How to buy dresses
A dress buying guide
Dresses are an easy choice when deciding what to wear because all you have to do is add shoes and accessories and you can be on your way. There are different types of dresses for different occasions; as with all women's clothing, this type of apparel runs the gamut in terms of dress styles and designs.
Finding the best dress to buy is about your comfort and confidence, whether you are heading out to the movies or to a formal dinner party. Use this dress buying guide to help you determine how to buy dresses for your next occasion.
>> What is the occasion?
You can find dresses for just about any occasion. You might be looking for something dressy for a wedding or cocktail party, something formal for prom or a classy evening party or something casual for an outing with friends. Or you might be looking for women's maternity dresses. Knowing how to buy dresses for every situation is important for your confidence and comfort.
The occasion where you plan to wear the dress dictates the dress style, including length, material, fit, colors and ornamentation, such as beading, sequins and belts. You can find different types of women's dresses and girls' dresses to suit different occasions.
>> Consider your body type and size
Certain types of dresses and dress sizes complement different body types.
You want to highlight your favorite features with the style and design of the dress. Rather than focusing on a certain part of your body, look for a dress that balances your body overall. Knowing how to buy dresses for your particular body type (rather than size) is crucial.
There are a few different body types:
- Straight: Your chest, waist and hips are all about the same size.
- Pear (triangle downward): Your hips are the largest part of your body.
- Apple (triangle upward): Your chest is the largest part of your body.
- Hourglass: Your chest and hips are about the same, and your waist is smaller than both.
You want to find types of dresses that do not hug the larger part(s) of your body and/or that accentuate the smaller part(s). For example, if you have a pear-shaped body, the best dress to buy would skim over your bottom rather than cling to it. If you have an hourglass shape, consider dress styles with a cinched waist or belt to show off your curves. Women's plus size maxi dresses are an option if you are looking to minimize curves.
Make sure you buy the correct dress size - nothing too tight or too loose but a dress that fits just right. Women's dress sizes range from 0 to 12 on even numbers. Women's plus dresses usually start at size 14. If you need to know how to buy dresses for juniors, sizes range from 0 to 13 on odd numbers.
>> Choose a style
There are various aspects of dress styles to consider:
- Neckline and shoulder style: Necklines include V-neck, halter, square, scoop, high neck, bateau, sweetheart, sheer, straight across, slight curve and Queen Ann. Women's sleeveless dresses include a double strap (thick or spaghetti), one shoulder, off the shoulder and strapless. Dress styles with sleeves include cap sleeves and lace sleeves or sleeves that are short, ¾-length and long sleeves.
- Skirt length, or hemline: Skirt lengths, or hemlines, vary, from mini-skirt (stops about one hand length above the knee) to maxi (floor-length) dresses. In between are lengths such as cocktail; knee-length, which is either just above or just below the knee; tea length, which is about midway down your calf; and ballerina length, which ends just above the ankles. Women's hi-low dresses have hemlines that are longer in the back and shorter in the front.
- Waistline: Waistlines vary in position and length and may accentuate your chest, waist or hips. Some of the most common are princess, Basque, empire, dropped, natural and asymmetrical. An empire waistline, for example, sits just below the bust line; the skirt flows loosely from that point. A princess waistline follows your natural curves and flares at the hip to create a long slimming look.
- Fit: The fit of different types of dresses affects the overall style. The fit can be tight, like a stretchy cocktail dress; tailored, which is fitted to your body's curves but not tight; flowing, such as a fixed bodice with a looser, flowing skirt; or loose all over.
- Accoutrement: Dresses may have various accoutrement attached to them. In addition to color and pattern, your dress might have beads, sequins or other physical accents other than the material itself. The dress may also have attached accessories such as a belt or necklace.
>> Choose the material
You can choose among different types of natural or synthetic fibers. Natural fibers include cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp (and other vegetable fibers), wool, cashmere and other animal fibers. Synthetic or man-made materials include satin, nylon, acrylic, Spandex, modal, polyester and rayon. Fabrics like jersey, organza and brocade can be either entirely natural or partially synthetic.
Choose a material that is not only comfortable but flattering for your figure. Stretchy, more form-fitting materials might be the best type of dress for you, or it could be a loose, flowing material like cotton.
>> Choose a color or pattern
Depending on the occasion, time of year and your personal preferences, select from any number of colors or patterns of dresses. Some color choices for the best dress to buy are more obvious, such as white and light colors in the spring. Others are more open to interpretation, such as for a cocktail party or an outing with friends.
A unique dress will be in a color or pattern that you feel is flattering to you. For example, certain colors and patterns work best with certain skin tones or eye or hair color. Colors like black can be flattering on any body type. Vertical stripes tend to elongate your torso and make you look thinner, while horizontal stripes may make you look wider (but not always).
Knowing how to buy dresses that complement your body and the occasion is important for ensuring confidence in the way you look. Check different dress brands to find the ones that are right for you.