Look for: Fit-and-flare shapes that have inverted pleats, or that have knife or crystal pleats down the middle, like the pink dress. These choices flatter the hips without bulking them up. Folds on the bodice help even out curves below.
Avoid: Accordion, knife, and box pleats that begin at the waist. They tend to pull open, making the body look wider.
Get the rundown on all of the various types of pleats mentioned in this story.
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If You Have a Tummy
Look for: Bias pleats across the torso, an Empire waist with crystal pleats, or an accordion A-line shift—all of which minimize midsection bumps. Also, “they help draw the eye to other assets, like strong arms or sexy legs,” says Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant.
Avoid: Pleats that begin at the fullest part of the midsection, because they highlight the stomach.
Rachel Roy dress.
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If You Have a Large Bust
Look for: Box pleats or bias pleats that are below the waist to balance the chest, says New York City–based stylist Dawn Del Russo. Bias pleats just under the bust provide shape.
Avoid: “Shifts or trapeze cuts that hide the waist,” says Bryant, who dresses Mad Men’s voluptuous Joan Harris character in cinched styles. Also, straight pleats directly over the breasts add volume.
Eva Franco dress.
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If You Have a Straight Figure
Look for: A defined-waist style with pleats running over the bust and hip areas to create the illusion of curviness. “Dresses with layers of pleated fabric also add dimension to a straight body,” says Del Russo.
Avoid: Plain bodices with an inverted- or box-pleat skirt, which can make this figure look squarish, says designer Eva Franco.