How to determine which gown will fit and flatter you best.
If You’re Pear-Shaped:
Look for: A skirt that gradually flares out in an A formation from the natural waist to the floor, highlighting the narrowness of the midsection and floating away from the hips and thighs. (Sturdier fabrics, such as duchesse satin and taffeta, are especially effective, since they won’t cling.) A spaghetti-strap bodice or a V neckline will also showcase a more slender upper body.
Keep in mind: A classic A-line silhouette lends itself to formal weddings, but it can also be dressed down when made from a more casual fabric, like eyelet lace or raw-silk shantung.
If You’re Busty:
Look for: A dress with a scooped neckline. It will open up your face and display your décolletage without showing too much cleavage. If you love the look of strapless gowns, choose one that has a slight dip along the neckline, like a sweetheart, rather than a style that goes straight across (which will make your bust appear even larger and more shelflike).
Keep in mind: Fabric on the bodice that has a sheen to it (such as organza, satin, or silk) will add volume and call attention to your chest. Material that is ruched will have the same effect.
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If You’re Plus-Sized:
Look for: An Empire dress with a skirt that begins just under the bust and flows into a gradual floor-length A-line. Make sure the Empire seam does not start on the chest and that there is no pleating of the fabric, which is reminiscent of maternity wear. The dress should play up your shape; if it’s too loose, it will add pounds.
Keep in mind: Find fabrics like satin that provide structure, rather than anything too flowy. If you love the romantic look of airier fabrics, choose a gown with a stiffer base, then add an embroidered tulle overlay.
If You’re Apple-Shaped:
Look for: A dress that cinches in at the smallest point on the waistline, then flares out into a gradual A shape. Opt for a bodice with a lot of texture to it―think ruche or lace detailing―that will camouflage and fit snugly, creating a corsetlike effect. The most slenderizing neckline for you is one with a deep V, which will draw eyes toward the vertical, not the horizontal.
Keep in mind: Avoid trumpet dress styles, which emphasize the area where your body is widest and flare out at the legs and the knees, where you are most slender.
If You’re Tall
Look for: A simple silhouette. The strategy is to emphasize your natural shape, so every aspect of the dress―the lower waistline, a floor-sweeping hem―needs to reflect your longer proportions. If you’re wearing long sleeves, they should go past the wrist. You don’t want to look as if you’ve borrowed a gown from someone shorter than you.
Keep in mind: Because you are statuesque, you’ll want to err on the side of simplicity when it comes to embellishments. Too many bells and whistles, like ruffles and rosettes, can come off as cutesy, particularly on a tall person.
If You’re Straight-Lined
Look for: A dress that will create curves where you don’t have them. Try a sheath dress in a wispy charmeuse that’s cut on the bias; the curving side seam will give you a va-va-va-voom silhouette. Or look for a ball gown that cinches in at your natural waist and descends into a full, flowing floor-length skirt: It will capitalize on your slenderness and camouflage a lack of hips.
Keep in mind: If you have a small bust, look for a bodice with some ruching to create volume.
If You’re Petite
Look for: Trumpet, sheath, and modified A-line gowns. Find a style with a waistline above your natural waist, to make the lower half of the dress (and therefore you) appear longer. The fabric is up to you―you can pull off a high sheen. But the detailing should be small (no huge bows) and limited to the bodice, to draw the eye upward.
Keep in mind: Be wary of dresses with a dropped waist, which will make your legs seem nonexistent, and ball gowns―it’s easy to get lost in that voluminous skirt. Also, avoid anything calf-length, which will make your legs look short.
If You’re Small-Chested
Look for: A ruched bodice. Extra fabric up top will help fill out your upper body and create the illusion of curves. Lightly padded halter styles will also do the trick.
Keep in mind: The right bra will always provide a nice boost, but as many wedding dresses are strapless or backless, your undergarment options may be fairly limited. Instead, try self-adhesive silicone bra cups by NuBra (available at nubra.com).