When it comes to dress silhouettes, I find women most often gravitate towards fit-and-flare styles. It stands to reason, the shape seems to flatter the slimmest body parts while camouflaging the worst. A fit-and-flare dress can look feminine without being too girly, sexy without being overt, and is comfortable.
Despite seeming like a no-brainer, finding a flattering fit-and-flare dress isn’t always as easy as it seems. Length, fabrication, waist placement, flare size, and more, can have a huge impact on how flattering a fit-and-flare dress can be. Before we get into some outfit ideas, here are some tips.
Fit-and-Flare Dress Fit Tips
- Fabrication: Fabric that is too flimsy can do more harm than good, particularly if you gain weight in your hips and thighs. I often (admittedly crudely) refer to flimsy fabrics on heavier parts of the body like putting fat in a Ziploc bag vs. putting fat in a more structured container. In a Ziploc bag, fat wiggles and jiggles around whereas in a structured container, the fat takes the shape of the container itself. This is often why women wear Spanx underdresses that let the body roam free. Be sure to look at your back view of yourself in the mirror and look for fabrications that in your fit-and-flare dresses that aren’t too flimsy.
- Length: Having heavier legs, I tend to avoid fit-and-flare dresses. You would think they would work because I also have large thighs, but they really don’t. Instead, I feel like one of the dancing hippos in the Disney movie Fantasia. To work around this, I pay attention to the fabric (see point 1.) and, I am careful about the length. Too short and I look like the said hippos, especially when wearing with flats, and too long makes me look dumpy unless I wear heels. I find right above and right the knees is the most universally flattering length.
- Sweep: The sweep of a skirt or dress is the term for the circumference measurement. The larger the sweep the bigger the flare. In this case, bigger isn’t always better. In fact, too much sweep can make some look women shorter, wider and frumpier. Be careful of large sweeping hems if you are petite.
- Waist Placement: Waist placement can be another issue to pay attention to. If the waist placement is too high, nearing empire, you can look pregnant or overly busty, however, just above the natural waist, like 1″, is quite often a sweet spot because it is wear even the thickest of women are the slimmest. Another optimal waist placement of a fit-and-flare dress is just slightly below the natural waist because that extra length can lengthen the look of the torso, therefore making the body look longer and leaner.
- Neckline: Lastly, the neckline. Consider why women lean towards fit-and-flare dresses; they are typically looking to cover up larger bottom halves. However, if you look at the natural shape of a fit-and-flare dress, it mirrors exactly what you are looking to hide, an A-shape of large hips and thighs. Therefore, attention to the neckline is important. A halter neck, for example, will strongly emphasize a narrow top half and larger lower half. A wider neckline, like a boat neck or wide scoop, for example, will broaden the look of the shoulders and create more proportional body balance. When buying a fit-and-flare dress to camouflage large hips and thighs, look at the dress on a whole, not just the shape of the skirt.
Okay, let’s move on to some fit-and-flare dress looks that I created using this style from Banana Republic. And be sure to shop for some additional dresses at the end of this post.
Five Ways to Wear a Fit-and-Flare Dress
In addition to loving how a wardrobe piece can look so different simply by changing up what you wear with it, I also love how these changes can also affect where a piece can be worn. In this first look, I created a more casual outfit. All it took was styling the dress with a denim jacket from J. Crew, a pair of casual wedge sandals from Kork-Ease, fun coral bag from Madewell and layered necklace from Stella & Dot.
That same dress that looked cute for the weekend can now go to work with just a few tweaks. I styled the dress with a printed pair of block heel pumps from Marc Fisher, soft blue bag from Cole Haan and blush statement necklace from Bauble Bar.
Neutral colored dresses are incredibly versatile because the colors you can style with them are limitless. In the last outfit, I created a soft look and in this one I styled the dress more vividly. The simple dress is popped with a yellow cropped cardigan from Boden, hot pink flats from Halogen, resin loop drop earrings from Aqua and navy bag from Sole Society.
From a super poppy look to a more subtle and sophisticated one, this is the power of basics in your wardrobe. You can easily change them up with how you style them. I created this outfit by adding an ivory cropped blazer from BOSS Hugo Boss, tan block heel sandals from Sole Society and almond colored bag from L.K. Bennett.
In this last look, I used the print of the Johnny Was scarf to create the color direction of how I accessorized the dress. I added this green bag from Botkier, navy sandals from Boden and turquoise earrings from Monica Vinader.
Shop for fit-and-flare dresses
Check out these additional styles.