Fashion

How to pick the best little black dress for your figure

Author: Canadian Living

Fashion

How to pick the best little black dress for your figure

To understand the imperative of the little black dress, we must turn to the scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's, when Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly emerges from the bathroom dressed for her weekly visit to Sally Tomato in Sing Sing. Although Hepburn wears other black dresses in the film, the clean design of her slim sleeveless outfitt is still fresh and modern after more than 40 years.

But as perfect as that iconic dress was for her, it's not the right silhouette for every woman. In my style seminars, I bring in a similar dress (a slim, sleeveless, back-zipped shift with a boat neck), and typically only two out of every 10 women are able to wear it. Every woman needs to know how to find a dress that matches her particular body type. In this case, let's work from the classic Breakfast at Tiffany's model: a structured black dress that can go from day to night and lend itself as a canvas to accessories.

Step 1: Identify your body type.
In order to get a little black dress that works for your body and your wardrobe, you have to understand what looks good on you -- a deceptively simple task. To do this, take a good look at your body and match it to one of these four basic silhouettes:

Rectangular: You are shaped a little like a boy, with a longer torso that goes right into your hips. This shape -- in which the torso and hips are often in a straight line -- is usually accompanies by a broader shoulder and slightly flat chest.

Solution: You need to create the illusion of curves by picking a dress with a slightly empire shape. Look for details like a line (piping or stitching) about three inches (7.5 cm) under the bust. This will give you a waistline where there is none and naturally enhance your bust.

Hourglass: You are a voluptuous woman, with a bigger chest, an indented waist. and a noticeable curve to your hips.

Solution: You will look best in an A-line dress that "grabs" your waist and flows out over your hips, accompanied by a fitted top with darts and a V-neck, which is particularly flattering to a larger bust line.

Top heavy: You have wider shoulders and larger breasts with a torso that tapers down to an indented waist, slim hips and thin legs.

Solution: Look for a dress with a draped (perhaps even slightly blouson) top and fitted skirt that "grabs" you where you are slimmest: the lower half of your body.

Bottom heavy: You have wide hips and a slim torso, the opposite of "top heavy," above.

Solution: Your shape will be enhanced by a fitted top and straight skirt that is wider at the hip and falls straight (a "pipe" shape), unlike a pencil skirt that tapers at the knee.

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Excerpted from The Handbook of Style: Expert Fashion and Beauty Advice as told to Francine Maroukian and Sarah Woodruff. Copyright 2007 by Francine Maroukian. Excerpted with permission from Quirk Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Step 2: Accessorize your dress to go from the office to a nighttime function.
For junior executives and assistants, an appropriate daytime/work look is a cardigan over your dress (with the sleeves pushed up to make it interesting), diamond stud earrings (or a reasonable fascimile), and some pearls. Then funk it up at night by adding a black tight and a riding or stretch leather fitted boot with slender high heel. Tuck a lightweight turtleneck under your dress, or throw a cable knit sweater or leather jacket over it.

For those in an executive or "boardroom" position, create a daytime look by adding a blazer -- but not a body, "eighties" power version. You want a little cropped blazer with a notched-collar jacket and a one-button closure to accent the waist and maybe three-quarter sleeves for a casual look. At night, tie a scarf around your throat and tuck it into the neckline of the dress. Add a pair of slingbacks, a little clutch, and throw a cardigan over your shoulders.

"Help! I love the concept, but I look awful in black."
Sometimes your little black dress problem is not a body issue -- it's a complexion issue. First, try a dress with a scoop or V-neck that will keep the solid black fabric from being so close to your face. If that doesn't work, then simply don't wear black; instead, accessorize with it. Dress yourself in pink, chartreuse, periwinkle or bone, and add a black patent leather belt. Pop on a pair of patent slingbacks; carry a slim black patent clutch. For a jazzier nighttime look, forgo the pearls and add a beaded black choker.

Extra help: Choosing the best material
Don't get fooled into buying a black dress made from matte jersey. Although that fabric is fluid and stretches for comfort (great for exercise pants), keep a mental picture of Hepburn's architectural little black dress in mind and settle on a soft wool gabardine with a touch of Lycra that will hold its shape -- as well as yours.

For women with a more challenging body type, the best little black dress will be unstructured and of a fabric that does not drape (which means without Lycra). The shape of this dress should be accented with individualized tailoring details, according to each woman's body shape.

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Excerpted from The Handbook of Style: Expert Fashion and Beauty Advice as told to Francine Maroukian and Sarah Woodruff. Copyright 2007 by Francine Maroukian. Excerpted with permission from Quirk Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

 

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How to pick the best little black dress for your figure

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