What is a maxi dress, and how do I wear it?

Make the Dress Work for You
The key to looking as fabulous in your maxi dress as reality TV star Audrina Patridge looks in hers is to have your dress tailored to fit your body.
The key to looking as fabulous in your maxi dress as reality TV star Audrina Patridge looks in hers is to have your dress tailored to fit your body.
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

The key to pulling off a maxi dress lies in finding just the right fit for your body. Women who are of average or below average height may try on one of these dresses and find themselves swimming in a sea of fabric. To create a flattering look, choose a dress with a hemline that just grazes the top of your feet -- don't go any shorter than your ankle. For petite women, this may mean having the dress tailored to fit, or simply hemming it yourself if you've got a bit of sewing skill. For taller women, finding the correct length often requires trying on a few different brands or styles until you find one that falls just right.

Once you've found the right length, it's time to eliminate that tent-like look that so many associate with the maxi dress. One of the easiest ways to do this is to focus on material and cut. Seek out fabrics that drape just right over your curves, yet are still loose enough around those areas you'd rather keep hidden. A maxi with an empire waist or A-line design can make you look slimmer, while a V-neck helps to elongate the body. Pleats or tiers can help petite girls look more proportional, while halter-tops make big shoulders appear smaller.

The right accessories can also help you create a lean, sleek silhouette. Wear a belt around the narrowest part of your waste to emphasize your shape, or simply add a jacket or blazer for structure.

Even color and pattern can play a role in whether or not your dress flatters your figure. Plus-sized women should steer clear of intricate patterns and stick to medium or large prints. Petite ladies can pull off small prints, but they should avoid larger patterns that can overwhelm their shape. Dark, solid colors can make anyone look slimmer, and they offer the most versatility in terms of where the dress can be worn.

And of course, what would any dress be without the perfect pair of shoes? To balance out the length of the maxi dress, many women turn to platforms, wedges or espadrilles, which add height and length to the body. Taller women, or those looking for a more casual look, can wear these dresses with gladiator sandals or even flip-flops. Save the spiky heels for another day, as they can easily get caught in your long skirt and trip you up. Avoid boots and closed-toe shoes, which make can make you look dowdy and dated.

Happy shopping!

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