Choosing a dress is no simple task. There are so many options to choose from, and it's hard to even know where to get started. And without knowing the different classifications, it can be challenging to even begin your search, especially if you’re doing it online.
After all, if you know you want a specific style and can visualize it in your head, you can’t even type in what you’re looking for unless you know what it’s called. Learning about the different types of women’s dresses available can help you choose the perfect style for your body type and any occasion.
Maxi dresses have become a wardrobe essential for every fashionable woman. They're known for their long length—maxi dresses are floor or ankle-length dresses that are usually made from a breathable fabric such as cotton. Maxi dresses have gained popularity because they are free-flowing and comfortable. These dresses come in many different styles that can accentuate any body type. While maxi dresses can be worn for any occasion, they are considered a staple for warm summer days and tropical vacations.
Fit and flare dresses are a classic style that complements most body types. Fit and flare dresses are fitted through the bodice and waist and flare out just below the hip. They're the ideal dress for accentuating curves while still remaining comfortable.
A-line dresses are very similar to flare dresses. They both are snug at the top and flare out at the bottom, but A-line dresses flare out at the upper hip instead of the lower hip. These dresses tend to have a more dramatic circular shape at the hemline. A-line dresses are ideal for women who want to create the illusion of curves.
Shirt dresses look just like you may imagine: like a shirt. Not to be confused with T-shirt dresses, these typically have buttons that go all the way down, as well as a collar and pockets on the breast. It’s like an elongated version of a button-down work shirt, which is usually belted at the waist. The look is casual yet professional, and they pair well with a variety of footwear.
Empire waist dresses have a long history, dating back to the 18th century. This style has remained in the spotlight because it is flattering on most body types and can be dressed up or down. Empire waist dresses are a type of maxi dress that cinches right under the bust and include a long, loose-fitting skirt. This silhouette can provide a slimming and elongating effect; it's especially recommended for shorter women or women with a pear shape.
A straight dress is exactly what it sounds like—a dress that falls straight down over your body. Straight dresses have a rectangular shape. These dresses don't hug any curves, so they are slimming and professional – a great option for a work dress. There are many options when it comes to straight dresses as they come in a variety of silhouettes and lengths.
Wrap dresses are dresses that the wearer wraps around herself and ties at the waist. The reason for the name is that they look like you took a piece of fabric and wrapped it around yourself, providing an asymmetric look that’s strikingly stylish. Most wrap dresses have a belt that you use to tie on the side, offering an eye-catching feature at the waist for extra definition. They also typically feature a V-neckline and an A-line fit at the bottom. Hint: Wrap dresses make great beach coverups.
Peplum dresses are body-hugging dresses that include a gathered piece of fabric, usually at the waist, that flares out. It can also be at the hem, however. When positioned at the waist, the fabric is strategically placed in a way that can hide wider hips and give the wearer an hourglass figure. When the fabric flairs out at the hem, it is typically placed mid-calf. Either way, peplum dresses are great when you want to go for a vintage Hollywood look.
Sheath dresses are form-fitting dresses that are nipped at the waist and tend to go down to the knee or below the knee. They're a classic dress known for accentuating curves while still maintaining professionalism. Imagine it like a pencil skirt attached to a form-fitting bodice. Wear a cap-sleeved sheath dress for professional events, or try a sleeveless sheath dress with a blazer worn over it for another great look.
Shift dresses are very similar to straight dresses and sheath dresses, but they’re much looser than sheath dresses, with a straight fit that hangs down from a body. These dresses are usually sleeveless and short. Shift dresses tend to be minimalistic, which makes them perfect for pairing with accessories that you want to be the main focal point of your outfit.
You may have heard the term LBD thrown around, which means “little black dress,” but have you ever wondered about the specifics? An LBD is any black dress with a hem that’s above the knee and is typically short-sleeved or sleeveless. It wouldn’t necessarily be a casual dress like a T-shirt dress, but instead, it would be one that you’d choose for a cocktail party or other semiformal event. Every woman should have a timeless LBD in her closet to turn to just in case of a last-minute party invite.
Now that you know about all the different types of dresses, it will be easier to classify the look you’re going for and make the overall dress-shopping process easier.