Guide to Finding an Evening Dress

Evening Dress Styles

Our little cheat sheet will help you match the dress to your assets:

The empire waist dress -- You may not see this style much for daytime wear, but it's not that uncommon for evening. Empire styles are snug under the bust line and have a loose drape from there. They're flattering because they show some structure but don't hug the lower body. If you have a thick waist or heavier thighs, this style will look dressy but conceal much more than it reveals.

The wrap dress -- This classic dress pattern is a very flattering option for the voluptuous woman who has nice definition at the waist. The dress actually ties at the side and relies on cascading fabric to drape and sculpt the garment's outline. The nice thing about a wrap dress is that it softens the contours of the body but still appears somewhat revealing. It's an optical illusion. If you're heavier on top than on the bottom (or vice versa) a wrap dress will also even out your silhouette.

The sheath -- This close-fitting dress has a straight, body hugging outline (sometimes with and sometimes without a belt). It doesn't leave much to the imagination, but if you don't have anything to hide, it's a classy way to show off your curves while keeping the effect subtle. Sheaths in neutral colors are also wardrobe chameleons: You can take them from day to evening with a change of accessories like the addition of a jacket, shawl or fancy jewelry.

The classic A-line -- If there's one basic, classic dress style that almost any body type can wear, it's the A-line. It's constructed like a capital letter A, and is close fitting on top before flaring to the hemline. The extra fabric doesn't add bulk like pleats or gathers would. It does provide a nice fullness that manages to be subtle but still successful at hiding body flaws. If you're heavy on top, an A-line will balance that out. If you're heavy on the bottom, it will conceal a muffin top or rounded tummy. If you're new to shopping for evening wear, try asking the sales person to show you a few simple A-line dresses. It's the perfect place to start.

Halter, strapless and thin-strap dresses -- If you have nice arms and a toned upper body, showing off a little skin in one of these three styles may be the right choice for you. If you have a large bust line, choose a halter to a strapless or spaghetti strap number unless there's structural support built into the dress itself.

Ruffles, feathers flowers -- Garment embellishments can help create balance and work as effective camouflage. If you have a flat chest or backside, a ruffle can add fullness where you really need it. Ruffles, feathers and cloth flowers aren't the only options. Bodice beading can add fullness, and even the pattern or texture of the fabric can help balance your look. If you're heavy on top, or bottom, you probably already know it. Choosing a dress with cleverly placed embellishments requires recognizing and accepting where you might need, well, a little extra something.

Cutouts and asymmetry -- Cutouts and asymmetry startle the eye into noticing a specific part (or parts) of the body. The human eye looks for balance, and when it sees something out of balance, like an uneven hemline or a wedge-shaped area of exposed skin where there should be fabric, it focuses on that spot. Cutouts and asymmetry used in evening dress design are both features that help draw attention where you want it to go. They can also create complexity that will eliminate the need for other embellishments, like lots of jewelry.

Color -- Color can do a lot for a garment. When you start exploring the options, remember that color is the slave of fashion. That teal number could be the in-thing this season and out (way out) next year. If you want to play it safe, choose neutral colors for any dressy garments you'll want to wear over a number of seasons. You know about the little black dress; it's a classic for a reason. Black is always in good taste for evening, and it will flatter your figure, too.

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