from these Renaissance beauties and the way they dress? Let's take the lessons from them to apply to today's dressing.

Principles for Choosing Plus-Size Dresses

  1. Create a corset by drawing in the smallest place in your body. Look for a dress that creates a waist for you at your smallest part, often right below the bust line. If the dress does not have this shape built into it, consider accessories such a belt or a scarf to create this silhouette. If you are blessed with a natural waist, emphasize it. If you don't have much of a waist, create a faux waist by cinching in the smallest part of your silhouette, either through the cut of the dress or by accessorizing.
  2. The skirt part should flow out from the waist or create a waist. This creates a pleasing silhouette. Notice how their skirt is made to flow outwards. When the skirt part flows out, it camouflages a large tummy and hips.
  3. Emphasize your assets. Both of these dresses feature an open neckline that emphasizes the women's neck and bustline. Flattering necklines for the plus-size woman are the v-neck the sweetheart neckline and the scoop neckline. Some plus-size women feel that because they are big in some places, they are "not allowed" to show off their best parts. This is nonsense! None of us are perfect but showing off our best parts does bring less attention to the other parts.

Good Dress Style Choices

Here are some specific styles to consider when shopping for your plus size dress. These styles are great for many plus sized women, but be sure to try different styles on, to see how they work on your particular body. All of these dresses help to create that fantastic hourglass silhouette.

  • A-line dress is a classic shape that tucks in at the waist and gently tapers down. This kind of dress is flattering for most body types.
  • Pintuck dress is one of the most recent trends that is very beautiful. It is actually a modified A-line style that features a flowing skirt for a flirty look.
  • Wrap (or faux wrap) dress is a shape that is very compatible with a bigger woman's body because it is adjustable to any body and hugs the curves very well. Just be sure that there is enough material in the dress to cover your body.
  • Maxi dress is a style that can be attractive for a plus size girl if care is taken to choose the right style. For maxi dresses, be sure to maintain a defined waist and do not allow that loose "mu-mu" look. As well, you may wish to consider a side split to break up the bulk of a maxi dress. An open neckline at the top also helps to offset the long length of the dress.
  • Shark bite hem dress is a very lovely style that features an asymmetrical hemline. This dress line is very flattering for a bigger girl because it creates a diagonal, which makes the woman look less big.
  • Con dresses are known as bar dresses and are very tight. For evening wear, they can be very attractive and tend to tuck a woman in very well. These dresses are very revealing, though, and do tend appeal to women in their twenties.

Why a Dress Is Your Best Friend

Remember that a dress can be your best friend. Many plus size women shy away from dresses because they think they are for the "skinny girls" but it is not true. A dress allows you to show off your curves in a way that no other piece of clothing can.

Just be sure to avoid the mu-mu style or anything that has no fit. Don't go for boxy, shapeless dresses, either. One more style to avoid is the long, shapeless "prairie dress" so popular in the late 1980s. So, go for a flattering shape, and you can look feminine and beautiful in a dress.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. As a plus-sized woman, I enjoy writing about fashion that is good for a more voluptuous body. I have also written about plus size tops. If you are into working out, you may want to check out my article on plus size workout wear. I also wrote about some of the best ways to accessorize your plus sized outfit.

More Good Style Ideas

© 2012 Sharilee Swaity


Glenda on May 29, 2018:

Thank you so much for this article. I love your positive, uplifting (no pun intended!) celebratory tone and the beautiful, inspirational illustrations!! I'm going to Google pictures of Adele in dresses. I already knew about A-line dresses and V-necklines, but you presented even that familiar information in a fresh way, and you added new ideas that I had never thought of. I felt good about my body after reading this. The only problem? Now I want more!

Misty on December 27, 2017:

This is so much more of a better visual experience than other sites I have seen today. Those sites that have those tiny women modeling plus size clothes. Why do they insult like that. Its just mean. So thank you. For something real!

Joan Harrington on October 01, 2017:

the pic's above like the pintail dress and the other one the models are not plus size put those dresses on a 2x or 3x size pic' of a woman to actually see what they look like on a bigger woman

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on June 10, 2015:

@Stargrrl, I am so glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the long delay in answering.

Stargrrl on February 24, 2015:

This was a really good article. Very helpful advice!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 05, 2012:

Love, thank you for coming. I am so glad you appreciated the article. Take care.

Lovelovemeloveme from Cindee's Land on August 04, 2012:

Interesting hubs with pictures and examples. Thanks

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 30, 2012:

@PSP, you are so right. The wrap dress, especially, is so flattering and attractive on any woman. Thanks for the great comment!

@Maddie, thank you so much. Yes, I think we all tend to stick to old favourites but it's good to know there are some other options out there to try, too. Take care!

Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on July 30, 2012:

I am a curvy lady, and I find that empire waists are incredibly flattering, so I often go for what I know, but wrap dresses are a great wardrobe staple, too!

plussizepixie on July 30, 2012:

Another great hub prairieprincess. Personally wrap and maxi dresses are my favourite style dresses. I think they flatter every type of curvy figure as long as they have been designed well and fit you.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 28, 2012:

@Teaches, thank you so much. Yes, there are definitely are options out there. Dresses have come a long way in the last while. Have a wonderful day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 28, 2012:

@Tonipet, wow! That is great that you linked my site to your hub. I really appreciate it. I will go over and have a look, too.

And yes, it is true that we sometimes are too busy to really "glam it up" and get girly. You make an excellent point. But well worth it when we do and it's great for all sizes to look beautiful, too. Thanks for the great comment and support.

Dianna Mendez on July 27, 2012:

I found this interesting and love how you have posted examples in dress. You have options, even if wearing a plus size. Great topic and it will be useful to so many women.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on July 27, 2012:

Hi prairieprincess. With the almost fast-forward kind of lifestyle women have today, daring to wear a dress do takes a lot, but if one does, even if she has to go for a plus-size, things could be beautiful..a lot lot and lot beautiful. I love all your tips, and I'm linking my "Fat, Thin, Tall, Short - Clothes for Your Figure" hub. We'll be helping many women. Hope that is okay. Thanks once again and keep up!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 27, 2012:

@Amar, thanks for your comment. I do understand that not everyone has a waist but I meant to suggest is that the dress should create a silhouette that suggests a waist, often right below the bustline. which is often the smallest part on many women.

Have a great night!

@Kashmir, ha ha! That made me laugh! I don't think you should dare to wear a dress, no matter how much anyone begs. LOL. Thanks for the comment and stopping by. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 27, 2012:

Hi my friend, sorry even if you dare me I'm not wearing a dress . :-) But really this is all great information to help all woman that may wear a plus size, well done !

Vote up and more !!!

Lesley Charalambides from New Hampshire on July 27, 2012:

I do so agree that a dress helps you feel feminine, and that there is no reason for a plus size woman to feel afraid of them, but we'll have to agree to disagree on cinching in the waist.

Speaking as someone who hasn't had a waist since 1997, trying to pull it in just doesn't work for me, but you are right, i'st easy to get inspiration from the past. I find empire waists are ideal, they allow we show a little cleavage when I want to, but cover over the total lack of waist.

Plus size isn't a single shape as I'm sure you know, maybe yanking in the waist isn't for everyone.

But I did enjoy your hub!