Dresses by body type how to pick the best fit for you

This post breaks down summer dresses by body type. What to look for based on your shape and provides examples for each body type.

Photo courtesy of Tuckernuck

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The most asked questions from 1:1 clients and blog readers? 

How do I dress my body shape?

It’s such a mystery to most women. Add in some of the changes that a mid-life body experiences for even more confusion. 

I’ve devoted an entire module to dressing your shape in my upcoming digital course DressUp: Unlock the Power of Your Wardrobe. There is also a bonus live session dedicated to this topic. It’s that big and important. Once you can master dressing your body shape well it gives you so much control and power. 

You will never be disappointed in your clothes.

You will know what trends or styles to sit out.

You will always feel good in your clothes. 

But it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and some reconditioning to figure out the nuances of your shape. Things like wider at the bust but short-waisted. Or wider at the hips with very long legs. Or wider in the middle and high-waisted. 

There are endless body shapes. Each one is beautiful, but you do need to figure out how to dress yours.

Today we’re going to focus on summer dresses. I’m included a couple of options for each of the five general body types. 

I talk you through the whys for each selection that I made. This will help you understand what you should be looking for when shopping on your own for summer dresses. 

What body shape am I?

If you’re not sure what your body type is, this link with take you to a body type calculator where you enter various measurements and it spits out an answer. Often it’s more than one body type with one being dominant. 

If you don’t want to do this, take a look in the mirror and see which part of your body is wider than the rest of your body. Is it your hips, your shoulders, or your bust? Do you widen at the bust and hips with your waist being the smallest part of your body? Are you straight up and down with little or no curves? This shape usually has a smaller bust and hips. 

This should give you an idea of what your body shape is. Your body shape is based on your bone structure and losing or gaining weight doesn’t alter it too much. There is nothing you can do about your bone structure except learn how to dress it. Work with it, not against it. 

Dresses by body type

Now that you know which shape you are, let’s get to work on figuring out what would look best on your body. I’m breaking this down by each of the 5 body types. 

  • Widens at the bust or shoulders
  • Widens in the midsection
  • Widens at the hips or booty
  • Straight up and down (no curves)
  • Curves above and below the waist (proportional)

If you see a style you love, but I’m recommending it for a different shape it does not mean that you can’t rock that frock. These are guidelines only. The recommendation is to wear certain types of clothes more frequently and to try to avoid others. If you love something but it’s not ideal for your body type, continue to wear it. All I ask is that you rotate in the other silhouettes to see if you notice a difference. 

This is fashion. Keep it fun. Use this as a general guideline for how to find the best summer dresses for your body type. 

The basic concept is creating proportion and balance with your clothes. If an area of your body is smaller, you fill that up with voluminous clothes to match the part of your body that is naturally fuller. You are creating proportion in your body with clothes. 

Dresses for wider at the top body type 

If your bust is larger than your hips or your shoulders are where your body widens, this is your shape. You should look for dresses that have v-neck, a-line dresses, and wrap dresses. Anything that is fitted up top and has more volume below the waist is good for this body shape. 

Here are a couple that I found that would work great for this body type. 

This floral dress is a wrap, which creates a V at the neck and cinches at the waist. This gives the illusion of an hourglass shape. The skirt part has a lot of volume, filling that part of your body up to create proportion and balance with the bust or shoulders. 

The black polka dot eyelet dress also has a V, which is favorable for this shape. It has a dropped shoulder which minimizes the appearance of broad shoulders. The slight puff of the sleeves allows you to partake in this trend without creating too much volume above the waist. The tie at the waist and fuller skirt give you the volume below the waist that you need to balance out this body shape. 

Dresses for wider in the middle body type

A lot of women misidentify themselves as having this body shape. The main question to ask yourself: is your stomach or mid-section larger than your bust or hips? If so, this is your body type. If you struggle with extra weight in your midsection the tips for this body type can help, but this isn’t your actual body shape. 

The key with this body type is for the dress to skim over your midsection. You don’t want anything tight in this area, but you definitely don’t want lots of material or volume here either. Your best options are dresses with a V-neck, wrap, and fit and flare dresses. For a wrap dress if you can move the tie to just under your bust, even better. 

The black dress has elastic under your bust line that creates a bit of an empire waist. Then the material falls loosely over your tummy area. There is not too much fabric but just enough to camouflage your middle while creating definition at the bust and the elastic gives us the idea of a waist. 

The red flutter sleeve dress has a V at the neck and the flutter sleeves draw the eye away from your midsection. There is ample volume in the rest of the dress but it’s not so voluminous that it makes your tummy look larger. This is a great option if you have fantastic legs, which many with this body shape do. This dress comes in a bunch of colors.

Dresses for wider at the hips and booty

If this is your body shape you should look for A-line dresses, ruffles on the top part of the dress, larger sleeves, or any kind of detail that draws the eye up. Dresses with lots of structure are great for this shape. 

This floral dress with the ties at the shoulders is perfect for this body type. The bows not only draw the eye up but they take up space above the waist. I’d also recommend adding a statement necklace as the model is wearing it. This is another trick to use when dressing this body type. The rest of the dress is loose but doesn’t have enough volume to make anything below the waist look bigger.

The pink dress offers structure with a detailed sweetheart neckline and a built-in belt. The puff sleeves give the dress volume above the waist, which is where it needs to be for this shape. The bottom half flows over the wider area of your body with the right amount of volume.

Dresses for straight up and down body type

Dresses that have a plunging neckline, are tailored, sheath, and strapless are the best styles for this body shape.

This red sundress is to die for! This is not my body type, but this dress is in my cart as I type. Drawing the eye up to highlight your shoulders or collarbone is perfection. The bow at the neck creates volume where there isn’t much if you’re this body shape. The drop waist adds volume but doesn’t make it look like you’re wearing your mother’s dress. 

The black sleeveless dress does a good job of creating an hourglass shape. The belt cinches in to give the appearance of volume above and below the waist. The tailored structure of this dress provides shape to this up-and-down figure. I love the tortoise details of the buttons and belt buckle on this dress. 

Dresses for those with proportional curves

If you are curvy proportionally above the waist and below, the most important thing to focus on highlighting your waist. You also want to be careful not to add too much volume that would throw your natural state of proportion out of balance. V-neck and wrap dresses are best for this body type. 

The green floral patterned dress highlights your waist. The dress accentuates the model’s curvy figure. It spotlights the smallest part of her body, her waist. This is a very flattering dress for someone with this body type. 

The white linen is a wrap dress without the bulk of the tie at the waist. You can adjust the wrap construction of the dress with tabs at the sides. The hidden elastic that customizes the fit is camouflaged by the tailored design of the belt. This comes in camel and black as well.  You may want to grab one in each color if this is your body type because this is something you can wear all summer long and into the fall. Such a classic style. 

I focused on summer dresses here, but you can apply these ideas to dresses for any season. It takes a bit of practice and some playing around to narrow down what works best for your body type. These tips are a great place to start.  Being more intentional with what you decide to put on your body will go a long way in helping you look your best, no matter what your body shape is.



I show women over 50 how to get noticed, stay relevant, and be connected through their wardrobe. Getting dressed is something you have to do each day, why not make it fun.



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