Finding the right dress to suit your shape

Finding the right dress to suit your shape

Even when you’re over 50, you can still discover something new about your shape. Tamsin Blanchard celebrates the serious lift of finding a fresh style.

Even when you’re over 50, you can still discover something new about your shape. Tamsin Blanchard celebrates the serious lift of finding a fresh style.

What’s your favourite dress? I have one that I have worn so much that it’s now frayed at the edges and coming apart at the seams. Even so, whenever I wear it, the compliments come rolling in.

The dress in question is very simple: short sleeves, a big blocky print in blue and white cotton with a slightly dropped waist cut at an angle. It falls below the knee.

I’ve had it for almost 20 years. It never dates and makes me feel slim, cool and smart whenever I wear it. I really need to have it copied before it completely falls apart.

Being honest about what works

I have other dresses that I love, though I’m not sure how much they love me back – like the bright red smock that makes me look at least nine months pregnant. But I enjoy the freedom and ease of a smock dress, especially in the summer when you can just put it on and go.

It’s quite easy to get caught up on a particular dress shape that doesn’t actually do much for you, though. You can get seduced by the colour, the print, the idea of it – but the reality when you put it on is that it makes you look like a sack of potatoes. Or the dress (or your body) goes in and out in all the wrong places. Or the hem cuts your leg off at just the least elegant spot, and any choice of shoe becomes impossible.

What’s in? What works?

This summer, there are sensible shirt dresses, curvaceous wrap dresses, bodycon dresses (bust out the Spanx) and even a few maxi dresses still wafting around.

There are dresses that hang nonchalantly off a shoulder, dresses with ruffles and frills (good for distracting attention from places you don’t want any), dresses with airy slits down the back (for those who can go bra-less), and dresses with asymmetric hems for a bohemian flourish.

There are so many different styles of dress in fact, that it’s probably time to get out of your comfort zone and try some on.

Make your bedroom the changing room

The joy of internet shopping means that you take a punt on something a little bit different and try it on at home, where you can get much more of a feel for whether you will actually wear it more than once.

It’s also the place you will get the most honest feedback – trying on clothes in front of your children always guarantees a straight reaction. When they like something you know it really works. And when they don’t, you know (deep down) that they are right.

Know the rules, but use your instincts

Where do you start? There are lots of ‘rules’ for dressing different body shapes, but most of us are old enough to know that rules are there to be broken.

• I say, if you have great shoulders, show them off. I always love the way Donna Karan’s clothes always seem to be falling off her, drawing attention to her perma-tanned, sensuous shoulders and neck.

• If your legs are long and shapely, then it would be a shame to cover them with a floor-length skirt. However long dresses do work best on tall women.

• If you are shortish like me (5ft 4”), I find a calf-length dress is good, and I’ll wear it with flat shoes.

• Unless you have some kind of serious workout regime, like Madonna’s, I’ve found (for the last ten years or so) that it’s best to avoid sleeveless dresses. But if you are happy with your arms, then who’s to judge but yourself? A sleeveless – or even strapless – dress is fine and dandy too.

• If your bust is a feature, you will know that a low-cut dress with a square or sweetheart neckline will be more flattering than a high neck. And you might like to emphasise your waist with a statement belt.

Need an excuse for a change? Find one!

Another of my favourite dresses is a 1950’s number I found in a vintage shop. I was looking for a dress to wear to a wedding and thought I’d give it a try.

It has a crazy Mexican Day of the Dead print on it (okay, maybe slightly inappropriate for a wedding, but at least I was confident that at least nobody else would be wearing the same dress) and has buttons down the front and a nipped-in waist.

I wore it and it made me look (and feel) like a different woman – one with curves I didn’t know I had, rather than my usual default dress shape which is straight up and down.

Sometimes it’s fun to flaunt what you’ve got. If just for a day. You never know, it might change your whole outlook on life… and on getting dressed in the morning.

Do you have a favourite item of clothing you always rely on? Let us know in the comments section below.

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catherine 27/05/2017

yes it would be my winter coat but because im olny 4 ft 11 inch somethimes can be a challenge for me too find the perfect one love dressing up ive a wedding in aug and i want too wear a dress ill have too put on my thinking cap

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