Dresses have a place of pride in a woman’s wardrobe. They are beautiful, romantic, and so feminine that they define femininity. Whenever the occasion demands elegance and a stunning entrance, dresses are women’s go-to choices.
Their versatility means we have a dress for every occasion, weather, or season. But despite its popularity, fit continues to be a problem. It’s like finding that perfect pair of jeans – an elusive chase for life.
Thankfully though, it’s easier to find a perfect dress than it is to find a great pair of jeans if you know what to look for.
In this guide we take a close look at what determines the ‘perfect’ dress, the frustrating process of finding it, why it seems elusive, and what you can do to turn things around. Along the way we also bust a few much-cherished myths in order to help you make better and more satisfying decisions. We are sure our ideas will also save you money otherwise wasted in making compromised choices (you’ll see want we mean). So with all of that out of the way, let’s get down to business, shall we?
Constituents of a ‘perfect’ dress
Picking the right thing will only come about when you get your criteria right. We have listed here some of the most important aspects to bear in mind when deciding if a dress is perfect for you or not. (Forget about how great a dress looks on its own or on somebody else, if it does not flatter you in each and every way, it is NOT for you, and you really should move on. Pronto!)
Your body shape
This is right up there with the most important criterion, probably the most important consideration when purchasing any item of clothing. When a woman sets out to buy clothes, this should be her starting point but, surprisingly, it is often ignored altogether.
A great fact that many style magazines conveniently forget to tell you when pushing trends is that that which looks great on one body may look hideous on another, and vice versa. This ignorance among women of what looks good on them is compounded by the popular descriptions of female body shapes. To say it’s all very confusing would be an understatement.
There is a scientific way to determine your body shape which involves taking out a calculator and doing all sorts of calculations to arrive at ratios that tell you what type you fit. There are things like fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, and apparently also ideal ratios that women must aspire to! On the other hand, the female body shape is likened to certain fruits, namely apple, pear and banana. Never mind that no human can look like a fruit but hey, at least it’s something!
More helpful clarification is being top-heavy or bottom-heavy, which is something rather easy to determine and closer to how women see themselves. Those with bigger bottoms than busts are referred to as ‘pear-shaped’ or ‘bottom heavy’, for example women like Shakira and Beyonce Knowles.
“Women, with their sure instincts, realized that my intention was to make them not just more beautiful but also happier.” – Christian Dior
Women with considerably larger upper bodies than lower bodies are apple-ish or top-heavy. Kate Winslet and Catherine Zeta Jones are both apples, as per some style magazines. The fundamental roundness of this shape is lost in their skinniness though.
Some women are built like the hourglass. Their full bust is balanced by an ample rear. Their proportional balance means they have curves in the “right” places and above all they possess that all-important thing – a waist as tiny as that of a corseted Victorian maiden. These are also the most curvaceous of women, often interpreted as fat if they put on a few pounds (oh, the horror!). For celebrity reference, check out Scarlett Johansson or Tyra Banks.
Women who don’t have much in the way of curves and rather tend to be composed of straight lines (think runway models) would be referred to as boyish, column, or banana types — all the same thing. This also happens to be the most frequently found body shape in women.
Without getting too caught up in the terminology, however, let’s just say it is very important to know your correct body shape in order to do justice to it (more on body shapes in a later section.)
(*DISCLAIMER: Let it be noted that not all stylists or magazines can agree on the body shapes of the celebrities, with the exception of Scarlet Johansson’s maybe!)
Hair and complexion
To wear colors that flatter your skin color and hair is excellent advice, and something most of us can determine on our own. Keep in mind though that not all colors are always the same. For example, not all whites are similar –if one shade of white looks good on you, the other might not necessarily follow suit. So don’t feel broken-hearted if you try on a white dress and end up looking nothing special. Not your fault, you just need to move on to that which will make you look special.
Similarly with hair. My red-haired friend of Italian heritage says few things look good on her except black. That is perhaps just her way of saying that she can’t live without black. To her credit though, the black she wears does bring out the amber richness of her hair color, as does bottle green clothing. It also brings a glow to her cheeks and brightness to her eyes. (She does not experiment much with colors but whatever she chooses ends up making her look divine. Now there’s a woman with a very deep understanding of what flatters her!)
