Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holiday Party Fashion Guide: Part 1- Dresses

In the next few weeks, I'm going to talk a lot about holiday parties. I'll cover everything you need to know to look fabulous at every kind of party- from swanky cocktail parties to more subdued office dinner parties. Today's post will cover party dresses, which have become increasingly popular as party-goers prefer dressing up to the jeans, glitzy tank top and heels look of a few years ago.

The great thing about dresses is that they're simple (you don't have to worry about matching separates) and can be incredibly flattering on all body types, as long as you choose wisely. I've decided to organize this guide by body type, though as you'll see, many styles overlap and look good on almost everyone. Finally, in an effort to find pieces that everyone can afford, EVERY dress I mention is under $100.

Hourglass Shape: If your shoulders and hips are about equally wide and you have a defined waist, you have an hourglass shape. The key is to show off your curves, so you want to pick dresses that are fitted around the waist. A strapless dress like this one with a belt or bow around the waist, will draw attention to your thinnest part. Details like rouching or beading at the waist are also flattering, as seen in this gorgeous silk chiffon dress and you can't go wrong with a faux or real wrap dress in a stretchy fabric, like this one that will hug your curves.

Apple Shape: Women with apple shapes carry their weight in their torsos and usually have larger busts and smaller hips. While you want to highlight your cleavage, the key is finding a dress that will support you (or allow you to wear a supportive bra) so you're not falling out of the dress. A dress with pretty rouched straps like this one will allow you to wear any bra you want, while the v-cut will show off your cleavage. You also want to even out your frame with a wider skirt that will provide a counter-balance for your chest. If you don't want to show off your chest, try a scoop necked dress like this one with a gathered waistline and poufy (but still restrained) gossamer skirt, which will give you more of a waist. Here is another great dress that will highlight your waist and accomodate a larger bust. If you want to hide your arms, choose a jersey dress with loose kimono sleeves like this one. Stay away from strapless dresses (most will just squish your breasts and make them look kind of droopy) and choose heavier fabrics.

Pear Shape: If your weight is concentrated in your hips, thighs and butt, you have a pear shape. You want to find dresses that will hide your problem areas and draw attention to the upper part of your body. A strapless dress with a wider skirt like this one will do the trick, as will a dress with an empire waist and a-line skirt, like this or this. Another trick is to wear fabrics with some cling (jersey, stretch velvet, etc) that have a wide skirt, like this or this, so you can highlight your shoulders, chest and waist. Full or bubble skirts like this one can be fun and very flattering, just make sure the top is more fitted.

Athletic Shape: If you are flat chested, with narrow hips and a fairly thin all over, you probably have an athletic shape. The best way to make the most of your figure is to show off your shape by wearing fitted, body conscious shapes, like this stretch lace dress or this knee-length strapless dress. The other trick to making the most of an athletic shape is to use fabric to give your body curves, like these two strapless dresses with ruched waists and wide skirts, here and here. Strappy empire waist dresses (like this or this with ruching at the bust will make your chest look larger and show off your shoulders and arms. And if you want to stand out, play with volume by wearing a revised tent dress like this one that's fitted on top.

For Everyone: You can't go wrong with a wrap dress, like the Donna Ricco Petite Wine Stretch Satin Sheath Dress or this. The combination of a v-neck and a fitted waist is also universally flattering, as seen here and here.

With so many fun, interesting styles, you're guaranteed to find a knockout dress for your next holiday party. And with lots of inexpensive options, you don't have to be stuck wearing the same dress to every event this season. For more dress options, check out Nordstrom's and Macy's selections.

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