2 Simple Tricks to Finding the Perfect Dress

Have you ever bought a dress and tried it on, only to realize that it doesn't look as flattering as it did on the model in the advertisement?

Disappointing, isn't it? But don't despair, it happens.

The truth of the matter is that every woman's body and figure is different. As you gain or lose weight, your body shape may consequently change as well. What may work for some may not necessarily work for you. Our aim is to understand our bodies, embrace it and dress in such a way that we flaunt only our best assets.

So regardless whether you're looking for a dress for your wedding (or your bestie's), prom or formal, sweet 16 or graduation, we are all looking for the perfect dress.

The question is how? Where do we start?

When I got married some time ago, I remembered being terribly overwhelmed by the dress selections - there were hundreds to choose from. My wedding photography package allowed me to pick 5 dresses from what they call their "designer range" for our photo shoots.

So there I was, feeling lost and not knowing where to start - randomly picking out dresses I thought would look nice on me. But when I tried them on, it was a different story altogether.

You see, I am a classic pear shape but I loved the mermaid silhouette. So naturally I leaned towards body hugging mermaid dresses. I put the first dress on and I wasn't impressed. It was unflattering. So I put on another, and another and yet another.

After having tried on almost 20 dresses, I was getting flustered and close to tears.

I wished I'd known better back then but I had no clue what I was doing. Having noticed the disappointment on my face, the salesperson decided to promote their upgrade package. So I bit the bullet (and my husband was kind enough to allow this) and paid extra to upgrade to their "VIP designer range" - whatever the heck that meant. I was just so desperate to find something that worked for me. But was it worth it? In hindsight, I'm not so sure.

Oh, and did I mention - I didn't own these dresses. They were just for rent.

This time, the salesperson guided me along the way and suggested that I try her dress recommendations instead. The silhouettes were very different this time - they were mostly ball gowns and A-line frocks.

And, let me tell you, they were perfect. 

It wasn't because the dresses were fancier, but rather the dress silhouettes were absolutely spot on.

Why am I telling you this? Well, for starters, there's a lesson to learn here. No matter what the event may be - do your research first so you have an idea of what you want to (or should) wear. Trust me, it's worth the effort and you can avoid splurging on unnecessary "upgrades". Don't succumb to sales talk or rent/purchase a dress that you don't feel 100% confident about. This is even more so if you have a limited budget or you're working against the clock so you can't afford to waste valuable time and money.
So, first order of business - do your research so you have an idea of what you want to (or should) wear.

Step 1: Know your Shape

Before anything else, get to know your own body first. I can't stress how important this is and how many people miss this step. I specifically recall once when a customer came to me asking for help on choosing the right dress for her. I could feel her desperation (all too deja vu if you ask me). I soon realized that she'd ordered a couple of dresses online which didn't fit and ended up tucked away in a garment bag somewhere in her wardrobe. I empathized with her, and it was heartbreaking even for me to read messages like these.

So I'll tell you the same thing I told her - get to know your own body shape. If you're not sure, you might want to try using Bobbie Thomas' X Factor method. To do this:-
  1. Stand in front of a mirror (preferably naked for best results). 
  2. Using a lipstick (or your kid brother's crayon or whatever you can grab), mark the widest point of your shoulders and hips with a dot. 
  3. Repeat for the waist by marking the narrowest points on both sides. 
  4. Now step back and connect the dots to make an "X". 
  5. Compare your outline with the X Factor chart below to determine your body shape.
The outline will give you a great visual of determining your body shape. (I favor this method over the measuring tape because it is extremely nerve-wracking to measure yourself and we tend to obsess over our own measurements which is totally uncalled-for.)

Do you know your body shape now? Great! Now let's move on and figure out the best dress silhouettes and styles for you.

Apple Shaped (also known as Diamond)
Women with an apple shaped body usually display the following characteristics:-
  • Rounded shoulders
  • A wider/fuller back, chest and waist 
  • Weight tends to form on the stomach
  • An undefined waist
  • Nicely shaped legs 
The trick to acing the look is to flaunt your assets! Try drawing attention to your bust or legs. As such, the following dress silhouettes will work best on you:-

Recommended Dress Styles:
  • V neck: Draws attention to your bust and away from the shoulders
  • Empire: Draws attention to your bust and and elongates the body
Catherine Zeta-Jones in a plunging V-neck dressCatherine Zeta-Jones in an empire waist dress

Inverted Triangle Shaped
Women with an inverted triangle shaped body usually have the following features:-
  • Shoulders are broader than the waist and hips
  • Strong and shapely shoulders
  • The torso is bigger than the bottom half
  • A little definition between waist and hips
  • Hips and bottoms are usually flat
Keep in mind that dressing is just a balancing act. As such you would want to try to add more volume to your hips to balance out your shoulders. The following tips may work best on you:-

