Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dress Week: silhouettes


There are basically four different dress silhouettes, and yes, I can count. The fifth shown is princess or ballerina a variation of the ball gown.

When it comes to dress making and dress buying there are guides, but “rules” can be negotiated… slightly. My goal is to familiarize you with the silhouettes, necklines and waistlines that typically look best on your body type and help you understand why. Gaining awareness about your body type and how subtle differences in clothing choices greatly affect your overall physical appearance will help you become a more confident and efficient shopper even if you are not a bride. I have included drawings and definitions of silhouettes on this post, yet I have mentioned necklines and waistlines. I will present those in the next post.  

  1. Sheath: classified by a form fitting straight skirt

  1. Ball Gown: classified by a full skirt often silk or poly-satin places over a crinoline

  1. Princess: classified by a gathered waist and a very full skirt sometimes placed over a crinoline or made from tulle

  1. Mermaid (also known as trumpet): classified by a fitted skirt flaring from the knees to the floor

  1. A-line: classified by the waist to hem creating the shape of an “A”, gently flaring from the waist to the floor

Your best fit:

You are an Hourglass: For the most part you can wear all silhouettes. You are naturally balanced. Your goal is to match your top and bottom volume while remaining vertically in sync. A sheath dress with very minimal bust and sleeve detail will keep your top and bottom halves in equilibrium. For example, adding large rosettes and draping to the bust of a sheath dress will add too much volume to your voluptuous top half over minimizing your bottom half creating an imbalance. An A-line with a dropped waist can help minimize bustiness. Ball gown, princess and mermaid styles are all good options, but check the fit to avoid appearing squeezed out both ends from the middle. Show off your little waist with a fitted waistline that falls at your natural waist or slightly (very slightly) above - if you are trying to create length in the legs. Sweetheart necklines will flatter your chest, just be careful with the amount of flattery (let’s say Jessica Rabbit). Avoid empire waists that open directly into full skirts. This will over emphasize your bust while concealing some of your best assets.

You are a Pear: Your goal is to deemphasize the hips to achieve vertical balance. A-lines and ball gowns will be your friend. Accentuate the positive. Choose off-the-shoulder or strapless those pretty shoulders. Pears can carry wide necklines and shoulder emphasis well. Unless the “leg-of-mutton” 1980’s sleeves ever come back, let’s not worry much about shoulder emphasis. Princess seams work well on bodices and entire dresses. Fitted, embellished and darted waists are good bodice options.  Avoid mermaid and sheath styles.

You are a Rectangle: You are balance top to bottom, so let’s create some curves. Bring in the middle and widen the top and bottom. Ball gown/princess, mermaid, and a-line styles will all help create curves. Avoid any gathering or thickness at the waist and try adding belted waistlines and fitted waist panels for narrowing results. Add fullness to the bust with detailing such as ruching and draping. Full skirts and hip embellishments help create a curvier lower half. You may even want to look at lace dresses with a smooth (at waist) waistband. Take that a step further try a colored satin waistband…one that is darker than the dress color. Use caution with sheath dresses unless they have waist cinching features such as a belt and/or sleeve detail that helps broaden your shoulders out from your waist.

You are an Apple: Your goal is to emphasize the hips to achieve vertical balance. A-lines and ball gowns/princess silhouettes will help you achieve symmetry between your prominent shoulders and more narrow hips. A narrow deep ‘V’ or halter style neckline with a fitted bodice, a wrap style bodice, belting at the waist or a dropped basque waist will help elongate the torso and slenderize the shoulders by creating a more curvy appeal. Your shape creates an abundance of design freedom for hip detail. For example, if we were talking jeans (ooohhhh…cringe…and I hope we are not) a pair of jeans with more bulky flap pockets at the hips would be flattering on you. Since we are talking formal gowns take liberty in hip embellishments: large rosettes, swags, and pick-ups to name a few. *If you have a bit of a tummy use textured fabric, such as lace or ruching in the dress bodice. Avoid sheath dresses and blocky square tank or spaghetti strap necklines.   

You are Petite: I will caution petites on ball gown/princess styles. Consider your height – width ratio. If you are 5’ tall I would suggest a dress less than 5’ wide…just a thought. Go for a mermaid style with slight flaring at the bottom. Pear petites – take extra caution in avoiding mermaid styles to prevent turning your bottom half into the outline of a thrill ride. (Hey, as I said last post, I’m a petite “seasonal pear”…use caution)

You are Tall: Your statuesque frame can support heavy laces, larger prints and more substantial fabrics than shorter people. Steer clear of sheath styles with high necklines. Too much vertical draw could make you look gangly.

I would really love to write more and tell you all about how I have arrived at design decisions in the past, but this has been one overly busy week full of volunteer organization committee meetings, planting flowers, and overhauling the back yard!

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