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Fall Formal: Best Dresses for Every Figure This Fall

* Find the dress that’s right for your figure
* Emphasize your features, downplay your flaws
* Order online for free shipping and returns

Fall is upon us, which means it’s time to find a new dress for formal occasions. Whether you’re a high school freshman attending her first homecoming dance, or a mother-of-the-bride who needs a dress for a fall/winter wedding, it can be a daunting task.

A lot of the feedback from younger women (my sister) is along the lines of, “I don’t have the body for that,” whereas less-young women (my stepmother) express frustration that “everything is made for younger women.”

With several noted exceptions, the media tends to portray young, thin models–so it’s easy to see how the average shopper could feel intimidated by walking into a store and trying-on dresses. That being said, your body’s basic shape generally doesn’t change, even with exercise. There’s nothing you can do about aging. And you still have to find a new dress.

Rather than fret, know what you need without ever leaving the house. Nordstrom has a great guide breaking down which dress silhouettes works best with basic body shapes. It’s in their bridal section, but the advice can be applied to dresses for any occasion. Check it out, and take a look at our favorite looks for each body type this fall. Keep in mind that if you’re shopping online, Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns–you can order a few that you like, try them on and send back the ones that don’t work.

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Body Type: Straight

Women with minimal definition between the bust, waist and hips should choose fitted sheaths and classic shifts to accentuate their lines. If you want to create curves, opt for an Empire waistline and A-line silhouettes.

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Maria Ponte Sheath Dress ($98)
Colby Woven Maxi Dress ($98)
Ruffle Sleeve Shift Dress ($69)
Belted V-Back Chiffon Gown ($82)


Body Type: Pear

If you’re small through the bust and full at the hips, look for something with a fitted bodice and strapless top (or narrow straps) to draw the eye up and away from your midsection. Likewise, an Empire waistline will emphasize the slimmest point of your figure, while A-line skirts help to minimize the hips.

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Convertible Tulle Fit & Flare Dress ($143.98)
Bow Tie Off Shoulder A-Line Dress ($129)
Off Shoulder Midi Dress ($98)
Lace A-Line Dress ($88)


Body Type: Hourglass

If you have curves, rock ’em. Ladies with a full bust, defined waist and full hips do well in sheaths with a fitted waist, ballgowns and mermaid silhouettes. Avoid ruffles and tiers, as they add volume to your look and may overemphasize your assets.

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Left to Right
Mermaid Gown ($142.80)
Scuba Sheath Dress ($88)
Sequin Mermaid Gown ($96)
Jersey Sheath Dress ($118)


How to Dress for Weddings: A Guide to Men’s & Women’s Formal Style


Body Type: Apple

If your narrowest point is above the natural waist, near the ribs, choose an Empire waistline. As with pears, it accentuates your slimmest point. To further deemphasize the midsection, look for a something with an embellished decolletage. You can also use an A-line skirt to create hourglass curves.

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Dupioni A-Line Gown ($212)
Dot Mesh Bodice Fit & Flare Dress ($94.80)
Lace Bodice Gown ($248)
Sateen Gown ($206)


Body Type: Full Bust

If your bust is significantly larger than your hips, choose a dress with a v-neck or halter design to create symmetry. A built-in corset or structured bodice will lend additional support, while A-lines, full skirts and detailed hemlines will balance your look.

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Twist Neck Chiffon Knit Gown ($210)
Kinsely Faux-Wrap Maxi Dress ($108)
Tracy Cold Shoulder Lace Dress ($110)
Metallic Maxi Dress ($116)