Brown-to dark hair goes best with lighter colors, though bright colors such as yellow, pink, or red are difficult for many to pull off. Whatever your hair or skin color, only pick up dresses that make your skin look fresh and your hair soft on the eyes.
Another very important consideration when choosing a dress for yourself is how tall you stand. Depending on your height or frame, a dress may make you look tall and elegant, or short and frumpy.
Petite females are usually advised to avoid heavy fabrics and chunky designs because these will only bring you down. Your dress should fit you very well to capture your silhouette, and the pattern should tend to be monochromatic to create the illusion of a lengthier frame. Too many prints and baggy fits are not your thing. Pair with slender heels (avoid platforms, because they are chunky) to radiate a sexy and womanly elegance.
“Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.” – Audrey Hepburn
Maxi dresses, or those with longer length (but with a great fit!) would also suit your petite frame. Short and long are both fine, stay away from lengths that are neither here nor there. Your lower half will be best served by definition, which knee-length dresses don’t do a very good job of creating.
Tall women, on the other hand, should avoid maxi dresses (as should those with fuller figures) to avoid looking maternal or intimidating. Stick with medium length dresses for the best impression. Short dresses also tend to look good on tall women, showing off those endless legs, but not everybody has the confidence to pull that sort of a thing off. To keep things sober, prefer medium lengths, and subtle colors.
Average-sized women are in luck. You don’t have to worry about looking too tall or short, just go with any length you like as long as the dress takes care of other factors mentioned here.
This is a touchy topic, and also very subjective so we won’t go into much detail. We trust that you know the best what suits you the most in your age.
We will nod our head in agreement though with the notion that there is something as age-appropriate dressing. Younger women can get away with a lot just because of their youth (and some would say inexperience). Older women are expected to dress better and be a certain way. Frills, flounces, and glitter, for example, are more of a girl thing. Straight lines and subdued tones convey a calm self-assuredness. They say, “I’m a woman, treat me so.”
This has got to be the most underrated aspect when it comes to clothing.
It’s fine to buy that great dress which fits you superbly and makes your cheeks blush. You look like a million dollars and make heads turn as you walk down the street. But can you handle it? Is it too audacious for you? Do you feel like others should just find somewhere else to gape at? It’s one thing to covet attention and quite another to be able to revel in it.
Your clothes should accentuate your personality, not stifle it. Shy girls would do well to stick to conservative styles, unless they are feeling adventurous, because that’s where their comfort zone is. Similarly, a woman who loves being the center of attention shouldn’t dress in dull colors and conservative styles, because they won’t give her what she wants. And as a result, she won’t make for a pretty picture.
It’s no use wearing a great dress only for it to be in a fabric that your skin can’t even breathe in or feels itchy against. What’s worse than sweaty armpits?
We all tend to sweat more in certain fabrics than others, and certain fabrics are definitely more suited to winters than summers. So this is also a very important consideration for when you are picking up a dress.
Do you prefer style over comfort?
It would be awesome if all of us could look like a million bucks without having to sacrifice our style quotient, but unfortunately, more often than not, the two do not blend. Or rather, we don’t know how to make them blend.
For example, some women love short dresses and high heels even if they are killing them and it’s the middle of the winter on the east coast. But for some people, the pain is worth it. The pleasure they derive out of parading around in a short skirt in sexy stilettos more than makes up for the physical discomfort it causes. Often these are the only women who can pull such outfits off since they are obviously happy wearing what they are.
Others are strictly turned off by a lack of comfort in a fabric or style.
Which of the two are you?
So What really makes a perfect dress?
All of the above, and YOU. Really, a dress on its own maybe a great creation, but what makes it perfect is the woman who wears it. Simple as that! Ideally, each and every article of clothing in your closet should be perfect for you in each and every way, otherwise really what is it doing there? It’s not like unflattering clothing does not cost a fortune!
It pays to be finicky. That’s how style comes into being. If you are short on perfect dresses in your wardrobe then it’s a simple case of either you not knowing what’s best for you, or you having compromised on this knowledge because you couldn’t find anything better.
As a rule, NEVER settle for less-than-perfect pieces. If that means having fewer items in your wardrobe, so be it.
