Flattering Little Black Dresses for Every Shape
Play up your figure’s best asset—your waist? your legs?—in this holiday party staple.
Dress to Play Up Your Arms
Look for: Strapless, asymmetrical, halter, or racerback cuts. Sleeveless styles, like the sheath here, and spaghetti straps bare and flatter arms. Cap sleeves are best on the thin-limbed, since they hit at the widest part of the upper arm. “Sheer or lace sleeves are also a trendy way to show off arms—and stay warm,” says Lindsay Albanese, a celebrity stylist based in New York City.
Avoid: Long, blousy sleeves, in which the shape of your arms will get lost. If you have broad shoulders, pass up a strapless cut in favor of a halter or an asymmetrical one, since these help break up width.
Dress by Calvin Klein. Enzo Angiolini heels. Sequin earrings. Banana Republic necklace and clutch.
See the evolution of the little black dress: Click here for a gallery of LBDs through the decades.
Dress to Play Up Your Legs
Look for: A short hemline, obviously. Or choose a knee-length dress with a front or side slit. “Ruffles or embellishment at the bottom of the dress also draws the eye toward the legs,” says Albanese.
Avoid: Midcalf-length dresses, particularly if you have short legs or muscular calves, because this cut accentuates the widest part of the leg. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of styles that are short and exposed up top. “A high neckline or long sleeves are a tasteful, modern foil to bare legs,” says Paul Petzy, a New York City–based stylist.
Dress by Milly.
Dress to Play Up Your Back
Look for: Rear-view design elements—such as a slit (as with the dress pictured here); a low, draped cut; or a bow (like on the sheath on the next slide)—that bring attention to the back. “Racerback and halter styles also help create an unforgettable exit,” says Albanese.
Avoid: Dresses that dip too far below the middle of your back. “Just a hint of skin is sexy enough,” says Petzy.
Dress by Shipley & Halmos.
Dress to Play Up Your Waist
Look for: Belts, bows, seaming, or gathers, all of which make the middle the focal point. “Full, 1950s-style silhouettes are back in fashion and do a great job of flaunting a svelte waist while hiding the hips,” says Adam Yankauskas, the creative director of Maggy London. The dress shown here marries timeless romance with an utterly flattering silhouette.
Avoid: Empire cuts, shapeless shifts, and drop-waist dresses, which skim over the midsection entirely.
Dress by Tracy Reese.
Dress to Play Up Your Behind
Look for: A body-hugging style, like a wrap dress or a sheath, that emphasizes your backside. A flouncy peplum waist (shown here) highlights the rear, too. “Choose a quality fabric, such as a stretch wool, a substantial jersey, or a heavy silk, to lift and support your curves,” recommends Petzy.
Avoid: A too-tight fit. “If the dress is pulling or creasing, go up a size,” says Albanese. A flimsy fabric, like thin rayon or silk, can also reveal too much underneath.
Dress by Rebecca Taylor.
Dress to Play Up Your Bust
Look for: A flattering neckline—V-neck, scoop, square, or sweetheart—to create a nice framework for your décolletage. “Embellishments at the neckline will also draw attention upward. But if you’re bigger than a D cup, it may be overkill,” says Yankauskas.
Avoid: Crewnecks and boatnecks, which cover you up and can exaggerate large breasts. A plunging neckline isn’t much better, since it easily veers into not-so-appropriate territory.
Dress by Aidan Mattox.
Little Black Dresses: 2 Annoying Problems and How to Solve Them
“I Don’t Know What Hosiery to Wear”
First of all, “skip the passé nude panty hose,” says stylist Paul Petzy, who prefers bare legs or one of these more winter-friendly choices.
- For a classic look: Stick with sheer black stockings.
- To appear slimmer: Choose opaque black tights (with or without a control top) to create an elongating effect.
- For something a little different: Go for texture—herringbone, dots, or lace, as seen in the pair pictured here from Michael Stars ($24, Beyond Cotton, 501-221-1539).
- To stand out: Try tights in plum, teal, or burgundy.
“There Are No Stylish Plus-Size Dresses”
Oh, yeah? Check out these curve-conscious designers.