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LBD style guide: Dresses for your body shape

We all know that black is a godsend when it comes to trimming off those unwanted inches and creating a super-svelte figure, but the style of dress you choose is key too. Whether you’re full-figured like Adele, or straight-up-and-down a la Alexa Chung, making the most of your body shape is easy with some simple style rules. Team LBD's essential guide helps you identify your own body shape and reveals the figure-flattering secrets to help you find your perfect dress.

Apple

If you’re apple-shaped, you’re prone to putting on weight round your middle and will have a less defined waist, usually with slim arms and legs. Some of Team LBD’s favourite celebrity apples include Drew Barrymore and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What to wear

  • Flaunt your best bits and draw attention away from your tummy – a short dress will accentuate those pins. Or wear a scoop or v-neck to draw the eyes upwards away from your middle.

  • Empire line dresses (that have a high waist band) are great for flattering apple shapes as they draw a line underneath the bust, skimming over wider waists and lengthening the body.

  • Tunic dresses are another superb choice for apples; their structured shape covers up an undefined middle whilst high hemlines and sleeveless styles are great for showing off lithe limbs.

  • Panelled dresses can help trim inches off your waist, and were a big catwalk trend this season. Choose structured dresses with a lighter body panel and darker side panels to give the illusion of a thinner middle.

  • Body control underwear is a girl’s best friend when it comes to adding definition to your waist and smoothing out unwanted lumps and bumps.

What not to wear

  • Pleated or tiered skirts will add unwanted inches whilst short, boxy jackets will give your waistline unnecessary attention. Bandeau styles are a no-no for apples as they will broaden your upper body. And avoid flared maxi dresses because you don’t want to hide your best assets!

Shop dresses for apple shapes


Pear

Pear-shaped women typically have wider hips, extra weight on the bottom and thighs with a smaller bust and narrow waist and shoulders. Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Heidi Range are all super-sexy pears.

What to wear

  • Show off your slender top half in a strapless or spaghetti strap dress.

  • A sleeveless maxi dress with a flared skirt is a wise choice – it will add focus to your slimmer top half and take emphasis away from your lower half.

  • Large collars, lapels and sleeves with eye-catching detail a la the Spring/Summer catwalks of Louis Vuitton and Chanel also draw attention to your top half, as will accessorising with statement necklaces, earrings and neck scarves.

  • Prom dresses are great for showing off a tiny waist and covering up wider hips.

  • Wear black or dark colours on your bottom half to create the illusion of narrower hips, whilst saving colour for your top half.

  • Team your LBD with chunky heels to add height and help balance out a pear figure.

What not to wear

  • Avoid side pockets and tight-fitting skirts, which will add unwanted inches to your hips and bottom. Similarly anything that is heavily printed on the bottom half, or adds volume (e.g. ruffles, pleats and this season’s drop-hem), is not for the pear-shaped lady.

Shop dresses for pear shapes


Hourglass

The much-desired hourglass figure exhibits an ample cleavage, curvaceous hips, smaller waistline and statuesque legs. The hourglass is often thought of as the ultimate, perfect female form, an ideal that dates back to the Victorian era and was immortalised in popular culture by Marilyn Monroe. Modern-day celebrities blessed with the hourglass shape include Kelly Brook, Nigella Lawson and Kate Winslet.

What to wear

  • Take inspiration from the 1950s (think cult TV show Mad Men) with figure-hugging frocks and pretty tea dresses to show-off your womanly shape.

  • Any fitted dress or skirt suits an hourglass figure, but the pencil skirt flatters the most. Emphasise your tiny waist by adding a belt to dresses.

  • Another Team LBD favourite is the wrap dress, which will accentuate your curves by pulling you in at the middle.

  • SS14’s midi dress can be a tricky trend to pull off but hourglass shapes are perfectly suited to the calf-length design. Choose a midi-length dress in a block colour and team with high heels and you’ll add height and ooze that covetable femme fatale look.

  • If you’re drawn to summer’s staple maxi dress we recommend strapless styles which will show off your bust with waist detailing to pull you in at the middle.

What not to wear

  • Baggy dresses, empire lines and boxy styles will not flatter an hourglass shape.

Shop dresses for hourglass figures

Curvy

Fuller figures can show off their womanly curves and hide unwanted lumps and bumps easily by choosing the right dress style for their shape. The right cut, length and of course, accessories, will all help to flatter curvy ladies. Just look to Adele for inspiration.

What to wear

  • 50s and 60s inspired silhouettes will cinch in your waist and show off those curves.

  • Maxi dresses are great for creating the illusion of height and skimming off inches. And choose a black dress for its super-slimming effect.

  • Look for details such as an embellished neckline to draw attention upwards, away from your middle and up to your cleavage.

  • Body control underwear is amazing at creating a slimmer silhouette.

  • Show a hint of skin without revealing your modesty with detailing like sheer lace sleeves, which are great for concealing upper arms.

What not to wear

  • Steer clear of dresses in shiny fabrics such as satin and polyester and avoid bold prints; stick to ditsy prints or plain colours. Horizontal stripes add the illusion of width whilst double-breasted jackets do not flatter a fuller-figure, they simply over-emphasise the bust.

Shop dresses for curvy women

Athletic

Slender body shapes are often tall, small-busted and broad-shouldered. ‘Rejoice if this is your shape because you’ll look fantastic in most dress styles, just like the stunning Keira Knightley, Cameron Diaz and Alexa Chung. However, if you want to create some feminine curves and add definition to a boyish waist, here’s what to wear.

What to wear

  • Maxi, mini, fitted, loose… you’ll suit all dress styles.

  • A-line skirts are great for creating curves and balancing out broad shoulders, whilst a peplum dress will add shape to a slender frame.

  • This season’s love of all things feminine means you can cheat your way to a curvaceous frame. Slip into a simple skater dress to fake hips or invest in a retro style wiggle dress, which will act like a push-up bra for your chest and create a more defined waist.

  • Short shift styles will show off your long legs and will flatter a straight-up-and-down figure. Team with small but eye-catching accessories so as not to swamp your frame.

  • Create the illusion of a bigger bust with a cowl neckline, or accessorise with chunky, statement necklaces for a similar effect. You can refine broad shoulders with a scoop or V neckline.

What not to wear

  • Don’t cover up your figure in baggy dresses and avoid dresses with skinny straps, which can emphasise broad shoulders.

Shop dresses for athletic body types


Petite

Petite women are generally shorter and slighter all over, like Rachel Bilson, Hayden Panettiere and Sarah Jessica Parker.

What to wear

  • Petite women look great in fitted or semi-fitted dresses to show off their slim frame.

  • Clothing with vertical lines – not necessarily stripes, this could be in the detailing – will create the illusion of height.

  • Dressing head-to-toe in one colour will elongate the body and choosing vibrant, bold patterns rather than ditsy floral print will make you seem taller too.

  • High heels are the easiest way to add stature to a petite frame. 

  • Contrary to popular belief a full-length dress is perfect for pint-sized ladies. It will elongate your frame and will work to conceal those all-important platform shoes, making you look naturally taller.

What not to wear

  • Loose-fitting clothing will drown a petite frame, and steer clear of clothing with too much detail such as ruffles, frills and pleats – these will take focus away from the line of the garment and make you appear shorter.

  • Shoes with ankle straps are another no-no; they will make you look shorter as they break up the vertical line of your leg.

Shop dresses for petite shapes