Most advice on buying clothes says to put your money into separates because two or three tops and a couple of skirts and pants which all will interchange will give you a wider variety of looks. However, most of this advice applies only to slender people overlooking the way (a) skirts and tops of different colors chop short people in the middle, making them look six inches shorter, and (b) the horizontal line at the waist causes the eye to meander leisurely across just where, if you’re overweight, you don’t want any lingering glances. A dress, which is one unbroken line from top to bottom, is the most slimming garment made. A belt should, of course, be the same material as the dress.
In a sea of separates, only two American designers have made names for themselves in affordable day dresses: Albert Nipon and Diane Von Furstenberg.
The princess line, a flared dress style, with bodice and skirt cut out of the same piece with no waistband or belt. The nicest ones loosely follow curves of the body, flaring into the gentle aline skirt. Probably the most flattering cut ever devised for women who need to lose twenty pounds. The style doesn’t look good on thin women, who need the horizontal line of a belt or waistband. Designer Pauline Trigere is the designer most famous for princess-line dresses.
The Smock dress a very comfortable dress flowing downward from a square or round Victorian-type yoke often trimmed in ruffles. Smock dresses tend to be made in romantic fabrics such as cotton calico or challis, or flowery cotton prints. They often have high ruffled collars, crochet edging, and white collars or cuffs. A very comfy dress. Buy them amply enough to be cool but not so voluminous as to look sloppy. Wear with low-cut shoes such as Mary Janes, and opaque stockings–oxfords or moccasins would be too heavy. High heels too dressy. Bare sandals are fine.
A tent dress, no-waistband dress that falls gracefully down the torso and flares out at hip level. A flattering style for the overweight.
A jumper, one-piece, sleeveless dress with a low scoop neck or square-cut neck, which can be worn with a blouse or without. Because of their long, unbroken lines, jumpers are terrific for short people, and for over-weight and big-busted women.
Empire dress, low-cut dress gathered under the bosom. The style dates from the period of the Napoleonic Empire, 1804-1814, and was worn by the Empress Josephine. You should be reasonably slender to wear this one; anybody with a large bust will look top-heavy.
Halter Neck dresses have been around ever since Marilyn Monroe wore a white crepe one in The Seven Year Itch. With its deep V-neck and vertical lines, it’s a terrific look for women with broad shoulders or heavy bosom, not so flattering to thin women, unless you happen to have a pretty back.
Chemise, straight-lined, unbelted dress. (Also called a chemisier.) The chemise was the dress worn by flappers of the 1920s, along with their headache bands and raccoon coats, and reappeared in 1957 as the despised sack dress, inspiring the hit rock ‘n’ roll record “No Chemise Please.” Men have never liked the shapelessness of the chemise, but the style is a favorite among women who like to dress for health. “The chemise is the most comfortable dress for women today,” says designer Mollie Parnis. “It’s easy to move around in and entirely non-constricting.”
Buy any chemise only in soft, floating fabrics; a stiff fabric doesn’t move with the body, isn’t at all sexy, and is the sack dress all over again. Chemises are particularly nice for the swaybacked, but not so flattering to large-breasted women, who look bulky in them.
I hope this article will help you in choosing the right dress and style for your body.