Like the sheath of a sword, this slim, close-fitting shape encases the body. A back slit or pleat keeps it walkable. With this type of dress, the waist is a major focal point. Here, a belt adds extra definition.
Neckline styles can vary on sheaths. The beading on this one draws the eye up to the face.
Kate Spade dress.
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If You Have a Tummy
What to look for: “Ruching that visually flattens the stomach and creates the look of a more defined waist,” says Julie Watson, a Chicago-based personal shopper. Patterned fabric can also help distract attention from one specific problem area.
What to avoid: Lightweight or slinky fabrics that will cling to the middle.
Callula Lillibelle dress.
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If You Have an Hourglass Figure
What to look for: Waist-enhancing seams and a form-fitting cut to play up balanced proportions.
What to avoid: “Stiff or heavy fabrics, like tweed and brocade, that don’t shape easily to the contours of the body,” says Gregg Andrews, the national fashion director of Nordstrom. Those who wear D cups or larger should steer clear of high necklines, which can overemphasize an already large bust.
Calvin Klein dress.
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If You Have Full Hips and Thighs
What to look for: “Styles that offer a bit more volume or interesting detail up top to even out the proportions of the lower body,” says Watson. What else works? “Fabrics with some stretch or softness, such as rayon, silk, and cotton blends, and a straight, not tapered, cut of the skirt to accommodate the hips,” says fashion designer David Meister.
What to avoid: Pegged cuts that make hips and thighs look larger. Wrist-length sleeves that line up with the hips direct the eye straight to that area.
French Connection dress,.
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If You Have a Straight Figure
What to look for: “A dress with built-in curves. You’ll know it when you see it because it will have a great shape even on the hanger,” says Andrews. Also keep an eye out for a fitted bodice with darts and seaming throughout the torso to help create a defined, feminine silhouette.
What to avoid: Thin, elasticized waistbands or gathered fabric at the stomach that adds thickness to the middle and makes the body look straighter.
Kate Spade dress.
6 of 7Bob Hiemstra
Sheath Dresses: Two Annoying Problems and How to Solve Them
“I Can’t Tell If a Sheath Dress Fits My Shape”
Before you buy, give yourself this thorough once-over in the dressing room.
Neckline: Make sure it lies flat, as opposed to gaping forward.
Chest: Look out for horizontal pulling (the dress is too tight) or sagging (the dress is too loose). Also, any darts should line up at the center of each breast, not above or below them.
Armholes: The openings shouldn’t be so small that they constrict movement or so wide that your bra is visible.
Hips: Pinch the fabric at your side. There shouldn’t be more than an inch of allowance. However, the material shouldn’t pull across your thighs, either.
Hemline: The most flattering lengths are an inch above or below the knee. Avoid anything too long or too short.
“I’m Looking for Shapewear That Actually Breathes”
To Create a Sleek-Looking Midsection
Try: Smooth by Cosabella teddy (near right, top), $72.50, cosabella.com. Why it works: This bodysuit streamlines the abdomen, love handles, and back rolls, while a thong prevents panty lines. Bamboo fabric offers moisture control.
To Trim Hips and Thighs
Try: DuMi Shapewear shorts (near right, bottom), $42, classicshapewear.com. Why it works: As soft as leggings, this lightweight pair has extra Lycra to combat lower-body issues.
To Lift the Rear and Flatten the Tummy
Try: DuMi Shapewear boy briefs (far right, top), $38 to $40, du-mi.com. Why it works: This panty is made of a powerful yet paper-thin moisture-wicking stretch polyamide.
To Slim Everything Below the Bustline
Try: Yummie Tummie slip (far right, bottom), from $78, yummietummie.com. Why it works: Constructed of a weightless, silky rayon, this stay-put slip is designed to be worn with your bra of choice.