Find the Right Shirtdress for Your Figure
If You Have Broad Shoulders
Look for: A nipped waist and volume below to balance you out. “Choose basic sleeves, or go sleeveless, which breaks up the shoulder and helps downplay width up top, making the frame look less wide,” says Elliot Staples, the head of design for The Limited. Stretch fabric or a rear vent offers more give through the back.
Avoid: Boxy cuts, epaulets, and puff or cap sleeves, which accentuate the width of the shoulders.
To buy: Unfortunately, this dress is no longer available, but find other styles at nautica.com.
For Broad Shoulders: Mango Stretch-Cotton Dress
To buy: $110, 212-343-7012.
If You Have a Large Bust
Look for: A simple V-neck, which is the most flattering. When it comes to fabric, 100 percent cotton, linen, or silk is less likely to gap between buttons than something stretchy, says Holly Getty, a personal stylist in New York City.
Avoid: Eye-catching accents near the chest and waist-skimming styles, which can make you look heavier.
To buy: Eileen Fisher silk dress, $258, eileenfisher.com.
For a Large Bust: Rebecca & Drew Cotton Dress
To buy: $270, rebeccaanddrew.com (sold in bra sizes).
If You Have Full Hips
Look for: A defined waist, which nips you in at the middle, and a roomy A-line silhouette that offers a forgiving fit below. “A-line dresses in a woven cotton or a not-too-flimsy synthetic blend mask the lower body,” says Alexandra Greenawalt, a New York City–based stylist. Another trick: Opt for styles with buttons that stop at the waist to prevent pulling across the hips. Also, choosing a defined waist nips you in at the middle. Knee-length hems are the most slimming.
Avoid: Below-the-belt pockets, which add bulk.
To buy: Tory Burch cotton-poplin dress with cotton lining, $350, bloomingdales.com.
For Full Hips: The Limited Polyester Dress
To buy: $54, thelimited.com.
If You Have a Straight Figure
Look for: Prints or three-dimensional details—ruffles, pleats, breast pockets—to add oomph to a boyish frame. “Cinched styles are especially great if the skirt area has some fullness to create curves,” says Greenawalt.
Avoid: Unaccentuated waists that make you look shapeless, says Staples. Plain and solid-colored silhouettes will also create the same effect.
To buy: Kate Spade New York cotton-linen dress, $325, katespade.com.
For a Straight Figure: Lilla P. Cotton Dress
To buy: $168, lillap.com.
If You Have a Tummy
Look for: A flowy style with a relaxed waistband or a beltless, tailored cut in a crisp fabric that stands away from the body and doesn’t cling to the stomach, says Getty.
Avoid: Stretch fabrics that pull open at the placket and thin cotton knits that hug. Also, wide belts will only draw attention to the middle.
To buy: DKNY Jeans cotton blend dress with adjustable drawstring waist, $79, macys.com.
For a Tummy: Steven Alan Cotton Dress
To buy: $225, stevenalan.com.
If You’re Tall
Look for: A long length (duh). But, seriously, a statuesque figure can pull off those 50s-inspired below-the-knee hemlines. Make sure the belt sits at your natural waistline, not awkwardly pulled up around your rib cage.
Avoid: Hems or sleeves that are too short. In the fitting room, sit down and raise your arms. See how much the dress hikes up as you move around.
To buy: Lauren by Ralph Lauren midcalf-length linen dress, $199, Bloomingdale’s, 866-593-2540 for stores.
If You’re Tall: Minnie Mortimer Cotton Dress
To buy: $198, 310-476-5438.
2 Shirtdress Problems Solved
“I Don’t Know How to Iron a Cotton Shirtdress”
Rowenta style expert Jorge Ramon is here to help. (For an extra-crisp look, spray on starch before ironing.)
Step 1: The collar
Set the iron to high with the steam turned on. Start with the underside of the collar. Press from the center outward to avoid creating creases. Flip and repeat on the exterior.
Step 2: The shoulders
Hook one shoulder over the round tip of the ironing board. Begin where the collar meets the arm and move toward the center of the back. Repeat on the other shoulder.
Step 3: Cuffs and sleeves
Lay one sleeve flat with the buttons facing up (elbow-side down). Start at the cuff and work your way up. Flip it and do the reverse side. Repeat on the other sleeve.
Step 4: The body
Unbutton the dress. Press the entire front panels first and then the back. Carefully iron between the buttons—don’t bulldoze over them, which can cause breakage. Give the collar a final once- over if needed.
Step 5: Give it a rest
To avoid creating a new batch of creases, let the dress set on a hanger for a few minutes before putting it on.
“I Can’t Find Any Plus-Size Shirtdresses”
Hallelujah! Your search ends here.
- Eliza Parker: Sizes 10 to 28, elizaparker.com.
- Lands’ End: Sizes 16W to 26W, landsend.com.
- Lane Bryant: Sizes 14 to 28, lanebryant.com.
- Trentacosta: Sizes 10W to 24W, trentacosta.com.
And One More Shirtdress Problem
“The Fabric Belt That Came With My Shirtdress Is Sooo Boring”
Instantly boost your style quotient a notch or two by cinching on one of these striking (and versatile) alternatives.
1. For some bohemian flavor: Loft beaded leather belt, $34.50, loft.com.
2. For a pop of polish: Sportmax leather belt with mother-of-pearl buckle, $225, 866-629-6272.
3. For that classic safari look: Express elastic-and-PVC belt, $35, express.com.