Let’s look at why women settle for less and how to turn it around.
The problem with predetermined body shapes
It’s one thing to know the types of body shapes out there, and the style advice that goes with each of those shapes, and quite another for you to blindly follow it.
Determining one’s body shape is tricky for many women, since it’s not a black and white thing as most style gurus earning fat paychecks on television would have you believe. The main problem is that rarely do people resemble those predetermined shapes to the T; most of us have variations. Many women feel they fall neither here nor there. Fluctuations in body weight don’t help either. We go through phases in life where we start putting on weight in places we never had to worry about.
Second, when one has a lot of fat, the distinctions between body shapes gets even less pronounced. An average woman does not have washboard abs, nor toned arms. She may even have cellulite and bits of fat jiggling here or there. None of which makes her fat, just more closer to the reality as most of us know it.
So how do you dress for your shape now?
Most of the advice of how to dress for your shape seems useless, as if it’s not really meant for the people it targets. It’s almost as if popular fashion magazines and websites want to keep pushing this myth about dressing for your body shape, without taking into consideration the numerous exceptions, in order to peddle their wares.
Imitating a celebrity whose body shape you have taken after does not help either. We know most of them put in crazy hours working out and watching their diet, on top of which they get styled by the best in the business — something that the average woman in this country will never be able to do. So a comparison with a highly stylized product is pointless.
It is also our humble opinion that thinking about one’s body shape in terms of an apple or a banana does not particularly help, neither in terms of buying clothes nor in terms of self-esteem. There is already an overriding belief in fashion and media circles that the hourglass is the best shape and that all women should aspire to it. There’s an insinuation here that there’s something wrong with your naturally endowed ‘banana’ shape and that you should do all to correct it or you’d end up looking like, well, a banana. Never mind that only 8% of females tend to be hour-glass shaped.
Seriously, what is so wrong with embracing your shape as it is?
Why tailor-fit is your answer
For the reasons mentioned above (also see the section ‘Constituents of a perfect dress’), your chances of finding in clothing stores dresses that repeatedly tick all the boxes are pretty low.
Retail dresses are made for the masses, for general consumption. Nobody has the time, patience, or logistics to create dresses for each and every woman, keeping her individuality in mind. They also tend to favor certain body types (namely those with less curves) a lot more than others. These lines of retail clothing are usually inspired by the season trends set by big fashion houses, who are notorious for their distaste of curves, and anything that’s remotely healthy!
But the good news is that you don’t need to change yourself to fit into premade sizes.
Why shouldn’t the dress change to fit you instead?!
Think about it. The best compliment we can give a well-dressed woman is that she looks so nice in her dress, it’s as if it was made for her! The reference here is not just to the fit, mind you. You are also indirectly talking about the dress capturing her essence, her personality extremely well. It flatters her complexion, her hair, her body, and makes her look so good that heads turn automatically.
How often can you buy such a dress if you pop into your local retailer?
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” ― Coco Chanel
Which is why choosing a tailor fit is much better. Not only is it better, it’s actually your best bet.
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider investing in custom-made dresses:
- - What good is finding something which looks striking and even fits you like a glove EXCEPT that the neckline is a little bit too low for your taste? Or that the sleeves are a tad too long and you might get sweaty in the ensemble? Tut tut, put the dress back where you took it from.
- - Anything that is made to fit you will be guaranteed to fit you, and do justice to your unique shape. Something the retailers will never do.
- - You will NEVER have to settle for less, which is a great use of money and the best road to satisfaction.
- - If you get your dress made by somebody who has a vast repertoire of designs, experiences, and expertise, you will have at your service enviable quality. When you harness such quality for a dress made especially for you, it will significantly improve your chances of finding a great looking perfect fit.
- - It also takes out the hassle of buying readymade dresses, having to try out a multitude of them to find that elusive one which would be the pride of your collection.
- - Too many choices available to you do not necessarily translate into you making the best choice for yourself. In fact, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the sea of fabrics, cuts, and styles out there, and in the process lose sight of what is the best for your unique body shape, complexion, and comfort.
- - The best-looking people look so because they are fabulously styled. And that happens because someone (their stylist/designer) took care of their clients’ unique needs and accordingly came up with the appropriate designs or styles. Really, it’s no magic!