Recommended Dress Styles:
  • Trumpet/Mermaid: The slim bodice and flared skirt helps contrast against the shoulders
  • Peplum: The ruffles or flared detailing draws attention to the waistline
  • Sheath: Simple, straight lines that softens the look and elongates the body 

Angie in an elegant sheath dressAngie in a stunning peplum dress

Pear Shaped (also known as Triangle)
Pear shaped women are likely to have:-
  • A torso that tends to be longer than the legs
  • An average to small bust 
  • Small shoulders
  • A defined waist
  • Fuller hips and thighs
  • Hips that are usually wider wider than the shoulders
Again the aim is to accentuate your best features - your waist. It's also a smart idea to elongate the legs. Try the suggestions below:-

Recommended Dress Styles:
  • Ball gown: Its fitted bodice minimizes the waistline while the full skirt disguises the hips, buttocks and legs.
  • Empire: Keeps the focus on the upper frame, while the flowing skirt creates a soft, feminine look
  • A-line: Helps disguise the hips, buttocks and legs
J Lo in a stunning ball gownJ Lo in an empire waist dress

Hourglass Shaped
Women with the curvaceous hourglass body type are shapely and evenly proportioned all over. They usually have:-
  • Evenly balanced hips and shoulders 
  • A well defined waist
In general, it's ideal to find a dress that hugs your curves and shows off your small waistline.

Recommended Dress Styles:
  • Mermaid gown: Hugs the body in all the right places, therefore flaunting your well balanced shape and curves
  • Sheath: Show off your figure with a slimming silhouette from top to toe
Marilyn Monroe in a seductive mermaid gownKate Winslet in a sheath dress (post pregnancy!)

Tubular Shaped (also known as Rectangle or Banana Shaped)
Women with the tubular shape are touted as being athletic and slender. They usually have:-
  • A small chest
  • A small bottom
  • Shoulders, waist and hips that are pretty much in line
  • Not a lot of curves
Your best bet is to find a dress that creates more curves and a more pronounced waistline.

Recommended Dress Styles:
  • Mermaid gown: Body hugging sheath that flairs at or below the knee 
  • Sheath: This silhouette follows the body's curves from top to bottom
Keira Knightley in a mermaid gownKeira Knightley in a sheath dress

Style Tip
If you still cannot decide on the best silhouette for yourself, then play it safe and go for an A-line dress silhouette. A-lines are very forgiving and are universally flattering for any body shape.

Step 2:  Be Inspired By Celebrities

Now that you have an idea of the right dress silhouettes and styles for you, it's time to find your perfect dress. Isn't this exciting? :)

It may just be my personal preference, but I'd rather see a dress advertised on an actual real person (whether a slim or plus sized model) than on mannequins. You get a real taste and sense of the designer's style and work of art from top to toe - from the hair and makeup, to the dress, and right down to the shoes. You can then decide for yourself if you like the complete getup and if it'll work for you. Some dresses require additional accessories like gloves or necklaces to make the look pop while others only look better when worn with pumps or stilettos.

It's why fashion runway shows work better than seeing a random dress displayed in store - you get to see the complete package and more often than not - you want to steal the entire look.

But how? How on earth am I to attend a runway show??

Don't worry - neither can I. There's an easier and cheaper method of doing this. Pinterest is an excellent way to start. (Note: If you're not on Pinterest yet, just sign up for an account. It's totally free. And while you're at it, show some love and follow us. *winks*)

Now that you have a Pinterest account, just go to the search bar and type in "<celebrity name> dress". You'll be presented with a myriad of photos! Of course, you'll need to replace "<celebrity name>" with the name of the celebrity you wish to look up. Here are some suggestions below organized by their body shapes.

Apple Shaped
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Elizabeth Hurley
Inverted Triangle
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Renée Zellweger
Pear Shaped
  • Beyoncé
  • Rihanna
  • Jennifer Lopez
Hourglass Shaped
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Doris Day
  • Kate Winslet
  • Nigella Lawson
Tubular Shaped
  • Judy Garland
  • Grace Kelly 
  • Lauren Bacall
  • Keira Knightly
  • Cameron Diaz

Now that was easy, wasn't it? You now have a wealth of photos to go through and the best part is, you get to see how these celebrities dress by flaunting their best assets and disguising other body parts. You'll not only get a feel of which dress silhouettes, necklines and waistlines will work best for you, you'll also have an idea of what to do from your hair to makeup and accessories and even your shoes.

Of course, even celebrities don't get it right all the time. So be sure to learn from their mistakes!

I hope this post helped and here's to finding your perfect dress! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. And if you believe this post may help others too, please be kind and share. :) 

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