- - You stop apologizing for the shape you have and start demanding that which flatters you the most. You take the power back from fashion gurus and whatever it is that they say.
Buying dresses online
For reasons not hard to understand, this process is considered to be fraught with problems, and yet the sheer convenience of it wins out in the end.
As per one report, e-commerce sales in the US rose to $289 billion in 2012 from $256 billion in 2011. “The largest share of online revenue was generated by retail shopping websites, which earned $186.2 billion.” The online retail revenue is further projected to reach $361.9 billion in 2016, and the number of people shopping online will grow from 137 million in 2010 to 175 million in 2016.
That’s a lot of people doing their shopping online. Nothing is off-limits now, not even wedding dresses. To make the most of this facility, make sure you only choose the best dressmakers for your shopping –people who understand your needs and have the expertise and creativity to fulfill them beyond your expectations.
Dressmakers such as Tailoo.com provide their customers with a wide range of the best fabric sourced from around the world. Their excellent team of fashion designers with vast experience in and knowledge of the field create magnificent dresses and also make available a plethora of custom options for women to design that perfect dress which has all the right items, and flatters them in all the right places.
Think of it as a pizza made to order.
You get the base of your choice, the sauces of your choice, and the toppings of your choice. And you only get what you want. Your chances of having a satisfactory experience just skyrocketed. You won’t have to settle for anything that is not to your liking.
A tailor-made option is something no retail clothing store would provide you with. So if you are going to be spending money on something, make sure it’s spent wisely!
How to measure yourself the best
“Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.” – Karl Lagerfeld
In order to find the best fit, your measurements will have to be spot on. But first, make a pact with yourself that you’ll measure your body without fear. Or guilt, or shame, or anything of that sort. Remember, there are no shapes you should be aspiring to, only embracing what you already have to find the best fit and style.
With that out of the way, the following is what you should have accurate measurements on to find best customized dresses. Don’t rely on stale measurements; the human body is forever in transition. Before sending your measurements off to the dressmaker, get fresh measurements of your body.
Find a quiet and ambient place with a full-length mirror. If you are doing this at home, choose a time of the day when you are not likely to be disturbed.
Lock the door, fetch a measuring tape, and step out of your clothes.
Start from the top. (Don’t hold the tape too tight when you are measuring.)
Place the tape at one end of your left shoulder from behind and stretch it to the other end, a few centimeters below the base of your neck.
Measure your bust at its fullest. Don’t just assume you know this measurement because you wear a bra of a certain size. Sizes vary from brand to brand, and our breasts grow or shrink with time and our level of activity.
You should have an idea whether you will be wearing a bra underneath your dress. If so, measure with the bra on, if not measure without it. Some dresses have an in-built bra padding which makes the use of a separate bra redundant, so check with your tailor about that.
If you are a slender hour glass, your waist will be your narrowest point. For the rest of us, it isn’t that simple. In most cases your waist will be just in line with your navel. If your belly keeps spreading as it goes downwards though, measure yourself at the widest to determine your waist in case you have in mind a body hugging dress. If you are looking for flounces or pleats beginning around your midriff, stick with the navel suggestion or the dress might look big and ill-fitting.
For the best results though, measure your waist in three places: just below your rib cage, at the navel, and at the widest part.
Keep breathing normally and hold the tape snug against your skin. No pulling or tugging (and definitely no judging!)
To measure your hips simply wrap the tape around the largest part of your hips. You are aiming to capture the circumference. Again, keep the tape snug. Not too tight, not too loose.
Measure both the circumference of your arms as well the length for great fitting sleeves.
Length of your legs
Place one end of the tape along your waist and stretch it all the way down to your ankle. This can get tricky for people to measure on their own, so you may want to ask a friend to help you out.
If you are going to be wearing high heels with your full-length dress and want your dress to fall as low as the heels, measure with your shoes on.
Conclusion: We hope the above has given you enough clarity on how to find your perfect dress. Emphasize on all the right things, and you will get the outcome you desire and deserve. Don’t make your life miserable trying to fit into dresses that were not even made for you. It’s a losing battle, and a waste of time. Bring the mountain to Mohammed instead and revel in your prettiness. Happy shopping!